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  1. Can't really understand anyone who would disagree that the cote de boeuf at Minetta Tavern is fairly obviously the best steak in Manhattan.
  2. We just had an exceptionally mediocre meal at La Tupina and would advise against going. The service was very nice and attentive, but the food was just not very good. We had scrambled eggs w/ local caviar and pan roasted cepes to start, and then the pork chop and the roast chicken. The eggs were fine. The mushrooms were mushy and not very flavorful. The pork chop was just fine, but totally unremarkable. The chicken was the biggest disappointment. Totally lacking in flavor, underseasoned, flabby skin. This place has all the trappings of a great local restaurant, what with the wood fire, the table of ingredients in front of it, and the ambiance, but the quality just wasn't there. On the other hand, we had an absolutely wonderful lunch at Le Lion D'Or in Arcins.
  3. We had lunch at El Capricho several days ago, and would echo Steingarten's assessment -- probably the greatest steak we've ever had. I was a bit worried after reading this review by Steve Plotnicki on Opinionated About saying that the restaurant was "disgusting" and more importantly that the steak wasn't very good. His review was from about two and a half years ago, so maybe things have changed since then, but we found the setting absolutely amazing. While it is indeed in an old wine cave, it turns out that an old wine cave can be a beautiful place to eat; it's perfectly clean, well lit, they have freaking Riedel stemware... We started with some house made cecina, which was outrageously good. We'd been having cecina in the area and this was in a different league from everything else we'd had. In fact, I'd rank it up there with the best jamon iberico de bellota as one of the greatest cured products I've ever had. As for the main event: there was a bunch of different beef on the menu, including, amusingly, "washyugu" -- isn't this from the U.S.? -- but Jose said that the specialty was the "chuleton el capricho", so of course we ordered this. Unfortunately not a whole lot of English was spoken so we didn't get very much more info about what exactly we were eating, but here are the pics: Now, there was a hot plate involved here, but it was not for cooking the beef, but rather just for keeping it warm once it was cut. The beef arrived at the table perfectly cooked. I don't know if this is something that has changed recently, but we had absolutely no complaints about the cooking method. The beef was just outrageously good. The closest thing I've had to it was probably the super long aged beef at Carnevino in Las Vegas, in terms of the depth of the aged flavor and the quality of the meat itself, but this was really in a different league from anything else we've ever had. Oh, and Jose picked out a bottle of 2004 Sierra Cantabria Amancio for us, which was just stunning, and paired perfectly with the beef. Interestingly, we did go to Asador Ripa in Bilbao, which Plotnicki mentions as serving beef that's far superior to El Capricho's, and we didn't find this to be the case at all. The chuleton at Asador Ripa was an excellent steak in its own right, and in any other context we'd probably be raving about it, but after El Capricho it was no contest. The grilled/smoky flavor on the Ripa steak was much more prominent, to the point of being overpowering, and while there was nice aged flavor the beef itself didn't have nearly the same complexity and pure beefiness. We also had beef as the final savory course at Etxebarri. Our meal at Etxebarri is probably tied with a meal we had at Sushi Mizutani in Tokyo as the single greatest meal we've ever had, but again the beef course, while perfectly delicious in its own right, was a bit disappointing after El Capricho! We basically planned the entire first portion of a Spain and France trip around El Capricho and it was totally worth it.
  4. This is hands down the best pork I've ever had. Last weekend my wife and I and another couple participated in this event at Mosefund Farm in northern NJ, where we learned how to slaughter, butcher, and prepare and cure Mangalitsa pigs, led by Christoph Wiesner and his wife, Isabel, an Austrian couple who raise the animals on their farm. We'd had this farm's pork in the past at a Mangalitsa dinner at elements in Princeton, NJ, so we knew the quality of the product going in. In any case, we had an amazing weekend. It was a great group of people, we learned a ton, and it was delicious. The main reason why I'm posting is that I want to spread the word about this product. Mosefund is currently selling at the New Amsterdam Market every Sunday. (I think the market will be open for four more weeks.) We went today to see Christoph demonstrate his butchering skills and to reconnect with some people from the class. We hadn't even heard of the New Amsterdam Market, but it's a lot of fun (Luke's Lobster, Porchetta; need I say more?). One thing I can say is that all Mangalitsa is not equal. The very first time we had it it was from some place out west, and it was totally unexceptional. Mosefund is doing it right. This pork is in a different league from any other pork we've had, including Berkshire at Blue Hill, Berkshire from Lobel's, Bryan Flannery's pork, etc. (and this is all excellent quality pork). The meat is almost red in color, it's extremely marbled, and the fat is somehow very flavorful but "clean" tasting at the same time. Not sure where to get this once the market is on hiatus... maybe try contacting the farm. Michael Clampffer, who is the chef at the farm and who is in charge of their Mangalitsa effort, is a super-nice guy and I'm sure would be glad to hook you up in some way.
