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Everything posted by banquo

  1. Don't hesitate. As others, and the LA Times, have noted, this is the real deal. The food is great, the decor great, it's fun and the service is friendly but unobtrusive. In my opinion, it's better to sit on the Blanco side of the restaurant: it's more romantic. If you like a more bistro and casual feel, then sit on the red side. There are a lot of choices on the menu, so once we learned they offer a tasting menu, we went with that. For $65 this is a steal. They give you a lot of food. We went to Minibar the year before, and I feel this is just as enjoyable an experience. Of course, the two places are very different in several respects, but I'm in awe of Andres' ability to pull off this kind of stunning food in such a large capacity format. One thing to keep in mind, however, is one implication of having such a large menu: the likelihood of being served something not to your liking is greater than in a typical 4-star restaurant. However, although I didn't care for a couple of dishes we were given, I could see the thought and cleverness behind them, and that was enough to leave a good impression of those dishes. That's the good aspect of getting the tasting menu. If you don't like something, push it aside and make room for the many other things that are coming that you will like.
  2. Went last month. Very good; well worth it. I thought it was better than Terra, the other dinner we had that weekend.
  3. I was there past 10pm last night and it was humming along as we left. There were no seats in the main room when we came in at around 9. So, we ate in the bar area and for what it's worth I found it incredibly loud and difficult to carry on a conversation. The food is uneven. As others have mentioned, the langue de veau is outstanding. I'd take it over a Katz's pastrami sandwich if I had to make a choice. The onion soup was subpar. The gougeres along with the other breads were delicious. The marinated salmon which comes with a potato salad of sorts required a touch more seasoning. All that plus a nice glass of white wine came to under $50, not including tip. Worth it in my opinion, although obviously I would make different choices in the future.
  4. Went here for the first time a couple of nights ago. This place is outstanding. Out of 27 courses, only one clunker. The smoked oyster and apples is one of the best bites of food I've ever had. The chefs are engaging and helpful. I was slightly apprehensive about spending the cash needed to eat here, but it's well worth it. And fun, fun, fun.
  5. I like everything about this place: it's cool, friendly, casual, and the ramen is awesome (Santoka might have a slight edge but that's irrelevant since it's, you know, in NJ). Well, I don't like everything: the wait sucked and the bar area was seriously overcrowded. Going as a single might be the best bet. They have booths that seat up to 8 that seem to make no sense: I've never gone to eat ramen with 7 other people. Perhaps they're expecting a late night crowd scene though.
  6. The grocery store in K-town 32nd St. has sea salt in 5lb bags (or thereabouts). I can't remember the exact price, but I think it's reasonably priced (otherwise I wouldn't use it all the time).
  7. I just bought a sushi knife (a yanagiba) and since cutting newspapers for the first couple of days was getting old, I wanted to find some fish to cut. I was just at Mitsuwa a couple of weeks ago and I know they have decent fish, but today I was too lazy to go head over there. On some old information I got from this thread, I headed to St. Marks. The JAS market there had no fish whatsoever. I don't know whether this was an aberration, but it was a complete waste of time to try it out. Luckily, there is a new market on St. Marks (new to me at any rate) at about the middle of the block. FYI: The store is very attractive; their produce looks first rate and things looked well organized. It had salmon, scallops, and tuna. I bought one of each. The tuna was a disaster. Evidently not well handled, since the texture turned out to be mush. Worse than what you can get in Chinatown. I should have know better since it had that irradiated neon glow of manipulated tuna. The salmon was better, and not a bad value at 11.99/lb. The scallops were slightly better than the tuna but not by much. So, does anyone know of any place in Manhattan to get decent quality fish for sashimi and sushi? The suggestions on this thread are old and I am hoping for fresh leads. Or, is it the case that one just has to head over to NJ?
  8. Thank you for that post. It's the most surprising and delightful post I've read in years. Delightful because I love Alan Richman; surprising, because, well, how can one just be invited to dinner at his house a propos of nothing? I just saw Ratatouille last night and when the critic Anton Ego appeared, it did cross my mind that Richman might be the inspiration. Your description of Richman in the last few sentences could be used, in fact, to describe Ego's character.
  9. I took on the challenge today (a Saturday), and got myself and wife to Mitsuwa to try Santoka. It's worth it folks. I'm no ramen expert or anything, but it's the best I've had since moving to NYC. Perhaps there were some places that were better in So. California, but that was so long ago I remember them only in dreams. To be honest, I'm not going to go to NJ the next time I happen to be in the mood for some ramen, but I'll certainly go there without hesitation if I'm looking to get the best ramen I can get. I have nothing to add in terms of describing the ramen, but the food court there is more than serviceable in terms of comfort. There was a small line to order and wait, but not too bad. And the trip via the shuttle bus shouldn't deter--although they've now raised the price to $3/one way. Once at Mitsuwa you can pick up, like I did, a 1.8L bottle of Wakatake dai ginjo sake for $62, as well as some pretty decent looking sashimi. Not bad at all.
  10. The grocery store in K-town (on 32nd) always has pork belly. I find it superior to what I've found in Chinatown. The latter tends to be less well butchered and less substantive than the K-town product.
  11. I think the cryptic criticism was directed at the original post and not your point, Doc. On that point, perhaps Chefboy24 can elaborate on the nature of the 'bomb' that he is about to drop.
  12. From 2003-2006, Grand Sichuan Eastern (on 2nd Ave and 56th) was my favorite restaurant in Manhattan. I took everyone I knew there, including every out of town guest I had during those years. It was a great, great restaurant. Alas, my last 3 meals there did not bear much of a resemblance to the food I was served earlier. Although it is still open, I suspect it has changed ownership or else the chefs during the 'glory years' packed up and left. Either way, not worth going to any longer. So, except for some rare trips to Flushing to eat at Little Pepper (which is excellent by the way), I hadn't had Sichuan food for some time. I went to Szechuan Gourmet tonight, in part due to Eric Malson's report above, but also because of some raves on Chowhound. I wanted to see whether this place could rival my beloved GS Eastern. We were 2 and ordered enough food for 6. While the prices are a little higher here than at the Grand Sichuan restaurants, the portions are fairly generous. Our order: Sichuan pickles Dan Dan noodles Ox tongue and tripe in peanut/chili vinaigrette Mixed vegetables (eggplant, asparagus, and green beans) stir fried in garlic Baby Shrimps stir fried in chile/miso with chinese celery Fish Fillets with napa cabbage, mushrooms and cellophane noodles in chile broth The fish fillet dish was served in a gigantic metal bowl, and could have easily fed 6 people. I was already familiar with this preparation from GS and Little Pepper. It is basically fillets of fish braised in a searing hot broth flavored by cabbage, fennel seeds, mushrooms and chile oil (perhaps there is some addition of stock of some kind as well). The fish was perfectly tender and fresh. Szechuan Gourmet's version is very much like Little Pepper's. In addition to the chiles already swimming and bobbing in the broth, they placed a tablespoon or so of ground chile on top of everything (at Little Pepper it was more like a couple of tablespoons). In other words, incredibly spicy and almost to the point of being uncomfortable. This was tasty, but I prefer the GS version because it was less spicy and the broth itself was more heavily flavored; you could actually ladle it over your rice and eat it that way. After the first couple fillets, my mouth was on fire and I had to stop eating it for fear of annihilating my taste buds. The ox tongue/tripe appetizer is something I always order if available. I don't think any version can compare in flavor to the one GSI (formerly on 9th Ave and 50th) used to serve. But the version I had tonight was excellent in different ways. More subtle flavors. More contrast in textures. The tripe was especially noteworthy because of how plump they were. I don't think I've ever had tripe that were so full in the mouth and juicy (is that an appropriate word to describe tripe?). The Dan Dan noodles were decent, but nothing above the ordinary. The most surprising dish was the baby shrimp one. I was hoping the preparation would be similar to the dry-sauteed 'New Sichuan' method that GS Eastern used to such great effect. When the dish came out I was immediately disappointed, because it looked like a typical Cantonese preparation. Even after the first bite, and perhaps due to the numbness from eating too many chiles, I kind of shrugged my shoulders. Decently cooked but nothing special. But as we went through the meal and I took more and more bites from this dish, the distinct taste of coffee and dark chocolate came through, and it was spectacular. I've never heard of chile miso (I take it they don't use Japanese miso, but rather prepare their own fermented bean paste?), but whatever it was I want more of it. Overall, I think our meal was excellent, and no doubt I'll be returning. Incidentally, the room is rather nice: quiet, decently lit and comfortable. One reason I don't go to Wu Liang Ye in midtown is because I find the room dark, cramped and oppressive. Now I have no intention of returning to WLY, since I think the food is better at Szechuan Gourment. Also note that they have hot pot here. I saw 3 tables going to town swishing their proteins and vegetables into spicy looking broth. So, thanks Eric for the report. It got me out of my sichuan slumber. I foresee many happy sichuan meals this Winter.
  13. banquo


