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Robin Meredith

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  1. Robin Meredith

    Cafe Katja

    We attended a really spectacular wine dinner at Cafe Katja a few months back - I didn't report on it at the time because it was a special menu that seemed considerably more ambitious than their regular menu, but it was certainly the best event of its kind I've attended recently and possibly the most satisfying meal I've had this year. If they're starting to stretch out a little and expand their regular menu I could easily see this becoming a destination spot based on the meal we had that night.
  2. Robin Meredith

    Jean Georges and Nougatine 2009 & Beyond

    Comments on some of the new menu additions: *The Madai sashimi treatment has changed - now served with a rhubard semifreddo and sichuan peppercorn vinaigrette. The semifreddo was quite sweet and the sichuan peppercorns were lurking imperceptibly in the background, so this was lacking the classic JG acid/heat balance. *The gulf shrimp with melon and carrot/lime broth and wasabi is a classic - everything you could want in a single dish. The broth was almost completely savory due to the pronounced lime component, the melon and wasabi integrated beautifully, and the shrimp was perfectly cooked. *Sweetbreads with pickled asparagus, coriander and orange - a shockingly small plate even by JG standards but a total winner - perfectly cooked hot crispy salty sweetbreads balanced by an herbal puree, sharpness from the asparagus, and a faint hit of citrus. Salt intolerant eaters may have a problem with this dish. I usually request a sampler of ice creams and sorbets as an alternative to dessert, but they were having problems with their freezing equipment so this wasn't an option, and the caramel dessert was a complete throwaway. Still, two home runs on the savory side made for a very satisfying lunch.
  3. Robin Meredith

    Eleven Madison Park

    Had the exact same menu recently and I couldn't agree more. If you break this down it's in the same league as JG from a value standpoint (four courses plus dessert at JG will run you $64 compared to $68 for the gourmand menu at EMP), and having just returned from lunch at JG I feel pretty confident saying the gourmand menu at EMP delivers considerably more complex and refined cooking. The foie gras dish on the gourmand menu actually carries a supplement at dinner! The cost of entry is higher, but if you look at the whole package I think this is one of the great lunch deals in town right now.
  4. Robin Meredith

    East Side Casual but Good

    Spigolo - good, casual contemporary Italian - may be tough to get a reservation, but outside seating is first come first served (also no corkage for early seatings - before 6:30 or 7:00). Opus - good high end brick oven pizza and very well executed pastas - usually fairly quiet. Land - exceptional upscale Thai food. Beyoglu - very good casual Mediterranean - lots of outside seating.
  5. Robin Meredith

    Le Bernardin

    Compared to JG and some other high-end joints there are relatively few entry level bottlings on the list at LB, so if you're not prepared to spend $75+ it's going to be slim pickings. One nice choice is the Vina Godeval Godello, a somewhat distinctive Spanish white that pairs well with the cuisine and if memory serves is priced in the $60-65 range (just about every table in the restaurant was drinking this the last time we were there for lunch).
  6. Fair enough - "dated" was not the right adjective. I'm not sure what the right adjective is, but I do know that all of my meals there (included some pricey wine dinners that should have been an opportunity for the kitchen to show its stuff) left me feeling completely flat.
  7. I love the wine program at Tribeca Grill, and used to attend many tasting events and wine dinners there, but eventually lost interest due to the relatively mundane, dated quality of the food. Perry Street is a wonderful restaurant but JG's food isn't always the ideal backdrop for blue chip Old World wines due to the level of spice and acid you will frequently encounter. I understand Union Square Cafe is currently offering very modest corkage charges (somewhere in the $10 range). If this works for you geographically it may be a much better choice - the food is inherently wine friendly and the kitchen is functioning at a fairly high level at the moment.
  8. Robin Meredith

    Union Square Cafe 2009

    We ordered the USQ Calamari, whose breading scraped off whenever I tried to dip it into the somewhat cold sauce, and the new chicken tortelloni in brodo, which frankly was USQ at it's finest. Homey, comforting, tasty, market driven - fantastic. It's part of their campaign to give back, every Hospitality Group restaurant featuring a take on "chicken soup" in their own style, with $2 going to City Harvest for every order sold. Great idea, even better soup. Entrees were the lasagna, a meticulously assembled tower of thin layers (would definitely recommend the appetizer size) and a scallop dish with bacon "farroto" (faro risotto), which was fine. Dessert was crepes which were good. ← Interesting. We had a similar lunch last weekend - lasagne, scallops with farrotto, pappardelle with osso buco ragu, and mushroom sformato. Like you, I normally adore lunch at USC, but this meal had two problems. First, the mushroom sformato, which literally tasted like someone spilled a salt shaker into the custard. I'm a poster boy for excess sodium intake, and I tend to be dismissive of people who complain about overly salted food, so if I say something is salty....it's salty. Second, I initially requested an appetizer portion of the lasagne, but our server suggested an upgrade to the full portion because she thought the half portion "might not be enough for me". I'm a big guy (6'3", 220 lbs.), but I don't exactly look like an NFL linebacker or a Sopranos cast member. The half portion would have been more than adequate, and I think that would probably be true for most diners, especially at lunch. On the plus side, the osso buco ragu is a great dish, and this place really has a great touch with homemade pasta at the moment - perfect balance of delicacy and texture. I didn't count but the lasagne appeared to have about ten layers of pasta and still didn't feel heavy. For what it's worth, I also think the "friends" thing is a little creepy
  9. Robin Meredith

