NYC – 6/22/16 – Alon Shaya @ Chef’s Club

Shaya was one of my favorite meals of 2015 so I obviously could not miss the opportunity to have some of Alon Shaya’s food closer to home.  It was fantastic although with a limited menu I couldn’t help but feeling that I just wanted to get back to NOLA.

Salatim served with pita bread – Louisiana crab tabouleh, bulgur, mint, tomato; Labneh, hold land trinity; Blackened eggplant salad, tahini, pine nuts

Fried oyster hummus, pecan brown butter

Cochon de lait shakshouka – slow roasted pork, stewed tomatoes, green chili zhoug

Louisiana shrimp – okra, paprikash, jasmine rice

Continuing the month long birthday celebration

NYC – 6/20/16 – Gramercy Tavern

I put Gramercy Tavern on the shelf for a few too many years always chasing something new and never going back to too many of the tried and true classics.  I’ve recently put it back into rotation although only in the Tavern room.  Such was planned for this particular night but when there was a long wait vs. no wait for the dining room my date chose the later.  We quickly decided to do the tasting menu and then somehow got to talking and I never even looked at the menu let alone remembered to take a photo.  So unfortunately no descriptions.  However if Gramercy Tavern has fallen off of your to-do list as well, do yourself a favor and go back asap because it is as fantastic as ever and holds up to anything we are all so intent on booking as soon as it opens.


NYC – 6/16/16 – Sadelle’s

Sadelle’s is one of my absolute favorite brunch and lunch spots despite the iffy service and hordes of people. But I put off dinner for some time based on the early poor reviews. I went in with low expectations and so was actually pleasantly surprised. The prices seem high especially for presentations that aren’t even worth commenting on. But portion sizes were large and all of the dishes quite good. Unfortunately the large plates and portion sizes do not work with the table sizes and I found myself having to rearrange the entire table quite a few times which has become one of my biggest pet peeves. The twice baked potato was perhaps the best possible version of this classic and may be reason enough for a return dinner visit.

Tuna tartare

Salad

“Kaspia” baked potato

Roumanian steak

Scallops

NYC – 6/15/16 – Contra & Restaurant Andre

Yet another great Contra collaboration dinner, this time with Andre Chiang of Restaurant Andre in Singapore.  He is fantastic as is his food and I hope to someday make it to Singapore!

Baby mushroom croque en bouche

Oyster, lapsong gelee, peas

Rose champagne, heirloom tomatoes, poisson de roche

King crab, celery sabyon, capers

Elysian fields lamb, scallop lasagna, cresson-wasabe

Quail, fava, cherries

Camembert

Charleston, SC – 6/12/16 – Two Boroughs Larder

It is incredibly sad to be writing this on the day that Two Boroughs Larder is closing.  I suppose it is fitting that this was my last meal of a great birthday weekend.  I am happy to have visited once and can’t wait to see where Josh Keeler ends up.

TBL charcuterie – pickles, mustard, country bread
Seasonal lettuce – benne seed tahini, meyer lemon, bread crumb

Confit new potato – slow roasted carrot, bordelaise, shallot

Carbonara – bucatini, Neuske’s, english pea, calabrian chile, mint

 

Charleston, SC – 6/11/16 – Leon’s Oyster Shop, Edmund’s Oast and Peninsula Grill

Leon’s Oyster Shop
We arrived at Leon’s focused on a few dishes from our menu preview. But as I finally am getting to this blog update looking back on the menu I realize that I would love to have absolutely everything right now.  I was trying to overdose on peel ‘n eat shrimp this trip and at least in my mind it cancelled out the calories of delicious fish fry.  And no, one can never ever have too many hush puppies.

Peel ‘n eat shrimp, old bay, comeback sauce

Hush puppies, honey butter

Char-grilled oysters, lemon, parsley, butter, parmesan

Leon’s fish fry, mixed fry with condiments, hush puppies and pea salad

Kale salad, butternut squash, pepitas, currants, charred lemon, ricotta salata

Edmund’s Oast
If you are a beer drinker and end up in Charleston Edmund’s Oast is definitely a must do.  Super interesting beers and I still can’t get over how good the PB&J was.  It sounded kind of terrible, and I was incredibly skeptical, but it was fantastic.  The PB&J flavor was there but so subtle as was the yeasty flavor of bread.  Of everything I had on this trip, that beer was one of the most memorable.


“Gin Joint” style jerky

Pickled vegetables

Beef tartare, tonnato sauce, celery, charred toast

Cauliflower, fresh sheep’s milk cheese, calabrian chile

Peninsula Grill
Following dinner we raced to Peninsula Grill to have a slice of their famous coconut cake before they stopped serving food.  I am always skeptical of heavily lauded baked goods and generally am never that impressed.  But this cake was insanely good.  If I had not exhibited any self control I could have easily finished it (and it was enormous).  I am likely ruined for coconut cake forever.

