Wednesday, April 11, 2012

New York Restos, Spring 2012: Tertulia, Old Homestead, Del Posto, North End Grill, Cafe Sabarsky, Ai Fiori, Il Buca Alimentaria and Vineria

Ahhhh!! New York in the spring!


A very casual, Spanish influenced, pub-like resto, with comfortable bar seats (where I chose to eat). Recently awarded 2** by the NY Times. Also, Chef Seamus Mullin just received Time Out  Magazine, New York award, New York Chef of the Year for 2102.

Pan con tomate. This is a daily favourite of mine (when good). When I am in northern Spain I enjoy toasted bread rubbed with tomato. Here you can enjoy wonderful bread with an exceptional crust, rubbed with very good, rich tasting fresh tomato. A simple dish, here, done so well, but often not so well by many restos that make it. The pan con tomate was accompanied by tortilla, a traditional Spanish rendition of egg, potato, onion and olive oil. The texture of the tortilla was too dense and was lacking in flavour compared to my gold standard experiences in Spain.

“Cojonudo revisited”. Two bites of smoked pig cheek, quail egg and roast pepper, a rich, earthy taste.

Fried shisito peppers with "lots of sea salt". And although the peppers had a perfect texture and were roasted properly, I felt they were too salty. 

Salt cod brandade, baked egg, roasted peppers. A good solid comfort food dish, with their usual great toast. Just not enough to wow.

Crispy potatoes, pimenton de la vera, garlic all I oli. Addictively crispy, crunchy potatoes dusted with the punchy taste of the pimenton and drizzled all over with wonderful garlicky all I oli, that balances the spice of the pimenton . The potatoes are first boiled, then fried at low temp then fried a second time at a higher temp. This was a great dish and should not be missed 

Sun chokes (Jerusalem artichokes) are smoked and fried. The smokey aspect enhances the flavour of the chokes. A good dish.

Calasparra rice, snails, wild mushrooms, celery, fennel, draped with thin slices of Iberico ham. A promising dish that did not quite meet my expectations. The rice had the right texture but there was no wow with all of the flavours. 

Smoked and slow roasted young chicken accompanied by polenta with hens egg and braised winter greens. The chicken was moist and flavourful. The highly reduced stock was an exceptional, rich tasting, thick rendition. The polenta was a rich, eggy tasting accompanyment. But, where were the greens?

The accompanying dish, polenta with a poached egg. The egg was chopped up and mixed into the polenta in front of you by the waiter.

Myer lemon cake and lemon ice cream with thyme, and lemon zest powder. The cake had a very nice lemony flavour as did the icing and ice cream. However, the texture of the cake was a bit too dry.

The Old Homestead Restaurant

The Old Homestead resto, in the Meat Packing district, is a place that people typically go for steak. It is one of the oldest restaurants in New York. I went there for their lunch special, the Diamond Special (NB-not listed on the regular menu): 3 slider style burgers, requested med rare to rare; one wagyu with kobe bacon, truffle, caramelized onion sauce, one made of prime filet mignon with a horseradish sauceand one made of prime sirloin with cheese on top which I specially ordered without the cheese (as I do not like the combo of cheese and meat, as most of you may know). The burgers were presented with "tater tots", crispy chunks of mashed potato that were pretty good. All burgers arrived with the correct amount of doneness. 

My faves in order of preference, the hand chopped filet, the prime sirloin and then the wagyu burger. I ran this taste test again with a good friend with a good palate, and this time, the tasting was "blind". The results for my friend were the same as mine.

The wagyu. Notice the nature of the texture in the middle:

The prime filet:

The sirloin:

Creamed spinach arrived perfectly cooked and perfectly prepared (no photo).

Del Posto

Yes, another Mario Battali outpost. But, chef Mario does a rather outstanding job with every resto he has opened. He has a very good staff and a very good business partner. Del Posto is his high end opus.

Overall, the experience at Del Posto made for quite a memorable evening. I rarely speak about service because one can not eat it, but this experience, for me, was noteworthy. Service was highly knowledgeable, professional and sensitively attentive. Perhaps the best service overall that I have enjoyed since Le Gavroche in London in the days when it was just awarded 3*.

Chick peas, black truffles. Intense black truffle flavour in crispy shell. Soup broth made with "120" hens, spinach, polenta. Very rich, highly reduced chicken broth. Sweet pea, baccala and mascarpone in a rice-like arancini, but better. Nice flavours. Rice is perfectly cooked, served warm.

Vitello tonnato with olive crostone, caper shoots, parsley stems and finger lime cells.

Beef and black truffle carpaccio with jersalem artichoke puree, sage grissini (with beef fat and sage) and sunflowers.

Spaghetti with dungeness crab, sliced jalapeno and minced scallion with toasted bread crumbs.

Scungilli (a marine snail) due, with black garlic, black pepper, lemon and parsley stems.

Orcchiette with lamb neck ragu, orange carrots (pre-cooked with tangerine agrumato), rye crumbs and toasted sage. This is a dish that was a good as the menu description sounded. The sweetness of the carrots added a special flavour dimension to this dish.

Burnt beef with potato torta. The beef, cooked to the proper doneness I rated 6\3\5 (out of 10 for taste, texture and juicyness). Not a great steak experience.

A side of Calabrian, spicy tongue stew. If you like beef tongue, you would very much enjoy this dish.

Chocolate ricotta tortino, toasted Sicilian pistachios and olive oil gelato. I loved how the flavours worked in this dish. The olive oil gelato combined well with the chocolate and pistachio, lengthening the finish of these complementary flavours.

