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  1. On a short visit to Phoenix, I had a wonderful dinner at Noca on Saturday night. My hosts had suggested Noca based on a very positive review they had read, but it was only after I looked it up on egullet that I realized it was owned by Molto E. Our experience was positive from the moment we stepped in the door. Unbeknownst to us, we were greeted by Eliot (Molto E) at the door and then seated at a central table near the large open kitchen. I started with the parsnip soup, which was incredible. It was served with roasted root vegetables in the bottom of the bowl and a drizzle of honey and then the parsnip soup based was poured over tableside. A truly, truly delicious example of a homey winter soup. Following the soup I had the flatiron steak, which was perfectly cooked to the medium rare I had requested. It was served over what I believe was a potato puree but tasted more complex (perhaps a turnip or two mashed in there?) and a delicious creamed spinach. The bordelaise reduction proved a bit sweet for me, but was still tasty. I had a tasty bite of a dining companion's scallop crudo, but I can't recall specific details of the dish. I did get the chance to taste an absolutely delicious cheese-filled spinach tortellini ordered by one of my hosts, which was pretty spectacular. The pasta was bright green in color- inspiring me to go home and play with my spinach pasta- and had a really nice toothsomeness to it (sometimes hard to achieve with stuffed pastas). The texture was perfect and complimented the gooey creamy interior. The skate dish also proved exceptionally delicious. The pan fried skate was reminiscent of Ssam Bar's skate, though less aggressively breaded/seasoned. It was served over a mix of corn, beans, and bacon and had a wonderful smoky flavor. I'd definitely love to have either of these courses as my main on another visit. We drank a bottle of Friulano Bianco Scarpetta 2007, which was not as complex or unusual tasting as some friulian whites I've had. A bit cidery, but in a nice way. $48. There was a nice selection of reasonably priced wines on the menu, which was a nice change from New York. As many of you know, I'm not usually a dessert person. In fact, we weren't even going to order dessert, but then our waiter mentioned that they have wonderful coffee. Well, I'm a sucker for wonderful coffee, especially wonderful restaurant coffee (a rarity). I suggested that I could have some coffee if someone else wanted something and then my hostess graciously offered to have some tea (although she was secretly hoping for some donuts). Tea for one turned into tea for 2 as another guest joined her. Our waiter suggested the coconut/passionfruit or cherry bombe desserts, but we originally declined, since we were already quite full. At the last minute, though, we decided that we couldn't miss the donuts (mentioned very favorably in the review that my hosts had read). Miraculously, both the donuts and the passionfruit dessert (coconut sorbet, passionfruit pudding, almond dacquoise) appeared at our table, along with our teas and coffee. To further delight us, a sample of the salted butter gelato and a mini vanilla milkshakes were also distributed around our table. Wow! Quite a bit more than a cup of coffee...Everything was delicious- and that's coming from someone who isn't a dessert person. Nothing was overly sweet. The toppings to go with the donuts (dulce de leche, strawberry and dark chocolate) complimented the cakey goodness. The passionfruit was tart and the dacquoise was broken up into crunchy pieces. The milkshake made me want to grab a cheeseburger to go with it (although I was stuffed). And the nonbelievers at the table (those would be the two who don't eat Otto olive oil gelato regularly) loved the salted butter gelato. In a word, great. The place that this restaurant really gets it right is with the details. Beyond the wonderful food, the staff was gracious and friendly. Eliot spent at least 20 minutes talking to us at our table (one Chicago family connection, a long discussion about LA and Phoenix restaurants, and an egullet friendship). It was clear that he truly embodies the love for food and restaurants that Noca reflects. It seems to be a true expression of his (and Chris') philosophy and aesthetic. Little tastes abound: We started with a wonderful goat cheese/pear amuse, had a delicious sampling of mushroom soup between the first and second courses, and received a playful bowl of bright blue cotton candy prior to dessert. This restaurant really gets it right, in a way that restaurants in much bigger cities often don't manage to. Kudos to Molto E for that. If you're in Phoenix, you'd be nuts not to go.
  2. I really don't think that either EMP or Le B encourages their patrons to have loud conversations that disrupt the dining experiences around them. I'm sure that a simple heads up to your servers could have easily ended that problem. Or a quiet word with the disruptive patron. I think it's a bit absurd to suggest that there's a difference in "how people feel they can act" at EMP versus Le Bernardin. There's clearly a difference in how people feel they can dress, though it seems clear that the level of formality does not dictate appropriateness or attractiveness in all cases.
  3. I think the issue of dress code is really that people seem to have absolutely no standards for appropriateness if you don't give them very clear and firm direction. For men, that generally means a jacket. Could a guy look dapper and well put together in the right pair of jeans and a button down or the right slacks with a sweater? Of course, but most men will look schlubby and messy. Women get more leeway, but appropriateness is certainly an issue. Can jeans work with a nice top? Sure, but I really don't need to see three inches of your stomach/hip/whatever that area is called. It seems like the more casual Americans are, the less that they're capable of looking put together. That's why Europeans can manage the L'Arpege dress code, but NYers as a whole (and the rest of the US is far worse) can't do it. Stylish and foodie are hardly terms that go together...
  4. Jesikka

