Showing posts with label New York. Show all posts
Showing posts with label New York. Show all posts

Monday, December 30, 2019

favorite dishes of 2019: worldwide version

I made a decision this year to split my "favorite dishes" list between Miami and elsewhere. You can see the 25 best things I ate in Miami over here. This list (All lists! All the time! At least until the end of the year!) covers the best things I ate everywhere else in 2019.

We started the year in Marfa, Texas[1] before taking a long drive to Austin, which is a really fun town where there's a taco truck, a BBQ place, a beer hall, and a live music venue on every block. There were brief visits to New York and San Francisco, and then a wonderful week in Italy (Rome and Venice, broken up by a day in Florence), where I practiced some immersion therapy to get over my biases against Italian food.[2] Back to the Bay Area for a week. A long weekend in Los Angeles, making only the tiniest dent in the long list of places I want to visit in what may be the best eating town in the U.S. And finally, a late year return to N.Y. before the calendar flipped over.

charred cabbage, satsuma butter - Emmer & Rye (Austin)
Our first dinner in Austin was at chef Kevin Fink's Emmer & Rye, a place with a focus on heirloom grains (as the name suggests), local seasonal products, carts circling the dining room with little snacks a la State Bird Provisions, and generally speaking, some really creative stuff happening in the kitchen. I enjoyed everything, but especially this dish of charred cabbage, satsuma butter, trout roe and mustard greens. Savory, smoky, citrusy, and more, it was odd and delicious.

(See all my pictures from Emmer & Rye.)

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Monday, July 11, 2016

best thing i ate last week: hokkaido uni at Shuko (New York City)

Some sort of sound had involuntarily come out of my mouth. I'm not sure exactly what it was; it may have been a moan. It may have been a giddy chuckle. But when I came back to my senses, I saw that everyone on the other side of the counter was looking at me with an expression somewhere between bemusement and shock.

Shuko is not a stereotypically austere, somber sushi bar: the soundtrack is dominated by old-school hip-hop, and the chefs fist-bump regulars across the bar. But still, whatever I'd done had caught everyone's attention.

It was triggered by this bite of Hokkaido uni: the lobes of sea urchin cold and creamy, with a flavor both briny and fruity, like an oceanic peach, tucked over a pillow of rice into a gunkan maki of crisp nori. Beautiful stuff, worth embarrassing yourself a little bit.

You can see all the pictures from our omakase dinner at Shuko in this Shuko - New York City flickr set.

47 E. 12th Street, New York, NY

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

travelogue: a weekend of eating in New York City

Whenever we visit New York City, there's a constant tug of war between the new and the familiar. We're typically only in the city for a couple days at a time, and the list of places I'd like to try runs into the hundreds; but there are also the places to which we like to return, rituals that provide reward and reassurance through repetition.

When we can do so for a not-astronomical rate, we like to stay at The NoMad, which aside from having a great restaurant and a great bar,[1] also has posh but comfortable rooms, great service, and a central location (28th and Broadway) from which both Lower Manhattan and the heart of Midtown are within range of a long walk. That's the view from our room down into the dining room at the top of this post; the view at ground level is equally nice.

(You can see all my pictures from The NoMad in this NoMad flickr set).

And when we stay at the NoMad, and arrive mid-afternoon, we like to drop our bags and get a snack at the John Dory Oyster Bar, April Bloomfield's seafood emporium one block up. Since it's between services, there's only a limited menu, which is fine: some oysters, a carta di musica, and a couple other fishy things (this time, a smoked char pâté with parker house rolls and half of a poached lobster) tide us over in very happy fashion until dinner.[2]

(You can see all my pictures from the John Dory in this John Dory Oyster Bar flickr set).

The John Dory Oyster Bar
1196 Broadway @ 29th Street, New York, NY

For dinner, though, something new (for us anyway): Sushi Ko, an 11-seat, omakase only sushi den on the Lower East Side. Part of the draw for me was that the itamae, John Daley, was a mentee of Masato Shimizu, the chef of 15 East where we'd had an excellent meal a couple years ago.[3] After working at 15 East, Daley went to Japan and worked for Chef Masa's mentor, Rikio Kugo of Sukeroku. At his own place – which he runs pretty much as a solo operation, which just one server pouring drinks and handling the check – he serves a $150 procession of about a dozen and a half rounds of nigiri.[4]

His rice I thought was very good: faintly warmer than body temperature, each grain perfectly distinct without falling apart, seasoned just enough to enhance but not overwhelm the flavor of the rice itself. Though Daley has been characterized as something of a renegade, he is not the type that festoons his neta with a blizzard of different garnishes. Some were smoked or quickly seared, but otherwise his fish was touched only with a delicate swipe of wasabi, a brush of soy sauce or a sprinkle of salt, and maybe a touch of citrus juice or zest. I did find he was a bit heavy-handed on the salt, but this was something I could have remedied had I recognized it earlier: early in the meal, he invited each of us to ask him to calibrate his seasoning.

I liked how his selection of fish had themes: kanpachi fresh in one instance and lightly smoked in another; shima aji and aji in procession; three different kinds of uni (California uni, smoked, as nigiri; Maine uni in a maki; Japanese uni as gunkan maki) over the course of the meal; though I wished one of those themes hadn't been (endangered) wild caught Atlantic bluefin tuna.[5]

New York Sushi Ko
91 Clinton Street, New York, NY

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Sunday, June 29, 2014

Atera - New York

I don't believe in "fate," but I'm a big fan of serendipity.

