All posts filed under “New York

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Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare, New York

Cat Food..

You know…Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare is a three-Michelin-starred, 18-seat restaurant appendixed to a supermarket. You know, chef Cesar Ramirez is Mexican but inspired by the Japanese impeccability.The chef’s table concept is developed from a sushi bar. But, chef Ramirez is a man with great toys – an impeccably modern kitchen centrepiece, an overwhelming collection of “bling” pots and pans, a world-exclusive selection of finest and most uniquely designed porcelain. Chef Ramirez flies in the best fish and shellfish from all over the world to his restaurant. There is no menu here. Just around 20 dishes. You know chef Ramirez specialises in fish and shellfish. His approach is both inspired and firmly grounded in Japanese ethos. No allergy is catered for. If you can’t eat fish, you go somewhere else, he says. And I agree, wholeheartedly.

What you may not know is that to dine at Brooklyn Fare you have to call precisely on Monday at 10.30am NYC time (or keep your phone on redial a few minutes before) 6 weeks in advance. You also may be in need of more than one phone to dial at the same time (I used three). You need to pay for the whole meal one week before your designated dining appointment. $250 per person (I think?). You will receive an email detailing the BF etiquette – a “business attire” dress code, no note-taking, no photography. You must be there on time, or else you will miss whatever that should have been served before you arrive. If you can handle this, go ahead..

Despite all that military rigidity, Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare was a thoroughly relaxed place to be and the meal a life-changing experience. The kitchen brigade led by zen-like-yet-gangster-like Ramirez was the most systematised. This was a foil to Michelle the most personable sommelier who brought joy to this reverent surrounding.

The cooking was not only highly innovative but a very candid showcase of world’s best ingredients. A shot of warm, liquidised squash toppled with yogurt foam got me into the mood. A pristine slice of raw red snapper arrived with tangy ponzu sauce and holy-crispy red snapper scales. A slice of white fish was served with pickled daikon and threads of ginger; trout with its own roe and mayo; hiramasa with borage; o-toro with crispy shredded leeks. Unctuous sea urchin was prepared two ways, one with yuba skin, soy, wasabi and dill (the most luscious and innovative I’ve ever eaten and the best dish of the evening), the other on a toasted brioche disc with black truffle foliage. There was also smoked caviar with potato. Then came a chawanmushi with truffled dashi and perfectly cooked crayfish. The sweetness from the egg and the crayfish was pure and accentuated by a hint of ginger. A large turbot fillet for 8 guests was pan-fried whole and sliced to form an individual portion with peas, broad beans and pea shoots. The flavour got heavier with red mullet that came with a Thai-influenced bouillabaise. A note of red-curried heat. I moved on to veal ravioli garnished luxuriously with dainty lobster, foie gras, abalone and berry jus. Not at all a show-off dish but a well-balanced luxurious complexity. The texture of the cooked abalone was the most notable, very skillfully tenderised. The main event of non-fish dish featured a roasted squab breast – quite French – with artichoke and scallions. Goat’s cheese and Brie were paired with pear, lettuce and balsamic. Both of the desserts – one with chocolate, tonka bean ice cream and orange; the other sour cream souffle – also hit a high note. And we are left to ponder that chef Ramirez and Brooklyn Fare is nowhere to be seen on the respected World’s 50 Best Restaurants.. something is not right with this “World”..

WE LOVED YOU CESAR!!!! ARGHH!!!!!

(I am sure you wonder.. “no note taking”.. how did I remember all this? Well. I might be making all this up. You will need to go there to find out.. )

 

 

GO FOR: Innovative seafood paradise. Meal of a lifetime.
RATING: 5/5

CHEF’S TABLE AT BROOKLYN FARE

200 Schermerhorn St
Brooklyn, NY
11201

Tel. 001 (718) 243 0050

www.brooklynfare.com/chefs-table

There are some photos on BF’s offical Facebook page. There is a confirmed expansion into Manhattan but “Brooklyn Fare” will be the only chef’s table..I heard ;)
Chef's Table at Brooklyn Fare on Urbanspoon

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Not The World’s 50 Best Restaurants..

Not the world’s 50 best restaurants..

