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Everything posted by gastrodamus

  1. Excellent recap and photos. Thanks for the chefs' backgrounds. And yes, it's virtually impossible to find any in-depth info about FREJ online. Not only is it the best deal in town, it's the best-kept secret.
  2. About five weeks ago, FREJ launched quietly as a popup inside Kinfolk Studios in Williamsburg with Chefs Fredrik and Richard (didn't catch their last names) at the helm armed with a toaster oven and an induction burner to crank out some amazing modern Scandinavian plates. Both chefs come from Corton, and they worked a couple of doors away from each other on Clinton at WD~50 and Falai once upon a time. For $45, you get a thoughtfully arranged 5-course tasting with an amuse bouche and a couple of surprise dishes in the mix. I'm guessing the space can accommodate 25-30 diners, and it's only open Monday through Wednesday 6-10pm for now. Last night was my second visit, and I must say they're doing everything right: Unique mix of local ingredients that are perfectly cooked and balanced, telepathic service, cool space, solid cocktails, and approachable wines. I'm not going to do a good enough job explaining the dishes in detail, so i'll leave it up to you to check out their menu. I can only recommend that you reserve a table as soon as you can before it gets mobbed. It's without a doubt the best deal in town.
  3. Dined here tonight, thanks to your report and photos. For a restaurant that's been open for about a week, it's surprisingly well-oiled. Unique menu, perfectly-cooked dishes, well-balanced flavors, great service, revamped space; the place is going to get really busy soon.
  4. That's a very valid point. It was a good year at least for me because I never felt a shortage of decent options regardless of the opening date. What Sutton says about 2011 is unrelated, and I made it confusing by including the link.
  5. Great rundown. Putting Totto Ramen, Masten Lake, and Palm on my list. To add to what you said about Ciano, the sommelier put together a fantastic pairing for us. He kept it fun and loose and also introduced us to the pastry chef at the end of the meal. Those little things make such a HUGE difference.
  6. It's that time of the year again. The critics are starting to release their lists, but I'd like to hear your highlights of the year; both old and new places. Standouts for me in loose order: Corton Ciano M. Wells (RIP) Minetta Tavern Maialino Tertulia Ushiwakamaru The Dutch Recette What Happens When (Yeah, I know) Fedora Kin Shop Corcoron Soba Zabb Elee Bab al Yemen in Bay Ridge Forcella (even without a beer/wine license) Wallsé Parm Honorable mention: Saxon + Parole, Family Recipe, Fatty Cue in Bburg, Sauce, Sip Sak, Rubirosa, Calexico, Brooklyn Star, Edi & the Wolf, El Almacen, Miss Lily's Wanted to like but didn't: Lotus of Siam, Redfarm, 1 or 8, Ellabess, Leopard at des Artistes, Veselka Bowery, John Dory Oyster Bar (2nd worst experience of the year), LTO (the worst experience of the year) Standbys: Sorella, Degustation, Bohemian, Prune, Balaboosta, Cafe Katja Overall it was a solid year to dine out; the best since 2004 according to Ryan Sutton. I'd love to hear your favorites.
  7. he's awesome. i appreciate eric's straightforward descriptions that actually make me want to try the dish. i'm not a fan of critics who resort to a contrived figure of speech when a tangible adjective will do. i'm hooked after his first paragraph and walk away more knowledgable. perhaps eric would be reluctant to give up his role as the wine editor, but i hope he'll be named the next NYT restaurant critic.
  8. completely agree with sneakeater. while minetta isn't a classic steakhouse, its côte de boeuf is hands down the best steak in the city. we should be comparing cut to cut; not by narrowly defining what a steakhouse is. minetta also serves one of the best burgers in town even though it's not a classic burger joint.
  9. went last night at 8:30 for the 24-course tasting and experienced quite the pronounced opening jitters that tested our patience. we were informed that a course would come out every 8 minutes. the first course came out about 45 minutes in. the next course, 20-25 minutes later. we had to inquire several times as to when the next course would hit the table. by 10pm, we were served our third course. we were served 2 more dishes over the next 45 minutes. not wanting to be there until 8am, we asked for the check for what we've had. the dining room was 2/3 full when we sat down but thinned out rather quickly, so the other diners must have pressed the eject button as well. as we waited for the check, we were hit with two additional courses, one that was supposed to be served much later in the journey. it was chaos. in the end the check was very fair, and the staff was apologetic about the jitters. the pacing might have been smoother had they offered two seating times; 7pm for 16 courses then 9pm for 24 courses. the menus are too ambitious to pace properly otherwise. there's no doubt that chef cooper is extremely talented and innovative. the courses were sophisticated yet playful. had it been a better paced dinner, it would've been one of the most memorable dinners of the year. i may still give it another chance. the dishes are that promising. however for such an ephemeral concept, i'm not sure if they'll have enough time to iron out some glaring kinks before moving on. would love to hear a more positive report before making another reservation.
