How to spend your rent money on food that’s worth it. My 5 star stamp of approvals and how they stack up against Michelin’s rated guide.
Upper East Side 10 East 60th St, New York, NY 10022
2011 Review: Organic, locally supported and sourced, healthy and still scrumptious minus the nasty fat content. Rouge Tomate delivers standout, flavorful dishes…but can you believe it’s not heavily infused with butter? or saturated fats? or drenched in oil? believe it. Locally sourced ingredients … dishes that have been consulted with Nutritionist Natalie Hancock…so you know they have your best interest and healthy heart in mind. They are also environmentally friendly and a part of the Green Restaurant Association. My personal favorites are the Spanish Octopus… succulent, tender, smoky chorizo and saffron flavors. I really enjoyed the crab toast with apple and jalapenos, gives it a subtly sweet and spicy kick. The hangar steak is superb with all the fat trimmed off… some may beg to differ… it has its own unique taste and holds its own. Aside from the steak, the best part about the dish was the wild mushrooms… delectable. I opted for the spaghetti alla chitarra. The pasta was al dente…. with seasonal lobster and uni that was fresh. Could have used just a tad bit more sauce (and basil), but I think the main focus was the seafood and pasta here. Portions here are pretty small, but I think intentionally, so first you don’t over eat…. and second, it’s a nice establishment here. You can try small bites of various things if you wanted. Rouge Tomate I applaud you for all of your earnest and most endearing efforts. You deserve many accolades for your upcoming endeavors, including the Michelin star. I hope to see them bump up a notch next year!
- Crab Toast with apple & jalapenos
- Spanish Octopus with chorizo, celery root & saffron
- Hangar steak w/ wild mushrooms, braised leeks and red wine jus
Michelin Rated: 1 star
Theater District // 347 W. 46th St, New York, NY 10036
2010 Review: An exquisite chef’s tasting dream; a meal that exemplifies beauty with no acceleration for the desire to eat. One by one, I sit & gaze in awe at each dish. The technique & presentation is incredible. While I had the full chef’s tasting menu, there were courses that were stellar, and some that slightly fell off the radar mark. While I didn’t warm up to the semi-stuffy ambiance here, heaven adore the amazing experience here.
- Seared langoustine with wild mushroom & shaved foie gras; robust in flavors, hearty in texture
- Organic eggs with osetra caviar & English toast; classic, simple perfect execution
- Black bass with potato puree and parsnip custard on the side; the lightly sweet custard delicately balances the fragrant crisp bass and the thick, hearty starchy texture of the potato puree
- Chevre goat milk cheese with concord grapes & walnuts; Amazing little dessert without tasting too heavy
Michelin: 3 stars
2010 Review: Unassuming, quaint, charming and dimly lit. I literally had no idea what type of restaurant I was walking into but it felt like a pretty narrow hall of a brownstone. I was immediately comfortable. Our waiter though polite was a bit quirky. I also saw the Chef walking back and forth a lot…it’s hard to miss his over 6ft stature. The menu offers a variety of fish, poultry, rabbit and foie gras and many seasonal fruits and vegetables. I noticed many interesting combinations of ingredients made for an adventurous eat. I wanted to try a bit of everything, with that being said, I couldn’t resist the tasting menu.
- Grilled Spanish Octopus
- Ricotta Gnocchi
- Pan Roasted Breast of Squab
Octopus and pork belly was just a pleasantly surprising good mix together. Both tend to have a chewy texture, and I expected the octopus to be tough but it was merely the opposite, succulently tender and paired spectacularly with the crisp, salted pork belly. The citrus of the mango, red bell pepper and fresh bitters of the jicama and it had a nice spicy kick due to the sricha … it was a melting pot of wonderful flavors in my mouth, by far the highlight of my night. The homemade gnocchi was filled with butternut squash and Parmesan sage cream sauce… you need to dig in and combine both to get the textures and taste. The gnocchi was cooked al dente. The creaminess of the sauce was not so rich and empowering. The portion of three gnocchi was just enough to give room for the next dish. The last tasting dish ended up being one of my top 3 favorites was the pan-roasted squab. I was so stuffed at this point, so I didn’t finish. Let’s just say that my knife cut through the squab with very little effort. It was so moist and a pleasure to eat. Overall wonderful experience…if you’re not ready for 7 courses, there is a shorter tasting menu. Highly recommend and definitely earns its first Michelin star this year (2010). Congratulations!
