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Everything posted by Adrian3891

  1. Not quite sure if this is the right thread to post on, but I wanted to give a few thoughts on recent visits to Mayahuel and White Star. Mayahuel: After dinner at Back Forty, my girlfriend and I headed over to Death and Co. for some cocktails. The doorman said the wait was about forty minutes so we decided to head over to Mayahuel instead. The doorman there, a British guy, was a lot more friendly than the Death and Co. guy (who, in fairness, appeared to be dealing with an awkward crowd) and found us a seat right away. Once inside, I ordered a Stone Raft and my girlfriend got the Slight Detour. While both were good, the Slight Detour was the clear winner; the mole bitters gave the cocktail a depth and richness. We followed with glasses of anejo tequila. The Don Julio was great. All in all, very impressive. White Star: I'm a big supporter of White Star on week nights. While the cocktail's aren't as quite good as they are at some of the other bars in the Petraske empire, White Star executes the classics very, very well. Considering this, our experience there on Wednesday was like none other. First, Sasha himself was there. Apparently, White Star's been fairly slow on non-weekends and he's trying to drum up some more business by being there more often. We started the night with our go to drinks: me, an old fashioned, her a Manhattan. She swears the Manhattan at White Star is the best she's had. Both were excellent. Things got interesting when we let the bartender, who's name I can't recall, experiment a bit and try out some drinks he's been working on. First he gave us a "tequila old fashioned" which was basically an old fashioned made with tequila and muddled grapefruit. It was fine, but I can't help but think it would be a better drink with the mole bitters from Mayahuel. Then he tried an (unnamed?) drink featuring grapefruit, mint, cucumber, sugar, soda, and bourbon. Interestingly, my girlfriend loved the drink while Sasha deemed it too complicated for his style of bar. All in all, it was a great night in a fairly empty bar. While I wouldn't say that White Star is one of the top five cocktail destinations, it's my favorite spot for dropping in for a great cocktail. Also, on non-weekends, it's much easier to interact with the bartenders there and try a work in progress.
  2. No one here has mentioned the OAD list (Troisgros #1 from what I remember) as a point of contrast with this one as it's composed using "experienced" diners' surveys and not critics'. As opposed to debating the relative merits of the list, which we all seem to agree are limited, is there anything we can learn by looking at the differences between the critics list, the diners list, and Michelin (probably the most objective standard)?
  3. Sorry, the skate is only at lunch. The duck crusted with almonds, sauteed foie, is only at dinner as well. My apologies. ← I originally posted that the skate was turbot at dinner, but that's been said and I can't figure out how to delete a post. So, as not to be totally redundant, I'll add to everything else the smoked squab a l'orange as one of my favorites. It may not be a "signature" but it's a great, great dish.
  4. Any specific items that stood out? ← It's been a while so details are murky, especially since I don't have notes on me, but the spectacular rib-eye (I know that's off limits here), but lamb and pork preps were pretty excellent. More interestingly, it appears that David Lee is leaving Splendido and his chef de cuisine is taking over. Wild.
  5. I found the selection of Canoe as the top restaurant in the city surprising as did many people I know more knowledgeable about the current Toronto food scene then me. I presumed that Splendido or Eigensinn would have grabbed the top spot. With that, it's a big mistake to write off Splendido because you "don't like xyz". Aside from the fact that Splendido has to be serving the best beef in town, David Lee is a precise and talented cook who elevates Canadian ingredients to a very high level. There are a number of dishes on the menu that showcase his deft hand ingredients that are not beef, venison, foie gras or truffles. My last meal at Splendido was superior to any other that I've had in Toronto, including the old Susur.
  6. I would say to do brunch at the Spotted Pig. At night, it's a bit of a scene, but at brunch there are actually a number of families there. Although the menu is different, a few of the classics are there (the burger, the gnudi) and the brunch items are all pretty exemplary. Shake Shack is perfect for a family after the museum. And Pan, you're right about the crepe place on Ludlow. Even at 4 AM I can only say the crepes are ok. And at 4 AM, pretty much everything is ok.
  7. Aside from Bar Boloud, I've had some fun post-Lincoln Center meals at Yakitori Totto. It may be a bit of an abrupt change from the Lincoln Center atmosphere, but if you're used to going to the Spotted Pig, a change it atmosphere doesn't seem to be the issue. It's also a bit more affordable than Bar Boloud (although the charcuterie for two is surprisingly filling).
