Archive for New York

Updates

Posted in Food on TV, New Jersey Restaurants, New York restaurants with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 17, 2009 by restaurantouring

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[One of my photos has been published at a blog owned by NBC and written by chef Ariane Duarte. Check out the entry here!]

Hello, people of the interwebs! Sorry for the lack of updates in a while. I’ve been pretty busy lately, mostly with work, eating, and taking pictures.

I still need to blog about my trip to Taiwan (amazing), Hong Kong, and Macau.

I’ve eaten at Le Bernardin since I last blogged, as well:

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And this past Monday, I had a life-changing meal at Thomas Keller’s Per Se.

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Lately, I’ve been cruising the Montclair restaurant scene, collaborating with local restaurants to get some food photography done. I’m not making any money doing it — I’m just doing it out of a bit of boredom and a desire to collaborate and help grow some of these businesses. Thanks go out to David Hobby at the Strobist blog for getting me off of my lazy keister. I’ll let you know when some of these pictures make it up onto their websites. In the meantime, if you’re from around my area, definitely check out CulinARIANE restaurant and Mesob Ethiopian restaurant.

The photo of the Jonah crab at the top of this post was shot for Oceania Seafood company, in New York (check my Flickr photostream for more pictures). They’re building a website, and I’ve been working very closely with an awesome IT support company called “Blue Lion Solutions” to help Oceania Seafood company grow its online seafood shipping business.

So, if you need the freshest seafood around, contact Oceania Seafood at 917-662-8028 (website coming very soon!)

And if you need web hosting services, IT support, and boatloads more help from tech-savvy types, contact Blue Lion Solutions (or just click here).

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Tollhouse Cookie Dough Recall: E. Coli

Posted in Food experiments at home, Food in the news with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 19, 2009 by restaurantouring

The FDA found some E. Coli in batches of Tollhouse Cookie dough. Try not to eat the dough raw! For more deets, check the news.

EDIT: So, apparently it’s a voluntary recall. This means that there may or may not be an E. Coli contamination in these batches of cookie dough, so here’s an idea: BAKE THE DAMN THINGS INSTEAD OF EATING IT RAW. Dumbasses. . . .

And if you still want cookies, but you’re afraid of the store-bought stuff, you can make your own in just a few minutes if you have a few basic ingredients on hand. Check out Michael Ruhlman’s blog post about a chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream bowl for the recipe.

On a completely unrelated note, unless she really, really, really likes Tollhouse cookies (How’s THAT for a smooth connection? Segues can kiss my ass), check out The Art and Times of Diana Ho for info on shows and art galleries and such in the New York area (you can find her online portfolio here). I’ve been meaning to add her to my blogroll for a little while now, but I am a lazy sod — was reminded when I checked my blog stats and saw some traffic being directed my way from her blog. Quid pro quo. I love the smell of social networking in the. . . . damn, it’s already 3:30 in the afternoon!

Stuff in the pipes

Posted in Books and gear, Culinary ruminations and other random thoughts, New York restaurants with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 11, 2009 by restaurantouring

Got reservations at Thomas Keller’s Per Se and Eric Ripert’s Le Bernardin. Will report back (hopefully with pictures!) once I dine. Gotta get my laptop fixed first, cuz borrowing computers to access the web is teh suck. At any rate, I’m on a mission to eat at Michelin-starred restaurants, starting at the top.

Discovered a mouse in my apartment. Not sure if it’s the same mouse my roommate and I found in the winter — we named it Teacup. Oh well. Time to hide the dried fruits that I suspect he’s munching on and break out the peanut butter. I’d like to build a better mousetrap, a la Jim Clark, but we’ll see how much motivation I have to do something so cool/geeky.

Finally, a word of advice: avoid cheap tongs. Trust me. I speak from personal experience. Despite owning numerous knives (including the super-sharp Shun Kaji 10″ chef’s knife) and sharpening them all myself with Japanese water stones, I haven’t cut myself in the past year or 3 — that is, until tonight: on a pair of tongs I bought from the dollar store.