  10. last night was m wells' 2nd night of dinner service. my friend and i were seated right next to hugue dufour and his friend. the chef told us that they want to keep dinner to tues-thurs for now as eater confirms. they're accepting reservations. the menu is so concise that you'll most likely flip it over to see if there's more. every item reads like a must-try. the big dishes starting at $35 are obviously meant to be shared. filet mignon tartare served with poached egg and vibrant greens is among the best in the city. perfect seasoning, texture, and temperature. escargot & bone marrow (cut length wise) is a welcome marriage of ingredients. from the big dish section, we split the head & cheese; fried veal brain, foie, ham and fried bread served on top of a wheel of brillat-savarin. the brains were spectacular. the chef had the same next to us, deemed the cheese was too ammoniated, and comped our dish. i detected a hint of ammonia but didn't find it objectionable. he clearly has high standards. he poured us a glass of wine from his friend's vineyard and kept us entertained for a while. from the space to the menu, i can't think of another place in nyc that even comes close in comparison. i know that's an obvious thing to say based on all the write-ups thus far, but it didn't fully register until i dined there. i doubt it'll be long before diners have to call far in advance for a reservation.
  11. great topic as i've been rather sloppy about keeping a list. but yeah, i see how this could easily spin out of control as others post their list. SHO corton bk fare per se (incredibly overdue) riverpark lotus of siam m wells buttermilk channel red rooster fedora ai fiori millesime ciano recette
  12. But wait, don't you think there's enough already? Unless you're referring to coffee in restaurants. In my neighborhood alone, make that micro-neighborhood, there are no less than 5 good to excellent coffee houses, not including the bucks on the corner of Allen and Delancey. I was almost ready to say enough already. yes, i meant more drip coffee in restaurants. either way, i drink 3-5 cups of coffee a day so there can never be enough coffee shops. i perhaps need to cut back.
  13. more offals, raw beef apps, northern european cuisine, drip coffee, and complimentary glass of prosecco if you have to wait more than 20 minutes past the reservation. most restaurants grossly underestimate how much this little gesture means. enough already with entrees for two. i'll always side with variety. also agree with less burgers and neopolitan pizzas.
  14. bohemian is a serene hideout behind japan premium beef that serves excellent japanese fusion. i'm not familiar with chef kiyo shinoki's background. the food and decor are minimalist. the space feels like a living room bookended by a bar and a mini garden. i doubt it was an accident that warhol once owned the property and basquiat lived there. branzino, uni croquette, foie soba, and short rib sashimi are my favorites. they're known for washu-gyu mini burgers, which are incredibly juicy and flavorful though last couple of times they were a tad overcooked. the sashimi selection is fresh, perhaps the reason why it's often incorrectly labeled a sushi den. i'm not sure how difficult it is to get a reservation these days or if they even enforce the referral policy, but once you have the number, it's pretty straightforward. i know it all sounds somewhat pretentious, but i assure you the staff is super nice. on an unrelated note, their restroom looks as if it could launch you into outer orbit.
  15. that's too bad. we didn't have the burger, but the dishes we ordered surpassed my expectations, including the desserts. having said that, i had very low expectations going in mostly due to the menu that's all over the map. the space is quite stunning though some would find it gimmicky.
