Eatin’ in New York 8

June 9, 2018 at 9:51 PM Leave a comment

Another year, another set of trips to New York for Jeff. As with almost every trip to New York, he found some great new places and unfortunately experienced a major disappointment. Because the highs completely outshined the lows, it was a net positive.

Determining his favorite new place has become more and more difficult as time proceeds, but after continual internal arguments, the edge must be given to Don Angie. Honestly, it could because Jeff shared a dinner with his niece and they decided to split almost everything, so he was able to sample a very large portion of the menu. It could also be much simpler, the food was just damn good. They split two salads, one better than the next. The Chrysanthemum Salad was sharp, like a dandelion, but could as easily have been due to the garlic. The parmesan quietly tempered the hard edges. Similarly edgy, the Chicory, Pistachio Freekea Salad was an amazing combination. Chicory was all over New York this season (read on!) probably because of its tangy-peppery flavor. In this combo, the freekea (a grain that feels like a mash-up of bulgur, rice and couscous) became the settling agent. Course Two, the Garganelli Giganti. First, smash a giant meatball and cover it with a sheet of pasta. Dress it with bits of Guanciale and try to stop eating! Yikes was this good! Jeff loves Octopus in New York and their Octopus Puttanesca drops you in the Mediterranean with some tomatoes and croutons. Was it better than the Veal Da Pepi? Opinions changed with each mouthful. The veal delivered elements of salt and tart. Thin slices of Speck (a lighter version of Prosciutto) and mustard seeds heaped on the flavor. Could the dessert maintain this pace? Black Cocoa Tiramisu is all that you need to say! Imagine a traditional version of tiramisu with cocoa ladyfingers. Take all of this and combine it with a stellar staff and it is easy to understand why Don Angie is the place Jeff will recommend to anyone traveling to New York.

So close. So very close. Empellon is, without question the runner-up favorite restaurant for this trip. The reason it is not first is probably because of the Octopus Taco. Because Jeff has elevated New York Octopus to god-like status, he is VERY critical. The Don Angie octopus was perfect. The Empellon taco was good, but the taco accessories dominated the fragile flavor of the grilled octopus. The salsa was perhaps too fiery. The cilantro was too aggressive. For whatever reason, it just did not measure up. Nothing else Jeff sampled fell from grace and he would not hesitate a recommendation under any circumstances, if for no other reason than the Sticky Rice Tamal. The leaf-wrapped rice was opened at the table and the waiter dropped a spunky Red Chili Duck ragu over the top. To make it last, smaller and smaller bites are consumed. Eventually, it is gone and you ask yourself, “Would I be considered a glutton if I ordered another?” No need. The roasted Prawn is coming. Ordered individually, Jeff had but one and secretly wished more were requested. In this instance, the core protein was the star. A simple garlic-chili paste dressed the flawlessly prepared crustacean. It was perfect. After the dessert arrived, Jeff chatted with the waiter. The Avocado Mousse he ordered was apparently the most Instagram-reported dish in New York and for good reason. Today, days after the visit, he still talks about this dessert. Visually, upon delivery to the table, the dessert looks absolutely like a sliced half of an avocado. What did I order? A dip into the piece and you realize, you’re not in Kansas any longer! The avocado meat has been blended with Greek yogurt and re-molded into the shape of a half-avocado. That half has been placed onto a bed of shaved lime-flavored ice meant to resemble snow. Trompe l’oeil desserts? Only in New York!

What place is next in the ranking? Picking three and four is almost as difficult as one verse two. Honestly, L’Artusi and Loring Place are not only close alphabetically, but delivery as well. Jeff learned of L’Artusi while dining at King (below) While discussing restaurant he liked in New York with a restaurant publicist at the next bar stool, she told him to check out L’Artusi. She also warned him to keep the recommendation quiet. It was becoming increasingly difficult to secure a reservation there and the more people knew about it, it would be harder and harder in the future. Fortunately, or unfortunately, the cat is out of the bag. Reservations at L’Artusi are damn near impossible. They do, however have bar seating and Jeff snagged a seat, without waiting, moments after stepping into the door. (He is alone, so one seat is almost always easy!) It was worth the uncertainty. He had a fabulous meal there! It started with a flavorful amuse bouche of Butternut Squash soup. As indicated earlier, Chicory Salads are emerging as a “thing” in New York and Jeff loves the biting flavor, tempered by the finely grated Pecorino and this time a very complimentary anchovy dressing. He ordered the Tagliatelle with White Ragu and was treated to a Kale stuffed Ravioli, complements of the Chef. Both of the pastas could not have been better and it sure was nice to try two. Dessert was a Strawberry Crostata and it completed a beautiful meal at a hot spot. Shhhhhhhh! Don’t tell anyone about L’Artusi!