Don’t ask. I don’t know how I did it, either.

Riingo, Restaurant Week, NYC

Posted in New York restaurants with tags , , , , , , , , on January 12, 2009 by restaurantouring

Riingo is the Japanese word for apple.  This is fitting because I don’t like apples very much.  I think they’re pretty bland.  I think they’re pretty boring.  Kind of like red delicious apples.  It’s misleading, actually.  They may be red, but they are not that delicious.  And I often find that my red delicious apples have gone mealy on me.

In a way, you could kinda say the same thing about Riingo, which is located in the Alex Hotel, at 205 E. 45th St.  Riingo is pretty bland and boring and all of the above.  To boot, I had pretty terrible service there, although I’m somewhat willing to let that slide for them this time (One of my guests was over an hour late for dinner but the restaurant was kind enough to honor our reservation — by seating us in the worst booth in the house, where there was a ton of foot traffic, and the servers kept slamming drawers into the back of one of our seats whenever they needed more silverware.  Fantastic).

First Course

The food was pretty awful, too.  We started off with a roasted beet salad that was very visually impressive and very bland in taste.  Again, I apologize for the lack of pictures.  All the pictures I took have been lost in a broken camera phone.

We also had some beer-braised short ribs with hearts of palm and an apple puree.  I didn’t think the apple puree tasted anything like apple, and figured they would have done a better job just smearing a spoonful of some store-bought applesauce onto the plate.  The short ribs were okay, but could have been much more flavorful.

There was also a salmon avocado roll, which was the savior of the night, because it was just like any other salmon avocado roll that you could have gotten at any sushi buffet anywhere.

Second Course

The three entrees we had were as follows:

Soy-glazed salmon, bulgur wheat, scallions. This has been updated on Riingo’s menu to be fried rice instead of bulgur wheat — probably because the bulgur wheat was terrible.  I bet they don’t do the fried rice very well either, sadly.  Also, the salmon was very one-note, and not very tasty at all.  It barely tasted of soy, for starters.

Chili roasted chicken, shiitake mushrooms, water spinach. The single dryest piece of meat I have ever eaten in my life, evocative of jerky.  Inedible.

Grilled hangar steak, Japanese sweet potatoes, plum sauce. I freaking hate when I see plum sauce on a menu, or when I hear people talk about plum sauce.  Why?  Because it never actually turns out to be plum sauce.  It’s hoisin sauce.  There are no plums in hoisin!  Real plum sauce is divine.  Hoisin sauce is cloying.  To boot, why the hell should I pay $25 for overcooked, tough steak that’s been drizzled with about a penny’s worth of “plum sauce,” which I can get by the pint at an Asian grocery for two bucks and change?  I’m sorry.  This makes no sense to me.

Dessert

Donuts, green tea ice cream. Not bad.  “Donuts”, I think, is copyrighted, especially since America [apparently] runs on it.  Nice job, whoever-wrote-the-menu.  Also, they were not very soft and tender, like how I think doughnuts are supposed to be.  At least the ice cream was good, but then, it’s probably purchased in bulk from someone who actually knows their way around in a kitchen.

Warm Chocolate cake, vanilla ice cream. Why does this dessert seem so familiar?  Ah, yes.  That’s right.  Because I had this same exact dessert, yesterday, at Centrico, only Centrico’s was magnitudes better.  That’s why.

Summary:

Do yourselves a favor and don’t eat here unless someone pays you to do so.  Even then, I’d be reluctant.  Sorry, Riingo.  Try harder.

Modern Mexican Food at Centrico

Posted in New York restaurants with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 10, 2009 by restaurantouring

I’m starting to dislike restaurant week.  I know, I know . . . I blogged during the summer about how much I liked it, and already I’m changing my story like a bad liar in front of his soon-to-be-ex-girlfriend.  Maybe I used to like it cuz I was a poor student who barely made 7 bucks an hour working a bullshit work-study job?  Maybe I don’t like it anymore cuz I’m a big boy now, with a a big boy job, making a big boy salary, wearing big boy pants, and eating big boy food? (Besides All-Clad and Shun, maybe Huggies should throw me some cash, too? Okay, okay . . . I’ll stop. On with the food. . . .)

