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Robin Meredith

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Everything posted by Robin Meredith

  1. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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).
  16. What a curious restaurant this is. The room is bland and not at all welcoming and shows some signs of wear, the wine program is limited, pricey, and surprisingly unimaginative for such an ambitious restaurant, and the service was friendly but distinctly amateurish (including uneven pacing - entrees delivered immediately after first courses were cleared - and at least one lukewarm main course). Fortunately, what they put on the plate more than makes up for all that. Appetizers of raw meze and pastitsio and mains of arctic char and swordfish were all superb, featuring thought-provoking combinations of ingredients with contrasting flavors and textures that made for some really interesting eating. I haven't been this stimulated by restaurant food in quite some time. It's unusual for us to consider a repeat visit to a restaurant with such a lousy wine program, but we will definitely be back to Anthos. As was stated earlier, it's odd that food this good (and unique) is so far off everyone's radar screen.
  17. Gramercy Tavern (bar room) Fatty Crab The Modern (bar room) Perry Street Keen's Chinatown Brasserie Jean-Georges (this may not quite make the cut based on frequency, but only because lunch isn't served on weekends)
  18. We ate there last Monday. You'll be happy to hear that the tuna ribbons were on the menu. The watermelon gazpacho is very highly recommended - a classic JG dish with incredibly bright, acidic flavors and a not inconsiderable amount of heat. Wish I could remember my second course - it was something else involving tomatoes and basil (I think) that was really quite good despite my unfortunate memory lapse. I do remember thinking that these two courses together represented so much of what is great about JG's cooking [edit - it just came back to me - the corn ravioli (duh)]. Don't order the veal expecting a substantial plate - it is five small slices of loin (maybe 4-5 oz. total) with a few pieces of kumquat and a small strip of cauliflower puree. Not a great dish, and my wife wasn't wild about the current short ribs dish either, so meat proteins are not the strong point of the current menu. Finally, whichever dessert plate includes the plum sorbet was the best lunch dessert I've ever had here. I also noticed a solo diner across the room who received a plate of mixed sorbets and ice creams as an alternative to the standard dessert combinations - this strikes me as a very interesting alternative and one I might try myself in the future.
  19. I've always enjoyed Beacon's event program in the past, but I have to say I was distinctly underwhelmed by last night's Chowder. I was concerned going in that the less forgiving nature of seafood cookery might create some problems given the kind of volume they are doing at these events, and those concerns turned out to be justified for the most part. At our table the roasted clams and mussels were literally incinerated (and I mean that literally - if you pried open one of the mussel shells all you would find inside is the dried out husk of what used to be a mussel). The wood roasted oysters were much better but still highly variable - many shells contained shallots and sauce but no discernable oysters. Fried fish was overcooked, and the lobsters were inconsistent (my wife's was quite good, while mine was rubbery and overcooked). The one unqualified success of the night was the watermelon "margarita" dessert, an ingenious idea that involved hollowing out half a watermelon, filling it with watermelon chunks, blueberries, and mint, and then pouring good blanco tequila and Cointreau over the whole thing. Everyone at our table was literally ooohhing and aaahhing over this and going for seconds despite how stuffed we all were - a great finish to the meal. I love the Kitchen Counter and will definitely be back for the Beefsteak, but this will probably be my last Chowder.
  20. This may sound strange, but the cauliflower first course I had two weeks ago was just amazing - one of the best restaurant dishes I've had in the last several months. A main course with scallops and beets was very, very good, but the cauliflower is the one that stays with me.
  21. I tried this twice last night, first with Plymouth Sloe, Famous Grouse (due to faulty recollection of Nathan's post), Fee's orange bitters, St. George absinthe, and homemade grenadine, and then again with Peat Monster after rereading Nathan's post. The contrast was interesting - I initially found the Peat Monster somewhat distracting and distinctly preferred the version with Grouse, but over time the flavors seemed to integrate better and the complexity and dryness of the Peat Monster came into play. The jury is still out, but they certainly both work. I didn't try it without the grenadine but it definitely made a positive contribution to the drink, although the sweetness level does need to be managed very carefully.
  22. We had a thoroughly uninspiring meal at Fleur de Lys the year before last. I would like to like this place, since we usually stay at theHotel at Mandalay and it's always nice to have a good place to eat downstairs, but this was one of those meals that leaves you with very little hope that things might improve with a return visit.
  23. Went there for lunch the week before last - it was a business lunch, so I wasn't paying as much attention to the food as usual, but everything seemed pretty well turned out. Split a mixed salad and a margherita pizza with my colleague - the salad was especially nice and the margherita was solid if not spectacular. The space is nicely renovated and the owners were on site and seemed genuinely interested in making things work. Certainly worth a try.
  24. It was MIA on my last two or three visits to Warehouse - maybe I just had bad timing.
  25. FWIW, Astor Wines in NYC just confirmed my online order for four bottles of Rittenhouse BIB. I am not actually in posession of the bottles yet, but assuming they arrive tomorrow this could mean that Rittenhouse is back (in NYC at least). I'm a happy guy.
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