    Around $220 or so is my typical total for 2. We typically get about 18 pieces each. It's a good deal, given the quality. I agree with LPShanet's assessment of Shimizu. I'm surprised it doesn't get more publicity on the boards. The one drawback with the place, I think, is the variety of fish. But, no doubt, what he does have is 1st rate. A second drawback (perhaps just my preference) is the temperature of the rice. In my opinion it is too cool. I prefer the temperature of Yasuda and Ushi's rice, although I do not prefer the looseness with which those two places pack their rice.
  14. I've heard of the heritage turkey for a couple of years now but after the recent NY Times article, I've decided to finally get one and cook it for Thanksgiving. I know of some online sources (Heritage Foods, D'Artagnan), but I wanted to know whether there are any grocery stores in Manhattan that are selling them. And leads? Thanks.
  15. Ali's Kabab Cafe in Astoria, Queens. Just went there last Saturday, and Ali is in fine form. We had braised lamb shanks, sweetbreads, baby chickens, marinated hanger steak, whole roasted tilapia, tripe in tomato sauce, and some other salads I can't recall right now. No menus. He'll just recite what he's serving for the night and you choose what you want. BYOB. He sells wine, but it's not great, so it is a better idea to bring your own. No corkage fee. It was around $40/person. Not exactly a date place, so I don't know whether it would be appropriate for a anniversary dinner, but if food is of primary importance, it's a good choice. Ali, as you'll find out if you do some research, is quite a character, and half the experience is interacting with him. 25-12 Steinway St.
  16. Sure it seems rational, if their strategy is to take a short-term small loss in business in exchange for putting Prime Time Tables out of business or at the very least scaring PTT away from scalping tables at their restaurant. ← Point well taken, but what are the conditions under which such a strategy (of putting PTT out of business) would succeed? I don't think restaurants working singly could bring it about; it would seem to require some industry wide concerted effort. Moreover, the knowledge that people with PTT reservations are being turned away would have to become widespread. Admittedly, perhaps that's not a difficult condition to meet given the prevalence of online posting. One problem that Docsconz's post suggests is this: how are restaurants supposed to know who arrives with a PTT reservation? The level of invasion of privacy needed to discover this (e.g., asking for id)would seem prohibitive. Additionally, don't some people, for example, food critics, make reservations under a pseudonym? How would you screen for those people?
  17. It wouldn't seem rational for restaurants to refuse a table, since then they would lose that cover for the particular time. Of course, it might be possible to fill the table with people waiting in the wings, but if that is the typical practice, then there seems to be little justification for the other, albeit uncommon, practice of penalizing diners who don't show up (I'm referring to restaurants who take credit card numbers and charge a certain amount if the reservation is not honored). Just to be clear, I'm not saying that restaurants don't have the authority to refuse PTT reservations, I'm saying it would not be to their advantage.
  18. banquo


