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Everything posted by tupac17616

  1. tupac17616

    Per Se

    shirako tempura sounds great
  2. I had the same reaction on my first visit. Not really motivated to make a second.
  3. tupac17616


    I feel liberated -- I'm officially done with Babbo. My report of my last meal there is below, and the pictures are HERE. This wasn’t my first visit to Babbo. It was, without a doubt, my last. But I don’t blame the cooks. Tough tentacles of grilled octopus are not the end of the world. A dry rabbit loin was the least of our worries. I can’t fault the staff, either. Our waiter was a perfectly nice fellow, present but not overbearing. Marla Priest, the sommelier, glowed with a perpetual smile. And nearly everyone else we encountered that evening was friendly. My only service gripe was with the sottovoce dish descriptions we received as runners dropped off our plates and fled the scene. But worse crimes have been committed. This was my last visit because of John Mainieri, the bald-headed Minos of maître d’s. I felt his tail slither around us soon as we approached the podium. “The tasting menu is not an option, and we need the table back by 8:00″ was his judgment. Hitting traffic on the Long Island Expressway was our sin. Of course, I had called to apologize and inform the restaurant of our late arrival. But when a female voice promised a transfer to Mr. Mainieri, I was instead serenaded by Luciano Pavarotti for ten eternal minutes before I gave up. A second call went unanswered. The truth is, Adam and I arrived forty minutes late, and that would put any maître d’ in a tough position on a busy Saturday night. But there were 1,000 more tactful ways to handle that situation. A friend of ours had arrived twenty minutes earlier and offered to sit down and order for us. In any scenario, we would’ve gladly vacated the table at 8:00 to finish the meal at the bar. And simply shuffling us to a later table would have been perfectly acceptable. But no such solution was proffered. I couldn’t even solicit a smile from Mr. Mainieri. But maybe you’re a nicer person than I am, in which case he and his pug might accept you on Facebook. They have 156 friends. I was slightly incredulous, but very hungry, so I didn’t put up a fight with him. In any case we sat down, and it took us all of two minutes to order. It took nearly thirty for the appetizers to arrive. The Pig Foot “Milanese” with Rice Beans and Arugula ($15) was my favorite among them. Crisp, meaty and fatty, I only thought it a bit precious for the price. I suppose precious is not often a term often used to describe Mario Batali or his food, but there you go. A dish of Warm Tripe “alla Parmigiana” ($11) smelled, well, a bit rank. The texture was pleasantly tender, though. The simple tomato sauce was bright and slightly sweet, the nutty parmigiano-reggiano a nice touch, and the grilled bread, just the accompaniment that such a dish calls for. But I’ve had tripe countless times when that particular intestinal odor has been absent. It wasn’t a deal-breaker, but it was bothersome. A friend’s Asparagus “Milanese” with Duck Egg and Parmigiano ($15) tasted fine enough, but looked like a first-day culinary school creation. The egg was either “poached” in one of those infomercial steamers or simply cut with a ring mold, but either way it looked silly in a restaurant that — aside from the soundtrack — has at least some serious ambition. Adam chose the Grilled Octopus with “Borlotti Marinati” and Spicy Limoncello Vinaigrette ($15). On other visits, we’d each proclaimed this the finest octopus dish in memory, but this one begged to be forgotten. It was rough, rubbery, and dressed with a sickly sweet condiment. Pasta has always been the restaurant’s strong (and some argue only) suit, so we ordered five of them. Our friend had the Garganelli with “Funghi Trifolati” ($22), with which she was perfectly pleased. I stole just a small taste, and thought the condimento tasty but the pasta just a bit thicker than I might have preferred. Mint Love Letters with Spicy Lamb Sausage ($20) are a Batali classic. Classic like William Faulkner, that is — required reading but not something I particularly enjoy. This dish was more about the herb than the lamb, and it somehow brought Indian mint chutney to mind. As much as I love to travel, that wasn’t a continent I was looking to explore on this particular evening. The Sweet Potato “Lune” with Sage and Amaretti ($19), were, as always, very good. But the autumnal filling of butternut squash is, in my opinion, slightly smoother and sweeter. I would say I’ll come back for this dish in the fall, but I won’t. My loss, I suppose. Maybe the Beef Cheek Ravioli with Crushed Squab Liver and Black Truffle ($23) were not the thing for this hot, rainy day. They’re better suited for a cold, rainy one. But regardless of the forecast, this dish was grey and drab and in dire need of some kind of acidity. The Black Spaghetti with Rock Shrimp, Spicy Salami Calabrese and Green Chiles ($25) was mine, all mine. And I’m pretty sure it’s the biggest dish of pasta I’ve ever been served (the atrocious Carmine’s excepted). Something about the combination of pork, crustacean, and scallion was reminiscent of Chinese dumplings. And this time, I was happy flying to Asia on Alitalia. The noodles had the dark, almost murky richness of squid ink. The condiment was peppery with a slight natural sweetness. I might’ve preferred a stronger kick of chile, but