Saturday, 27 October 2012

Momofuku Ko, or why does everyone want to go there?

This is a review of Momofuku Ko, one of the most difficult places to get into in NYC. And I ask why?

I have been trying to get into Momofuku Ko. The trick is nimble fingers. Reservations are taken on line only, 7 days in advance for dinner, 14 days in advance for the weekend lunch. Reservations open daily at 10am, NY time. No matter how prompt one is, there is invariably either nothing available or one place. I made it for a Saturday lunch at 12:10pm. I thought I was lucky, and in a sense I was, since I learned a valuable lesson...

Here are the rules: payment of $150 via credit card; reservations taken for one, two or four only; if reservation must be cancelled, the deadline is 48 hours in advance or you will be charged; if you are 15 minutes late, your place will have been forfeited and you will pay (they don't fill your place); no photos; no phone.

And for all this, you have a seat at a counter with a backless stool for a meal that takes more than three hours.

What does the meal comprise? It is a surprise and there are no choices. I counted 17 dishes. The servings are so tiny that you eat everything on the plate so, as an astute restaurant critic noticed, the chefs never know what has or has not been appreciated.

This restaurant has two Michelin stars and is very well thought of by the critics in general. New Yorkers rave about it. I thought it was a whole lot of nothing.

Here are some of the things I had: barbecued kale leaf; Kumamoto Oyster with Spicy Scallion (very spicy and well balanced); hush-puppies with spicy mayonnaise; pomme soufflée filled with a cream flavored with brioche and onion which they whimsically call French onion soup.

Following these comes a suite of crudo (raw fish): diver scallop with tomato seed in tomato water; tataki of Spanish mackerel with black sesame and watermelon; sliced fluke with fennel and soy; uni with chervil stem, grated green apple, and masago; and others.

Next came the cooked dishes: grilled octopus, pistachio, turnip, sweet potato, red wine vinegar, herb mayonnaise (a tiny one-bite portion); puffed egg in bacon broth (very interesting preparation); honeydew melon soup with hen of the woods mushroom, cucumber, steel head roe, nasturtium leaves.

Next comes Lunch Break: which is grilled romaine salad, ranch dressing, smoked pumpkin soup, chicken fingers with spicy mustard, popover with grape and jalapeno jam. This is followed with grilled rice and squid, potato chervil, smoked garlic (that I apparently liked); roasted Maine lobster with lobster mushrooms, grated chocolate (!) and orange rind; paté en croûte, burnt apple mustard, apple butter.

There is more!! A specialty that is always on the menu is Hudson Valley Foie Gras which has been frozen in a thick tube formation and then grated over lichee, pineapple, Riesling jelly and hazelnut. The foie gras makes this a rich dish.

I am starting to get indigestion as I write all this down. The dishes follow endlessly without rhyme or reason, and without balance or attention to what would go with what. Needless to say, the meal was copious despite the size of all the dishes, and I was not able to eat for an entire 24 hours after it. I had a few glasses of wine, recommended to me by one of the servers.

Of the strange desserts that were often quite unpleasant, I did enjoy the tiny donuts that had been injected with huckleberry jam, and served with maple syrup ice cream.

And after a meal like that, I had no energy to do anything more for the rest of the day.

The lunch is the largest meal they serve and, as a result, is the most expensive. It came to $175 whereas dinner costs $125. With wine and tip, one pays a pretty penny.

For me, it was well worth it. This is the price I paid to be totally over the molecular food movement and any restaurant with a set menu without choices, stringent rules required for reserving and appearing, and the HYPE!! In all the years I have been following the movement, I have had two good experiences. One was at the first restaurant where everything started: El Bulli in Rosas, Spain, and the other was at Franzen-Lindberg in Stockholm (which I recently wrote about). I would go back to the latter with my camera and the former has since closed.

But in the end, give me delicious food that is comprehensible, well balanced and which marries well with what came before and after. A hodge podge of everything but the kitchen sink just doesn't make it in my book!

Two New and Spectacular Restaurants in NYC

This is a review of NoMad, a brain child of the three-star 11 Madison Park people, and Neta--an off-shoot of the mythical expensive Japanese sushi palace, Masa.