    We heard about this relatively new place on St. Marks and tried it out a couple night's ago. My quick verdict is that Gama makes for a great option for Korean food downtown. In my opinion, it's roughly on a par with the places on 32nd St. Definitely not better, but perfectly respectable. FYI: they don't have table top BBQ, but do serve kal bi and bulgoki.; also, we didn't order this, but we saw a sign advertising a whole (deep fried) chicken + a pitcher of beer for $20. The special sounds like the perfect 2am meal for someone, like me, who loves the way Koreans handle fried chicken. The front of the restaurant is a bar. We sat there for about 10 minutes, and it seemed nice enough. Perhaps it would make a good place for a couple of drinks. They had a very nice watermelon/soju drink if you like that sort of thing. The music struck me as too loud to hang out for too long. At any rate, the back space and restaurant proper is quite agreeable. It's spacious and the tables are far apart. Because of the room's size, it never got loud. The walls are decorated with han bok. It wasn't very busy when we started eating (7:30pm), but it filled up nicely by 10pm. And at least for now, there does not seem to be any sort of wait for a table. Nice! We ordered: dak dori tang (spicy chicken stew) duk boki (rice cake in spicy sauce) Dae Gu Jo Rim (codfish in spicy sauce) To my taste, the food tends towards the sweet, so even though all 3 dishes are titled spicy, I thought the first two, and especially the duk boki were very sweet. But this is not unusual--the food at Kunjip, for example, tends that direction as well. The chicken stew, although sweet, also had a deep spicy dimension. This is the kind of warm your soul food that's great for our cold Spring weather. I like the stews at Yang Pyung Seoul (on 33rd) better, but this was perfectly respectable. The dish I would recommend most is the codfish. Silky fish and balanced sauce. Although we ate family style, this would make a great entree for one. The pan chan are respectable, not 1st rate, but not bad either. The service was friendly and efficient. The menu is quite large, so we look forward to sampling more of it in the future. They have some seafood that looked interesting, e.g. sea squirts and sea snails.
  19. For some reason this place always falls under my radar when I go to Chinatown. Tonight, however, I was specifically yearning for pork and fat. Many years ago, after reading an article by Alan Richman, we went to a place called Lake Spring Cuisine (in So. California), and ordered what was called 'Pork Pump'. It was the definition of pork and fat. The dish actually giggled (much like jello) when we shook the plate, and had an incredible anise star flavor and aroma. In the years since, I've often thought about that dish, and recently I read that Shanghai Cafe makes a respectable version (I didn't know about this thread until tonight). The dong po rou (at least I believe that's how it's spelled) is not on the menu, but you can ask for it. It comes out as almost a perfect square, 2.5 inches high sitting atop a dark brown sauce and baby bok choy. The underlying flavor is soy and ginger, and I detected some anise star. The layer of fat is about 1/3 of an inch high, and it has the most unimaginably silky texture (think the softest tofu), and the meat itself is perfectly tender. (Incidentally, we were at R.U.B. last night and their pulled pork has nothing on this stuff.) It's impossible that the dish is made to order; I assume they finish it by steaming or braising. For a hunk of meat this size, it is quite shocking how delicate the whole dish is. Since it wasn't on the menu, I was wondering how much it would be. I was guessing around $15. In fact, we were charged $8.50! How can they make money at that price point? We also had the soup dumplings--very good. And, the braised noodles with crab and young chives. The noodles had great texture and the chives lent a nice crunch. I would have wanted more crab flavor, but the smokiness imparted by the 'wok spirit' made the dish work just fine. We also had the stick rice wrapped in bamboo leaf. It's stuffed with pork and seriously delicious. A great meal. The service is hurried, blunt, but efficient. My only (small) criticism of this place is how cramped it is. The two-tops are very small and couldn't hold all the dishes we ordered. Therefore, we had to plow through our soup dumplings to make room. Not the end of the world but, on the other hand, the scalding hot soup does not lend itself to quick eating.
  20. Yes, that's what he said. I'd think this might be approximated at home by keeping a constantly-replenished pan of simmering water in the oven. ← I tried this yesterday and was punished with non-crackling skin. On the other hand, the meat was moist.
  21. banquo