Chocolate tree, made of different types of chocolate. This was an amazing chocolate lover's delight!

La grattuggia, bomboloni, polenta crostata, with rhubarb, candied grapefruit, spicy hazelnuts.

North End Grill

Chef floyd Cardoz, former chef at Danny Meyer's Tabla, now closed, is the resident kitchen leader.

Cod throats meuniere, brown butter sauce and Australian finger lime. Cod throats are the main ingredient in a renown Basque dish favourite of mine, where they are poached in olive oil with garlic. This version, although very pleasant, does not show the cod flavour and texture in it's prime.

Soft scrambled eggs with hen of the woods mushrooms on grilled bread. A great breakfast or brunch treat perfectly done. A nice app too.

Hashed brussel sprouts with lentils. The texture and flavour of this salad was a very good accompaniment to the dishes that we enjoyed.

Thrice fried, spiced fries. Really tasty, crunchy fries.

Marrow bones with trout roe accompanied by trotter on toast and cress. i just love marrow bones. The trotter on grilled country bread was a lovely, stick to the ribs rendition.

Brown butter cheese cake with pear confit and buttermilk sherbet. A very good cheese cake and much enhanced by the pear confit and sherbet. 

Chocolate pecan layer cake with pecan choc chip ice cream. Just a chocolate lovers delight.

Cafe Sabarsky

With all of my indulgences over the past 2 weeks, in Italy and NY, and considering my parallel and gradual weight gains, I avoided one of the great reasons for just eating here: the sweets. Cakes and tarts here are of Vienna quality at its best: sacher torte, klimttorte, rehrucken, etc.

But the Cafe has savouries as well, also quite reminiscent of Vienna.

Wiesswurst, bavarian sausage with Handelmaier's mustard (the dark spot), a mildly sweet, grainy, wine flavoured mustard. A little sparse on the plate, but tasted good.

Roasted pork sausage with riesling sauerkraut, roasted potatoes and Dijon mustard.

Ai Fiori

This Restaurant is one of the very few in New York offering a very sophistcated take on Italian cuisine. The highly regarded chef is Michael White.

Garlic soup with ricotta gnudi and brioche. A rich, very creamy soup redolent of the sweetness of slow roasted garlic.

Raw razor clams, chorizo, fennel, lemon. The slighly smoky flavour from the chorizo, was a lovely counterpoint for the briny razor clams and the fennel.

Ligurian crustacean ragu, with sepia pasta, scallops, spiced mollica (bread crumbs). Pasta with a perfectly delicate, springy texture combined with the subtle briny flavours and crispy crumb contrast of the mollica, made this dish sing.

Pansotti. Braised escargot with garlic cream, a parsley veal jus and celery root puree. The pasta purses were topped with thin parmesan crisps.

Agnolotti braised veal parcels with caramelized onions, ramp pesto, pine nuts and a touch of roasted garlic, made for a seductive range of complex flavours.

Bouillabaise. Saffron broth, langostine, scallops bouchet and mussels, with rouillle. The broth was perfectly flavoured although slightly less thick rendition of my gold standard memories of the best bouillabaisse. I would have liked some extra rouille on the side for the crispy toasts provided. Surprisingly, the langostine was overcooked.

Hen of the woods mushrooms with green garlic ricotta salata and pecorino shavings.

Pommes dauphines. Crispy crusted potato fritters with rosemary aioli. The aioli flavoured with rosemary was a very good match with the mashed potato fritters.

Budino di limone. Hazelnut praline with toasted meringue and espresso gelee, cinnamon gelee and a center of lemon curd and fior di latte ice cream on top. This dessert, although "ok", was less than hoped for from the description and just did not sing.

Tartaletta. Dark chocolate tart with jellied grapefruit cubes, hazelnuts, anise and hazelnut gelatto. My fave dessert.

Il Buca Alimentaria et Vineria

This resto just won Time Out NY magazine's Food and Drink "Instant Classic Award".

Bread baked on premises with organic whole grains and long fermentation. The breads are wonderful here: crisp thin crusts with fluffy, light interiors of great flavour and texture. Unfortunately, they are accompanied by a small dish of very modest olive oil.

Grilled (house made) sausage, umbrian lentils, pickled cippolini onions and sage. Perfect textured, subtly coarse and beautifully flavoured sausage, with highly aromatic coriander and fennel and a bit of a bite from pepper. 

Roasted lamb ribs, romesco sauce and smoked salt. Slow cooked, fall off the bone, tender, succulent ribs were grilled on one surface to a slightly crispy finish on that one side.

House made ravioli, ricotta, nettles, a bit of spinach, hazelnuts and parmesan, all dressed with a drizzle of balsamic. (House filled pasta). Perfectly delicate pasta purses. Hazelnuts, ricotta and parmesan are a wonderful marriage of flavours and textures.

Porchetta alla romana, shaved fennel, blood orange, mustard greens, crackling, fennel pollen, oregano and garlic. Very tender, juicy pork, the pork flavour wonderfully enhanced by the acidity of the blood orange and sweet fennel. More sophisticated than rustic and I might have preferred rustic.

Organic umbrian beans, chicken stock, soffrito, a thin strip of lardo on top. This flavours and textures of this bean dish were exemplary. 

Meyer lemon and salted caramel gelati and granny smith apple sorbet. Burnt caramel good underlying flavour and creamy texture but much too salty. The apple flavoured sorbeto was pleasant with just enough apple flavour obvious. The meyer lemon gelato was just a perfect lemony, creamy delight.

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