We scrambled to get reservations to NoMad, the brand new restaurant that has taken NYC by storm. With two of us calling at 9am, we snagged seats for 28 days later. And after all the reviews we had read, we were happy to have "gotten in" and excited to go.

This is a wonderful restaurant which lived up to our expectations. Very important, seated in the library--a far distance from the noisy bar and its diningroom--we could hear each other talk throughout the meal.

NoMad means "north of Madison Avenue" and that is the name of the hotel in which is it located.

The meal started with a bang. Pat and I both chose the Tagliatelle with King Crab, Meyer Lemon and black pepper, served in an appetizer portion. It was delicious.

I begged one of my friends to join me in the already iconic roast chicken for two and Pat agreed, whereas Tim chose the roast suckling pig. The chicken is roasted with crumbled brioche under the skin (resulting in a crispy golden exterior) and accompanied with a foie gras-black truffle fricassee of the dark meat which is splendid and rich.

The suckling pig is accompanied with a confit of dried plums, onions and wild greens.

The dessert list looked very promising but each of us made the mistake of ordering the same thing--the dessert that the critics waxed eloquent about: Milk and Honey.

It consisted of shortbread, brittle and vanilla ice cream and was cloyingly sweet. There were so many other appealing desserts on the menu that I don't know what I was thinking. Anyway, I know I'll go back.

The wine list is broad, diverse, full of surprises and Tim ordered very well: A Cabernet Franc from Catherine et Pierre Breton 2010 Bourgveil 2010.


When I read that a chef from Masa (with its famous sushi menu starting at $450) left to start his own, more affordable restaurant, I was thrilled. Calling right away (one month in advance), I asked for a seat at the sushi bar.

From the minute I entered the restaurant (in the heart of the Village), I was surprised. It was noisy with upbeat music (Michael Jackson, James Brown, Rihanna) playing and about ten chefs scurrying around the open kitchen. Usually, Japanese restaurants are extremely quiet and dignified. This place looked like nothing but fun.

It took awhile to seat me but once I was at my place, I was glad to have such a fine view of the activity behind the counter: chefs rolling beautiful maki; creating dishes with glistening fresh fish; and, in the background, steam emanating from pots; ovens working overtime to roast some of the dishes.

Although many people who work here are Japanese, my server told me that he didn't want to speak Japanese with me as he preferred to be professional throughout the evening. That was fine with me. He helped me choose a sake that I would find appealing (and that was on the house as I had to wait 30 minutes for my seat), and I was ready to roll.

I chose the most expensive omakase (chef's choice) at $135: expensive but a far cry from the $450 that a similar menu costs at Masa.

The menu included a number of appetizers from the beautiful crab in Tosaju sauce

to the sublime toro tartare with caviar:

After about five small seafood dishes including a mackerel sashimi, came a parade of wonderful sushi:

Sushi is expensive because a truly fine sushi chef has had years of training: learning the technique for making the vinegared rice and cutting the sushi as it has been traditionally cut over the years. These sushi were perfect: beautiful cuts of cold fish on slightly warm, flavorful rice. In fact, neta means the best topping for a sushi.

After such a copious albeit light menu, one wants to finish with the perfect dessert and they had it here:

a granité of grapefruit with tiny pieces of the pearls of the grapefruit in the ices. The meal was pure perfection, the staff courteous and helpful, and the experience unforgettable.

Mediocre Dining in Copenhagen

I made the trip purposely after having read an article in the New York Times by the food writer, Mark Bittman, saying that Copenhagen is the current foodie destination.

Of course, I was unable to get into Noma,the best restaurant in the world according to the "San Pellegrino Best Restaurant in the World" list. I am sure it is good, but not worth the three months of persistent calling on the day reservations open (you must call three months in advance on the first Monday of the month 10-14 European time)--a thankless job!. I did go to Relae, brain child of a chef from Noma and found the food extremely strange and mostly mushy.

Here are some of the unidentifiable dishes:

These are two different dishes, served in a menu of four dishes including corn ice cream for dessert (there are no choices). In terms of texture, they are identical. The first is a cauliflower dish and the second a potato dish. They should have used broccoli for the cauliflower to embellish the dull palate of the menu. Or better, yet, change the dishes entirely.