Loring Place could be the quintessential urban renewal project. The inside is fully modernized and frankly, just beautiful. From the street, you’d almost never know what was waiting for you inside. Like L’Artusi, this place has a buzz and without reservations, Jeff nabbed a bar seat for an early Sunday dinner. Many people were meeting others and the bar was a parade of people looking for other people. In the middle of the hubbub, Jeff enjoyed a tempura battered Crispy Cauliflower served with a lemon curd jam. The lemon added that little extra needed to spark up the vegetable. Bowtie Pasta was served with Shrimp. What made this interesting was the addition of heat. The butter sauce tempered the heat and what could have been plain, turned out to be anything but! Can you imagine a “light” Bread Pudding? The dessert was Grapefruit Bread Pudding and it was a nice light way to end a nice meal in a light and airy space.

Jeff needed a quick midday snack and the Nomad Bar at the Nomad Hotel was the answer. A cold cup of Pea Soup and a grilled Prosciutto and Gruyere sandwich and he was on his way. This place is hidden away in the back of the first floor, but plenty of folks found it for after-work drinks. We’ve heard good things about their dining room and look forward to trying this on another visit.

There are some mixed feelings about King, a hopping little spot in Greenwich Village. Not because of the menu or the creativity, but because of the raw material. Jeff had a huge Pork Chop that was flavorful and interesting, but the cut was less than stellar, thereby delivering more grain and grizzle than should have been. With a better piece of meat, this would have been a much better dinner, especially since the red wine cabbage and bean side was very interesting. The Gnudi appetizer was however, flawless. They were “melt in your mouth” delicious with shaved Spinach and Parmesan. He can still taste them! There are lots of great places to eat in this area of New York. With a touch more attention to raw ingredients, this could be a standout.

It seems, each trip to New York has to have one disappointment. We have never been to Balthazar. Over the years, it has counted up scores of accolades, so it must be good, right? Perhaps, not. Perhaps, it was a bad day. Maybe they are simple overextended. Jeff thought he was off to a good start. The Onion and Goat Cheese Tart was light and quite delicious, the side scoop of tapenade lending the right amount of tartness to combat the richness of the cheese and pastry. The Lamb Pappardelle was unfortunately a disappointment. It appeared hurriedly put together and the lamb was filled with fat and grizzle. A quick look at this place and it is easy to understand how something like this happens. Balthazar is a large place, tables are crushed together and scores of people are running around seating, serving, busing and cleaning. With a dining room that looks like this, you know the kitchen is likewise hectic. If the prices were more in line with this type of fast-food atmosphere, some of these flaws could be excused, but this might have been one of Jeff’s pricier dinners. With that, it is inexcusable. As can be said about New York dining time and again, if you can’t execute, someone else can and will. There are plenty of places in SOHO and the Lower Eastside. Don’t waste your time here.

If we’re in New York and we’re not at the theater, than we’re eating. If Jeff is not working, than he is likewise eating or at the theater or an art gallery. Life can be very simple here. Choices can however be VERY hard with so many great options. Securing reservation can also be a challenge (he is on two years trying to get into one restaurant!) If you’re planning on leaving Cleveland for a trip to the Big Apple, then remember to plan ahead, or allow yourself some adventure time and explore the bar-seating option. Either way, you’re sure to get some good food. 103 Greenwich Avenue New York, NY 10014 212-889-8884 510 Madison Avenue New York, NY 10022 211-858-9365 228 W 10th Street New York, NY 10014 212-255-5757 21 W 8th Street New York, NY 10011 212-388-1831 1170 Broadway Avenue New York, NY 10001 212-796-1500 18 King Street New York, NY 10014 917-825-1618 80 Spring Street New York, NY 10012 212-965-1414

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