Michelin: 1 star
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Greenwich Village // 136 W. Houston St, New York, NY 10012
2009 Review: The ultimate and authenticated omakase experience. This place is easily on my top three spots for sushi in the city. If you love fresh fish and prepared traditionally, this place is the way to go. I actually prefer the sushi over sashimi here.. because the rice is the best seasoned rice I’ve had in the city. Hands down. Bow down to the head chef who doesn’t say much, but when he does, he rants and glows. Expect him to rave about the fish that is un-traditionally hard to obtain… more common in Japan. Watch him delicately, he is too swift and too quiet… but amazing knife skills. Humble with great speed is my greatest opinion of him.
- Snapper & Mackerel
I have nothing to say but good things about Kuribara. The first time I met him, he was a quiet one, but I felt very good vibes. He naturally started to open up when he presented each fish and glows. The second time I went, I had probably one of the best omakase experiences here…so things to note: Always try to reserve at the bar and make sure the head chef is serving you! With that being said… the uni is amazing here… as was the snapper, toro & other fishes I was not familiar with.
Michelin: N/A, but deserves 1 star.
Midtown // 213 E 45th St, New York, NY 10017
2010 Review: Deep, fun, sensual, with an overcast of beauty hidden in the basement level. 99% of everything here on the menu is amazing and I simply can’t get enough. I haven’t tried their sushi yet, as I have been drawn into their izakaya dishes. So many authentic dishes to choose from, we always try to incorporate one new dish and always get our favorites. The presentation is beautiful and near flawless. It’s quite the experience, especially if you get to sit at the bar where all the magic happens.
- Miso Black Cod
- Soba noodles in hot stone pot “ankake”
- Chicken meatballs “tsukune”
- Grilled Eggplant
I can’t tell which I like better..the miso cod or the ankake. ok, if you think about it, I’m comparing apples to oranges. How on earth am I comparing high caliber, delicate fish to soba noodles? Because the soba noodles are sauteed in a hot stone pot, the gravy, pork & veggies so finely balance the hearty flavors that give a heavy, solid finish. Without this dish, I leave unsatisfied.
East Village // 231 E. 9th St, New York, NY 10003
2010 Review: Easily adored by all vegetarians. Robataya can convert me….although, I love seafood too much to give it up..the seafood paired with their tofu & vegetables here are superb. Their sea salt is their secret sauce here. Make sure to use a little bit on everything. It’s sublime and out of this world. Also make sure you sit at the bar… I haven’t had this fun of an experience in quite a while.
- tofu agedashi
- grilled enoki mushrooms
- grilled eggplant
Michelin: N/A but totally deserves at least 1 star
Greenwich Village 113 MacDougal Street
2010 Review: Deep, prettily dark rouges can get most customers in the intimate mood if not irritated by the “business” of the restaurant. Don’t have reservations? Don’t expect to get table seating then… you may however enjoy your meal at the bar, if you can hunt down the ever so hustling bartenders. Here’s a tip, try to hustle the bartenders before they hustle you.
- Black Label Burger
Why did this burger make it under the fine food section of my blog? Look at the price tag. I’m sorry but I can’t remember the last time I ate a burger that costs more than $15, let alone the hefty $26 attached to this special black label burger. Guaranteed premium cuts at precisely the temperature that you’d like it cooked. And if that’s not the case, I would send it right back for a remake. This place hasn’t failed me once. No ketchup required. If I had only one critique, it would be the bun. My preferred choice is always sesame. Otherwise, if you can splurge without feeling guilty, this burger would definitely be my top choice in the city, thus far. Their seafood (baked cod on pretty parchment paper) was a bit bland for me and hazelnut crepe, while I love these nuts, all I tasted were the nuts and needed more of an in depth bite for me. These dishes were nothing memorable as far as I am concerned. Count your lucky stars I will be back here for their burgers… mmm. Go ahead & indulge.
Michelin: N/A but totally deserves at least 1 star
Meatpacking District // 355 W. 14th St, New York, NY
2010 Review: There is nothing more sensual than the earthy browns, beige & oranges that highlight the restaurant and its soul. Date worthy? Absolutely. Be forewarned, it’s a bit on the busy & noisy side of the neighborhood…but not unbearable. The three following things are a must at this beautiful, sleek interior restaurant. And not that I’m against sharing from the same plate, but I think it’s divine that for most appetizers (like the polenta) they split the plates for you into individual portions. They will split the main entrée portions too…. just don’t ask to split dessert and don’t skimp out. Get a full portion of dessert for yourself! Trust me…
- Creamy polenta with truffled mushrooms
- Tomato, basil spaghetti
- Coconut panna cotta with guava soup
If I can choose one, I would die once more for their creamy polenta… Truffle mushrooms on top, need I say more? It’s seriously the best polenta I have ever had in my entire life. Their spaghetti has a soft, chewy, udon texture cooked al-dente. So rustic, yet bursting with a dimension of flavor that I didn’t think could be found in plain spaghetti with tomato and basil. Every bite smelled of freshness. And lastly, the coconut panna cotta with the cold guava soup cleansed and refreshed the palate to new heights. Delectable in every way. Reservations are hard to come by, so try to secure one with love. Or risk your luck… there is a casual section for non-reservations only. I personally, like the non-casual setting, you are closer to the windows and sunshine on a lovely, warm evening. I wish there was better lighting for pictures, but unfortunately I am not able to showcase the beautiful pieces of art I have enjoyed dearly. I guess an iPhone can only do so much!
