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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.]



Thursday, February 9, 2017

Hao Noodles and Tea by Madam Zhu

First thing to know; do not visit their Web site (link though it'll load for minutes). But do visit this restaurant. The restaurant is airy, delicately decorated and though new, feels nicely worn in. The menu is fun to read (tip of the hat to "Make Winter Great Again") and all dishes are delicious.

One Saturday late last month, our family went for lunch. Every dish was recognizable to us. And each dish was better than we've had elsewhere. The lion's head meatballs were more delicate and flavorful than I've had before. The soup dumplings had incredibly thin skins, the most lightly flavorful broth, with high-quality pork. Spicy chic pea noodle soup (豌杂面) was unlike anything I've tasted. It had that ma la Sichuan flavor with a sort of Tuscan homeliness. Even the fried rice was excellent; each component separately fried to 90% completion before all being combined quickly My favorite dish was the spicy marinated pork trotters. When you order this dish in a Chinatown restaurant, the pork comes on in a gelatinous mess with non-uniform pieces and no real taste of the dry-fried chilies. This is a wholly different experience. SoS felt assaulted by the minuscule portion. I thought it was not filling but still a great value for that quality.

That's not to say Hao Noodles and Tea doesn't have it's problems. Or rather singular problem: service. The five of us were seated like the path a knight takes on a chessboard. It was the most awkward seating we've ever had. Our amicable server didn't know much about the food and even less about the teas. Tea is in the restaurant's name and the two wait staff I inquired with just re-read the descriptions.

If you're in a group of six with an interest in really exceptional Chinese food, family-style, I'd highly recommend Hao Noodles and Tea. Just like Pete Wells.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Wildair

Friday night brought me to Wildair with one of my favorite people in the world: Mister Editor. Wildair is a lot of fun. Mr. Editor and I drink similarly and so this was bound to be a great evening. The highlight of Wildair is the wine and trusting Jorge to bring out great wines. We had three wines (a bottle and then two glasses) that were all really interesting, very different from each other and wholly unique from anything I can recall (and we drink well thanks to Greg at Vanderbilt Wine Merchants).

We ate:

  1. Bread (with olive oil) - bread was fine but the olive oil was pretty ethereal.
  2. Half dozen oysters - fine
  3. Half dozen clams with XO sauce and some sort of chive - intensely great: salinity, spice, sour.
  4. Persimmon, stracciatella, and greens - excellent combination for a salad
  5. Boneless skate wing with arugula - not very interesting, yet flawless execution
  6. Beef tartare - excellent, perfectly chopped and seasoned.
Anyone interested in great wine would enjoy coming to Wildair.

Paowalla

Last week, Chef and I got out for a mid-week meal at Paowalla. (You may remember Chef from here.) Paowalla is the latest and hopefully long-term committed place for Chef Floyd Cardoz (disclosure: I cooked for Chef Cardoz for 5 months in 2002 as an unpaid externship.). First, Paowalla is not Tabla. The experience here is much more akin to Delaware and Hudson than the big Danny Meyer establishments of yesteryear. Paowalla has the tightly fitted tables in a low-ceiling dining room full of windows looking out onto Sullivan Street. Chef and I struggled to recall the restaurant that occupied this space prior. We settled on it being a semi-generic Italian restaurant from a generation or two ago.

Overall, I really enjoyed the food at Paowalla. I look for restaurants to inspire me to make better food at home and prepare dishes I won't attempt myself (e.g., mole poblano, vindaloo, Beijing duck). What did we have:

Chutneys

  • Tomato Kalonji
  • Spiciy Chili
  • Mint Cilantro

The tomato kalonji easily stood out as the most interesting and enjoyable. I think the tomatoes were late summer heirloom tomatoes that the kitchen broiled and then made into a chutney, finally canning it for use throughout the year. Bright. Flavorful. Summer.

Breads

  • Sourdough Naan
  • Garlic Naan
  • Tingmo

The two naan were fine. Better than a takeout shop, maybe similar to the ones I make at home (via Meera Sodha's recipe). The tingmo was a revelation. I had never had or even heard of tingmo prior. This was fantastic. It was similar to a Chinese man-tao but wrapped up with a flavor paste layered throughout. I felt sad when we finished the tingmo.

Small Plates

  • Shishito Pakoras
  • Burrata
  • Boodie's chicken liver

The burrata was outstanding and completely unexpected. You have a dish like this and remember the transportive qualities of inventive food with flawless execution. There were moments eating this dish (with the tingmo) that I must have been nodding as Chef spoke, but I wasn't listening at all. I thought the pakoras were disappointing because they felt room temperature or cool by the time we ate them. Pakoras - to be great - sort of need to be their own course.

Large Plates

Baby pig vindaloo was complex and interesting. For me, it was a little too cheffy. The pig was a perfectly braised massive cube of pork belly that had the skin crisped to order and came in the vindaloo. Anyhow that ever orders out for vindaloo needs to come to Paowalla and try it. You get the vinegar, heat, caramel notes from stewed tomatoes. There are a lot of flavors going on.

Desserts

(Note: I did NOT want dessert but Chef did and that made all the difference) Saffron Yogurt Srikand. I grew up with srikand served at parties and weddings. Universally it was terrible. This was something wholly different. The yogurt was strained thoroughly. And it was good yogurt! I feel like the pastry team may have added gelatin or a potato starch slurry to give it just enough panna cotta giggle to make these amazing fried sweet noodles stand up.

We had a delicious inspiring meal in a lovely setting with satisfactory service. 

Friday, January 13, 2017

2017 Restaurants on My List

So I'll try a different tactic this year and list 20-ish restaurants with hopes to try 50%. Any 50%.

  1. Dirt Candy
  2. Eastwind Snack Shop
  3. Emmy Squared
  4. Freek's Mill
  5. Le Coq Rico
  6. Le Cou Cou
  7. Lilia
  8. Loring Place
  9. Madam Zhu's Kitchen
  10. MaLa Project
  11. M. Wells Steakhouse
  12. Okonomi
  13. Paowalla
  14. The Pines
  15. SriPraPhai
  16. Sushi Katsuei
  17. Superiority Burger
  18. Take Root
  19. Wildair


So that's 11 in Brooklyn, 7 in Manhattan, and 2 in Queens.