And then there is the Kong Hans Kaelder (King Hans' Cellar), a charming beautiful restaurant in a cellar with an open kitchen of which I had full view. It was quite good but achingly classical and extremely expensive. As I was in Copenhagen to find the more modern cutting-edge addresses, it was a disappointment.

My favorite place, recommended by Mr. Bittman, was Schoenemann. It is the best of the smorrebrod places. Smorrebrod are open-faced sandwiches and are best served with the spirit, Aquavit, of which Schoenemann has quite a collection.

I was under the impression that the sandwiches were bite-sized, so I told my waitress that I only wanted four. She replied that I would never finish the meal and recommended a herring dish

and the sandwich of my choice (baby shrimp with dill and mayonnaise)

and, of course, a glass of Aquavit.

Schoenemann is a very popular place (well-deserved), with reasonable prices and wonderful service. Reservations are a must.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

One of the best in the world

A review without pictures, this time, of Franzen-Lindeberg. A truly amazing place with food like I have never experienced.

I was very excited to get a table at this small unassuming restaurant with zero decor and the counter and kitchen in full view. The doorman came out to greet me and asked me if I was "Lee Orloff". Clearly "they knew I was coming".

For the first time since it opened, a mere 4 years ago, Franzen-Lindeberg appears on the San Pellegrino's Best in the World list. It is number 20, which, for a first timer is not bad at all. I was expecting to have my socks blown off and they were.

What a shame and what a tragedy! When I left my hotel, I decided to take an elegant bag and when I got there, realized I had left my phone and camera back at my room. So this is one review without photos. The New Yorker does it, and often the New York Times does too. So do all the Zagat Guides, so please bear with me. It is worth it.

On my table, in full view of the kitchen, was a box with a raw loaf of bread. My trusty server told me that it was resting for its final proof and would be taken to the kitchen to be baked for me.

The restaurant has two tiny rooms and a counter with four seats for a total of 19 places only. It has two Michelin stars and is one of the most creative restaurants and pleasant experiences I have had.. The welcoming staff was just perfect in terms of friendliness level and their interest in what they were serving. The passion is clear yet understated and the two chefs behind the counter look very happy to be doing what they are doing.

I was presented with a list of the foods I was going to have and they were all very strange. An example that doesn't sound at all appetizing is (on the dessert plate) dried pig's blood with cream of pig's blood, blackberries and bitter chocolate, which turned out to be a chocolate crisp with blackberries and very good! I was afraid to try it and so tried it first thing.

As far as the wines go, I couldn't order the entire wine pairing menu because they would have served 8 wines and I would not have been able to stay awake through all that. I had the welcome aperitif (an Austrian wine: 2011 Weitenberg, Gruner Veltiner Wachau) which was on the house, and two more glasses of wine as needed (another from Austria and a very strong sherry-like wine from France). The wines went well with the food but were not remarkable in and of themselves.

The chefs use ingredients from their garden: Ice tea made from 32-kinds of tomatoes, thyme, lemon, verbena, cucumber and Swedish melon--a light entry into the main meal. Before roasting my beautiful langoustine, they brought it to me live so that I could see how large it was. It was prepared raw under melting fat (culatello in Italy), with marinated fennel, celery leaves, fennel, dill and served with a reduced celery cream flavored with herring, carrot, celery oil and the essence from freshly pressed apples. Who thinks of these combinations? They all worked and as you can see, were all strangely interesting.

I loved the moment in the meal when the server came to my table with my loaf of bread: warm and sliced. The server returned with a bowl of cream and a whisk and proceeded to whip the butter I would use. Such a wonderful touch of whimsy without being pretentious or precious like many of these molecular places can be.

The main course was lamb: Two servings of lamb from our own breed. It is first coal flamed and then served as a tartar in lamb jus flavored with cumin and sheep's yogurt perfumed with lavendar. A second part is roasted and garnished with anchovy paste, crunchy bread crumbs, roasted onions, roasted garlic and rosemary. This was a spectacular dish and very dramatic since the grilling was done with a blow torch tableside.

Here are some of the most appetizing dishes: from earlier in the meal: scallop in shell, sliced and garnished with truffle cream. The second part is dashi in the shell with scallop tartare. Another favorite: Vichysoise with truffle (actually ribbons of potato crisp with truffle powder).

