Friday 23 January 2009

Lunch at Le Bernardin.

Le Bernardin is the only place we have been back to four years in a row and yes, it will make it onto next year's list (if there is a trip that is). Again we sat at the bar in front of our lovely bar-tender man who by now remembers us. Despite this familiarity we still do not know each others names which lends the proceedings with the little formality it needs, which is not much. We opted for the lunch deal which at $48 for three courses is a find, especially for food of this standard.
As usual we began with the smoked and fresh salmon starter which I love so much I now make as our Christmas starter.

My favourite starter of Kanpachi Tartare Topped with Wasabi Tobiko; Ginger-Coriander Emulsion had been updated (bah) so I tried something different the Stuffed Zucchini Flowers with Peekytoe Crab; Black Truffle Sauce, as truffles will win me over everytime.

Although this was good, not it did not make my tastebuds sing like the kanpachi. HI had the Progressive Tasting of Kumamoto Oysters “en gelĂ©e”; From Light and Refreshing to Complex and Spicy, which to me just seemed like a big plate of oysters

but apparently there was a distinct 'progression' from one end of the plate to the other, with the preferred end being the spicy one.

For the mains, and by this time I was already getting quite full, HI has the
Crispy Black Bass; Braised Celery and Parsnip Custard; Iberico Ham-Green Peppercorn Sauce which he loved.

It is a combination we have not had before and it worked. I guess the bass is strong enough to hold the peppercorns. As usual the fish was cooked perfectly. I had the Halibut poached halibut, marinated almonds, pistachios and green olives, blood orange, verjus vinaigrette which again was cooked perfectly, and although light, provided a mouthful of taste explosions with each bite.

I am ashamed to say I could not finish it, something which distressed me greatly but I was too full.

Despite this I did what I always do and enquuired sweetly if there were any of the 'eggs' available. I reckoned it was time to engage my 'pudding stomach'! These are amazing;“Egg” Milk Chocolate Pot de Creme w/ Caramel Foam, Maple Syrup, Maldon Sea Salt

They are decadent and moreish. They are not on the menu but I have read that they make a certain number each day for 'special' guests! Last year I got one but HI did not and he was green with envy, this year fortune must have smiled on him as he got one too.

After this act of gluttony I opted for the Blood Orange and Coconut sorbet,

both of which refreshing were intense and refreshing, as expected. HI had the Yuzu yuzu parfait, meringue, green tea biscuit and ice cream

which he declared to be excellent and despite finishing it and my sorbet off, he left room for the little bundle of freshly baked madeleines

that were placed in front of us to finish off the meal and to finish me off.

Although my starter was not as stellar as usual we both still agreed this was one of our most favourite meals of the week. Most people seem to find fault with the service and atmosphere, problems which we by-pass by sitting at the bar. It's altogether more intimate without having lots of different wait-staff coming and going. I hope to go back, but I want them to bring back the wasabi kanpachi!!

Wednesday 21 January 2009

I love Shopsin's.

I have to admit I am slightly obsessed with Kenny Shospin.

For years Shopsin's had flown under my radar then, one day, I saw a picture of 'the sliders' on Serious Eats and I thought "they look pretty darn tasty, wonder where you can get them?" So then as usual I did my research on chowhound and egullet and discovered Shopsin's.

At first I thought it was funny then I was scared. The food sounded really tasty and I wanted to eat there, but what if I wasn't 'suitable' and got chucked out?

I needed more information.
I ordered the dvd I like killing flies

and the only book Kenny has collaborated with 'Eat Me'.

They only served to confirm my fears that I would not be good enough to eat there. Funny, I have never had that feeling about a restaurant before, usually it's a case of are they good enough to deserve my custom. Then there was the menu all 400 items of it. It used to be larger, running to 8 pages, but after two venue changes I guess it needed to be pared down. I spent longer looking at it than I ought to have. But it was a maze I was determined to navigate. My usual problem is not being able to decide what I want and that's exactly the sort of red rag to Kenny's bull that gets you chucked out.

So then the dream became a reality and we found Shopsin's tucked away in a corner in Essex St Market
There he was, he was real.

After reading about him so much he had taken on a mythical quality like a unicorn, or a gorgon. Kenny, supported by son Zack.
There were a couple of seats free and I meekly enquired if we could sit and we were told yes. Yay! Kenny gestured to a couple of seats outside or a couple inside where all the action was, next to a couple of diners and their kid. I thought if we are going to do this we are going to do this properly, so opted for the seats inside. Kenny said; "you can sit there if you are brave but that kid is fucking annoying" with a grin on his face as we faced a very cute toddler with nutella smeared all over her face.
The thing about Shopsin's is that it's a place for regulars, people get a sense of community from going there in a time where community is rare. Kenny seems not to have much time for tourists or out of towners which is fine but I am a tourist and I wanted to eat his food. We opted for a chocolate malted milkshake which was so tasty I hummed with pleasure.