that’s really splitting hairs over a dish I surely enjoyed. Among the secondi, I again went classic Batali with the Spicy Two Minute Calamari Sicilian Lifeguard Style ($24), a dish I had not yet sampled on other visits. The mental image of Mario Batali as a lifeguard is not a pretty one, but with this recipe he might at least pass for Sicilian. Redolent of that island, this stew was a stage for tomato, caper and olive alike. The calamari were bouncy but not rubbery, firm but not chewy. And when the menu said spicy, it meant it. It was a pleasing and persistent prickle that made this a dish I just wanted to keep eating. Adam’s Rabbit with Peas, Babbo Pancetta and Carrot Vinaigrette ($28) likewise made a quick impression. The loin was disastrously dry, and after half a bite, his face told me he’d given up. He’s never been one to send back a dish, but I’ve never been one to let someone continue eating something they’re clearly not enjoying, so I prodded him to say something. The waiter handled this gracefully, asking what exactly he did not like about it, and offering a replacement. Despite a slightly overcooked interior and the presence of — I almost hate to even mention it, since we only saw it later — a hair in the dish (see photo), Adam was more pleased with the Fennel Dusted Sweetbreads with Sweet and Sour Onions, Duck Bacon and Membrillo Vinegar ($27). Or at least he would have been, had he been given the time to enjoy it. But indeed, here the story of our evening gets better. Adam was working on the sweetbreads when who should arrive but another friend planning to join us just for dessert. We were seated at a four-top, mind you, with plenty of room for a fourth chair. Yet our friend, and thus our group, encountered two problems. First, Mr. Mainieri refused to direct her to our table, even after she had explained that she was only joining us for dessert. And second, she was refused a chair and forced to stand awkwardly by the table once she’d had been grudgingly pointed to it. Worse yet, a bus boy kindly went to get her a chair only to have one of Mainieri’s minions, who had been hovering silently near our table throughout the meal, come to snatch it back. I was speechless, and Adam was furious. Preferring not to see the poor girl embarrassed, he dropped his credit card on the table and the two of them left. This would normally be time for some of Gina DePalma’s wonderful desserts. But the Chair Nazi approached the table again: “I understand you had a prior arrangement with the maître d…” There was no time to even look at the dessert menu, he said, much less order anything. It was 7:50pm. And pitiful petit fours were our pittance. Mario Batali has a claque that spans the globe, and I once might have even claimed a vocal spot among its members. But this evening’s incident was far from the first service issue I’ve encountered at one of his and partner Joe Bastianich’s establishments, and I’d rather not even get into those right now. So I’ve decided I’m done. I’m done talking to managers, writing letters, and making phone calls. I’m done being squeezed into one of three nightly seatings so Batali & Co. can pad their wallets most efficiently. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me this many times… and I just don’t like you.
  4. A very interesting wrap-up, and one that shows that you and I have perhaps slightly different priorities. I've not yet been to Alinea, and I'm not sure I really want to go to Guy Savoy, so I don't have the experience to make those comparisons. But Manresa is, by a fair margin, my favorite restaurant in the country, and I think one of, if not the greatest. And for me it is such because I think it consistently puts out some of the best food. Surely rugs and friendly service and the lack of formality or tangible luxury can't keep me from arguing that. In any case, many thanks for a thorough and thoughtful report, Bryan. Menu looks great.
  5. thanks for the report, bryan. 'nduja is a beautiful thing.
  6. Not a fan. In fact, the pizza del papa was (by a good margin) my least favorite pizza that I've tried at Kesté. Something about the combination of butternut squash cream, artichokes, smoked mozzarella and roasted peppers tasted oddly like sweet mustard to me. Kinda disturbing. The extra toppings were very distracting. I really like butternut squash, and it's a shame I didn't really taste it much here.
  7. For the sake of completeness, a couple more pizzas I tried the other day... vegetariana pizza del papa
  8. As a supplement to the write-up, here's my Kesté pictorial so far... Menu Margherita Marinara Mast'nicola Regina margherita Pizza alla burrata Prosciutto e rucola Salsiccia e friarielli Kesté Padrino Positano Ripieno Battilocchio Pizza alla nutella
  9. I'm sure if you asked him, he'd be perfectly happy to do it. I don't know. He gets a certain look on his face when people (and by people I mean my friend) ask him to change the toppings. And it's not a pleasant expression. Then again, my friend has asked for the same thing every time -- a calzone with only ricotta and olive oil (so he could compare more directly the calzone at Kesté with the calzone at Di Fara). Every time, they deny his request in a different way. It's quite amusing to watch, actually. Actually, now that I think about it, I'd like to try the mast'nicola with the lardo put on after the pizza comes out of the oven. Then it would bring back happy memories of gnocco fritto con lardo like I had in Emilia-Romagna.