  8. For a quick coffee and pastry for breakfast I second Cafe Falai on Clinton. Also, Abraco on 7th and 1st serves some of the best espresso around and their small selection of pastries, cakes and quiches are excellent. There is no seating there, however. Ninth street espresso at 9th and C also serves excellent espresso and pastries from Balthazar bakery. For something a bit more substantial, a bagel with smoked salmon and cream cheese and a coffee at Russ and Daughters is one of my favourite breakfasts in the city. On the Central Park front, cheers to the Zibetto rec - I had no idea that it was there and I've been looking for good coffee in that area for a year and a half. Otherwise, for non-Jean Georges, Bouchon Bakery is, unfortunately, your best option. It's good, just not quite good enough for the price. For cookies, Momofuku Milk Bar does excellent, homey and creative cookies. If you're near Chinatown, Vanessa's Dumplings is the best of the cheap dumpling places and also does excellent sesame pancakes and soups. Similarly, Nice Green Bo does really great soup dumplings. Both are dirt cheap. Spotted Pig is great for a mid-afternoon drink. As much as I'm loathe to admit it, Spitzer's Corner at Rivington and Ludlow is good for a late afternoon beer and people watching, although it's not really a pub. Inoteca, right across the street, is a good spot for a class of wine and panini at lunch.
  9. I agree that Black Iron's pretty good. Talking to the counter guy at an earlier visit, he mentioned that they're using a custom blend of grass fed beef. I don't think it's in that top echelon, but it's very good. The new burger at Shopsin's, however, is crazy good. He's using a custom blend of (and don't qoute me on this) ground chuck and brisket from Jeffery's. It was juicy, fatty and had that perfect, charred crust from the flat top. A definite contender.
  10. For dining, Ft. Myers Beach may be the worst food town I've ever visited. For cooking, aside from the dismal produce, you can do pretty well. The fish markets on the other side of the bridge are very good. The Sandy Butler is good compared to everything else. But we all knew that. More interestingly, there is an awesome smoked fish shop on San Carlos Blvd, just across from the bridge. Maria's Smoke House is an ugly, dingy, broken down shack of a place, best located by the decent roadside citrus guy parked out in front. Inside, they serve some of the most worthwhile, interesting, and delicious smoked fish I've ever tried. You can eat in (it's actually not bad out back), or take out, which is what I usually do. Maria's smokes its fish in a style that I'm unfamiliar with. From what I can gather, it's a latin american style (help here). It appears that the fish is first coated with a spice rub, then hot smoked. The final product is closer to a cold cooked fish than lox. The fish varies by the day, but the amberjack has an excellent flavour (although is a bit dry) and the salmon is moist with the perfect amount of smoke. Honestly, it's worth a side trip if you're in the vacinity. And for southwest florida, that's saying something.
  11. Adrian3891


    If you can find a bad review written by Chatto, Kates, Mallet, or Pataki, please forward it to me. And the Toronto blog/board community isn't as developed as it is here. Criticism on the major international food blogs in nonexistent. I think Susur could have benefitted from a closer examination.
  12. Adrian3891


    Both Le Bernardin and Masa closed in their original locations, and the chefs moved here permanently. Among those who've opened NYC restaurants without moving here permanently, the track record is pretty bad—at least in terms of reception. Keller is about the only successful high-profile example I can think of in recent memory. ← Ironically, the other Canadian superstar chef who opened in NYC, Toque's Normand Laprise, was met with praise by at least the Times at Cena. How long did he last even with a 3 star review? Funny how things work out.
  13. Adrian3891


    Not to discount how hard it is to open in NYC, but this seems to me to be the inevitable result of Susur leaving the protective Toronto bubble. He's an immensely talented chef who's not faced a whole lot of criticism in the past. Back home, he could do no wrong, but, not having eaten at Shang, the criticisms that one would levy on the restaurant were pretty predictable based on my experience in Toronto. When it's not on, Susur’s food can be frantic, over-complicated, unfocused, overworked etc. In Toronto, these problems were over-looked. In NYC, during a period where even the best complex food is greeted with skepticism, Susur's inconsistency is deadly. Don’t get me wrong, I like Susur Lee's work. He is responsible for some truly memorable dishes that I've eaten. Despite this, I think he's been protected in Toronto and has never had to address some of the flaws in his cooking. I still plan on eating at Shang and wish Susur all the best. But that doesn't mean that I'm surprised by the critical response.
