Monday, 30 April 2012

Aldea

Aldea (31 West 17th Street, NY)

George Mendes opened Aldea in the Flatiron district wanting to bring a menu inspired by his heritage, as well as Iberian influences. His menu is very seasonal and rustic, providing wonderful flavours to his menu. The dining room is beautiful and intimate, a perfect place for a date.

Shrimp Alhinho Salad with Garlic, Coriander and Bibb Lettuce
Smoky, juicy, flavourful shrimp in a garlicky vinaigrette. The bibb lettuce provided a wonderful freshness and balance.

Arroz de pato with duck confit, chorizo, olive and clementine
AMAZING AMAZING AMAZING!! 
A complex dish of flavours. The rice was perfectly al dente, the duck confit was tender and the crackling added to the wonderful texture and flavour of this dish. The chorizo sausage and olives added saltiness and savouriness to the entire dish. The clementine element added a surprising freshness and worked well with all the flavours. 

Serrano Ham Bikini with Mozzarella, Piquillo Peppers and Brioche
A wonderful rendition of the bikini sandwich. While in Spain, I ate these on a daily basis. Salty and fatty serrano ham with a layer of creamy mozzarella and some acid from the piquillo peppers. Similar to a very good grilled cheese, utterly butter and the brioche was the perfect companion. 

Sonhos "Sweet Dreams"
I was getting very full at this point but I had to have these. Delicately fried doughnuts, almost airy, with three wonderful dipping sauces. To be perfectly honest, these were little sweet dreams and I could have eaten a dozen of them alone! 

Chocolate hazelnut, lemon curd and salted Caramel


Aldea on Urbanspoon

Scarpetta

Scarpetta (355 W 14th Street, NY) 

Although we have a Scarpetta in Toronto, we decided to make a stop in the original New York location. The restaurant appears similar to a home from the exterior -- very unassuming, but the inside is the same very cool but busy atmosphere.

I met with Scott Conant earlier that day, as I used to be an employee of his and so we were in for a real treat when he sent out a tasting menu with wine pairings. It was a fantastic meal and the service was excellent. Forgive me for the lack of descriptions, as I was not prepared with a notebook and the numerous glasses of wine may have impaired my memory ever so slightly!

Bread Basket
Probably the best bread baskets in existence. It includes homemade foccacia, ciabatta, stromboli (stuffed bread with salami+mozzarella+cherry tomatoes) and comes with an eggplant caponata, marscapone butter and olive oil.

Yellowtail with olio di zenzero and flaked sea salt (on left)
Tuna susci with marinated vegetables and preserved truffles (on right)
Incredibly fresh, well seasoned and excellent flavours. My favourite is the yellowtail.

Soft Shell Crab 
Asparagus, Crispy Garlic, Sesame and Toasted Vinaigrette 
I love soft shell crab and this was salty, crunchy and succulent. Nice notes of garlic, the asparagus provided a creamy base and the vinaigrette gave balance and acidity to the fried soft shell crab.

Octopus 
A braised octopus dish, off the menu and was incredible. The octopus was deliciously tender and the flavours on this plate were complex. The white beans added a nice creaminess.

Taleggio Mezzalunai
New potatoes, ramps and shitakes
My favourite dish of the night and probably one of my favourite pasta dishes to date. These ravioli's enveloped a wonderful filling of taleggio, marscapone cheese and truffle. The raviolis were topped with soft new potatoes, ramps and the crispy shitakes provided a nice crunchy texture. The sauce was a delectable brown butter -- felt like a grown up, elegant mac and cheese.

Spaghetti with Tomato and Basil 
What Scott is famous for! Such a simple dish but the execution and the love in this spaghetti is unreal. The sauce is creamy, tangy and sweet and fresh basil is always such an impeccable pair with the tomato sauce. A CLASSIC!

Spiced Crusted Rack of Lamb
Braised Artichokes, Crispy lamb neck and basil
A huge fan of lamb and this was no exception. The juicy, fatty, spiced lamb with all the components provided a layering of flavours = flavour explosion!

