Monday, March 29, 2010

Café Sabarsky - New York, NY
Kaiser Mélange und Apfelstrudel

Per Colonel Landa, one must wait for the cream.

Neue Galerie
1048 5th Avenue, 
New York, NY ‎10028


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Spago Beverly Hills - Los Angeles, CA
When someone mentions Wolfgang Puck, I usually think of his casual airport chain, which, admittedly I am usually not in much of a hurry for. His flagship Spago Beverly Hills, on the other hand, is a pretty serious restaurant in Los Angeles with two Michelin stars (hm..) and a loyal following. So, when I was in LA, I was curious to check out Spago and form my own opinion. We enjoyed a leisurely lunch on the patio on a sunny (per usual) LA day. We ordered the tasting menu and added two items a la carte.

Tuna tartare in a sesame tuile with bonito flakes. The tuile was cloyingly sweet; the whole thing eaten together was a bit of a strange combination.

Roasted Chino Farm's beet layer cake - warm sautéed goat cheese, toasted hazelnuts and shallot-citrus dressing

Smoked sturgeon lemon herb blini

Bacon confit gougère. Pretty tasty and addictive.

Cucumber with roe

Raw Nantucket bay scallops

Sautéed Nantucket bay scallops, pickled ginger vinaigrette, Asian cabbage. Fresh scallops in both preparations; nothing too groundbreaking but good.

Broiled langoustine with a side of pad thai (served tableside from a mini saucepan; elicited my chuckle)

Marinated Kobe “Szechuan” steak - stir fried bok choy, choy sum and shiitake mushrooms. Pretty flavorful and tender steak, and the far east accoutrements surprisingly did not distract.

However, this frivolous side of rice did.

Hand-made agnolotti with foie gras and pork. Probably my favorite course; well done house made pasta with a surprisingly light and delicate filling.

Grilled lamb chops with cauliflower puree and wine-black truffle reduction and shavings. The lamb was quite good, but the sauce overpowered all other ingredients.

Warm fig compote, mandarin sorbet, grapefruit, creme fraiche, bent shortbread

Twelve layer chocolate cake

The food at Spago is pretty fresh and tasty. Nothing was that standout but I'd return for good standard California cuisine fare. Not a 2 star establishment in my opinion, but the whole US system is puzzling to say the least.

Spago Beverly Hills
176 N Canon Dr,
Beverly Hills 90210

Labels: ,

Monday, March 08, 2010

Soto - New York, NY
New York has a good number of great sushi restaurants, and Soto occupies an attractive niche: excellent uni and its frequent usage in inventive small plates. Some flavor themes are consistent throughout the menu - shroomy broths, miso, truffle salt, an abundance of ponzu - but done thoughtfully and with high quality fish. 

Ainame ponzu - thinly sliced Japanese greenling fish with chive, ginger shoots, shiso leaf, under mizore ponzu sauce

Sea trout carpaccio - cured tasmanian sea trout with black truffle sea salt, sweet miso mustard sauce, served with sesame cresoon

Uni and yuba - black soy bean milk skin with uni, served with shiitake broth. Thin, delicate sheets of soy skin rolled tightly and topped with the freshest uni. It turned out that the rest of our uni dishes would be standout too.

Uni ika sugomori zukuri - sea urchin wrapped in thinly sliced squid with shiso, served with quail egg and tosa soy reduction

Cyu toro tartare - chopped fatty part of big eye tuna with avocado coulis, garnished with caviar, chive, served in sesame ponzu sauce. The finely minced toro was very high quality, but overpowered by the avocado.

Uni cocktail - sea urchin sashimi with soy reduction and fresh wasabi

The fish at Soto is very high quality and the small plates are done with great attention to detail. You also can't go wrong with anything that has uni. It really is a wonder though, why the place isn't packed with more people.

357 Sixth Ave.
New York, NY 10014

Labels: ,

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Dōtonbori - Osaka, Japan
Osaka is the second largest city in Japan and is referred to by some as the "nation's kitchen". A major attraction for visitors and locals is Dōtonbori, a single street that features the regional cuisine of Osaka - takoyaki, okonomiyaki, and fugu - sold in outdoor stalls or small shops.