  14. Adrian3891


    As a Toronto expat (who, sadly, has not eaten at Shang yet), much of what has been said on this board is unsurprising to me. In my mind, Susur has always been prone to some poor conception, haphazardness and overcomplication in his food (the "reverse" tasting menu, which is a bit of a misnomer, is an example of this, but that's another discussion). When it's working, his food uses complication to elevate a dish to pretty high heights, but when a dish is a miss, the complication is perplexing, even sloppy. Susur is a Jazz musician playing difficult music and sometimes it comes apart. I think that the danger when his food is served a la carte is that one can easily compose a menu of 'misses'. His other restaurant in Toronto, Lee, which appears to have a similar concept to Shang would appear to be a bit behind the times if transplanted NY; a little to "fusiony" for a city that appears to have moved a little bit passed that. It's never gotten the acclaim in Toronto that most expected it would get pre-opening. I really hope that Shang settles down as Susur learns this market. From my experience here, there is less margin for error in NY than Toronto and Susur isn't going to get the free pass to make mistakes here that he gets in Toronto. I really hope he succeeds; when at his best, he's a phenominal talent capable of producing food that's competitive with some of NY's best. Now to actually get over to Shang.
  15. I'll modify this one slightly: I'm currently debating between Wallse and Annisa for next weekend. Wallse's winter promotion looks excellent, although so does Annisa's whole menu. Thoughts?
  16. I'm too young to remember flying in a jacket and tie, although given what I've seen at airports recently, it may not be a bad idea. And I generally agree with what you've said. I could critique the Ko model as well, but, for illustrative purposes, it brings up an important point; the food and the environment are separate entities. And once we accept that, we’ve got to ask what the purpose of formal routine is. What I'm objecting to is routine for routine’s sake. I would like to believe that every detail of formal service is purposive. I have little tolerance for parts of the routine that are not there to help me enjoy my food. I brought up Taillevent for this purpose (I suppose I should have used an NYC example, Jean Georges maybe?), to show that I’m not against the formal model, I just feel that sometimes it’s used for exclusionary reasons and not to make a more comfortable, relaxed, and enjoyable environment. Sometimes the rules are useful in creating a great eating environment (white table clothes, replaced napkins, jacket and tie even). Sometimes they just make the diner uncomfortable (30 different pens to sign the check, impersonal interactions from all but the most senior members of the service team).
  17. We’ve been talking a lot about the formal/informal distinction here, but I also think that it’s worth acknowledging in this discussion that the relationship between food and the type of service you receive has been fundamentally changed in recent years. Ko is the most obvious example of this. As I mentioned in an earlier post, it deconstructs the fine dining experience by stripping away all the unnecessary routine and ritual. I’d imagine that the idea that you don’t need fancy service, silver wear, or a tie to enjoy great food is a pretty new one. It makes those routines, when they don’t actively make the dining experience better, seem a little ridiculous. Consequently, I am far less willing to put up with staid ritual and routine when it does nothing to further my enjoyment of the food that I’m eating. When I go to an old guard French restaurant, I find that often the dining experience has become a slave to formalism; the purpose of the conventions should be to create an ideal environment to enjoy the food being served, not esoteric ritual for esoteric ritual’s sake. Some restaurants don’t seem to abide by this logic. Pre-reno Bouley had a dining room that was a caricature of luxury and service that seemed more interested in the routine than what they were serving. It created a very stiff, uncomfortable environment. Citronelle in DC had a paranoid style of service where I felt as though I was being watched by a team of hungry vultures, ready to swoop in to keep the meal’s clockwork timing. It’s a stuffy and inelegant caricature of properly executed formal, French service. The shame in this is that the formal French model is still, in my mind, the best for creating an environment in which to experience world class cooking. I was lucky enough to experience Taillevent when Jean-Claude Vrinat was alive. Hardly could I imagine a more formal place and hardly have I ever felt as relaxed in a restaurant. The sommelier and head waiter were interested in conversation with patrons, courses were perfectly timed, my water glass was never less than half full, M. Vrinat shook everyone’s hand on the way out; I left feeling like the king of Spain. I’m sure that the king of Spain left feeling like the king of England. For such a formal place there was a manifest lack of snootiness and pretension. Instead, the service was designed to give the best possible experience to each diner while at the same time maintaining an air of luxury. What M. Vrinat understood is that stodginess and stiffness are not required for elegant service, they’re antithetical to it. He also understood that great restaurants should make people feel good and the making your best customers feel good does not mean making your least important customers feel like second class citizens.
