NYC – 8/15/16 – Jean Georges

Sadly I ended up sick in the middle of this meal after battling a migraine and did not make it to dessert.  The evening is consequently a bit of a blur but from what I remember this summer menu was lovely.

Caviar, buttermilk-chive panna cotta and tomato coulis

Madai sashimi, summer radish and nasturtium vinaigrette

Charred corn ravioli, cherry tomato salad and basil fondue

Black sea bass, purple potato butter and charred poblano peppers

Steamed summer squash and lobster, black truffle and lemon dressing

Fragrant spiced-lava lake lamb chop, cucumber yogurt and herbs

NYC – 5/6/16 – Le Bernardin & Nougatine 

Le Bernardin
I know I am completely spoiled because I can drop into Le Bernardin for lunch any time that I want.

New Englander – Boodles gin, cranberry, yuzu juice

Sea Scallop – slivers of sea scallop, shaved fennel, citrus vinaigrette
Carrot Soup – Maine lobster, yuzu foam
Striped Bass – baked striped bass, sweet potato, sofrito sauce

Merluza – sauteed Merluza, pea shoots, shitake mushroom broth

Peruvian Chocolate – warm chocolate cake, caramelized fig, spiced chocolate ice cream

While this fantastic classic burger was all that I had, I found it particularly noteworthy because of the amount of ketchup served on the side.  As someone who can easily polish off a bottle of ketchup in two sittings I am always disappointed when I order fries and end up with one of those sad small stainless cups that is half full.  As crazy as it sounds I will go back for this burger on the basis of the ketchup quantity alone. Finally somebody has gotten this right!

NYC – 11/12/15 – Momofuku Ko

While I probably will not make a list of my favorite dining experiences of 2015, if I were to do so this dinner would easily be in my top 5.  This was my first time sitting at one of the two tables instead of the counter and certainly some of the presentations are just far more impressive for a larger group.  There was not one course which I did not absolutely love which is consistent with previous visits.  Our essentially second course could have been a meal in itself and if it had ended at that point I would have gone home very happy.  If there were not any witnesses I probably would have eaten the guinea hen to the point of making myself sick.  Food aside I just love the entire environment of Ko 2.0.  I am often down on friendliness of service in New York restaurants but Ko embodies the concept of hospitality.  Now that I am somewhat thinking about my favorite experiences of this past year, the stand outs are the ones that not only have amazing food and impeccable service but also have figured out, for lack of a better description, the ‘it’ factor in hospitality.  I am definitely looking forward to many more visits in 2016.

a blank canvas
 vegetable roll.  pommel soufflés.  lobster paloise.  millefeuille.
  black bass, madai, uni, mackerel, chickpea, finger lime, bonji, shiso, sudachi
   razor clam – apple, basil
 siberian sturgeon caviar – radish, potato
 sourdough bread & radish butter
 halibut – cauliflower, hungarian pepper
guinea hen – matsutake, black vinegar
   celery root – white truffle, tandoori
 beef – daikon, scallion
 foie gras – lychee, pine nut, riesling jelly
 carrot cardamom – meringue
 pistachio – apricot
chocolate – fernet branca

NYC – 9/12/15 – Semilla

Semilla had been on my to-do list for a while but as several rave reviews rolled in I was afraid that it might be overhyped and so I just kept putting it off.  A month later I am sure this menu is completely outdated but the seasonal tomato dishes were outstanding, especially the perfect tomato tart (they should have sold extras!).  Just like a pan con tomate the comparative simplicity of tomatoes and pastry or bread is one of my favorite things when done well.  I have never had a chawanmushi that I enjoyed prior to this dinner as I suffer from texture issues with certain dishes such as this.  But I am still shocked that I loved this one.   And it was the same story with the roasted eggplant course.  While I don’t have many dislikes, I think its very special for a dinner to be able to completely change my opinion on more than one of them.  I enjoyed this dinner so much that my only complaint is that the experience felt very rushed.  I was at the end of the first seating but as people began to finish and leave I felt a bit like the store was closing and I needed to hurry up and complete my purchase.

Tomato gazpacho with peaches, rat tail radishes & black olives
 Roasted tomato with corn
 Corn chawanmushi with matsutake mushrooms & ham 
Roasted eggplant with pepper leaves & grapes

Tomato salad with cucumbers & scallops

Tomato tart
Chicken of the woods mushrooms with corn & mole
 Peaches, saffron & bitter almond
 Tarragon profiterole with wild blueberry & buttermilk

NYC – 9/9/15 – Eleven Madison Park

For many years EMP was one of my favorite places in New York.  Back when the menu was a la carte I enjoyed many lunches there as it was possible to just pop out of work for a relatively quick meal (and yes using “back when” makes me feel 20 years older than I actually am). I had taken a bit of a break from it recently as it seemed to have become a bit too kitschy.  But as reviews and rankings seemed to only get better I kept wondering if I was missing out. And so I made an impromptu visit to the lounge earlier this summer where unfortunately I had a very disappointing experience, i.e. the sort that would make me completely write off most other places. But in this case it just made me sad as I had so many great memories here.

So I gave it another shot, in the dining room this time, where happily the experience was completely different.  Service was impeccable. Actually improved from previous dinners where I had some nitpicky comments.  The caviar course was a standout for me and I wish I had taken a second photo when I found the egg underneath. Yes an egg makes everything even better in my opinion.  And while the lobster boil could have bordered on gimmicky, I love presentations that show a more formal restaurant isn’t taking itself too seriously.  My other favorite had to be the farmer’s cheese sundae as I loved the concept and its one I have not seen before (plus somehow the older I’ve gotten the more I’d rather have cheese than a traditional dessert). And I hope the tonging tradition makes more of a comeback as this was very cool to finally see in person.

Lately I always seem to be a bit ‘down’ on NYC dining and feel that I have far better experiences when I am traveling, especially in hospitality.  But thank you Will Guidara for exhibiting what hospitality should be at this level.  It is rare that my expectations are exceeded and you certainly did so.

(….and very proud of myself that I got a perfect score on “Name That Milk.”)

Cheddar – Savory Black & White Cookie with Apple

Tuna – Marinated with Cucumber

 Eggplant – Slow-Cooked with Shelling Beans and Mint
 Squid – Poached with Peppers and Artichoke
 Tomato – Salad with Basil and Red Onion
 Caviar  – Benedict with Egg, Corn and Ham
 Foie Gras – Seared with Plum and Thyme
 Lobster – Boil with Clams, Shrimp and Beans

 Tonging Sunflower – Braised with Green Tomato and Sunflower Sprouts
 Duck – Roasted with Lavender, Honey, Apricots, and Fennel

 Farmer’s Cheese – Sundae with Honey, Grape, Sorrel, and Oats

 Whey – Sorbet with Caramelized Milk and Yogurt

 Berry – Cheesecake with White Currant Sorbet and Raspberry Vinegar
 Chocolate – “Name That Milk”

 Snowcones in the Kitchen