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Mao

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  1. Mao

    Babbo (First 6 Years)

    I have eaten at Babbo a decent amount in the last year (at least ten times) and agree generally with Vivin that the pasta is their forte, or certainly the area where the kitchen performs with the most consistent excellence. Their meat dishes can be much more of a lottery (albeit with a higher probability of pay out), BUT you can lose. And I have never been moved by the fish preparations. When I go there I almost always order the specials, in large part because I have tried most of the items from the regular menu at this point, and also because Batali is a spontaneous whacko I have learnt from someone who used to be in his kitchen, and the most interesting dishes tend to be the specials that he dreamt up/created in a fit from a recent trip to market. I am not a VIP there, though the bartenders know me at this point, but I have never gotten anything but first rate service there when I have eaten in the main dining area (obviously I haunt the bar). That said, I have heard enough stories from people I know to believe the nightmare service stories (same with Bouley). And I concur that my last two trips to the place have been subpar. In both trips, I recommended some of the standard menu items--mint love letters and goose liver ravioli--to my novice to Babbo dining guest and found them lacking versus my memory of the same dishes at the restaurant in meals past. But the one area that I have found the place always impresses is in the wine dept. The quarter litres (?) are always interesting and great. But I guess its possible the place is indeed slipping.
  2. Mao

    Sakagura

    I dined at Saka Gura last Sunday with my girlfriend and a friend of hers. I have eaten there a fair amount over the last 12 months (perhaps 7-10 times), and find both that the place can be expensive or reasonable really depending how much you wish to drink and that the food is not always consistent, but can be excellent. Certainly in this price range I think the only Japanese restuarant that may be as good in the city is Aki in the Village. Saka gura is NOT Jewel Bako, Sushi of Gari or Kuruma, but at its price range one doesn't expect a lot of stuff flown in from JFK from Tokyo mkts . Anyway, a couple of random things. First, as a general rule, unless you go there a lot and know what you are doing, its almost always best to order sake from the smaller menu that features the sakes that they have gotten in most recently. Typically they will give you two menus for sake, one of which is much larger, more comprehensive and breaks sakes down by region. Really, unless you know the deal avoid this list, because sake is like wine or beer--once the bottle is open--its probably only good for a few days max, before it should be used for cooking. The smaller menu is what is fresh and hasn't been open for weeks, and is what they just got in. Second, the menu seems to have changed a bit from the last time I was there. There are the usual interesting combos on the back but the main menu items are both more unsual and seem to feature some of things you used to see on the back like the mille feuile. I will second or treble the opinion of the 3 miso eggplant as being superb. Its not subtle--its rather sweet--but I thought it was a knock out in textural softness and sweetness. I also tried the egg concoction that Cabrales did and thought it rather mediocre. As a rule, I avoid eating Uni now except at the best sushi places because too often it is not super fresh and to my palate comes across as excessively briney, whereas really fresh Uni can be buttery and very sensual, almost teasing. Ducasse does not get fresh Uni. I also ordered the pork discussed above and agree that it was mind boggling--sweet but very brothy in my tender version. A few months ago I went for a meal there and was disappointed with the exception of some softshell crabs that were out of this world. I believe the place employs 3 chefs by the way. I have never had a bad meal there, but have certainly experienced mediocrity. Seems to depend on the night. I have had the fluke several times--somtimes good, sometimes bad, depending it often seems to me on fresh the seaweed is.
  3. Also, Wilfred its been my recent experience that while it is hard to come by more unconventional cuts of food and meat (offal, feet etc.) at high end dining establishments, its not as if these "odd" dishes cannot be had in the city. In fact, they are quite common at most of the Asian restaurants in Queens (Iwahan in a recent meal) and a hotpot get together in Queens among a lot of Mandarin speaking people presented me with tastes of duck's blood, chicken feet, pig's feet and pig's intestine. The last being the most impressively yummy.
  4. JG=Britney Spears Daniel Boulud=Justin Timberlake Alain Ducasse=Christina Aguilera David Bouley –10 years= Madonna 5-7 years ago Dinner at Lespinasse=Listening to Crosby, Still, Nash (and optionally Young) Let me just say that after two recent meals (in the last 2 weeks) at ADNY and Daniel, both of which had memorable moments but were essentially ploddingly boring, have convinced me that eating out at the high end in NYC is indeed damn dull at this moment in time. Atlas is closed. And Town deserves one more shot. And while I love eating once a month at Jewel Bako and Babbo is addictive, it has been a long time since I have walked away from a meal in NYC genuinely excited or moved by the total experience. This may or may not be function of my own jaded experiences, but everytime I eat at Daniel, JB and their ilk, I keep thinking that the scale of restaurants is a critical element in making a meal interesting. I am not saying that this is cause, but it is a factor. What if Daniel had a fourth restaurant where he charged 2x and served 40 people a night and one had the table for the entire night, instead of 200+. In the post bubble NY environs (the residential real estate bubble seems to be deflating as we speak), this is probably not economically viable, but it is something I would like to see.
  5. Mao

    Lespinasse (Closed)