  18. Went to Ko for the first time last night. I wish I could post something other than a rave but I can't; the meal was brilliant and it will be one that I remember for a long time. I was primed to be disappointed by my already high expectations and yet somehow Ko managed to exceed them. The current menu is: Amuses - pork rind, roll with mirin, a sesame cake with yogurt Raw scallop, uni, yuzu, burnt applesauce - the uni was Yasuda good. No joke. Braised lamb belly, daikon and potato soup (like a vichyssoise), fried brussel sprouts, lily bulb - lamb belly is the new pork belly Onion soubise etc Hand torn pasta, snail sausage, etc Sea bass grilled and poached, marigold puree, artichoke stew Shaved foie gras Sous-vide beef cheek, jalapeño purée, grilled matsutake mushrooms, white fungus – I liked this way more than Fat Guy Mandarin sorbet, bitter orange Fried cheddar, pretzel ice cream Wine pairings were really interesting – some Spanish whites, a chilled German pinot noir, a valpolicella, a white burgundy and a sherry with for dessert. As a diner, I’m glad that they’re no longer doing the rice-miso soup thing which was a great nod to the kaiseki type experience but not a particularly exciting dish. More broadly, what I loved about the meal was how effortless the combination of classical and modern cooking appeared to be at Ko. Classical touches and components like the soubise brushed against modern technique and creativity in a non-showy way. Everything was done in the service of flavour. Ingredients were of a high order and a few, like the uni and the lamb belly, were spectacular. Every dish was mindful of textural contrast and used some fairly interesting seasoning (Japanese mustard oil, for example, made an appearance in two dishes). Also, I know this has been said a million times but it can’t be understated how much Ko disrupts the traditional fine dining model. By serving two star food in an austere environment Ko reinforces the idea of dining as theatre. And by that I don’t mean that the experience at Ko is theatrical; on the contrary, Ko is distinctly non theatrical. At most fancy restaurants as diners we play roles. We wear certain things, participate in certain rituals, and observe certain etiquette. It’s fun, but we’re following a script in order to create a fantasy reality for ourselves and everyone else in the restaurant. At Ko there’s none of that. It’s three guys cooking a hell of a meal without regard for routine or ritual. It makes that other stuff seem kind of silly. Dining at Ko is a very un-alienating and democratic way of eating serious food.
  19. Over the past year, on my frequent trips home to Toronto from New York, I've really come to appreciate Cumbrae's as a source for meat and poultry in Toronto. In terms of both variety and quality of meats, it's as good as anything I've found in New York, Montreal or Toronto. The central brilliance of Cumbrae's is that it offers locally farmed meats in an environment where the aesthetic is more akin to a jewelry store than a butcher shop. Anyway, to the products. Steaks: Cumbrae's steaks are very good, sometimes excellent. Unlike mail order steaks like DeBragga in the US, you can pick out your cut at the store. Usually the best few cuts in the case at any given time are as good as you'll get outside of top steakhouses. Also, the flank and hanger steaks are excellent value as they're also given the same dry aging treatment as the more expensive cuts. I always make sure I have at least one Cumbrae steak when I'm in the city. Pork: I first had the St. Canut milk-fed pork at Toque in Montreal and was astounded. If Cumbrae is carrying it, buy it. It's a world class product that Canada should be proud of. I grilled a loin that I bought from Cumbrae this summer and was once again blown away by the meat's clean, subtle pork flavour. Poultry: Both chickens and turkeys from Cumbrae are intensely flavourful. It's far too easy in this world of grocery store poultry to forget just how good a roasted chicken can be. One word of warning is that Cumbrae's chickens do not contain gizzards, a shame for gravy making. Game: For Christmas dinner this year we roasted a Cumbrae duck. They get their duck from Quebec and it was good but not great. A step down from what the better butchers in Montreal offer. I have no other basis for comparison in TO. My only quibble with Cumbrae is that they're unwilling to sell bones for stock. They use their leftover bones themselves to make their own stock. Their prepared foods are fine but nothing to write home about. Still, I wish I had Cumbrae's in New York.