While I used to think it was great to go out and eat at a discount, the more restaurants I eat at for Restaurant Week, the more I realize that most places simply put simple-to-prepare, bland, uninspired dishes on the menu, knowing that plenty of people who normally do not eat out very often will flock to their restaurants looking for a good deal.  In most cases, they will not find one.

Centrico, owned by chef Aarón Sanchez, is different.  You may know Aarón from the Food Network – he was the host of this show called Melting Pot.   I’ve never seen it. I’m not even sure if they still show it. Food Network sucks now anyway. Except for Good Eats, which I mostly watch on YouTube (but that’s another blog). Or, more recently, he was on The Next Iron Chef America competition during the summer of 2007.  He was my underdog favorite, despite making some silly mistakes early on in the competition.  And if that still doesn’t ring any bells, you may (and I hate to do this to ya, Aarón) know him because of his mom — the fantastic Zarela Martinez.

Located at 211 West Broadway (near where West Broad intersects Franklin St.), Centrico gave me the most food out of any restaurant so far for restaurant week.  To boot, none of it was the usual tex-mex-type fare that some people I know automatically think of when they hear “Mexican food.”  You want more?  Here:  it was all very tasty.

Of course, this is no longer an updated, relevant blog post.  I’m recalling my meal from this past summer’s restaurant week, so if that turns you off to this post, feel free to stop reading now.

For the rest of you, I’ll continue, since I didn’t get a chance to blog about this place during the summer — a shame, because the food was good and plentiful.  My bet is that the menu for January 2009’s restaurant week should be pretty promising as well.  Additionally, I apologize in advance for the lack of pictures.  I took a bunch with my camera phone, but that phone has since decided to stop working on me, so all was lost.  Sadness.

First Course

The four courses offered at Centrico started off with a platter of guac and chips for my two guests and me.  Although it wasn’t terribly impressive (the guac could have used much more lime and the chips were really thick.  Plus I would have liked way more salt on the chips, but I really like salt . . .), it was nice to have something to munch on while we perused the drink menu.  We all agreed that it was a nice gesture to offer another “course,” considering all the other places we’d been to seemed to try to skimp as much as possible.

Hoo boy, I can tell I’m not inspiring confidence in any of you, but hold on.  I’m serious.  This was a good restaurant.

Second Course

For the appetizer, we ordered all three items on the menu: the platanos rellenos, ensalada de mercado, and the camarones y pozole.

The plantains were probably the favorite of the 3 apps.  It was a twist on the chillis rellenos — a hollowed out section of mildly sweet plantain, filled with smoky black beans, and finished with crema fresca.  The smokiness of the beans were evocative of bacon, almost, and I had my doubts as to whether or not there might be some porcine play going on there.  Vegetarians be warned: ask ahead.

The salad was actually quite boring, despite sounding delicious when described: Mesclun, shaved chayote and jicama, hibiscus vinaigrette.  I have no idea what hibiscus tastes like, but the vinaigrette did not impress me or any of my fellow diners that evening.

The shrimp appetizer was very tasty, as well (We decided we liked the plantains just a little better because it was delicious and we’d never had a plantain that had been stuffed with smoky beans before).  The shrimp were sauteed and paired with a creamy gaujillo chilli sauce before being poured over the top of crispy triangles of pozole/grits/polenta.  It was creamy, rich, and delicious.  In fact, I briefly contemplated asking for a bowl of the sauce, topped with a few more of the beautiful shrimp, so that I could have it as a soup.

Third Course

I had the birria al estilo Jalisco, the braised short ribs, Jalisco-style, which was paired with an earthy, flavorful ancho chile broth.  It wasn’t not too spicy, since anchos aren’t very spicy at all.  Rather, it was deep and complex.  The ribs came with tortillas and some fixings, so that you could make your own mini burritos or tacos or whatever.  This was my favorite of the night.