I can go on and on and list the ingredients used, but it is not necessary. Desserts were lovely as were the fish and meat dishes I was presented with: each like a little gift to be opened, discovered and savored. In fact everything was a gift. It is a shame that I don't have pictures but it just rests with your imagination and to, without delay, go to Stockholm (a lovely city) and see for yourself. You can make a reservation on line without a problem and they will be happy to greet you.

As with everything in Stockholm, the prices are quite incredibly expensive. So it makes the entire experience surreal. Take a metro to get there and you will pay $5 or more one-way!! But for a once-in-a-lifetime experience, I would say it is worth it. I want to go back and this time, with my camera.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Le Pre Verre: A very creative bistrot in the Latin Quarter

I went to Le Pre Verre a few years ago but have heard that the cuisine has evolved into something more creative. So, when John and Onil told me that they would be spending a few days in Paris, I thought that this would be the place for us to try.

When we go to restaurants, we all choose something different so as to be able to taste as many of the restaurant's dishes as possible. The appetizers were all very tempting. Onil chose the most successful of them: grilled watermelon and stewed eggplant with braised shallots and pink curry,

a sensational dish. I ordered red pepper-raspberry gaspacho which was stunning and John had an excellent Marinated sardines with a layer of jellied vegetables. Each of these were light introductions to our lovely meal.

For the main courses, I chose the Fricassee of chicken with avocado served under a blanket of arugala salad.

John chose the succulent Swordfish coated in poppy seed and garnished with artichoke hearts and served with artichoke purée and tomato coulis,

and Onil chose the Calves Liver with a coffee vinaigrette and sweet potato.

We agreed that each dish was beautifully conceived and excellent on the palate.

The food is creative without being off the wall.

With our meal, I chose a very nice, moderately priced Crozes Hermitages from Domaine des Entrefaux.

The menu is a mere 30 euros for three courses. The à la carte menu comes to the same for just two courses, so it made sense to try three desserts. I had the Truffade de Chocolat Noir with a molasses ice cream and crème anglaise--very rich.

John chose a light dish of strawberries with parsley ice cream.

Onil's choice was a Clafoutis of raspberries and yellow peppers--very successful and interesting.

We didn't order coffee but there was a post-dessert: small chocolate pots de crème flavored with star anise.

Le Pre Verre is always bustling and always packed. One must reserve a few days in advance. Service is very pleasant and casual and the food is always delicious and creatively conceived. Lunch is half the price of dinner for a smaller menu.

Friday, 10 August 2012

The pleasure of dining at a three-star restaurant in France

I take a journey to the Aveyron, in the center of France, to dine at Bras--the wonderful restaurant of Michel and Sebastien Bras.

Many years ago, before I moved to France, I read an article in the New York Times about Michel Bras. At that time, he was considered a remarkable chef who cultivated gardens and picked his own flowers and herbs every morning to use in his creations. His restaurant, Michel Bras, was only open 6 months a year as it is in a very out of the way place and would not attract visitors during the cold winter months. Nevertheless, he received two Michelin stars quite quickly and then, remarkably, a third about 13 years ago. Over the past 15 years, his son, Sebastien, has joined him in the kitchen and now they are both recognized as the executive chefs.

Michel, the father, continues to pick his herbs and flowers and they are used in all his dishes, but in one signature dish especially: Le gargouillou, which is a salad which combines these herbs and flowers along with warm and cold vegetables.

But I am getting ahead of myself.

To get there involves plane ride to Rodez, and an hour's drive to Laguiole . I arrived just at lunch time and asked to see Michel, the father. (I had seen a documentary about the restaurant and wanted to tell him how much I enjoyed it. I had also come to the restaurant for a second time to make sure that I could once again sample his wonderful food.) The Auvergne people are known for their accueuil (warm welcome). No, Michel was not there, they said, but did I want to meet Sebastien? To my surprise, I was immediately ushered into the kitchen just as the staff was gearing up for lunch:

What an honor to meet this creative and kind man.