Halibut
Spring vegetables, preserved lemon & almond broth
Perfectly cooked fish and nice light dish. I prefer his rendition of the black cod.

Warm Rhubart Tart
Basil yogurt, macadamia nuts and chianti sorbet
Tasted like a delicious, warm rhubarb pie. The macadamia nuts provided a nutty, delicious flavour and the chianti sorbet was something else! Not too sweet but full of flavour, a perfect accompaniment to the dish.

Petit-Fours

THANK YOU SCOTT! 

Scarpetta on Urbanspoon

Friday, 27 April 2012

Dominique Ansel Bakery

Dominique Ansel Bakery (189 Spring Street, NYC) 

Situated in Soho, Dominique Ansel Bakery is a Parisian style bakery. Dominique Ansel grew up in Paris, attended culinary school and eventually worked for the legendary Fauchon for many years. He rose to fame in NYC after working as the pastry chef for Daniel Boulud. I made a special trip just for the made to order Madeleine's (available only on the weekends after 3pm) but also could not miss the DKA (Dominique Kouign Amann).

DKA 
They are similar to the most flaky, buttery, delicious croissant you have had but only caramelized. 
Deliciously sweet and buttery, simply divine. 


Made to order Madeleine
Fresh out of the frying, these little spongy, buttery, lemony bad boys will rock your taste buds. 
Warm little pockets of heaven.


Dominique Ansel Bakery on Urbanspoon

Momofuko Ssams Bar

Momofuko Ssams Bar (207 2nd Avenue, NYC)

Located in the LES, we made our way to Momofuko Ssams Bar. We decided to sit at the bar, as there was no wait and the service was very efficient, the food was well priced and also very delicious. A nice casual spot for lunch.

Pork Belly Buns 
These are pretty good, but honestly I prefer the one from 416 Snack bar in Toronto. The texture of this was too one note, as everything was soft and mushy vs. 416 snack bar has the crunchy skin and pickled vegetable element. Don't get me wrong, this was still a very delicious pork belly bun with that sweet and savoury element. 

Rotisserie Duck over Rice 
FLAVOUR CITY !! The duck was juicy, tender, crispy and so incredibly flavourful. The duck fat scallion sauce was the perfect topping to the duck and I drenched my meal in it. I also got the bibb lettuce, which made for wonderful lettuce wraps and added freshness to the fatty duck. In addition, the chive pancake was very tasty, tasted similar to a chive naan bread but much thinner. 




Momofuku Ssäm Bar on Urbanspoon

Maialino

Maialino (2 Lexington Avenue, NYC)

The second Danny Meyer restaurant we headed to, Maialino, was our first dinner in NYC. Maialino has a Roman trattoria feel to it, represented in both the food and decor. The entire experience was homey, rustic and comfort food at its best. Execution of the dishes were on point and everything was a definite hit!


Fried artichokes with anchovy sauce 
Salty, creamy fried artichokes paired well with the anchovy sauce. You would think that it would be salty+salty but the anchovy helped to mitigate the salt levels in the artichokes. Delicious.

Spaghetti alla Carbonara 
A classic!!! The carbonara is such a simple dish and it was very well executed here. A particularly special treat was the perfect pieces of guanciale (often can be too fatty or grisly). Perfect level of seasoning and al dente pasta.

Malfatti al Maialino 
You can taste how fresh the pasta is here. This is one of their signature dishes and completely savoury. The tender pieces of suckling pig with the bitter, fresh arugula greens makes for a great pasta dish.

Pork Suckling 
The main event, the suckling pig! I was almost disheartened as I knew we would not be able to order the Maialino for two as it would be too much food, but our server notified us that we can get the regular entrée version. This is a definite MUST! The suckling pig was incredibly tender, juicy, exploding with flavour and the crackling tasted like the best crispy bacon EVER. The rosemary potatoes was a perfect pairing to the suckling pig and wonderfully delicious.