One of my friends had the pollo a las brasas, which was probably the best damn chicken I have ever had in a restaurant so far.  Pieces of chicken are marinated with chipotle, lime, and garlic.  They are then pressed as they cook, so that the meat comes out dense and flavorful and super moist and tender.  When the dish arrives, you can really smell the garlic and lime, though I could have used a little bit more of the chipotle.  This was very close to being my favorite (and it probably should have been, except I have a thing for short ribs, and a thing against chicken in restaurants).

Finally, there was the pescado veracruzana, the pan-roasted market fish.  We had the option of having either salmon or mahi mahi, and chose the latter.  Tomatoes, olives, serrano chillis.  Not bad.  Not great either, but fresh and clean tasting, so no complaints.

Fourth Course

I had the molten mexican chocolate cake, and we also got the flan de coco and corn ice cream.  I have to say, I do believe corn ice cream must have been the invention of some genius.  It was probably a grandmother.  A mad, genius, darling, wonderful grandmother.  Bless her.  I’ve found my favorite flavor of ice cream, and it tastes like cold, sweet corn.

The flan was nothing special, though it was very good.  The molten chocolate cake was delicious, except that it was not Mexican, plus I had the same exact dessert the very next day at another restaurant for restaurant week.  The SAME cake — down to the details of sides and top of the cake (assembly-line-manufactured, it seems).  Oh well.  In Centrico’s defense, theirs was far superior.

Summary:

If you plan on going out for restaurant week, please consider going to eat at Centrico restaurant, located at 211 West Broadway.  A vast majority of the options are everyday a la carte items, so the staff are experienced in preparing these dishes.  The end result is a consistent dining experience and a true bargain (as far as eating in Manhattan goes, anyway).  You’re also full after your meal, unlike the time I went to eat at Megu, where I was seriously contemplating buying a dirty water hot dog after dinner.  Order one of the specialty cocktails (I had the one with jalapenos in it.  Interesting and tasty.  Zesty, I might say).  If offered again, I’d go with either the shrimp or the plantains for the app, either the chicken or the short ribs for the main, and most definitely the corn ice cream for dessert.  Anything you choose will most likely be pretty good.  You can thank me later for suggesting the corn ice cream.

Top Chef, Episode 7, Season 5

Posted in Food on TV with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 8, 2009 by restaurantouring

Welcome back to Top Chef, everyone!  It’s been quite a while, since no new episodes aired over the holidays.  This is the first new episode in about 3 weeks!

As always, do not continue reading this post if you don’t want the episode spoiled for you.

This week, I’ll do a really quick update on the show.  Major props to Catie, “the editor,” for filling me in on the details live, since I won’t be able to download this episode until iTunes decides to stop sucking and make the episode available for me to download.

Quickfire

The guest judge is pastry chef Jean-Christophe Novelli, and the challenge is to make “the ultimate sweet treat” without using sugar.  Jeff thinks he’s got this challenge in the bag.  Jamie decides not to make a dessert.  Hosea is doing something with peaches and figs.  Arianne is using diet Dr. Pepper.  Carla gets angry at everyone constantly opening and closing the fridge, cuz her bananas aren’t freezing properly, so she finally has to saute them with walnut oil.  Stefan is being Stefan.

Top Chefs: Radhika, Leah, and Jeff

Bottom 3: Ariane, Jamie, and Carla

Winner: Radhika and her whole wheat challah bread pudding with sauteed white peach, honey roasted cashews, and ground ginger.

Double Elimination Challenge

This one is a free-for-all.  The judges wanted to see exactly what these chefs could do, since they desperately need to prove that they know how to cook if they want to succeed on the show.  So far, the food has been pretty disappointing, despite the first episode’s dishes being very strong.

The cheftestants are split into two teams.  The twist is that they will be judging each others’ food.  Radhika chooses to be on the team that Stefan is not because she thinks that Stefan causes too much unnecessary tension.