Before I chose my menu, I took the apéritif in the front room, where I could peruse the menus. With my Laurent Perrier Ultra Brut champagne was served a number of amuse-bouches. My favorite was the oeuf coque avec ses mouillettes aux épices. This herb-seasoned soft boiled egg came with wonderful toast rectangles that one dips in the egg. It was sensational. There was also a lovely tarte aux cèpes.

Everyone chose La Balade as the menu dégustation, as this menu consists of many of the chefs' most exemplary dishes.

I started with the afore-mentioned gargouillou which is a brilliant and delicious take on a vegetable salad. To start my menu, I chose a 1/2 bottle of Puligny Montrachet J.M. Boillot 2006, a truly excellent choice.

Next came the Turbot with eggplant and a sauce of sweet peppers and anchovies,

followed by La tranche de foie de canard poêlée served with cherries, fennel and seasoned with fresh thyme. And lastly (with my white wine), were Les cèbes de Lezignac, les truffes de Coprégnac en tarte: a vegetable tart with summer truffles and spring onions.

A simple and delicious piece of selle d'agneau rôtie sur l'os followed, garnished with beefsteak tomato, bok choy, basil, chanterelles and figs.

I accompanied this with my second 1/2 bottle of wine, this time a red: Gevrey Chambertin Charlopin Parizot, vieilles vignes, 2004.

Next came one of my favorite dishes, and one that is always welcome on a table in the Auvergne region of France: L'aligot. This is a mashed potato dish with so much tomme d'Auvergne (a sharp cheese), butter and cream that it becomes elastic and sticks to the spoon. It is comfort food to the nth degree:

My server suggested that I accompany my cheese course with some of my white wine. Many wine connoisseurs also prefer whites to red with cheese and in this case, it was an excellent recommendation as the white wine was flavorful enough to stand up to the cheeses.

For desserts, there were many: Le biscuit tiède a la pulpe de rhubarbe with a strawberry sorbet and the sweet wine, Banyuls. The tart was dusted with citrus fruit bits. This was a lovely dessert.

There was also a cherry sorbet with a financier (an almond cake) flavored with olive oil and spices.

And then there was the ice cream tasting:

Verbena mousse, almond milk ice cream, peach sorbet, juniper berry ice cream, chocolate-basil sorbet.

The sweet plain cake, Le fouasse was served in a dramatic and creative way. It was toasted and flavored with honey and wrapped around a stand:

Unlike the cuisine of Thierry Marx, which is ultra-modern, this might be termed as Cuisine Française Classique. That is not to say that it is full of heavy cream sauces. In general, however, if well done, it does mean delicious. And this meal was, for me, one of the most delicious and beautiful meals I ever had the pleasure to savor.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Molecular Cuisine à la Française

Birthday dinner at a new two-star restaurant in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel

A few weeks ago, I invited several friends to celebrate an important birthday with me. One of the first chefs I ever wrote about on this blog, M. Thierry Marx, had moved from Pauillac to wow the Parisians with his own rendition of molecular cuisine at the sparking new restaurant Sur Mesure at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. Eric, Gaby, and Adriana accompanied me on this exciting journey to the cutting edge of French cooking.

M. Marx has spent a lot of time in Japan, and this is reflected in his art. His creations are beautifully presented jewels, artfully composed and delicious.

The restaurant itself is stunning and the service impeccable. The space is organized into little alcoves, with the result that each tables feels like it is in its own little quiet restaurant. This is a modified version of the Japanese kai-seki restaurant that provides private rooms for its customers. For this important evening, my friends let me be in charge and so I chose the Menu Degustation 9 Plats (nine dishes tasting menu) for all of us. We each had choices though: in several of the appetizers, the main course and one of the desserts.

There were the lovely Escargots/ravioles végétales/pulpe piperade/pain croustillant: an extemely creative snail dish.

These were little crunchy snail fritters dusted with toast and served with intensely- green raviolis made entirely of vegetables and accompanied with the line of bright red pepper pulp. Sensational!

A signature dish is the heavenly risotto and this evening they served the risotto de soja aux huîtres/truffe noir. This was a dish of a heavenly sauce that was crunchy but not with rice: with soybean sprouts! It was garnished with black truffles and is one of the best dishes any of us had ever had. So inventive, so sublime and so surprising.