Had I but world enough and time, trotting the globe to eat wouldn’t be such a crime. I am a self-confessed World’s 50 Best Restaurants junkie. I find it commendable that the list is streamlined towards unearthing innovations where (occasionally) no ordinary foodie has reached. There is a catch, though. “Innovation” does not always guarantee “satisfaction”, and no “satisfaction” often means a “waste of time”. But, who am I to judge? I am an amateur eater, have made it to only 21 out of 50 of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2012 and some other odd ones that are now off the 2012 list. Also, given the effort chefs and the restaurant teams have put in to make their establishments a success (and the fact that everybody has his/her own preference), it would have been too mean to publish my carefully selected top 10 “waste of time” list. (Personal email exchange is welcomed).

So, I am having this instead – a very personal “Life-Changing 10″ restaurants in an alphabetical order. These places have somehow changed my personal view on cuisine at different points in my life and I have no hesitation to return to these places.

(NB: To understand how my preference works, I’m pro innovation, hate over-complication and I also love food that retains a touch of comfort. I am usually inclined to appreciate subtle and no-fuss flavours).

- AQUA -
Wolfsburg, Germany

Visited: Winter 2011/12
Why: Chef Sven Elverfeld not only refines but redefines what humble German cuisine is to firework effects. In Chef Sven’s hands, “Candy Apple” was made entirely of sugar crust and shattered with a touch of a spoon to reveal ethereal yogurt foam (precisely as sour as a Granny Smith) and caramelised pecan core. The watery essence of apple underneath bound the dish together. My meal at Aqua was full of these brilliantly executed, non-alienating surprises.
On #Worlds50Best: 22
More photos here.

 

- L’ARPEGE -
Paris, France

Visited: Winter 2010/11 & Winter 2010/11 (Twice)
Why: Not that I don’t love red meat but it is chef Alain Passard’s take on vegetables that is a classical revelation. I still remember my plate of root vegetables with cous cous and argan oil at L’Arpege – the exuberant crunch, the acidity and sweetness from multi-textured root vegetables cooked by various means. This is innovation but this is also firmly grounded in classical French techniques.
On #Worlds50Best: 16

 

- Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare -
New York City, USA

Visited: Spring 2012
Why: Chef Cesar Ramirez rocks this tiny space, an appendix to Brooklyn Fare supermarket. He not only has fine eyes and unlimited budget to fly in the premium fish in the world but he also has the greatest and most creative mind, with huge respect to Japanese sensitivities, to dazzle 16 odd diners with (arguably) the BEST seafood in the world. I still recall Red Snapper served sliced with rich but cleansing ponzu sauce and toppled with crispy snapper scales or utterly rich and creamy sea urchin with yuba, wasabi and dill. As CTBF runs a no photo policy, I was only naughty enough to snap a shot of chocolate truffles at the end. (Lame, I know).
Not #Worlds50Best (This is unbelievable!!!)

 

- Faviken -
Jarpen, Sweden

Visited: Winter 2011/12
Why: Youthful and talented, chef Magnus Nilsson makes the most of his adverse environment to create a spectacular “real food” meal, paying respect to the raw beauty of the produce, the ways flavours should naturally be maximised, and the gastronomic timelessness as opposed to flashy and fashionable cooking. Cod “lightly brushed with honey and fried in a dry pan” had the burnt sweet crust that immersed itself with the firm sea-sweet fish. The pairing of carrot cooked in “almost burnt sour milk” and spruce and alcoholic vinegar jelly was striking and effective. Apart from the food, the setting at Faviken – embraced by sleepy mountains and a tranquil lake – is purely magical.
On #Worlds50Best: 34
More photo here.

 

- Hedone -
London, UK

Visited: 5 times since its opening
Why: My first meal at Hedone was not successful but there was this minimal but otherworldly piece of mackerel (with salad and Japanese dressing) that enticed me back to try more of chef Michael Jonsson’s cooking. This is the place to go for upper-crust produce prepared minimally to enhance its natural flavours. Chef Michael’s approach, I’d describe, is French with a touch of Scandinavia, where he originates, while his best of dishes range from Cevenne Onion with Pear, Scallops with Radish and Squid Ink and Venison with Foie Gras and Chestnut Veloute.
Not #Worlds50Best (I foresee Hedone to be on the list in just a matter of years).
More photo here.

 

- Mugaritz -
San Sebastian, Spain

Visited: Spring 2011
Why: My overall meal at Mugaritz was deceptively simple and with the unmissable regional Basque influences. “Fake Saffron Rice Just Rested” looked like juicy pumpkin seeds and was served in rich saffron sauce and toppled with white bread crouton. “Nails and Flowers” featured a crystalised sugar cone as translucent as a raincoat, with milky ice cream, chocolate nails and edible flowers. The topicality does not stop the meal to resonate the universality of emotion, and by the end of the meal, the ‘techno-emotional’ cuisine of Andoni Luis Aduriz left me in a nirvana of sort.
On #Worlds50Best: 3 (I was rooting this to be no.2!)
More photos here.