  10. @Sam: Thanks. To me, the mast'nicola really showcases the crust. I'd be perfectly pleased to get one of Roberto's crusts just slicked with a nice olive oil (while I'm keeping this dream alive, let's say Ligurian olive oil) and sprinkled with sea salt. The pork fat and pecorino on the mast'nicola have the same effect. @Sick: I haven't, though I was coveting a neighbor's 4 cheese pizza yesterday. (I had a relatively new pizza on the menu, the Padrino -- tomatoes, caciocavallo ragusano, soppressata, gaeta olives, basil, extra virgin olive oil.) Will have to give it a try soon. @Pan: Thank you, and I'm sorry! Speaking of not being able to get in anymore, I went yesterday about 230pm, today around 1230pm. Completely full both times. When my friend and I were first starting to frequent the place back in June, we spent many afternoons in relative privacy. With all the recent positive press (and maybe even the not-so-positive mention from Bruni), the place has certainly made it's way onto many more people's radars.
  11. Good thing I haven't had this thing written for over a month and our blog hasn't been down for 3 weeks. Oh, wait... I have, and it has. But here, finally, are my thoughts on Kesté. I'm going to try to do a post here on eG that is just a pictorial of essentially every item on the menu (I'm still a very frequent client), but for the time being, there are some pictures HERE... I don’t watch the news. I read the newspaper only for the food section on Wednesdays. I’ve never followed the stock market, and the only economic crisis I’ve experienced lately was coming up a quarter short upon reaching into my pocket to pay for a macchiato the other day. I had to settle for an espresso. I won’t settle when it comes to pizza. Some might call me a simpleton and others, a snob. But I will go to my grave believing that (a) pizza is one of the finest foods on this planet, and (b) 99% of what is sold under that name is garbage. This article, however, is not about bashing the majority (shoot me an e-mail if you want that, and trust me, you don’t). It’s about recognizing one of the finest pizzerias not just in New York or the US or outside of Italy, but in my opinion one of the best anywhere. It is called Kesté and I have gone 6 times… in the past 10 days. That dedication has nothing to do with journalistic thoroughness. I knew after one visit that the pizzeria’s Neapolitan moniker was right — “this is it”. And I could write a book about the first bite. It was from a pizza margherita. My knife brushed against a charred spot on the rim of the crust, knocking a fine black powder to either side before I sawed softly through an airy pocket. I cut my way an inch or two toward the center, collecting a molten glob of mozzarella and a partially singed basil leaf along the way. Coming back out to the edge, I hit a slick of tomato sauce as vibrant red as the fruits must have been on the vine. The dough in the middle was thin and pliable. Even with sparingly applied toppings, etiquette suggested a fork and gravity demanded it. I stabbed. Immediately I burned my mouth — temporary agony that gave way to lasting pizza pleasure. My front teeth squeaked through the mozzarella, so milky that each time I chewed it seemed as much a warm beverage as cheese. The sauce — a smooth purée of raw tomatoes — was sweet and fresh tasting, with none of that caramelized tomato paste flavor that cooked sauces sometimes have. The basil was like a green potato chip, shattering with each bite into 1,000 pieces that tasted of carbon and chlorophyll. The crust was almost playful — I pulled and it tugged back, I pushed and it bounced. Together, it all made for a marvelous mouthful. I glanced around the room, wanting to share my delight with someone, anyone. My eyes met those of Roberto Caporuscio, the pizzaiolo. He smiled. He knew. His pizzas, he told us, bake for under 60 seconds. There were just 2 of us eating lunch that day, yet we ordered 3 more pizzas and a calzone. Either amused by our gluttony or wishing to test its limits, Mr. Caporuscio sent us 4 desserts as well. I’m a stickler for tradition even in cultures to which I do not ostensibly belong, so the second pie had to be a marinara — just tomato, oregano, and garlic… basta. Both herb and allium spoke up without yelling, and the combination was somehow assertive and restrained at once. It was also delicious. And to be honest, I really did not want to share with Adam. Fairness at the table is overrated. Next came the mast’nicola, a pie that pre-dates the introduction of tomatoes into the Italian pantry. Translucent slices of lardo melted and crisped in the oven heat. Pecorino romano and basil kept the pork fat company, lest it get lonely on the crust all by itself. There was no tomato sauce, no cheese, and no need for either. Minimally topped, the mast’nicola confirmed what the two previous pies both suggested — the crust at Kesté is just unbelievable. We could — and probably should — have stopped there, but Adam had the sinister idea to order a calzone (a ripieno on the menu here). He was “just curious”, he said. A “little taste” was supposedly all he wanted. I was hesitant, but the sneaky bastard asked for it when I made a quick pit stop in the bathroom. In retrospect, I support that decision 100%, because this