For the fish course, there was a choice of Homard aux cerises/vieux Balsamique (which I chose, being the most adventuresome)

or Turbot de Bretagne, gross pièce/couteaux/dentelles d'encre

Couteaux means knife and this dish is a wonderful large piece of turbot (my favorite white fish) served with the couteaux (a long slim shellfish served in its shell) garnished with squid ink lace. This was a very sexy dish.

We all chose different main courses: Canard des immortels/oignons nouveaux/figues--that is, duck with figs and sautèed baby onions

Boeuf charbon/réglisse/laqué de petits pois/lard de Colonnata
: beautifully grilled beef, a subtle licorice flavor, a layer of snow pea coulis, and fine Italian ham

Pluma caramélisée/pomme et ananas acidulés: Caramelized pork with tart apple and pineapple.

These dishes were all gorgeous to view and to eat.

Such a stellar meal begged to be accompanied with stellar wines. Before we left for the restaurant, I served a Bollinger Grand Année 2002 champagne, so we were well "apéritifed" when we arrived. And then, with most of our meal, we had a wonderful Puligny Montrachet, Louis Carillon 2009. For the meat courses, each of us had a different glass of red: Priorat GV5 2007 from Spain for the duck, a wonderful Burgundy Volnay Boillot 2009 with the beef, and a delicious Languedoc Domaine de Montcalmès 2008 with the pork.

Desserts seemed to come without end. First there was a traditionally modern Japanese bento:

with a variety of chocolate tarts, fruit and cream tarts, and ylang ylang (an exotic flower) ice cream....and....

Fraise/litchi (strawberry and litchi with a beautiful interesting tuile with rosemary)

Miroir cassis

Abricot juste poché/crème Madame

These were three different fruit desserts that we had chosen at the start of the meal.

And then there were the little ice cream cones...

For Happy Birthday:

And chocolates....

And the four of us....

None of us will ever forget this beautiful evening. For once (after El Bulli) I found a sampling of molecular cuisine that speaks to me. Not only dramatic in presentation but beautiful and delicious in execution. I had had another excellent molecular meal at the first Thierry Marx, and am glad to see that he is keeping up with such a fine display of his ultra-modern art.

L'Affriolé and Le Comptoir: Two Little Jewels in Paris

Two well known and wonderful Parisian Bistrots where you can get an excellent meal without spending too much

I can always count on my dentist to steer me in the right direction. Affriolé,
on a quiet street in the 7ème arrondissement is a wonderful little bistrot where you can get a delicious meal for about 35 euros (not including beverages). Not only that, but the staff is just lovely and the setting warm and cozy albeit modern.

I met my friend Claude there, and we embarked on a gastronomic journey that ended in total delight. Claude had a beautiful ballotine de rattes et saumon fumé which looked like round, pink tart. (Rattes are small potatoes.) I started with another beautiful dish: Gaspacho de Tomates et Pastèque et un verre de jambon nappé de chantilly. I was presented with two small glasses: one with the heavenly and fresh gaspacho with watermelon, and a second glass with cubes of ham topped with a light serving of whipped cream. A very interesting and successful combination.

For our main courses, I chose grilled daurade (which is a white fish) served with sautéed cèpes. I love sautéed mushrooms of any type and this was the high season for the cèpes. Claude chose the Foie de veau sauté aux carottes et aux betteraves. (Betteraves are beets.) This was another presentation of two glasses--one with beautifully prepared cubes of calves' liver

and the other with the orange and red vegetables.

In the vegetable glass there were also red and green grapes.

We each chose a glass of wine to go with our meal and both of our main courses were delicious.

As this was lunch, we decided against dessert. I could not help but be a bit disappointed. However, I know that I will return and will definitely try one of the many of the desserts offered.

Le Comptoir du Relais is in the 6ème arrondissement at the bustling Place d'Odéon. One must reserve six months in advance for the excellent prix fixe dinner (they save many tables for the hotel guests next door) and have gone on the fly for lunch where the restaurant serves a long list of brasserie items, specializing in meats from the southern provinces of France. Both choices are great. I have already written about the more formal dinner.