Charleston, SC – 6/10/16 – Xiao Bao Biscuit, Bar at the Spectator Hotel, the Ordinary and the Belmont

Xiao Bao Biscuit
After several hours of very warm biking around Charleston we made our way to Xiao Bao Biscuit for lunch.  The Okonomiyaki lives up to the hype and is completely fantastic.  But the pork candy takes it to another level entirely.  This stuff is absolutely addicting.  I have no idea how it is made, but why is nobody else doing this?  Brilliant.  Our other dishes were delicious but admittedly overshadowed through no fault of their own.

Okonomiyaki – Japanese cabbage pancake with pork candy

Pad Kra Pow – minced beef, beans, thai chili and basil over rice with farm egg

Bo Bo Ji – Sichuan style chicken, cilantro, scallion & peanut salad over rice with a roasted sesame flavored sauce

Bar at the Spectator
We stayed at the Spectator hotel which I cannot say enough good things about.  The rooms were absolutely lovely and the service top notch.  Addressing guests by name always makes one feel special and was done in such a warm manner that you immediately felt that you were friends with the entire staff.  Room service breakfast was included in the room rate which I thought was a great touch especially as the rates did not seem inflated to compensate and the choices were perfect.  Butler service was also provided to all rooms and upon arrival our first butler David took my dress to be steamed and returned not only with my dress, but with a bottle of sparkling wine to celebrate my birthday.  I would have been quite happy to move in and cannot imagine staying anywhere else in Charleston.

The bar is beautifully decorated and I had read glowing reviews prior to the trip.  The cocktails were indeed quite good  And as Bravo’s Southern Charm is one of my many guilty pleasures, I was excited to see that Gentry bourbon actually exists and was on the menu.

The Ordinary
I’m still kicking myself for not choosing this for my actual birthday dinner.  The Ordinary is housed in an old bank building and it makes me so happy when these structures are re-used.  It was my mission to overdose on shrimp this weekend and so it makes an appearance here.  An all seafood dinner which at the end of day 2 of Charleston summer temperatures was exactly what I wanted to eat.  And a first for me with wahoo crudo which was a lovely dish.  Unfortunately I have forgotten the ingredients in our desert but that seems bound to happen to me at least a few times per trip.

Ordinary Hawaiian Rolls, Sea Salt Butter

Peel & Eat Shrimp
Jumbo Lump Blue Crab, Grapefruit, Avocado

Wahoo Crudo, Corn, Summer Truffle

Black Bass Ceviche, Avocado, Cucumber

Steamed Snowy Grouper, Porcini Ragout

The Belmont 
A perfect nightcap at the Belmont.  Despite the bouncer outside we only had to wait a few minutes to get inside with seats at the bar.

Charleston, SC – 6/9/16 – Artisan Meat Share, the Darling Oyster Bar and the Gin Joint

Artisan Meat Share
I am not sure that there could have been a more perfect birthday lunch.  I could eat pickles, peas and any sort of charcuterie every day and it would never get old and these versions were fantastic. Midway through dinner I was kicking myself for not just coming back here!

Charcuterie

Pea and peanut salad, green goddess dressing
Bread and butter pickles

Darling Oyster Bar
I should have known better than to pick a relatively new spot for my birthday dinner.  I think Darling Oyster Bar has potential and I can’t say that we disliked anything.  However the tuna poke was completely devoid of any flavor and the grapes a strange component.  But one of my biggest pet peeves transpired when the majority of these dishes were brought at one time and wouldn’t fit on our small 2-top table.  I did not care at all in what order these items arrived.  However there is no excuse for a server not being able to course them out.  I shouldn’t have to juggle plates and inhale last bites just to make room on the table.
 

Shrimp cocktail

Hush Puppies – Geechie Boy corn meal, sorghum butter

Tuna Poke – white grapes, shoyu, sesame seed

Shrimp & Grits – cheddar grits, crispy brussels, country ham, fennel

Snapper Ceviche – fennel, Cara Cara orange, lime, coriander

The Gin Joint
Certainly this was a must-do stop in the middle of Negroni week!

White negroni and birthday desserts!

London – 5/29/16 – Pidgin, Happiness Forgets, Nightjar and Chiltern Firehouse

Pidgin
It is difficult to find places in London, as in most European cities, open on a Sunday.  So in a way I ended up at Pidgin by default but I am so glad that I did.  Somewhat tucked out of the way in a residential neighborhood yet a very quick trip on the commuter rail line.  Great service and an unexpectedly fantastic and refined menu.  And how have I never had brown butter butter until now???
 
G&T – ELLC Batch No. 1 gin, Pidgin tonic, grapefruit, black pepper



Broad bean – goat curd, chilli crisp, grapefruit, lardo


 Mussels – fries, brewer’s yeast, hops, fennel, sea vegetables 

Chicken – miso, asparagus, burnt bread sauce, radish

 Sweet cicely – strawberries, pine nut, sorrel

Happiness Forgets
I tried to come here my last trip in London but later in the evening it becomes very crowded.  Early evening is the best time to come for a completely different neighborhood bar vibe but with drinks better than at any neighborhood bar. 
 