  16. as the critics' year-end roundups keep trickling in, i feel it's been rather an underwhelming year for nyc diners. it was the year for standbys. for me, the most accurate posts have been on eater (via kathrynyu) and gothamist (via @fwaychel). nearly third of my dining experiences have been repeats mostly because the new menus and reviews didn't excite me whatsoever. having said that i do have a few favorites; some trendy, some flawed, some ignored: hung ry: a semi-upscale hand-pulled noodle spot is a welcome addition. killer broth and you just might catch a show if you time it well. a nice detour from the ramen wars. vandaag: i'm surprised it wasn't on everyone's list. instead it was torrisi this and breslin that. i mean how many modern northern european restaurant openings were there? loved everything, especially the sweetbreads. st. anselm: deep fried hot dogs, brains, foie pierogi (when avail), sliders, and disco fries are among the usuals here. unfortunately they had issues with the bldg and couldn't serve beer or wine even with a license. don't know if they're able to yet. i found st. anselm to be among the most unique openings of 2010. osteria morini: the most impressive pastas i've had all year, which of course is no surprise. it's also the loudest dining experience of the year. co ba: completely underrated vietnamese spot in chelsea. phở, which is not a trend but rather a way of life, is a must. the commodore: fried chicken & biscuits live up to the hype. northern spy food co: the sunday supper is a treat, and the fluffiness of the gnocchi rivals that of hearth's. balaboosta: since the initial reviews, not too many people are talking about how refined and inventive the dishes are here. granted the wine list lacks focus, it deserved 2 stars from sifton. the fat radish: yes, it's filled with beautiful people and could easily be dismissed as a scene. however, the apps and the entrees are spot on. celery root potpie, as pedestrian as it sounds, is amazing. then there were the trusty standbys. the most repeated were sorella, prune, casa mono, degus, rye, yakitori totto, joseph leonard, marlow & sons, bohemian, ssam, and yasuda. i'd love to know your favorite new spots and standbys of the year.
  17. gastrodamus


    i did the opposite and hit the aisles. wound up with way more food than i anticipated. i spent the most amount of time in the cheese/meats aisle. prosciutto di parma (24 months), salsiccia secca dolce, speck, and spicy cacciatorini are my favorites out of the basket. most items are priced fairly, which makes you want to buy everything. my advice to first-time shoppers is to add $50 to your grocery budget for impulse items. you won't regret letting it get out of hand just this once. can't wait to try the paccheri and the pizzas.
  18. otto is a crowd pleaser but the food is average. good wine list though. the spotted pig is solid and so is chef bloomfield's latest spot, the breslin but be prepared to wait at either locations. had an incredible dinner at rye if your group is up for BK. the dishes appear simple on the menu, but boring they are not. we were blown away by the scallop & pork belly app special, meatloaf sandwich and the LI duck breast. all quality ingredients cooked and seasoned to perfection; can't beat that. i'm a huge fan of the restored space as well.
  19. i dined at sorella late night this week and found out that they recently started offering an industry special. on this particular night, we got a meatball sandwich, a beer and a cream soda float for $12, which is a ridiculous deal. i think the special goes from 11-2am, tuesday through friday and all day saturday. can't remember if it's available on sundays. anyway it's a killer sandwich with ciabatta baked in-house. yes, in-house. awesome meatballs as well. just a light, fluffy bite all around. emma says the industry special will change regularly, and the main item won't necessarily be italian. also a couple of weeks ago, my friends and i got to try the pici in ragu and ricotta. my friend in the industry claims it's the best thing she's had all year. it's certainly the best pici i've had in the city, inching out falai's version. we requested it again on our last visit, and now it comes with an item from the qualcosina section of the menu. sorella has been getting a love lately and deservingly so. the dishes are consistently solid and the staff is always affable. like daisy17, sorella is one of my favorites, possibly topping my list.
  20. completely agree with LPShanet about ko. it's just a matter of winning the 10am online reservation battle and waiting a week. how about EMP's 3-course dinner for $88? great wine program as well. kyo ya is fantastic, but i haven't tried their traditional kaiseki yet. i don't consider their wine list extensive. however, they have a great sake selection. it's a serene yet casual atmosphere. i've sent several friends there for special occasions and received excellent feedback. other recos are aldea (request upstairs or chef's counter), allegretti, blue hill and corton. all of the above places are doable for $300 as long as you keep the booze tab in check.
  21. like blizzard854, i too recommend char no. 4. great whiskey list too. a group of us recently had an amazing meal at diner. stellar food, fun staff, reasonably priced. we got a lot of love from the kitchen and ended up trying the entire menu, including all the desserts. the staff even ran next door to marlow & sons (sister restaurant that gets a lot of attention) to get us complimentary shots of espresso. henry's end is another good option. solid food, interesting selection of domestic wines. roberta's might be a hike from where you are, but it's finally starting to get some much deserved recognition. well worth the trip, especially if you have a car.
  22. aldea is an excellent option, but it's closer to blackbird in both atmosphere and presentation. i second momofuku ssam – the interior and the vibe are very similar to avec. and as daisy17 says, sorella is a fantastic place for wine and piemonte dishes. it's been in my top 10 since it opened. mercat and txikito are also worth checking out for small plates and wine. if you're a fan of paul kahan, you might enjoy the breslin. i feel it's the closest thing to publican in nyc yet a completely new experience.