Fabio rolls pasta.  Jamie cooks scallops.  Again. Fabio comments: “This is Top Chef, not Top Scallops!”

There’s a new judge:  Toby Young.  He is filling in for Gail.

Judgement

They love Jamie’s scallops.  They don’t like Eugene’s whole red snapper at all — it’s bland.  Melissa’s dish tastes like cat food.  Leah screwed up because she attempted something she had never done before.  Carla’s scallops are far too garlicky because of the gremolata she made to go with them (I never liked the taste of raw garlic much either, and I would only use it sparingly with strongly flavored items, like beef or something).  Also, Carla’s risotto was called uninspired.  Stefan is ecstatic that Colicchio liked his dish.  Jeff’s collection of hors d’oeuvres seemed to be disliked by all but Toby.  Ariane sauteed a skate wing.  Melissa is worried about her fish tacos and who will be going home tonight.

Top Chefs:  Ariane, Jamie, Stefan

Bottom 3: Melissa, Eugene, Carla

Winner: Jamie (Thank God.  Finally!)

Losers:  Eugene and Melissa.  Pack your knives and go.

Mmmm. . . . Live Octopus . . .

Posted in New York restaurants with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 7, 2009 by restaurantouring

The sign outside

About two weeks ago, I went to this new Korean BBQ place in Flushing with my sister, my dad, and my dad’s girlfriend.  The place is freakin tasty, so don’t let the atmosphere fool you — it’s worth it.

Immediately upon entering through the sliding wooden doors, all the waitrons in the place greet you in Korean and make you feel at ease.  I’d say that they try to make you feel at home, but personally, I don’t own tables with large gas burners in the middle.  I’m guessing most of you don’t have those either, so until then, you’ll have to be made to feel at ease.

The immediate impression is that the seating is almost cafeteria-style seating.  The tables are pushed together into long rows to save space, and all the rows are just a little too close together to be totally comfortable.  For example, I think I was elbowing the poor guy behind me all night.  It was unintentional, I swear!  Even if he was being loud and obnoxious.

Also, for the most part, you’re pretty much rubbing elbows — or even sharing tables — with other patrons.  There are posters of K-pop artists and icons all over the place.  The decor is kind of tacky.  Chopsticks, spoons, and napkins are located in cylindrical canisters between tables, and you pretty much just serve yourself.  While this may serve to keep overhead costs down for the restaurant (and hopefully translate into lower prices for you, the customer), it can still be a little . . . discouraging; but, this is only disappointing if you’re used to fancier fare and service, and it is quickly quelled (thankfully) as soon as the food arrives and the savory aromas hit your nose.

While traditional, run-of-the-mill Korean BBQ choices are available (various seafoods, meats, veggies, etc. that you can grill on the central burner), it was suggested that we try something different.  So, we ordered the “San-Nak-Ji-Chul-Pan,” and thank goodness we did.

The complimentary appetizer was eggs.  A nonstick skillet was placed on our burner, and it almost fell into the fire because it was so cheap and poorly balanced — even after 3 eggs were cracked into it.  A premixed seasoning is sprinkled on top of the eggs — it looks simply like salt with a tiny bit of finely ground black pepper, and it didn’t taste like there was anything else in it.  After the egg cooked and cooked and cooked and no one came by to do anything about them, we decided to just eat them, since they were already totally cooked through.

Our server arrived shortly after we finished to whisk away our egg pan, crank our burner up to high, and slap down a huge, boiling, two-handled pan, which was almost overflowing with three different sizes of clams, mussels, crab, lobster, calamari (rings of sliced squid, I should say), baby octopus, shrimp, bean sprouts, and enoki mushrooms.  Underneath all the seafood was udon and Korean rice cakes swimming in a flavorful kimchi-based broth.  Tasty.

As if that weren’t enough, our waitress comes back to our table after we had been eating for a few minutes to offer some . . . additions . . . to our already-very-full pot.  The additions?  Octopus.  Two of them.  At first, I was puzzled why a restaurant would choose to freeze octopus into these flimsy aluminum pots for service, and I was even more puzzled as to why no one had the forethought to thaw them so that the waitress wouldn’t have to try to pry frozen blocks of seafood out of a pan that barely fit them.