At lunch, it is good to get there late because between 11:30-1:30, the place is mobbed and there won't be a table. This time I went after 3 and sat right down at a table in a very crowded restaurant. The menu is comprised of appetizers, salads (ranging from a very expensive lobster salad to a smoked chicken or a vegetable salad), sandwiches (croque monsieur au saumon, for example), and hot dishes. The desserts are superb.

I steered away from the rich patés and beef cheek or pig's feet dishes, and also of the creamy brandade de morue (mixture of mashed potatoes, cream and cod), or the grilled chicken with mashed potatoes, and went straight to the fish.

There is always a just-cooked thick tuna steak and that is a great choice, but this time I saw a new item on the menu: sashimi de thon rouge , pois gourmands et sesame, mousse de wasabi

At first glance, I thought that the waiter had mixed up my order and served me someone's dessert, but upon closer look, I saw that the glistening red tuna was standing on its side and hugging the vegetable stuffing, making it look like a cake under its foam topping.


As you can see, I took a photograph of the dish I was presented and what I found inside. It was light, savory and just perfect with the right balance of wasabi, sesame and soy to marry beautifully with the fresh tuna.

I was glad that I had planned for dessert. I love their panna cotta, which is creamy and always napped with a wonderful compote of fruit. The baba au rhum is spectacular as is their chocolate tart. This time, however, I chose le petit pot au chocolat napped with a crème anglaise. Very rich and perfect for any tried-and-true chocoholic like myself.

With an excellent glass of wine (there is a very long and extensive wine list) and coffee, such a meal comes to 35 euros. You can spend a lot more or a lot less. Next door is a tapas bar that is always full, and there is also a window for phenomenal crèpes to go. That is going to be another stop in my eating itinerary.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Kyo Ya: Seasonal Kaiseki Cuisine in Lower Manhattan

My cousins, Jenny and Hilly, accompanied me to Kyo ya--recently reviewed in the New York Times. We sat at the counter from where we could see what the chef, Sono Chikara, was doing and ask him questions. Known for his seasonal omakase, we decided that for our first time, we would order a la carte. At the end of a memorable meal, we also promised each other to return for the omakase the next time I am in NY.

After placing our order, the wait person suggested his favorite sake to us. It was excellent. It was a Chrysanthemum Mist Junmai and we enjoyed it very much. We also were shown the obligatory dish of various small sake cups from which we made our individual choices.

Oshizushi or pressed sushi is a specialty here and we chose the best one: mackerel. They were saving the mackerel for omakase clients and so served us soy marinated Canadian salmon with various toppings It was not only beautiful but delightful to eat.

We shared everything we ordered and chose 10 different items, mostly from the appetizers with one main course and a rice dish. I had never had many of the things we ordered and was pleasantly surprised by everything. Shiokara is cured seasonal seafood to be eating with sake. The Yuba and Uni Yoshino Style was unusual. I love yuba (a particular presentation of tofu) but was a bit disappointed with the consistency of what they served that evening. Maybe it is the Yoshino Style that I didn't like.

We had a cold duck salad, but most of our dishes were either fish or vegetables. Everything was exciting to look at and delicious to eat. We had a crab dish with vegetables with which we were presented with a hot grill. It was our job to grill each of the components and then dip the cooked food into an accompanying sauce. This is takenoko (Bamboo) season and we also that vegetable grilled. It was served over small stones and brought back memories of Japan in the spring. Sweet Potato Tempura is something I first had in Tokyo. It is more flavorful than the lowly white potato and the tempura enhanced the flavor even more.

So many restaurants make black cod with miso glaze but I had heard that the preparation at Kyo ya was like no other. The cod is marinated in Tsubu Miso and then broiled. It is a very savory and light dish.

I am partial to the movie, Green Tea and Rice that was made in the '40's by the great Japanese director, Ozu. In it, a couple that has drifted apart reconcile one night while they enjoy a dish they each remember from childhood. When I saw that dish on the menu, I convinced my friends to order that as our rice dish. Such an interesting and unusual presentation. This dish comes straight out of grandma's collection of recipes, and is especially enjoyed by young children. At Kyo ya, they combine red snapper and rice in a bowl. It is our job to pour hot green tea over the rice and fish, and zoop it up with a ladle-like spoon.This Chazuke was an excellent end to a spectacular meal. Please note that Hilary Peltz was a great help with the photography.