 

- Nahm -
Bangkok, Thailand + London, UK

Visited: 3 Times in Bangkok, Countless in London since 2008
Why: For a Thai who has grown up and become jaded with Thai food, Chef David Thompson is an inspiration. His delicate touch and stubbornness to the long-standing tradition both preserves and revolutionises Thai cuisine. While meals at Nahm London are, at times, inconsistent and restricted by means of daring audiences, its Bangkokian flagship pushes boundaries to the max. Say, a refined version of Pla Rah Song Kreung (rotten fish) for upper-class urbanites. In London, Nahm is the only restaurant where I can find the rarest of Thai desserts cooked to absolute perfection. Next year 2013 in Singapore it would be interesting to see how Nahm fares on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants.
On #Worlds50Best: 50

 

- Noma -
Copenhagen, Denmark

Visited: Spring 2010 & Autumn 2011
Why: I first went to Noma with zero expectation or knowledge about the restaurant (before #Worlds50Best fame) and the meal ended in subliminal reverence. Chef Rene Redzepi is a nationalist genius and his creations are well matched with taste, imagination and artistry. I don’t think I need to say much else.
On #Worlds50Best: 1
More photos here.

 

- Pyongyang Hae Dang Hua -
Beijing, China

Visited: 4 times since 2010
Why: This is the ultimate North Korean restaurant of the finest produce and the most impeccably trained kitchen brigade. Pyongyang Hae Dang Hua stands for the opulence of the old world unpolluted by globalisation (one of the very few things that closed countries such as North Korea benefit from). While the kitchen does not intentionally push boundaries, the culture in which we live in and our familiarity with the modern world makes this meal something of a rebellious, retrospective experience. Snapping Turtle was dissected, reassembled and simmered in medicinal ginseng stock, while Dog Meat Hot Pot featured braised roulade of dog’s legs toppled with some ground nuts, spring onions and an infusion of tomato and chilli sauce.
Not #Worlds50Best

 

- Shinji by Kanesaka -
Singapore, Singapore

Visited: Winter 2011
Why: I have never embarked on a proper gastronomic adventure in Japan and having been on this side of the world (where good Japanese food is scant) I lost interest in such cuisine. Shinji by Kanesaka (praised by my much better eating friend) in Singapore rekindles my faith in prime Japanese produce with premium sushi-making skills to match. I still dream of Oshino-san’s Uni Risotto, which involved a mashing of sea urchin with sushi rice (an estimated 2:1 ratio) until the rice turned creamy and golden and a toppling of chopped tuna belly. The pure, savoury, sea-like custard-y thing passed through my nose and throat at every spoonful – simply the raunchiest bowl of food I’ve ever eaten in my life.
Not #Worlds50Best
More photos here.

 

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Ippudo + Totto Ramen, New York

Ramen..

Very briefly, for those estranged by the term ‘ramen’, I am talking Japanese egg noodle in soup, which had an origin from China but has been refined across centuries by the Japanese. (They even write manga about it!). The key elements are the noodle and the soup. The noodle should be chewy and springs in your mouth. The soup variations are Shoyu (soy sauce based), Shio (salt based), Tonkotsu (pork gelatin/fat based), and Miso (fermented soy bean based). The toppings for a ramen vary according to the soup. More likely, you will find soft boiled eggs, toasted seaweed sheets, pickled bamboo shoots (‘menma’), and pork slices.

In London ramen isn’t quite popular just yet. (You can find some alright offering at Ittenbari, Nagomi and Roka – only Mondays – and anticipate the launch of Tsuru‘s permanent ramen site). Ramen is relatively hip in NYC..

Ippudo

Ippudo on Urbanspoon

Ippudo in NYC East Village is a well-known Japanese import. Shigemi Kawahara started this off as a ramen counter in 1985 in Fukuoka, specialising in tonkotsu ramen. Now the Ippudo brand has spread across Japan’s major cities and to New York. The NYC joint runs a no-reservation policy. There was a queue at lunch but thanks to the size of the place the turnover was swift. Ideal for both solo diners and groups. The setting was modern, with aggressively shout-y and friendly FOH.