Then, I realized (as I watched the faces of everyone around me grimace) that the octopus wasn’t frozen at all.  They were still alive.  And the effort our waitress was exuding in removing these critters from the pot wasn’t because they were frozen to the container, but because the suction cups on each of the tentacles had grabbed onto the sides of the vessel, and were struggling to keep the octopi firmly inside, where it was apparently safe.

This was a futile effort, whether or not the poor octopods knew it or not (probably not, since octopi be some duuuumb aminals), since our waitress (who was of diminutive size, I assure you) fairly easily tore them away and tossed them into our pan of boiling hot seafood-kimchi-noodle love.

creepy

crawly

and trying to get away

If the thought of watching a creature slowly die before your eyes just minutes before you will be eating it disturbs you, I strongly suggest you leave the table for a few minutes before returning and devouring everything in sight.  Go to the bathroom or something.  Go wash your hands.  Again.  Take a walk around the block.  If you smoke, chew a piece of gum (smoking kills).

Do I have a problem with eating an octopus that I watched die just several minutes earlier?  The apparent answer is “no,” since I ate half of one of the octopi almost immediately.  In reality, and in restrospect, I do wish that the octopus had died more quickly.  Being boiled alive doesn’t seem like a pleasant way to die at all.  The only difference between watching this cephalopod boil to death and boiling a lobster or crab is that the latter two are usually done inside a covered pot.  Here, the writhing and squirming is quite visible for all to see (including the neighbors to my right, who were visibly disturbed by our strange delicacy).

On the other hand, this place forces you to look your food in the eye (literally), which I appreciate, since the food we get at the grocery store comes so nicely and conveniently packaged and pre-butchered.  Beef does not look like a cow.  Pork does not look like a pig.  Even chickens don’t really look like chickens, since there are no feathers.  I think we’ve gotten too comfortable with our convenient, carnivorous diets.  To me, if I can’t eat something that I watched die, but have no problems with eating meat from a much larger, much more intelligent animal which died to feed me, I’d be a hypocrite.  I could elaborate, but maybe I’ll save this for another post?

That being said, the octopus was delicious.  It got tough after a few minutes, which was as expected, but we allowed it to simmer for a while longer, and the flesh became tender again.

Charlie

Charlie Park, the owner of the establishment, came around to greet us and to schmooze with the other patrons, and asked us what we thought of the food so far.  The octopus, apparently, was a delicacy that he had specially ordered from the waters around Korea.  “You eat this, and you’ll know what ‘smooth’ tastes like!” he exclaimed, as he cut up the tentacles into bite sized pieces for us.  We were eating something special.

cutting up the octopus

Rice

After we finished all the shellfish and tossed the shells into the trash buckets that were provided for us, our waitress brought out rice to cook with the remaining broth and leftover bits of seafood and vegetation.  This way, nothing was wasted, and all the fantastic, flavorful broth was used up and eaten — just the way I like it.

Cucumber juice

In lieu of a more familiar dessert, we were given cups of cucumber juice — pureed and strained cucumber, very mildly sweetened.  In Asian cuisine, you must have balance.  So, after having had a lot of spicy seafood, something light and cooling was required to balance out the meal.  What better way to end a meal?

Summary: This place serves really good, fresh seafood.  The complimentary appetizer (eggs, sunny side up) is apparently DIY, so serve it before it overcooks.  The “San-Nak-Ji-Chul-Pan” is for at least 4 people and costs $79.99, though 6 people could probably make a very good meal out of it and still be full.  If you have a problem with watching living sea creatures (octopus, obviously) writhe in agony as they boil to death before your eyes, order something else.  There is also a smaller version for 2 people for about half the price.

Restaurant Sik Gaek, 161-29 Crocheron Avenue, Flushing, NY 11358.

Phone: (718.321.7770)

Owner: Charlie Park

Chef: Son