  5. dagordon


    So a lot has changed since my last post. Basically, as I said, after the new owners took over the place they were pretty much trying to maintain the same menu as the old place, and while it was ok, it wasn't great. So we didn't go for a while. Then we started going back, maybe 8 months ago or so. The place is transformed. There are a couple of dishes that I remember from the old place, but the menu is largely different. And it's fantastic. I'm not sure I know what Japanese home cooking is (we've spent some time in Japan, but sadly not in anyone's home), but this seems substantially more refined than the old Donguri, and more refined than, say, Sakagura. The sashimi offerings are expanded, and they're uniformly excellent. We were there yesterday for dinner and had baby abalone served w/ the guts on the side, botan ebi (with the heads fried and served on the same plate), aji, and a massive amount (like a whole tray worth) of Maine uni. We've also had there, a couple times, homemade tofu that they serve w/ olive oil and sea salt and black pepper, a play on the same preparation with buffalo mozzarella... I don't know if other people are doing this, but it's absolutely brilliant, and delicious. We also had a buri rice bowl that was perfectly executed and an uni soba, again with a massive amount of uni, that surpassed Sobaya's uni soba, which is our favorite dish at Sobaya. We've had really great fish heads there as main courses in the past. And there's a duck dish with a yuzu kosho paste that's really memorable. And the "washyugu." (Washington state Wagyu.) We recognize several of the waitstaff from the old place, and they're exceptionally nice. I think we have pretty high standards for Japanese food and this is now one of our favorite places. I just hope it doesn't suffer the same fate as Kai, which is really why I'm posting!
  6. I have to vent. For the love of God, why does 99.97% of pistachio ice cream or gelato in the universe contain (and taste like) almonds, or almond extract??? I understand pistachios are expensive, and good pistachio paste isn't cheap either. But I'd rather not have pistachio gelato at all than be served something that tastes predominantly of almond and very little of pistachio. This problem is actually messing up people's tastes. I know someone who loves Ciao Bella's "pistachio" gelato, which tastes mostly of almond, but when given il laboratorio del gelato's pistachio gelato (which tastes strongly of pistachio, and nothing of almond) deemed it bland. Next time I'm served "pistachio" gelato at a resturant that tastes mostly of almond, I'm sending it back. I would like to start a crusade to encourage people to do this. End of venting.
  7. These week's tasting menu is fantastic. In particular, it's not often that you see sturgeon on a menu. They had it as a special recently when we were ordering off the menu (there was no tasting that week), and it was great then too. “Luxury for the New Year!"” Lobster Bisque Vanilla crème fraiche, aged bourbon Seared Hudson Valley Foie Gras Corn muffin, persimmon coulis Lightly Smoked Wild Columbia River Sturgeon Potato latke, wilted watercress, hackleback caviar sauce Pan Roasted Australian Rack of Lamb Truffled sunchoke puree, hen of the woods, mushroom demi glace Champagne Sorbet Lemon bar, raspberries
  8. We just totally missed the Game Menu due to various other commitments, and your description makes me very jealous. We had a tasting menu at Matyson several weeks ago that was a tad disappointing by Matyson standards (but would have been impressive for $45 at any other BYO in Philly), but that was the only blip in a string of many, many tasting menus we've had there in the past several years that have been varying degrees of excellent. IMHO, at its best the food here is simply in a different league from that of any other restaurant in Philly in a similar genre.
  9. Koo Zee Doo has quickly become one of our favorite restaurants in Philly. We've only been twice, as we don't live particularly close; if we lived nearby we'd probably go twice a week. The level of care and attention that goes into the food is clearly quite high, and it has great results. For example, everything is perfectly seasoned. We've been known to carry portable salt and pepper containers with us as much restaurant food is not properly seasoned (and good salt and pepper isn't usually available); at Koo Zee Doo we salted the butter but that was it. The gizzards were truly a revelation; I don't mind the texture they normally have, but in moderation (as in, one yakitori stick). These I could have eaten a large bowl of... and the sauce was fantastic. The blood sausages were also a revelation for me, as all blood sausage I've had in the past hasn't been terribly distinctive, apart from the color. These were distinctive, texturally and in flavor, in a really good way. All of the mains we've had have been great but I still have a soft spot for the steak with the amazing potatoes. And the desserts are on at least as high a level as the rest of the food.
  10. I have six waiting for me. Other than opening and tasting, any way to tell if the bottle is good or bad? AFAIK, no. Though I'm pretty sure that one of the advantages of the PLCB is that you can return even an opened bottle of wine, so I suppose you could always open it and return it if it's bad. On the other hand, there's a lot of great wine out there, so I just figured it's not worth the risk and hassle and returned mine.
  11. For those of you who bought the 2005 Sierra Carche at some point, in case you don't already know: http://www.drvino.com/2009/07/22/sierra-missed-the-saga-of-sierra-carche-2005/ Basically, it seems that many, many of the bottles are flawed. I just returned the 2 I purchased.
