Eatin’ in New York 7

June 18, 2017 at 9:34 PM Leave a comment

Every year, Jeff must travel to New York (sometimes Michele joins him, but not this year) While he must work, he also has the opportunity to try a sampling of restaurants. Great things can come as a byproduct of necessity! This year, Jeff sampled a wide collection of interesting places, many that deserve recommending and one that deserves caution.

Without question and without reservation, Jeff’s favorite this trip is the new place Le Coq Rico. Le Coq Rico is a poultry-centric place that works to understand the flavors of each breed and capitalize on that individuality. While other restaurants may treat their chicken option as a “back-up” or an afterthought, Le Coq Rico forces you to pay attention to the chicken and respect it as a viable option and an integral element of haute cuisine. There is no question the lowly chicken has been elevated to superstar status here. Specific breeds are defined and quantified with flavor elements and culinary highpoints. Various locations and farming techniques are explored, as they relate to the bird. These are serious practitioners in a very narrow culinary band width.

Jeff and his dining companion started with the Terrine En Croute of Duck Foie Gras. This was lovely, rich, dense and flavorful liver wrapped in the lightest of pastry. What a nice combination! Unbelievably memorable. The entrée was a Chicken Pot that featured a rich, rich broth that cooked the vegetables and bird. The meat was amazingly tender and enjoyable. His dining companion could not say enough good about the Squab en Croute, again marveling at the tenderness and the delicate puff pastry. The final “home run” was a show-stopping dessert, L’lie Flottante. The meringue was formed into a “tennis ball”, surrounded with Red Praline and placed in a pool of Crème Anglaise. It is a dessert that will be almost impossible to forget, for a very long time. Le Coq Rico will force you to reassess your preconceived notions of poultry, in addition to what constitutes fine dining in America.

A very close second was found tucked away in a quiet corner of Greenwich Village at Babbo. Upon entering, a bar and bistro area is abuzz with people. Upstairs and in the back is a quiet, beautiful sky-lit dining room that matched the elegance of the prepared food. Jeff and this dinner companion split two appetizers. Fresh, new asparagus were topped with a soft duck egg and parmesan cheese. Once the toppings blended together the rich mix made for a full-flavored crunch of greens. The Baby Beet Salad featured diced cubes of an assortment of beets formed into a cylinder. These were equally fresh and flavorful. The Rabbit was prepared three different ways and Jeff simply could not pick which was better then the others. His dinner companion’s Pappardelle Bolognese was a nice blend of pork and veal. A different restaurant, but another merengue dessert, also very good. This is a place that wants guests to return, whether to the more formal area upstairs, or the rowdy barroom at the front. A lot of fun can be had at Babbo.

While working in New York, meals often need to be squeezed between assorted commitments. Regardless of the time and location, a good meal can almost always be had. Lure Fishbar is a perfect example. Jeff needed to eat at an odd time. A few places advertised a menu throughout the afternoon, but once inside he found that wasn’t the case. After two false starts, he walked down the steps at the corner of Mercer and Prince and enjoyed a handful of bar appetizers. The Clam Chowder featured full-sized clams and a rich broth. The Shrimp Tempura was accented with a spicy mayo that elevated this sometime average dish up a notch. With a delightful staff to compliment to good food, this was an enjoyable third-choice for food!

As Jeff was eating his Lyonnaise Salad at Bar Boulud prior to an evening curtain across the street at Lincoln Center, he asked himself, “When was the last time I ate Lyonnaise Salad?” This chicken liver, lardon, egg and crouton mix is much more an appetizer than “salad” (despite the frisee!) It remains a classic that we too often ignore or forget. As Jeff was finishing his Coq Au Vin, he again asked himself, “When was the last time I ate Coq Au Vin?” The chicken was rich with the flavor of red wine (especially the thigh) and the spätzle soaked up the dense cooking sauce. The Il Floatant (yes, another meringue dessert!) was a light way to end a meal of superstar foods. There is a reason foodstuffs become a part of the culinary lexicon. They are just so darn good that people continue to desire them. Jeff is surely glad he revisited this trio of staples and he was happy that Bar Boulud does them so well!

A few years ago, Jeff tried Scarpetta in Las Vegas. It was an excellent meal and that encouraged him to seek out the original in New York. This trip, he was in the Meatpacking District and found the parent to be even better than the sibling. The Polenta appetizer was unbelievably creamy. When the wild mushroom broth was poured over the top, it went on, beyond decadent! This was “lick the bowl” good! Jeff never heard of a Capretto cooking technique. His server called this a “wet roasted” preparation that adds moisture and flavor to the meat. He was right, the ultra-tender goat was heaped on a disc of chopped rapini and baby potatoes. The tartness of the greens and the mild game of the goat was mollified by the stableness of the potato. It could be a perfect meal. To finalize a fabulous evening, the Lemon Cake’s mix of sweet and tart was just right, just like everything else!

The disappointment on this trip was The Cannibal. A few months ago, a collection of Cleveland Chefs cooked at the James Beard House. It was a special honor and an article about their time in New York was featured in the Plain Dealer. When asked what restaurant they visited and enjoyed, many of the chefs said, “The Cannibal!” Jeff had high expectations but unfortunately was met with pedestrian and puzzling results.

Jeff and his dinner guest decided to share the Short Ribs, typically a luscious, rich and flavorful beef. Unfortunately, that is not what was served, The Cannibal’s was completely uneventful. The saving grace was the accompanying Parmesan Truffle Fries. They were wonderful. The Kielbasa was very good, but the side slaw was the most memorable, crunchy, and spicy with a touch of heat. It was excellent. It certainly is puzzling when the remarkable elements of a dinner is the sides at a restaurant called The Cannibal! Also good was the fine Mole Pudding. As the name defines, the flavors of Mole are imbed into pudding. Wow was it good, but again, not really in accordance with the restaurant name. Perhaps the most confusing thing was the “Chicken Sweetbread” appetizer. Do chicken have a thymus? Apparently they do. Were these thymus or chicken livers? They sure tasted like liver. At any other place, I might have taken them on their word. In hindsight, I’m not so sure here.

One last place that Jeff regularly visits, typically after an evening at the theatre is Aldo Sohm Wine Bar. This is a cozy little place tucked into the 6 ½ Avenue arcade between 51st and 52nd Streets. They have an excellent selection and a wide variety of wines from around the globe. The staff is very well versed and extremely helpful as you select a glass or a bottle. Often, a special bottle is available and there are some light appetizers and desserts on the menu. After a full evening in the city, this can be a great place to unwind.

As always, New York offers a wide variety of excellent dining options. We are fortunate to be able to sample many of the places whenever we are in the city. Fine dining certainly makes travel extra special!

http://www.lecoqriconyc.com/ 30 E20th Street New York, NY 10003 212-267-7426

http://www.babbonyc.com/ 110 Waverly Place New York, NY 10011 212-267-7426

http://www.lurefishbar.com/ 142 Mercer Street New York, NY 10012 212-431-7676

https://www.barboulud.com/nyc/ 1900 Broadway Avenue New York, NY 10023 212-595-0303

http://www.scarpettarestaurants.com/ 355 W 14th Street New York, NY 10014 212-691-0555

http://cannibalnyc.com/ 113 E 29th Street New York, NY 10016 212-686-5480

http://www.aldosohmwinebar.com/about 151 W51st Street New York, NY 10019 212-554-1143

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