particular calzone turned out to be simply the best I’ve ever had. Each bite uncovered new treasures. One time came a creamy mound of fresh ricotta. The next, strings of mozzarella stretched like telephone wires from my mouth to the plate. Short strips of peppery salame were buried here and there. And sometimes, the stars would align such that I got all of these ingredients at once. Magical moments, those. And, goodness, I haven’t even mentioned the smoky char on the crust or the sweet magma-like tomato sauce painted on the outside of the dough. But then I would just be taunting you. Suffice it to say, this thing was basically perfect. Mr. Caporuscio approached our table and suggested we have another pie. I laughed awkwardly, hoping assuming he wasn’t serious. He smiled deviously and said “salsiccia e friarielli”. That’s the last thing I remember before the overdose. Mozzarella martyrdom. I wasn’t wild about the salsiccia e friarielli (sausage and a vegetable similar to broccoli rabe). The crust, as usual, was otherworldly. But smoked mozzarella is just not my thing, especially when it is this heavily smoked. And I don’t think I’ll be joining the facebook group for these toppings anytime soon, either. But it’s not you, Roberto, it’s me. The desserts were fine. Tiramisù and tiramisù alla fragola (strawberry) were moist but not soggy. A panna cotta was firmer than I might’ve liked, but flavorful nonetheless. A slice of torta caprese — a dense, fudge-y chocolate and walnut cake spiked usually with strega but here with limoncello — nearly killed us. Actually, I’m pretty sure the four pizzas and a calzone killed us, but I’m just trying to put the blame elsewhere since those were so freaking wonderful. Anyway, thank you, Roberto, for the desserts… I think. I’ve since tried nearly everything on the menu. The regina margherita, with grape tomatoes and buffalo mozzarella, is a personal favorite. The acidity of the tomato skins in the sauce really makes it pop. A similar pie, made with burrata instead of mozzarella, has been available on some weekends. But that one, I must warn you, is a pie to be shared — either on the medical history forms you fill out before your next check-up, or preferably, with at least one other hungry dining companion. The prosciutto e rucola pizza is exceptional, and the eponymous Kesté (the same combination, but with tomato and pecorino subbed in for the mozzarella) is not too shabby either, though I still prefer the milkiness of the cheese on the former. Even the appetizers are worth ordering . The rosette vegetariane are like classic New York garlic knots — only they taste of real olive oil, not margarine, and they come stuffed with roasted vegetables. And the battilocchio, a kind of elongated flatbread topped with different things every day, never fails. There’s also a pizza alla nutella available for dessert. I’d like to pretend that I’ve never had the appetite to try it, but of course, I have. And of course, it’s delicious. I really liked Kesté right from the start. I loved it, actually. And I wanted to share it with the world. But the gastroenterological hurdles we encountered that first day I would not wish upon anyone. Forfeiture of dinner reservations, failure to budge from a prone position on the couch, and semi-permanent loss of appetite are all possible side effects. Please consider consulting your doctor if I invite you to lunch at Kesté. But please, please go.
  12. I'd definitely say it's worth the drive. To me, it's the best restaurant I've been to in the United States. If you're considering renting a car, though, that opens up a whole new set of options, among which Ubuntu in Napa deserves special attention.
  13. I'm not terribly fond of the Keste pizza either, and I think "unintegrated" is exactly the word for it. I much prefer the prosciutto & arugula pizza. Still haven't tried the butternut.
  14. tupac17616


    I'd recommend you get in contact with the lovely and knowledgeable Judith
  15. Just give Per Se a call. I'm sure they'd get it to you.
  16. I could be mistaken, but I want to say I've heard that it's $450 now.
  17. Interesting. Two good friends went last week and said much the same thing. By far the best meal either had ever had at BHSB, and one called it one of his best meals, period.
  18. I think the regina margherita is the best pie. It's not just cherry tomatoes like UPN's filetti. But it's both cherry tomatoes and the regular tomato puree. The little bit of acidity from the tomato skins makes this one tastier than the normal margherita for me. I also think the ripieno (i.e. calzone) is truly wonderful.
  19. About 50km from Levanto, not too close I suppose but not terribly far, there's Trattoria dei Mosto in Conscenti di Ne, which I hear is supposed to be very good for simple, classic Ligurian cuisine.
  20. I was about to just say that the article was terrible, but then you articulated exactly why I think so. Thanks.
  21. tupac17616


    Thanks for the update, Robert. I can't wait to try this place.
  22. Dough in San Antonio is very good, actually. Luciano, on the other hand, I have my (strong) doubts about.
  23. I agree on Keste as number 1. Disagree on the high placement of Zero Otto Nove. Will be trying Veloce soon.
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