    Drinks in UES/Midtown East

    You're just around the corner from Bemelmans Bar at the Carlyle Hotel (Madison at 76th). Prices are scandalous ($19) and the drinks are good-but-not-great, but the room is marvelous and they serve some really nice potato chips and mixed nuts along with the drinks. A great "slice of New York" experience.
  10. Robin Meredith

    Service in NYC Restaurants

    This just shows how variable service can be. My one visit to Mia Dona was the single worst service experience I have had in NYC, and on our two visits to Anthos we encountered generally well-intentioned but ultimately hapless, amateurish service. Most bad service experiences tend to be isolated events, so I am always surprised when a restaurant demonstrates consistently poor service over an extended period of time. For us, Chinatown Brasserie is the poster child for this syndrome - it's almost like they deliberately recruit a particular server profile, which in this case could be defined as aloof, inept, and inattentive (I have to say that there is one weekend hostess who is a glaring exception to this rule, but otherwise...).
  11. Robin Meredith

    Dovetail

    Has anyone else tried the weekend brunch here? It's an unusual format - for $28 prix fixe you get a good bread basket (focaccia, muffins, cheddar biscuits), a canape tray that includes a somewhat mundane cold parsnip soup, overly sweet tiny meatballs, a surprising good cucumber finger sandwich, and a very good parfait with housemade granola, honey, and a delightfully tangy greek yogurt. Followed by a selection from one of several entrees including an excellent lamb meatloaf, very good soft scrambled eggs with smoked salmon, and a patty melt "madame" and duck goulash that both should be better. Followed by a dessert tray with some nice tidbits (butterscotch pudding, apple crumble, walnut brownie). In short, a simply amazing amount of food with several high points at a very reasonable price point. You won't need to eat again that day. Biggest drawbacks - the drab room looks even worse with mid-day lighting, and since it's a family meal you may run into some misbehaving children (if that sort of thing bothers you). In any case, yet another interesting example of restaurants coming up with creative ways to generate incremental revenue in off hours.
  12. Robin Meredith

    Eleven Madison Park

    Interesting how this restaurant elicits different reactions from different people. I was really impressed with the lunch tasting menu on a recent visit. Three outstanding courses (heirloom beets, foie gras mille-feuille, and suckling pig), one very good course (John Dory), and a somewhat lame dessert. A great value at $68, especially since it includes some courses not offered on the prix fixe (e.g. suckling pig) and comes fully tricked out with an excellent amuse and petits four. I also got a kick out of the $28 wine list - it's a fun concept, and with a bottle from that list our bill was significantly lower than our most recent lunch at JG (although we do tend to spend a little more on wine there, so it's not a perfect comparison). Also, as someone who has carped about portion size here in the past, I should point out that the suckling pig course in the lunch tasting menu was equivalent to (or maybe even a bit larger than) the portion I received as part of the dinner prix fixe on a previous visit. I love Humm's food - he is the only New York chef who reminds me of Jamin-era Robuchon - but if you judge a meal by the number of culinary fireworks delivered I can see how you might feel somewhat ambivalent about EMP. As much as I loved this meal I can't say that it delivered any surprises - just a series of classic ingredients and flavors perfectly executed.
  13. Robin Meredith

    Jean Georges and Nougatine 2005 - 2008

    Open Table is showing Saturday lunch available at JG. Has anyone been? Is it the same menu as weekday lunch? If so this qualifies as a major development!
  14. And this can be added to the complaint that "we cant seat you until your whole party has arrived." At the risk of hijacking this thread in a slightly different direction, I was absolutely shocked when I received this treatment (refused seating until the entire party arrived) at L'Atelier du Joel Robuchon a couple weeks ago. I have never before encountered this at a restaurant at this price point, and in the case of L'Atelier the problem is greatly magnified by the fact that they don't have a dedicated bar - I was directed to the Four Seasons bar, which was both packed and cacophonous. The last thing I felt like doing was hanging out in a hotel bar, so I had no alternative but to take a seat in one of the public areas in the lobby until my spouse arrived. Amazingly, when I suggested to the maitre d' on the way in that they may want to reconsider this policy, his reply was a dismissive "perhaps".
  15. Robin Meredith

    One Lunch on a Monday in NYC?

    To be fair, the food cost at JG is marginally higher, and (depending on your dining habits) the check may be measurably higher, since Perry Street always offers a few well selected $20 bottles of wine whereas at JG you're working with a typical four star wine list. Having said that, I would pick JG over Perry Street any day (except Saturday or Sunday).
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