Kani Doraku - The famous moving mechanical crab

Grilled snow crab legs - you can smell the aroma a block before you reach the entrance.

Takoyaki - octopus balls

A cool food hall

At the Glico retail store where one can find really huge pocky boxes (photo courtesy of D)

(photo courtesy of D)
Okonomiyaki - a pancake made of flour, vegetables/seafood and topped with mayonnaise, otafuku sauce, bonito flakes, and green onions. Good comfort food.

DSC_0277.JPG The iconic blowfish lantern in front of Zubora-ya

Tanks of Fugu

Labels: ,

Monday, February 15, 2010

Momofuku Ssäm Bar - New York, NY
It seems that David Chang can do no wrong. He's won over publication critics, bloggers, and pretty much every hipster in Manhattan (a formidable army of people that does not embrace its label). Who hasn't eaten at a Momofuku? It's the rite of passage on becoming a well-informed citizen with uber swagger. So, given I did not think much of his noodle bar and I was never quite in vogue with the pork obsession, I was unsure how much I would like Ssäm Bar. Even given those impediments, I was pleasantly surprised by what turned out to be a great seafood meal.

Santa Barbara Uni - tapioca, whipped tofu, scallions

Cured hamachi - edamame, horseradish, pea leaves

Tello's Chawan Mushi - maple syrup, smoked trout roe

Satur Farms Fried Brussels Sprouts - chilies, mint, fish sauce

Steamed Manila Clams & P.E.I. Mussels - Benton's bacon, kimchi

Crispy Pig's Head Torchon (Newmans Farm, MO) - red adzuki beans, spicy mustard

PB&J - concord grape jelly, crunchy peanut butter, saltine ice cream

Amish Cheddar Shortcake - Empire apples, ham cream
As true mavericks, we skipped over the signature pig shoulder and most centerpiece pork dishes to order pretty much all the seafood items. What I found were some unexpected but refined combinations of ingredients in the our dishes, with appropriate accents of everyone's favorite animal. There is a lot of buzz around David Chang's restaurants for a variety of reasons: he's badass and his places allow us to embrace our inner carnivore in trendy environs. However, I would return because he is serving up some of the most innovative casual seafood plates in the city.

Momofuku Ssäm Bar
207 2nd Ave
New York, NY 10003


Friday, February 12, 2010

Tsukiji Market (築地市場) and Daiwa (大和) - Tokyo
Everyone says to get to Tsukiji early to see the action, as the market opens around 5am. It's also convenient if you're jetlagged to get up early anyway for a breakfast of champions. We planned to get there around 6, but per usual, I took the lead to ensure our fashionably late arrival. It worked out well, since we got there around 10 and the crowds had already started to dissipate. Some scenes from my favorite market in the world:

Ambrosia from the gods, Tokyo edition. (Photo courtesy of D)

Behind the scenes (Photo courtesy of D)

Would love to mount this one on a wall. That is one brazen indicative-dead-fish-eyeball. 

Taken from outside the auction area



大和 - Daiwa
One of the most well-known sushi restaurants in Tsukiji is Daiwa. Located in the small streets outside the market, it is pretty easy to spot from afar, given its menacing wraparound queue.

A tight squeeze!


We went with the omakase, which comes with 7 pieces and 1 roll. It soon becomes obvious that the main focus here is the fish - all very fresh and good; the rice is nothing to speak of. Though they score high in the flavor department, the pieces are rather roughly cut and sloppily assembled. My favorites were the uni and the soft, delicate anago.

I absolutely despise waiting for food, and we ended up waiting around an hour before we got our seats. Was the rigmarole worth it? Absolutely. If a restaurant had to embody the frenetic pace and rubber-necking of Tsukiji, this would be it. 

大和 - Daiwa Sushi
5-2-1 Tsukiji
Tokyo, Japan


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Scenes from Tokyo
Expanded posts to come:

A morning at Tsukiji

The Tokyo incarnation of L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon: a grandiose Western chateau in Ebisu

The original Ippudo

The famous ramen man outside Tsukiji

My favorite department store 0101

The Japanese love their prized fruits - like these rose-hued strawberries. They also like melons with exquisitely manicured stems.

I took this picture thinking, only in Japan. I don't get it either.

Labels: ,