Maialino on Urbanspoon

Luke's Lobster

Luke's Lobster (426 Amsterdam Avenue)

After our very satisfying lunch at Shake Shack, we headed over the Luke's Lobster for a snack size lobster roll. I was very full at this point but with only a 5 minute walk to the UWS location, I just had to squeeze in a small bite.

The owner Luke Holden grew up in Cape Elizabeth Maine, surrounded by the freshest seafood. He launched a lobster company while still in high school and additionaly, his father also owned a seafood company. His focal point is to provide simple, fresh, quality seafood devoid of an excess of seasonings, butter or mayo.

The lobster was succulent, juicy, fresh and it had the perfect amount of seasoning. I enjoyed the light spread of mayo and the warm, buttery toasted bun. The only downside was although it is to be served this way, the actual lobster pieces were too cold for my liking. Otherwise an excellent lobster roll.



Luke's Lobster (UWS) on Urbanspoon

Shake Shack

Shake Shack UWS (366 Columbus Avenue)

This was our first stop in NYC, the first of several Danny Meyer places we planned for NYC, and we headed up to the upper west side. Everything about Shake Shack was true: the long, out the door line up and the absolutely delicious burgers! It was very similar to Burger's Priest in Toronto, which is definitely a good thing. The patties were melt in your mouth, good old american cheesy goodness, fresh toppings and soft, spongy bun ! The shake sauce was also delicious. The crinkle fries have received much criticism, as they are frozen but I enjoyed them nonetheless - nice and crispy. If you want a simple, all American greasy burger and fries, this is the place for you! They also have authentic root beer on tap and a good variety of milkshakes!

The Menu 

Double Shack Burger

Crinkle Fries 



Shake Shack (UWS) on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 12 April 2012

The Saint Tavern

The Saint Tavern (227 Ossington Avenue, Toronto)

A much anticipated opening and The Saint Tavern has finally marked its place on the little Ossington/Dundas strip. Invited to the soft opening, I had no idea what to expect and with some of the same owners as Buca and Jacobs Steakhouse and Co., I had only but high expectations. As I entered the tavern, I immediately loved the interior. It has the feel of a tavern, very cozy and rustic. The food is extremely approachable and it is comfort food at it's best. Last but not the least, the cocktails created by Adam Graham are what liquid dreams are made of! Boozy but not at all noticable aka. a good cocktail and a wonderful balance of balance of flavours in the mouth. Definitely some of the best cocktails I have had in this city.


The Menu

Sitting at the Bar

Aviation
Bombay Gin, Heering Cherry Liquor, Rose Petal Syrup, Float of Sparkling Wine, Lemon Peel
I don't typically like drinks not on the rocks but this was a fantastic gin concoction.

The Knob Cobbler
Knob Creek Bourbon, Orange Liqueur, Apricot Cinnamon Reduction, Egg White, Fresh Lemon Juice, Peach Bitters, Orange Peel
My FAVOURITE cocktail here. Sweet, tart, frothy, boozy = wonderful.

Perogies
Who doesn't love Perogies?!? These were just plain good, classic, comfort food.

Potted Cheese
Literally a DREAM. A pot filled with chunks of creamy goat cheese enveloped in olive oil, lemon and herbs. A decadent spread that would satisfy any cheese lover .

Fried Chicken and Fries
EXCELLENT fried chicken, which is not very easy to find in Toronto. My other favourite would be Stockyards but this was a very pleasant surprise. Light,crispy, savoury batter on the juicy, tender chicken meat. A squeeze of lemon, providing acidity = perfection! Fries were crispy and herbed which is always a plus.

Goat Cheese Gratin
Very similar to the gratin at Jacob's Steakhouse and Co. I love gratin done right and with the goat cheese it provides a extremely creamy tanginess, a nice twist from the original.

Steak Tartare
Classic steak tartare and actually had a quite a spicy kick. I am very loyal to my favourite tartare in the city at Jacob's Steakhouse and Co. (I mean it is not really fair though, it has truffle oil in it!! Enough said).

Chocolate Cake
Extremely decadent and rich. Simple but delicious.

The Saint Tavern on Urbanspoon