    Rhong Tiam

    Can anyone tell me whether Rhong Tiam has closed? They have not been answering their phone for over a week and they seem to have disappeared from Seamless Web. Is this a vacation or a closed restaurant?
  5. Although I find myself stuck in the middle here, and am not in the "anti-4-stars-EMP" camp by any means, I personally object to the fact that they serve PLENTY of meals that arguably aren't even 3 stars - specifically the 2 course lunches. This NEVER happens at Per Se, JG, Le Bernardin. Everything that leaves those kitchens are 4 star quality, they constantly strive for the very very top every single time you visit - even in the salon at Per Se for example. They prove themselves from the second the door opens to the second the door closes. If you go for the dinner tasting or Gourmand, EMP is - in my estimation - a 4 star restaurant. Any other meal leaves some doubt. Some meals leave little doubt that it's not a 4 star restaurant. That's what bothers me. They are capable. But they don't hold themselves to it 100% of the time (and potentially, a very small % of the time) ← I completely agree with this. For years I have been in the "I don't understand what everyone is going on and on about with Humm" EMP camp. I have truly wanted to love EMP as much as my friends do, but I simply haven't had a ton of food there that has wowed me. However, the only time I did the Gourmand tasting menu under Humm was about a month into his tenure. It was fine, but certainly not four star quality. Since then, I've had two dinners, and maybe four lunches. The most recent lunch was certainly my best (I believe we sampled about 7 dishes for our table of 3). However, with the exception of the occasional very good dish, nothing has really blown my mind. It seems that perhaps I need to experience the Gourmand menu again in order to figure out what makes this restaurant so very special. OTOH, I have been extraordinarily reluctant to do so, for fear of being disappointed at a significant financial cost. I'm not sure whether EMP is "just not for me" or whether I just haven't spent enough to get the meal that is for me, but I do wish that I could experience what others seem to find here.
  6. Jesikka

    Dinner Party Menu

    I wanted to do something seasonal and using top quality produce from the greenmarket, so mushroom risotto wasn't really going to do it for me. Carnaroli is a very absorbent very white (in color) rice. A lot of chefs like it better for risotto than Arborio. They sell it at my Whole Foods.
  7. I'm looking at 24 inch ranges right now and looking for recommendations. I rent my apartment and my landlord will be paying the freight (or at least as much of it as I can convince him to cover), so aga/viking/wolf/blue star, etc. are probably out of the question. Anyone know anything about 24 inch ranges between say $800 and $2000? Your advice is much appreciated.
  8. Jesikka

    Dinner Party Menu

    Thanks for all your suggestions. I did the leg of lamb from Molly Stevens, which was perfectly tender and fell right off the bone. The vegetarian ate some of the veggies with the lamb, which I considered a good sign. The risotto was made with carnarolli rice, homemade veggie stock, fresh asparagus, a half package of frozen organic peas and some parm (standard, in other words). Veggie stock was better than this carnivore would have expected (normally I use chicken stock for everything). Delicious and springy. I took the veggies from making the stock, pureed them and added some butter and salt. Perfect side dish. Rounded out with a salad dressed with a white balsamic vinaigrette.
  9. Jesikka