  12. What's funny about the story about their tomato espionage (and what makes me thing that it might simply be a marketing gimmick) is that the pizza sauce as Stella seems pretty clearly to be cooked and adulterated with seasoning. With classical Neapolitan pie the sauce is simply crushed San Marzano tomatoes, and in that cause of course it really matters what tomatoes you're using. But given what Stella is doing with their sauce, it strikes me as improbable that it makes much of a difference which brand of San Marzano tomatoes they're using. I don't mind the sauce at Stella; it tastes pretty unexceptional to me. In fact, it's be really interesting if they made at least one "artisanal" pie with just crushed San Marzano tomatoes and really good (buffalo or not) mozzarella. This might be pretty damn good.
  13. dagordon


    It took us way too long to get to Aldea. We ate there last night for the first time and had a terrific experience overall. I'd called just the day before to ask if the chef's counter was available, and was surprisingly told that it was. When we got there we were told that the previous couple was being slow, so it would be a bit of a wait (~25 minutes). So we sat at the bar and had the sea urchin toast and the presunto ham to tide us over. They were, of course, fantastic. What was really nice was not only that the hostess was initially genuinely apologetic about our wait, but also that two different people came over to us while we were at the bar to apologize. It's amazing how far such a simple gesture can go (and amazing how many restaurants don't think to do such things). Anyway, we got the tasting, which was: KNOLLCREST FARM EGG bacalao, black olive, potato FOIE GRAS TERRINE nectarines, cocoa nibs, nectarine sorbet LIGHTLY-CURED MACKEREL meyer lemon, almond milk, crunchy soy SHRIMP ALHINHO garlic, coriander, pimenton, pressed jus ARCTIC CHAR fennel-orange puree, roasted Brussels sprouts, sherry vinegar gastrique ARROZ DE PATO duck confit, chorizo, olive, duck cracklings Melon and basil palate cleanser STRAWBERRY TASTING strawberry semifreddo,strawberry hibiscus jam, sorbet and basil gel I don't know if this is a standard tasting menu; if there was an extra course in there, perhaps it was additional apology for the wait? In any case, the level of the food was freaking unbelievably high, let alone for $75. Just to add to the mention of a Japanese influence above -- the uni and (if I remember correctly) mackerel were both garnished with kinome, which of course you'd never expect at an Iberian restaurant, but which worked perfectly. Now, the wine pairing -- I asked if they could do a wine pairing with the tasting menu, and our waitress said she could. There were either 5 or 6 pours, I don't remember, but it was really delicious stuff. And, this was the kicker: when I looked at the bill at the end of the meal, the wine pairing was listed as $30! I even asked the waitress if this was a mistake (it wasn't). This was a preposterously good value wine pairing. We chatted a bit with the guy who was plating much of our food in front of us throughout the meal; our waitress was very pleasant; and I've already mentioned the multiple apologies for what was really a fairly brief wait. All of this combined to create a very warm and inviting vibe from the restaurant. Coupled with the absolutely delicious food, at an almost inconceivable bargain, this place is hard to beat.
  14. I figured I'd write about the last Ideas in Food / StudioKitchen in this thread, as this one was at Alex and Aki's place. Well, that reminds me that I never wrote about the dinner on Sept 12! It was fantastic, and I'll post a menu shortly. We were at the Saturday (Oct 3) dinner. The following pictures are from Shola's blog, and they're from the Friday dinner, but with a couple of small exceptions they're faithful to what we had. Hiramasa broken french breakfast radishes, crab applesauce Peanut Pumpkin roasting jus, harbourne blue (it's doña engracia cheese in the pic form the first night, I think) Matsutake Mushrooms and Bartlett Pears Chestnut Soup gala apples, bacon bits Warm Hiramasa vadouvan, eggplant Russet Potato Gnocchi parsley, tender garlic, powdered raclette Twice Cooked Scallop chorizo, black cabbage, beef fat consomme Whey Poached Beef Strip Loin braised shank, red cabbage: minced and pureed Adelegger 17 Month yellow tomato jam Apple Pie and Coffee There was not a weak dish in this lineup; my least favorite was probably the Peanut Pumpkin, and it was merely delicious. The Matsutakes, the Chestnut Soup, the Gnocchi, the Scallop, the Beef, and the "Apple Pie and Coffee" were to my tastes the standouts -- flawless, and some of the most memorable dishes I've had anywhere in recent memory. In particular, this was the first grass-feed beef I've had that I've actually liked (and, in fact, it was outstanding, though how much of this was due to the quality of the product itself and how much was due to the royal treatment it got is unclear to me). With all due respect to Shola's photo skills, IMHO the picture of the beef dish doesn't nearly do it justice. The "Apple Pie and Coffee" -- what a way to end the meal. The ice cream tasted more like apple pie than any apple pie I've ever had. It was almost spooky. This was one of the most memorable desserts I've had, anywhere, ever. This dinner was a lot of fun, both in terms of food (and wine) and company.
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