  23. went last night with a group of 7 and endured an arduous 2-hour wait in the crowded bar area, which wasn't entirely surprising given the size of our party and the attention the breslin has been receiving. still i can't remember the last time i waited over 30 mins for a table. i overheard the hostess quoting an hour-and-a-half wait for a four top. apparently a party of 16 upstairs was slowing the pace of the evening. regardless, the place was mobbed and the crowded bar reminded me of a typical midtown pub during happy hour. we killed time with cocktails and overpriced glasses of pinot noir. the tall ceiling makes the place feel massive. ken and april did a great job with the space and decor. (gothamist's gallery) when we were finally seated, our table was right in front of the open kitchen with a clear view of chef bloomfield and her staff. the menu is lamb and pork centric and lists about the same amount of items as the pig. here's what we ordered: malt vinegar and sea salt crisps - comes in a clear plastic bag sealed with a "hello, my name is" sticker with a born-on-date stamp. not greasy, good balance of salt and vinegar flavors, nice crunch. a hit with the table. spiced almonds - same presentation. rather uninteresting and skippable. pork scratchings - basically pork rinds in a bag. i believe the breslin is the only restaurant in nyc that offers fresh pork rinds. i wish april's version came out hot like the publican in chicago. either way, i'm getting this on every visit. scrumpets w/mint vinegar - they were out of the scotch eggs so we got scrumpets – small logs of braised lamb breaded and fried, tender enough to cut with a fork. loved the vinegar dip. again, a hit with the table. large terrine board w/piccalilli, pickles, mustard - guinea hen w/morels had a subtle sweetness that everyone loved. i found the different textures and flavor of the headcheese remarkable. others at the table beg to differ. both the pork & pistachio and rabbit & prune were enjoyable. excellent liverwurst. no detail is overlooked on the board down to the mustard. onion and bone marrow soup w/parmesan toast - served in a french onion soup bowl. not sure what the bone marrow added to the soup besides richness as it tasted like your standard onion soup. the parmesan toast was ok. it was overall too salty for my palate. 1/2 dozen oysters - didn't try any but my friend swears by them. braised shin of beef on polenta & black cabbage - the bitterness from the cabbage along with bursts of fresh parsley worked well with the savoriness of the dish. lamb burgers w/thrice fried chips, cumin mayo - 5 of us ended up getting this. i'm sure april doesn't want the breslin to be known solely for the lamb burgers but at any given time, there were multiple burgers under the heat lamps. rightfully so. it's fantastic. definitely one of the better burgers i've had. i ordered mine medium-rare and came out cooked to order on a carving board with a steak knife. i believe the bun is sourdough – toasty on the outside, not too thick of a crust, and soft on the inside. could be ciabatta but wasn't tough at all. the patty is packed with lamb flavor with the right amount of fat. super juicy. the feta slice worked well with the lamb. the thrice fried chips are off the charts. thicker-cut fries are generally a disaster but these shot up to the top of my list. nice contrasting texture between the crunchy outside with hints of skin and the soft inside. as my friend says, very potato-y. the board comes with cumin mayo for both the burger and chips and no one dared to mar the flavors with ketchup and mustard. the wine list is fairly extensive but somewhat on the pricier side. pic st loup for $50 proved to be a very good value. despite the fact that we were all cranky from the wait, we all loved the meal. i'd like to go back and try some of the entrees for 2. my reco is to go w/2-4 ppl either before 7 or after 9 on a tuesday, which is of course a no brainer for any popular no-reservation spot.
  24. while it's not "upscale" in the traditional sense, momofuku ko is a very memorable experience. i prefer it over daniel. now getting a reservation is a whole different battle. for "regular" options, i concur w/aldea recos. not to sound like a broken record on here, but it's been my favorite dining experience this year. if not aldea, blue hill, kyo-ya, degustation or casa mono are worth looking into.
  25. aldea is a must and as daisy17 says, the counter is the place to be. diner is not douchey at all. we ordered all the entrees with a few apps and the staff served everything else on the house, including the entire dessert menu and espresso from marlow & sons. great food and staff. i love wd~50 but not everyone gets it. ko is currently my favorite restaurant in the city. you should also lock in ippudo, little owl and blue ribbon brasserie. i'd go to hill country before rub but i'm not a big fan of any bbq joints in nyc. you might enjoy keste or motorino over barbuto. cosmic cantina and cluck u are questionable. la superior might be a better option and i agree with jpropaganda's chicken recos. i'd reco momofuku's fried chicken but it's a pain to get and requires a large group. save má pêche for january when it moves into its new space from the mezzanine of the chambers hotel. i highly recommend adding degustation, casa mono, sorella and kyo ya to your list if you haven't been already.
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