    Dinner Party Menu

    That sounds fantastic. It looks like the recipe is online. I think I am now settled on a menu of spring risotto (peas, asparagus, morels?- I'll figure it out) and braised lamb (maybe Molly Steven's 7 hour leg?) and a salad. I figure everyone can put cheese on the risotto as they wish, the vegetarian will have plenty of food without the lamb and the salad will go with everything. Someone else is bringing dessert. I might do an app as well, though I haven't determined what that will be. Acceptable fare? Does anyone have a spring risotto that they love?
  10. I am planning a send off dinner for one of my law school roommates and her boyfriend, who are moving to San Francisco. A few other law school friends will be joining. The boyfriend is a vegetarian and one of the other attendees "doesn't like cheese." I'm a bit at my wits end about what to serve. I was planning to make batali's fresh ricotta and asparagus ravioli as a starter and then do a main course of poussin with a quiche or something for the vegetarian. Since the issue of cheese was introduced, I'm not sure how to adjust the menu, but I'm beginning to think that family style dining might be more suited to a picky group. If possible, I'd like to stay very seasonal and ingredient driven. Since it's a goodbye dinner, I'd also like to make it as special as possible, within the limitations of the group. Ideas?
  11. I can't see any reason that anyone would have coffee and/or breakfast anywhere but Abraco ever. So I suppose that would be my recommendation.
  12. I was at lunch with BryanZ today. I continue to have a conflicted relationship with this restaurant- which I've just never had that revelatory experience at. While I thought our lunch was excellent value and I also really enjoyed the skate and the veloute, none of the other dishes really stood out for me. Although the food is often beautiful and universally tasty, it just doesn't EXCITE me. When I compare that lamb dish to the dish at Corton, I'm never going to crave the one at EMP, though it was delicious. It's not that the food here lacks soul- the accusation that one might make of the technically perfect dishes served at Per Se- but I think that it feels TOO familiar. The lobster risotto, while perfectly lovely, was just entirely expected. The octopus salad was something that could be served at any number of two or three star restaurants in this city. While, as BryanZ said at lunch today, JG has more misses, the hits are just much bigger hits for me. The places where the food at EMP shines in my mind are the times that the approach is slightly less expected- fried sweetbreads in a creamy veloute or skate with a flourescent curry sauce and braised endive- flavors that shine together but don't feel like excellent execution of something I've had many many times. Perhaps it's haute fatigue, but I'd rather take the risk of a big JG miss (inexplicable amounts of citrus) on the chance that I'll find a hit or turn to a classic preparation that never fails to excited (chateau chalon sauce). I'm thrilled to eat at EMP for lunch, but I'm not sure I'm motivated to blow the budget on a tasting menu dinner. On the other hand, I'm in LOVE with the $28 wine menu. The two half bottles we had- a Crozes Hermitage and a Menetou-Salon- were an absolute delight. I think any wine lover would love the opportunity to try the Chateau D'Yquem (I believe it was 1995) without buying a bottle (even at an admittedly steep amount for a few sips). I think many of those options were always on the wine list, but it was nice to have them drawn together on one list and the price point is entirely non-threatening. All in all, I think this lunch is a great option for anyone looking for great value in fine dining downtown.
  13. Jesikka


    I think their cocktails are pretty similar to any restaurant bar that has put emphasis on making a list of great cocktails but not spent as much time on training as they should. When properly made, the Redhead drinks are great, unfortunately that seems increasingly rare. I think the focus has been off the bar since the restaurant opened. However, having been to Redhead when it was just a bar, the crowd REALLY does not seem to be made up of cocktail drinkers. If the cocktails were up to the quality of the food that would certainly be extraordinary.
  14. Jesikka


    I'm not sure where you got the idea that Redhead is a cocktail bar. At the time it was just a bar, it was a lot closer to a generic bar that did a better than average job at cocktails, which is still what the bar is. Most people sitting at the bar at any given moment are definitely drinking beer. You are right, of course, that the food on average is better than the drinks on average. The reason to go is for the food, but it's hardly a terrible place to grab a beer if you're in the neighborhood.
  15. I may be biased by my love for the chefs, but I think I can fairly say that my dinner at Bite Club was truly excellent last night. Since my first dinner there just after they opened, D & A have truly developed their style and refined their technique. The portions were spot on, the dishes were hearty and wintery without being too heavy, and the atmosphere (a townhouse on the UWS) was beautiful. I don't have a copy of the menu, but the dishes included an amuse of apple squash soup with a foie-reo (peanut butter cookie with foie gras filling); cauliflower flan with caviar; slow cooked duck egg with shitake mushrooms; pumpkin ravioli with toasted pecans and apple; pork loin (perfectly charred) with wild rice and pork belly with onion slaw; cheese plate include tomme de crayeuse, garroxta, nisa and others I'm forgetting; and a grape soup with yogurt sorbet. Even though I don't generally go in for dessert, this was a burst of childhood in dessert form. Really delicious. The slow cooked duck egg was perfectly cooked- maintaining a bit of viscosity with luscious richness to it. The cauliflower flan (which I had on my first visit) benefitted from a significant dose of caviar. It had struck me as rich and bland on my first visit, but the saline burst added the necessary texture and saltiness that balanced the dish out. Those foie gras cookies could definitely be packaged and sold in sets of 6- yum! The filling of the pumpkin ravioli was aggressive with nutmeg, distinguishing it from many similar restaurant dishes. For me that dish still lingered as being a bit too sweet for my taste, though. I wanted a bit of parmesan or pecorino shaved on top to cut the sweetness of the candied pecans and pumpkin filling. Given that my taste is WAY in the savory camp, though, I think others might disagree. All in all, a really wonderful and balanced meal. The wines were much more adeptly paired than on my first visit and also excellent wines in and of themselves. I'll leave it to Daniel to post them if he wishes, because I wasn't taking any notes.
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