    I have eaten there twice in the past year. I had not eaten there prior to this year, however. Both trips I walked away wondering what all the hype was about, and both times I did tasting menus. The first trip was a vegetarian tasting menu that was utterly bland and uninteresteding and actually bad at times. Second and more recent trip was the regular tasting menu which I sampled in October, but was still from the Summer, never a good sign that things are so out of season. I picked a great Pinot Noir the second meal that saved it from being a total disaster. For refrence I have been on a bender recently with a meal at Daniel on Friday, and I got to sample the white truflle tasting menu at Ducasse last night, which was 80% great-2 of the 5 dishes sampled were among the best dishes I have sampled in the last 6 months. The food at Daniel was also excellent, thoiugh not in the same league as the peaks of my trip last night at Ducasse. I don't even think my two meals Lespinasse belongs on the same page as the two other restuarants just mentined.
  6. I sense, how perceptive of me, that the post was made in joke. Bakka Iro sounds a lot like idiot in Japanese.
  7. I am planning to make a week and half trip to Paris next Spring/late winter with Vivin and his wife. This will be our second trip to France for eating purposes. While perhaps we are going about this trip the wrong way--choosing to eat at 3 star establishments, as opposed to travelling regionally to fully appreciate the regional distinctions and techniques within French cuisine, this is the way we are choosing to do the trip, and I would be interested in feedback as to places to visit. We/I visited the following on our last trip (Places with an asterix may be repeated this trip): Lucas Carton L'Arpege* Taillevent ADPA* Le Grand Vefour** (we have to go again) Guy Savoy Boyer Places we are considering this trip are: (Paris) L'Ambroisie (from the sound of it there is no way to get in) L'Astrance (same problem) Pierre Gagniere Outside: Recommendations?????
  8. Mao

    THE BEST: Bread in NYC

    What's the name of that old light green painted aging Italian bread bakery that never seems to be open between W Bwy and Sullivan (Vesuvio's?), I think on Spring? Are they run by the mob, or do they actually serve bread?
  9. Mao

    THE BEST: Bread in NYC

    I made trip to a local Amy's today and think that their quality control is a bit more erratic than it used to be. Some products are superlative, but some are weak. I still adore their almond croissants. Actually, where can one get good Challah? Its always been hard to get in NYC, but seems even harder now.
  10. My father managed to overcook the meaty mansize frozen dinners he prepared for me and my sister on divorce weekends in the 70s. Boy were those inedible. I lived during the week with my mother, who was a brilliant cook, so I guess I do consider it someone's else's home. Which raises an interesting question: was the increasing use of frozen and canned foods a good or bad thing for American cuisine? On the one hand, I imagine nutrition improved over the 50s and 60s, but did people eat any better prior to this or was the food equally horrible? I guess if your Mom or grandmother was fresh off the boat, or you grew up with servants and a cook there was some probability pre 1940 that you could concieve of food as potentially sensual. Also, I will chock up my worst meals at another's home to a few summers spent in the Isle of Wight with my best friend's family. But there was not just one bad meal but multiple ones. Cadbury's dairy milk choclate was my savior in a world of overcooked "homemade" kidney pies, and brussel sprouts boiled for several hours and served saltless.
  11. Mao

    Blue Hill (NYC)

    Since I moaned about my first and only meal at Blue Hill in my prior post, I thought it was time to offset that post with brief impressions from a meal this weekend. I went with a date, and while the tomato like tasting menu was not on offer (I enquired) plenty of tomato based dishes were. I stuck to this route with the exception of a corn soup. The cucumber soup amuse was extremely delicate and complex with hints of other textures which I cannot recall since I was gazing into my date's eyes. Tomato Terrine, with a Confit of Heirlooms and Tomato Sorbet was superb. The ability of the kitchen to tease enormous amounts of texture and flavor without resorting to the use of a lot of oil or fat of any kind was extremely impressive to me this time. My date ordered skate and I ordered the salmon in a tomato reduction. The salmon was perfectly cooked as close to rare as I have ever seen with the tomato puree adding a citrusy and sweet layer to the give of the salmon's flesh. This preparation was rivaled only by a more complex and richer preparation of salmon enjoyed at Le Bernadin a few months ago. We finished with a split dessert of peaches in some kind of cream and peach sorbet, which was lovely. It was funny because I had hit a farm stand in central NJ literally the day before and purchased and purchased and then enjoyed locally grown corn, tomatoes and peaches the night before at my less able hands. The freshness of the ingredients at Blue Hill was (the peaches excepted) as good as what I had bought on a country road. Overall, a great meal that allowed me to appreciate the kitchen's virtues. I intend to go back more often as the season’s change I am in the midst of a deeply amorous process, which is wonderful, but my usually bright and clear food memory seems to be temporarily dulled.
  12. Mao

    Patria (Closed)

    Cabrales. Apologies for asking you to repeat yourself, but in what way are your standards between France and NYC meals different?
  13. Mao

    Jewel Bako

    Akiko- It was part of the omakase. But I am sure that you could request certain things. Jack Lamb seems willing to bend over backwards to please. It was you who turned on to this place, BTW. So Thanks.
  14. Mao

    Jewel Bako

    Yes, eating it required a lot of chewing, and I mean a lot.
  15. Mao

    Jewel Bako

    My one decadent meal this weekend was at Jewel Bako, and I will confess its becoming one of my favorite places to eat in the city. The sushi is stupendous. I had one piece of parrot fish that was outstanding, and unlike Saka Gura, where you really have to ask for the freshest stuff, almost all the sake they have there is rather fresh. The otoro with caviar and avacado is also becoming one of my favorite new dishes. Yum.
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