I said it was really good to Zack who replied "I am so glad". I couldn't tell if he was being serious or sarcastic. He knows it's good without some idiot telling him so. We then shared the sliders which were little handfuls of savoury heaven

and the slutty cakes. I think I am the first person ever to have slutty cakes with nutella.

I think Kenny approved of the combination, and when he handed the nutella over he said I could take the rest home and snort it. I have to say I ate all of this food in silence as it was so good. Tasty and satisfying. One of my most satisfying meals of the trip and a place I would love to go back to.

Thursday 15 January 2009

Babbo. What's all the fuss about?

Our day of grazing, donuts, truffled egg toast, burger and pizza slice, set us up nicely for what turned out to be one of my most disappointing meals ever, not just of the trip.
The reservation process itself is not as bad as El Bulli or the Fat Duck and probably aided by the time difference, but still fickle enough to make it one of the most desired reservations in NYC after M.Ko. After the initial elation of securing a reservation, came the dilemma of what to order, and after much research I had the chosen few picked out.

It started off promisingly. Our table was decent, it was not too noisy. However I got the distinct impression they thought us younger and gaucher than we were, maybe there for a special occasion with not that much money to spend. Maybe this was due to the fact we only ordered 3 dishes between the two of us, but when you don't usually eat pasta, 2 out of 3 is quite a lot of carbs. However, whatever the reason the service polite though it was seemed cursory and we felt like we were no where special.

We shared the sweetbreads which were too large for my liking,

I prefer smaller nuggets which are crispy on the outside. We then had the rock shrimp with spicy calabrese salami.

but I thought the sausage was over-cooked and hard. The goose liver ravioli was disappointing,

as the filling to pasta ratio favoured the pasta not the filling.

HI summed it up 'I just can't get that excited about paying for someone else to almost cook me pasta'. We left underwhelmed and more than a bit confused about what all the fuss was about.

Wednesday 14 January 2009

New York: Burger Joint & Bemelmans.

Ludwid Bemelmen was an author and an artist whose only remaining work on view to the public can be seen on the walls of Bemelmens bar in the Carlyle.

It is also home of what is considered to be the best Manhattan in Manhattan and was where HI's other love, Audrey Saunders, honed her craft before opening the Pegu Club.

What better way to soak up the alcohol than with a Burger and Burger Joint happens to be in the vicinity. We try to come here on every trip and I know some people say it's all hype but I still think it's pretty cool. It's located in the foyer of the swish Le Parker Meridien and looks like a place Fonze would hang out in.

It's pretty busy most of the time, so it pays to know what you want and not to mess about at the counter.

I think the burger as a whole can be tasty but I think the patty itself is a bit lacking in seasoning, but that is easily sorted.

Tuesday 13 January 2009

Artichoke Basille.

This place gets rave reviews and I can see why. I think we may have lucked out as we walked and bought a slice without any wait. I opted for a plain slice and it was here that I realised the value of char. It can make or break a pizza.I don't know if Artichoke is a veggie pizza place and I think I may have inadvertently offended the guy behind the counter by asking for a pepperoni slice when there were clearly none of the sort available. I am not usually ignorant like that but one of the pizzas looked like it had meat on it, but was actually tomato. Doh. Not used to seeing fresh ingredients on my pizzas, am I. I couldn't bring myself to go the whole hog and order the Artichoke slice for fear of entering a cholesterol coma. I think this was better than the pizza we had at Arturo's but would it be as good as Di Fara's?

Sunday 11 January 2009

New York: 1st and 2nd breakfasts again.

Donut Plant is my friend, one I like to see often. So off I went again, and this time opted for the Valrhona frosted which was very yum and the cinnamon bun

which was yum and the size of a baby's head, which is not yum.

We then realised that 'Inoteca which was just round the corner from the hotel did one of our most favourite breakfasts of all time- the truffled egg toast.

It is a thing of beauty.

So much so I tried to replicate it for Christmas day breakfast last year. It's not the sort of thing you could eat too often as it is quite decadent. White Italian bread, Fontina, runny yolk egg, truffle oil and sauteed asparagus.

They also have a pretty impressive cheese selection.

Monday 5 January 2009

Dinner at Grand Sichuan St Mark's, pudding at Desert Truck.

This turned out to be one of our tastiest meals. As usual I ordered way too much in my excitement. Wonton's in red oil, dandan noodles

Cold cucumber salad.

This is addictive and amazing. I could eat this all day.

and last but not least the Gui Zhou Spicy Chicken chicken

with snow pea shoots with garlic just seen in the background. Probably a bit oily to make it a regular thing but boy it hit the spot. The service was very prompt and the setting archetypal 'chinese' restuarant. I loved it.

Dessert Truck. What a great idea. A van that drives around providing you with high quality puddings to eat on the go. Wish we had one. The Scooby van doesn't compare.

I had one of my favourite combos: hot apples and cold vanilla ice-cream with puff pastry. Yum.