    Perry Street

    Yeah, it was probably 10 or so minutes. I didn't mean to suggest that it was unmanageably far or anything. But the walk seemed like forever, especially once you turn onto Perry St. itself, which struck me as belonging in no-man's land. At any rate, the distance will not at all be a deterrent for me. My point was only that a more central location would easily attract many more customers. If it didn't, then that would be truly inexplicable. The service, incidentally, was outstanding.
  22. banquo

    Perry Street

    I also had lunch there yesterday. We enjoyed ourselves immensely. I basically ordered what Nathan did with the addition of a risotto with sour cherries, walnuts and pesto. The balance of the dish was off for me: it was almost searingly spicy. I like spicy food, and this dish was for the most part delicious, but the sour cherries did not do enough to balance the red pepper that was put in. The celeriac amuse is indeed good. We didn't hear the description from our server, so we didn't know, and couldn't guess, what it was. There was no evident celeriac taste. I think there should have been less stock added. The sea bass was cooked perfectly, and the french fries w/black pepper provided a nice textural and flavor accent. Although the truffled sauce was inoffensive, I would have preferred something less heavy especially given the mashed potatoes, which mashed potatoes were simply incredible. Why can't I make them that good? The tenderloin is, as Nathan suggested, very good. I wouldn't call its accompaniment a broth (like what Annisa serves with their beef duo); it was more like a sauce. The butternut squash ravioli were incredible. I would order an entree sized dish of those if they had it. The chanterelles, I thought, added nothing to the dish. I think mine were overcooked, for they were quite dry. Overall, this place is serving great food at a great bargain. I like the setting more than at Jean-Georges, which seems overly tense. I'll definitely be coming back again and again, although perhaps not every Saturday. The place was more or less empty when we arrived at 12:30, but the front of the room filled up nicely by the time we left. It is indeed puzzling, but it seems obvious to me that the restaurant would be doing much better business (at lunch) if it were more centrally located and accessible. The walk from the subway seemed like forever.
  23. Grand Sichuan Eastern uses them as well. Around 2003 (the year I arrived in NYC), you could find sichuan peppercorns, but they were not of good quality and they (at least the ones I managed to locate) were always in unmarked bags. Nowadays, the quality is far better and the packaging is as you would find with any other spice. I just picked up a couple of packages from the large Chinese grocer on Elizabeth. They are a good source. I can't imagine good Sichuan food without them, so in that sense it's not like McDonald's french fries and fleur de sel. I suspect most places don't use them either because some people tend to freak out at the numbing sensation or else the restaurants are too lazy ( or cheap). It's analogous to most Thai restaurants and their failure to use Kaffir lime leaves.
  24. banquo