  20. If you have to stay local, Sachiko's and Cube 63 (BYO) on Clinton St. are both perfectly serviceable but unspectacular. If you don't have to be on the LES, then Ushiwakamaru is a five minute cab ride away.
  21. Before I went to Komi I had the same fear as well. But fear not, it's not a two course tasting. The "selection of mezzethakia" refers to upwards of seven or eight small, one or two bite items that are interesting, surprising and delicious. In a lot of ways, they're what made the restaurant for me (and the braised kid, and the olive oil gelato). The value is surprisingly good. In fact, I did not detect much difference in the volume of food between the $90 menu and the full tasting. Don't worry, it's worth it.
  22. It’s been four years since I last visited France, but I recall the one thing that amazed me was how, with only a modicum of effort, I could find a great, cheapish meal. 35e at Les Adrets in Lyon got me a meal that would easily have cost $200 in Canada at the time. I had similar experiences in almost every town I visited on that trip. But this did take some effort. I terrible meal in Dijon taught me that lesson early on in the trip and I was better for it. I can’t help but think that many of these complaints come from a lack of adequate research or from those who are intimately familiar with all the mediocrities of France who come to New York and hit all the culinary highlights missing the plethora of terrible restaurants. I think the above complaint about young French chefs being too focused on creativity applies as much here in NYC as it does in France. How often have we seen, on the boards nonetheless, traditional and “correct” French cooking get savaged? The pressure may not be from Michelin, but it exists in New York. There is a tremendous pressure for young chefs to be creative and strike out on their own here. This is the price of a vibrant, educated dining public. The same forces that give us the Momofukus also give us a number of unsuccessful restaurants by young chefs who try and make their mark too soon (call it the Top Chef disease). This could be the reason I find it difficult to find a good sauce in New York outside of the restaurants that are outside of my price range. And New York is easily the best food city I've ever lived in. Two weeks ago in Montreal I had a tremendous four course meal at La Colombe for about $40 Canadian. My venison, in a rich, deep demiglace was everything that I love about French cooking. Montreal is a great city for culinary value. The art of the stock and the fond is not lost there. But, to get to La Colombe, you have to push along Duluth past some of the worst restaurants that I’ve ever experienced. So, from my limited experience, I’ve easily found value in France, Montreal and NYC. I’ve also lived or spent significant portions of time in the past few years in DC, Toronto and Boston (which the city the article focuses on). How many good value restaurants have I found in those cities? Compared to the aforementioned places, zero and that’s not for lack of effort. Good food is hard to find wherever you go. But until you can get a good, reasonably priced meal outside of a few select urban centers, I would suggest that we don’t proclaim France dead quite yet.
  23. I had the same experience at Komi. I actually went there in person and tried to negotiate a five top. They said that the kitchen just can't handle it. A shame, because it's my favourite in DC. Given that, I would throw my hat in for CityZen. I'm in the minority, but I did not have a great experience at Citronelle. My thoughts are summed up pretty nicely by GAF in another post on the board (he reviews the same menu that I did, strangely enough). But CityZen is serving really clean, creative world class food and the value's better as well. ←
  24. I read it as an ironic, plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose, sort of statement. Ie. the complaints you hear about New York dining (and French dining) in some quarters has not changed and probably never will change. Certain people will always be concerned about great food in NYC being corrupted by a desire to stay trendy and certain people will always worry about the great French country restaurant compromising its traditions and mores. These criticisms have been and always will be with us.
  25. Testy. Trying to be a little tongue and cheek, I'm sorry if it offended your better sensibilities. For clarification's sake, I think that visitors to the city (and probably people who live here but can't frequent both restaurants) will get a much better idea of what they're doing at Ssam at dinner then at lunch. Why? The more limited Ssam lunch menu means that a visitor won't get to experience many of the dishes that make the restaurant so great, namely the offal ones as well as some of the fish and meat. Also, the whole vibe of the place, one of the reasons why it is so different and exciting, is a little toned down. Noodle, meanwhile, retains its whole menu during lunch and the atmosphere and style of food are more amenable to a lunch type experience. So there are like, so many people eating incorrectly at these two places? It's amazing, but perhaps it would be great to tell everyone exactly what they should order as well. Period. ←
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