Michelin: N/A but totally deserves at least 1 star
East Village // 25 Cooper Sq/Cooper Square Hotel, New York, NY
2010 Review: Scott Conant’s latest & greatest. I have had the pleasure of meeting him and he is a darling in person. It is evident from his personality as his bold statements are defined and clearly accentuated in his menu. A touch of Scarpetta with a lot more raw bar offerings, hence the light note nuance of elegance and tint of Japanese flair. Forget about the restaurant décor… I fell in love with glass window panels alongside the hotel.. the cool beige and super slick décor got me within first glance. Enough said.
- Truffle mushroom risotto w/ ricci di mare
- Chu-toro w/ ricci di mare
- Truffled cabbage
That’s the problem with these types of restaurants, too many choices. Let me rephrase, too many wonderful choices. While these remain my top 3 choices, they will be modified over time I am sure. I didn’t even get to try the Tajarin (spaghetti with ricci di mare) which I am sure will be in my top 3. I loved the spaghetti, tomato & basil for its simplicity, and sometimes less is just positively more. Scott left quite the impression on me and can’t wait to keep spreading the love about Faustina.
Meatpacking District // 88 10th Ave New York, NY
2010 Review: The atmosphere and space is simply marvelous. Everything is white, natural oak and vast array of glass parts, walls and staircase included. You will feel like you’re purposely walking on egg shells, just so you can catch your breath as you walk through the corridors. It’s the glass decor that really gets to me. I think the world needs more glass-related architecture to it. I haven’t had the pleasure of trying everything on their menu, but as the sense of style implies in his simplistic, opaque & sophisticated restaurant, the art and flavors will very much imply solidarity on the plate. My absolute favorite thing on the menu is an appetizer that is very traditional and banking on its continued success, is still on the menu today.
- Toro tartare w/ osetra caviar
- frankly speaking, anything maguro here…
The dish was served over ice, the toro thinly minced & sliced on a separate plate, topped with osetra caviar. Call me a little biased, but I much prefer osetra caviar over the American kind any day. It has a much more sweet and robust flavor and accents the Toro quite richly. There are about 6 sauce/topping options you can pick from to mix with your dashi-soy. So neat and categorized, you scrape each bit as if each piece is a formation of new art itself. It’s truly a beautiful and tasty piece of work. also, whether it’s traditional maguro you are having here, you can bet it’s of the highest caliber possible. I’ve never had a failed sashimi experience here yet…so perhaps this place merits higher ranking for their sushi vs. traditional Japanese fare….
I would agree…this restaurant is a bit over the top. You’re paying more for the experience than you are the actual cuisine.
Midtown East // 207 East 43th St. New York, NY 10017
2009 Review: Chef Yasuda has great presence that is all the more humbling, warm and certainly inviting. He has been an absolute pleasure to interact with and watching him was indeed an honor. The decor was very neutral and clean. One can feel a sense of ease, with a conversation that flows naturally.
- Omakase or special prix-fixe meal
- Uni, eel, butter fish
A gf and I decided to do their prix-fixe meal, which is a stellar deal (but certainly not enough to keep you full by the end of the meal). I left it up to Chef Yasuda to pick his daily fish. My only request was that I had to have hamachi as it is my favorite kind of fish. He ended up giving me three different cuts, which is way more than I wanted. Very delicious, but surprising the stellar winners was the uni & butter fish. Talk about melting in my mouth!
Michelin: N/A, but also deserves merit and recognition
Theater District // 347 W. 46th St, New York, NY 10036
2009 Review: I didn’t think there was anything special in terms of the decor…just another plain Jane on the block. On the other hand, the food, oh my gracious… heaven in modest disguise.
The fish here is undoubtedly superb and that’s just scratching the surface. What Sushi of Gari accomplishes best is gently adding a saucy touch to each perfected piece of sushi, with a fresh twist. Whether is it’s sauce, toppings, garnishes… every bite there is a surprise that will melt your heart and tearing taste buds. Their toro was delectable as was their eel & scallop. Chef Gari successfully executes his modern twist of how sushi should be in this day & age. If you are a purist, I would not recommend this place.
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