Last week, Frod Jr. had to get to Cornell University on Saturday morning, where he's taking courses this summer. It turns out this is not a simple task, as there are almost no flights into Ithaca. Things actually got a bit easier when I needed to be in New York City for work earlier in the week. Frod Jr. came up with me, and had a couple days free in the city before we rented a car and drove to Ithaca. That worked out perfectly.

Then Thursday night while we're up there, I get a text from Miami chef Jeremiah Bullfrog, who had just been at Bonnaroo breaking in his new gastroPod, a diner built in a shipping container: "You in NY??" he asks. Sure enough, he is too, and we've both got Friday night free for dinner. I scour OpenTable to see what's available, and – can this be for real? – there's a 9:30 reservation for three open at Atera. A place I've been wanting to go to since it opened, and for which Friday night tables are usually booked weeks ahead. Should we do it, Jeremiah? "Yes yes yes." And this, too, worked out perfectly.

The chef, Matthew Lightner, who had spent time at Noma and Mugaritz, was getting lots of attention for his "modernist" interpretation of Pacific Northwest cuisine at Castagna in Portland when he switched coasts to open Atera in 2012. It's easy to see how he was lured away: Atera is many a chef's dream come true. Hidden behind an unassuming entrance near Tribeca is a snug room with twelve seats around a matte black concrete counter facing into a gleaming open kitchen.[1] One twenty-ish course tasting menu is served to two seatings every night, and Lightner and crew seem to work with absolute freedom.

When Atera first opened a couple years ago, that freedom was reflected in provocative dishes like pig's blood crackers and lichen crisps. From my recent meal there, it seems those confrontational inclinations have been tempered. This is not "comfort food" by any means – the creative impulses that fuel the menu remain readily apparent – but I left feeling more coddled than challenged, in the best possible way.[2]

(You can see all my pictures in this atera flickr set; and though I don't usually toot my own horn, seriously, go look – I don't think I've ever been quite as happy with my own pictures).

A burst of color starts the meal. A tranche of vermilion and white king crab rests in a pool of cool, crimson rhubarb juice, infused with wild ginger and dotted with fresh cream, topped with a few fragrant rose geranium blossoms. The crab is both lush and lean, a balance echoed by the thick cream floating on the surface of the tangy rhubarb.

An even more colorful bouquet followed. For a while, everyone was throwing edible flowers onto their dishes in imitation of Noma's "forager cuisine." Too often, it was this generation's equivalent of the parsley sprig – a garnish, arguably edible, but having no real relationship to the dish other than to look pretty. Here, the flowers are the heart of the dish: a ruby-hued broth of rose hips and petals, poured tableside into a bowl with slices of black bass and a spray of various blossoms.[3] The broth was intensely floral, but the acidity of the rose hips (a common source of Vitamin C) tempered the suggestion that you were digging into a bowl of potpourri. A very light charcoal-grilled sear on the fish – so clean and fresh – helped keep it from getting lost.

Then, a sort of "nose to tail" triptych of trout. First, trout liver, packaged into a sort of sandwich with apple, toast and powdered brown butter. Next, slabs of the trout filet – cured, smoked, and brushed with pork fat, presented entirely unadorned – a perfect bite. Finally, smoked trout roe, with a clean brininess that pops in your mouth, sandwiched between crisp, lacy amaranth crackers, bound with a bit of tartar sauce.

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Friday, September 6, 2013

Blanca - Brooklyn, New York

"People take pictures of each other
Just to prove that they really existed."
A couple years ago, reports began to emanate of a second kitchen at Roberta's, a funky "third wave" pizzeria in deep Brooklyn. Roberta's chef Carlo Mirarchi was already turning out acclaimed pizzas. But this was something else - delicate fish crudos and composed dishes, "fantastical tales of aged birds and beef." Soon the mainstream media caught up, and word was out on these extremely limited edition tasting menus.

Demand ultimately led to a separate venue inside the Roberta's compound for these dinners, dubbed Blanca. Since opening about a year ago, Blanca has become known for a number of things: its artful, extensive, and expensive (currently $195pp) tasting menus; its extreme dry-aged meats program (not "fantastical" after all); its location in Bushwick (Roberta's is on a "grim street" in "basically a frontier community," according to Alan Richman, though Ruth Reichl didn't find it nearly so desolate recently); its extremely limited seating (12 spots, two seatings a night); its obtuse reservation "system" (since fixed);[1] and its no-photos no-cellphones policy.

Some of these are more important to me than others. I'll travel pretty far - even Bushwick[2] - and navigate a pretty tricky reservation system if there's something great to eat at the end of the ordeal. And as someone who started off this blogging venture with very ambivalent feelings about photography, I never really imagined that not being able to take pictures would have any impact on my enjoyment of a meal.

And yet I find myself now with ambivalent feelings about our meal a few months ago at Blanca, and I wonder if the no-photos policy has anything to do with it. I have vivid recollections of only a handful of the 20-ish courses we were served. Many others are only fuzzy vague memories; and some I don't recall at all.

Do people take pictures of their food just to prove that it existed? Does a dish no longer exist to me if I don't have a picture of it? Have I so externalized my own brain functions that I can no longer clearly remember something if I've not digitally recorded it somewhere? Or was it something else about the Blanca dining experience?

Here's what I do recall:

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