Nightjar
I finally planned far enough ahead to make a reservation at Nightjar.  A very cool space and drink menu.  The reservation came with a time limit but when I was seated I was told that I could stay significantly longer before the next reservation.  Unfortunately I planned dinner based on the originally quoted time.  And while I certainly had time for at least two drinks my server disappeared.
 
Charlie Chaplin

Chiltern Firehouse
I liked Chiltern Firehouse much more than I was expecting mainly because places better known for celebrity clientele than a celebrity chef are typically mediocre. I wasn’t seated at the chef’s counter as requested but a corner of the regular bar which was actually fine. Service started out incredibly attentive but toward the tail end of dinner I sat without a drink for at least 30 minutes and despite my best efforts could not even make eye contact with a server to order another.  The snacks were extremely tasty and it was a nice touch that they were brought out on the house for myself and for a couple beside me who were waiting at the bar for a while past their reservation time.  I loved the smoky tartare, a twist that I’m surprised I haven’t seen before.  Unfortunately I don’t remember what the desserts were but they were light and perfect for spring.  Being made to exit out a back door into an alley was incredibly strange and inconvenient especially as I was in a hotel and my Uber was in front.  Although perhaps I was supposed to feel like a celebrity!
 
Red Riding Crop – gin, Poire Williams, Pimms, cider, pink pepper & rosemary reduction

 Mackerel tartare, squid ink cracker

Carrot blunts – smoked yoghurt, coriander

Steak tartare – pine nuts, chipotle & firehouse hot sauce

Maple glazed salmon – lovage, barbecued kohlrabi


London – 5/28/16 – Restaurant Story, 69 Colebrook and Sosharu

Restaurant Story
I am not sure that I can say enough good things about Restaurant Story.  I had very much wanted to dine here on my last trip to London but unfortunately could not get a reservation.  I am so glad that things worked out this time around and by the following day I was sorry that I had not just booked multiple reservations here.  Every dish was absolutely delicious, as well as beautiful, with a perfect casual elegance.  I started the meal with one of the best gin & tonic’s I have ever had  and for which I have managed to find the proper brands to make it at home (Four Pillars gin & Jack Rudy tonic).  The candle placed on the table was actually made of beef fat in which to dunk your bread.  Absolutely brilliant.  And the picnic cheese course was so inventive and adorable that it was almost impossible to contain a huge grin.  And I should not fail to mention impeccable service and great beverage pairings (including the first Mead that I have actually liked).  Thus far my most memorable meal of 2016.

Foreward – Snacks






Chapter I – Tomato
Vanilla
Chapter II – Childhood
Bread and dripping
Onion and gin
Heritage potato

Chapter III – Sea
Crab
ScallopChapter IV – Land
Herdwick lamb

Chapter V – The end
Picnic


Almond and dill


69 Colebrook
I ordered the Death in Venice not even realizing that I was seated below a poster advertising the same.

Sosharu
I have always had fantastic experiences at Jason Atherton restaurants and so was excited to try Sosharu as soon as it opened.  Service started off exceedingly well and I received almost too much attention.  However by the time I finished my first cocktail I languished for over 30 minutes not being able to summon a server to order another drink.  The things I take for granted in NYC where alcohol sales are necessary to restaurant profits.  The open temaki were wonderful and I almost wish I had just ordered a half dozen.  A few of the other dishes unfortunately seemed to suffer from lack of seasoning.

Sashimi
Bream sashimi, shichimi crispy potato

Open temakiScallops, nori, sweet potato, white ponzu

Pale aubergine, crispy shallots, aka miso glaze, herb salad

NYC – 5/25/16 – Pasquale Jones

I’m not sure that I like Pasquale Jones better than its big brother Charlie Bird but it definitely holds its own.  But the addition of very good pizzas, with a crust that is my preferred style, certainly helps.  The sugar snap pea salad was absolutely fantastic as was the dessert although I have unfortunately forgotten the description.  I accept partial responsibility for how much I disliked the white asparagus dish as I generally do not love it and this was one of my least favorite preparations which is a shame because it could have been infinitely better roasted in the wood burning oven.  But slippery trout roe on top of slippery asparagus was extremely challenging to eat, even though this dish was beautiful and an instagram favorite while on the menu.

sugar snap pea, watercress, pecorino & cultured cream

little neck clam pizza, parsley, garlic, lemon & cream
steelhead crudo, breakfast radish & sorrel

white asparagus, nasturtium & trout roe

Chicago – 5/22/16 – Duck Duck Goat

I didn’t think that we would be able to squeeze in Duck Duck Goat on this trip even though I was eager to try it.   Such a fun brunch and very cool space. It was tough to narrow down the things that I wanted on the menu and despite some initial skepticism as to how this concept would work out all of our menu choices were fantastic.  I am definitely looking forward to a return trip for dinner.


Steamed barbeque pork buns
Duck tongues
Shrimp toast

Octopus, cucumber and peanut salad