    Sushi Yasuda

    This sentence in gaf's post exactly expresses my recent experience of Yasuda, "...I find it a restaurant that is easier to respect than to love." I found the front of the house and the waitresses to be hurried and, to echo gaf once again, distant and almost disdainful (although the last bit is perahaps too harsh). There was little joy to be found anywhere excepting Yasuda himself who was ebullient and gregarious. We had made our reservations a month in advance and had specifically asked to be seated in front of Yasuda. We called a day prior and confirmed this. When we arrived we were promptly seated--in front of some other chef. Confused at first, I stopped one of the front of the house people to alert them of this, and, misunderstanding us, he pointed to Yasuda san and said, "He is there." Evidently, the person thought I was asking for an identification. Because this transaction took a couple of milliseconds, I didn't have time to correct him before he jetted off, and hence couldn't correct the mistake. At any rate, my wife told me not to pursue it any longer since the chef in front of whom we were seated looked a bit alarmed, and we didn't want to offend him by demanding to be moved. In the end, I don't think our food experience suffered too much (on that below), but it did leave a slightly sour taste in my mouth. We both ordered omakase. I don't have much too add to what has already been said about the sushi, but I would want to reiterate just how different the rice is from any other place I've ever been. The difference was not so much in terms of taste but in texture. It was quite toothy and starchy, like well done risotto rice. I didn't note a significant difference in taste in terms of sugar or vinegar, although my wife tells me she did. In the end, I'm not sure I prefer this sort of toothiness or not, but it was very interesting, to say the least. One rather large issue I had with with the sushi we were served was the excessive, I thought, use of salt and lemon juice. I love using fleur de sel, and put it on nearly everything, but to me most of the use of salt here seemed unnecessary and distracting (both in terms of texture--the salt was fairly coarse grained--and taste). By the way, they use, not surprisingly, Japanese sea salt. Our chef barely spoke a word of English so the pursuit to get more detail proved futile. There were uses of salt and lemon where it made tremendous sense. For example, the oyster (which was, incidentally, from Washington and unbelievably good). One outcome of sitting in front of our particular chef (I can't imagine this would happen with Yasuda himelf) was that the rice in the first couple of pieces of sushi broke apart when I tried to pick it up; and when it didn't completly break apart, stray grains of rice would fall down. He seemed to settle down after a bit and this didn't occur again the remainder of the night. Our selection was pretty much identical to what Ulterior Epicure received, except we ordered some mackeral and geoduck (giant clam). I liked the geoduck alot, and highly recommend it. The first bite tasted like an explosion of the sea, but this immediately gave way to its textural component (think abalone). We did a side by side tasting of the West Coast vs. East Coast uni. The West Coast was preternaturally creamy and rich tasting (my favorite uni ever was in Little Tokyo in LA; it tasted almost overwhelmingly of lavender. Has anyone ever had uni like that before?). The East Coast had more integrity and depth of taste (perhaps u.e.'s description of roasted garlic is accurate). The color difference between the two is unmistakable. As many have noted, the eel is unparalleled. But regarding some of the fish, to be honest, my preference is for a slightly thicker cut than Yasuda offers. In my opinion, the fish is too slight to get a handle on it before it vanishes in one's mouth. One thing I definitely didn't like about Yasuda is the pacing of the meal and of the restaurant in general. Our meal took exactly 1 hour. For 22 pieces of sushi each, 2 beers and soup, I think one hour is way too fast. In the end, I would surely go back for the food alone, but my enthusiasm for Sushi Yasuda is much less now than it was a week ago (when I hadn't tried it). Perhaps I will try it during lunch time and see if things will be more leisurely, and hence more to my taste and preference.
  25. banquo

    Pegu Club

    I went to here for the first time last Tuesday and love it so much I went back Thursday night, and will probably end up there this Saturday. It was a completely different vibe on Tuesday as on Thursday. Much more relaxed and quieter on Tuesday. Tonight it was quite crowded and the music was turned on louder. I can see myself fitting in on either night, but Tuesday is definitely more my thing. The drinks, as many have said, are incredible. I haven't had a drop of gin in 10 years (don't ask), but decided to try some of their gin based drinks--and I love them all. Their martini almost dropped me to the floor, because the alcohol sort of sneaks up on you. I would also recommend the fitty fitty and the drink with their house made ginger beer (I could imagine a summer fling with that drink). If you have hesitated to go to this place for whatever reason (inexplicably, I was), go now!
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