I settled for a bowl of Shiromaru Hakata Classic ($14), a kind of tonkotsu with pork loin chashu, sesame kikurage mushrooms, pickled bamboo shoots and pickled ginger, with an extra soft boiled egg ($2). Very wholesome and excellently constructed. The soup was silky thanks to the skillfully-infused pork fat and boast a great depth of flavours. It was, surprisingly, light and didn’t leave a dreadful greasy texture or aftertaste. The finer kind of noodle was used (as typical in any tonkotsu ramen) and was so nicely cooked it left a little bit of chewy-ness; the chashu slices had the best(est) ratio of melting fat and meaty tenderness; the bamboo shoots added musty taste to the soup; the sesame a hint of sweet nutty aroma; the soft-boiled egg was.. heaven.

Highly recommend this place :-9

Totto Ramen

Totto Ramen on Urbanspoon

Totto Ramen was a hole-in-the-wall ramen bar and accordingly much more difficult to get into than Ippudo. The queue started to form an hour or so before the opening hours. No reservation policy and I was asked to write my name down, which would be called out when the seat became free. Ideal for no more than 2-3 diners. (It took a while and I decided to wait by snacking bulgogi sliders at a next-door Korean bar). Inside there was a ramen bar and some tables. The scene was thumpingly swift and very Japanese.

My Totto Extra Spicy Ramen ($10.75) was flawed. The soup, here called ‘paitan’ meaning ‘milky’, was a concoction of tonkatsu-style broth but (I assume) made from chicken instead of pork. Too light and too loose, the soup was quite one dimensional, when compared to Ippudo. It was also so erroneously hot that it double-cooked the fine noodle and the beansprouts to unappealing softness. The only redeeming feature was the generous bowl of spooky and piquant rayu chilli oil with deep-fried, chopped garlic. The chashu slices had a dense charred crust. The boiled egg cost $1 extra.


RATING: 4.5, 3/5

IPPUDO

65 Fourth Avenue
New York
10003

Tel. 001 212 388 0088

www.ippudony.com

TOTTO RAMEN

366 West 52nd Street
New York
10019

Tel. 001 212 582 0052

www.tottoramen.com

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Katz’s Deli + Economy Candy + Crif Dogs, New York

Katz’s Deli

Katz's Deli on Urbanspoon

On East Houston Street has been standing Katz’s Deli for God-know-how-many years (since 1888 – I don’t do maths). This is a proper Jewish delicatessen of NYC Lower East Side (which London’s dear Mishkin’s takes an inspiration from). The walls are adorned with memorabilia of the past (with a lot of sleb diners) and straight to the future (I’m sure the place will have 100 more years to go). As I walked in, I was given a ticket, which was to be presented at the counter as I ordered my food. The menu is as vast as the deli itself and has everything Jewish – Chicken soup, Salt Beef, Pastrami, Knishes…

(As I was on a mini food crawl), I settled just for a Reuben ($16.55) and a Salt Beef Sandwich ($15.25). It was a mouthful of spectacle seeing the corned beef being sliced and then two slices were given to me as samples. Steaming hot. Tender in texture and powerful in taste. The same was repeated while I was waiting for the salt beef, which was gelatinous (thanks to the fat) and snapped apart very gently. Once turned into sandwiches, I did not like them as much. For the salt beef, I found the American mustard too sweet and did not contribute a striking contrast to the beefy forte. Personal preference. The Reuben was far more calorie-worthy thanks to the corned beef alone. Dressing-wise, the Russian dressing could have been more piquant and the sauerkraut sharper in acidity. But again this is a personal preference for sourness (as I noticed they seem pro sweetness over there). The rye bread were pretty spot-on spongy. A great meal, nonetheless, and the sandwiches were MONUMENTAL!!!

Economy Candy

A digestive attempt. I walked into Economy Candy – a rusty-looking, wholesale+retail candy shop on Rivington Street, still on the Lower East Side. The range of sweet things (mostly American brands and cartoon-focused goodies) here is incredibly orgasmic, considering how not-so-large the shop is. A sort of place that makes your aged retina beams with gleeful youth. The price of all things at Economy Candy is also a tempting bargain, about 1/3 – 1/2 cheaper than the regular retail price.

(I only bought 3 monkeys – below)..

Crif Dogs

Crif Dogs on Urbanspoon

And my mini food crawl ended here – Crif Dogs. A famous hot dog cafe with a “secret”.

Crif Dogs is dungeon-like with an odd resemblance to Camden. There are a great variation of toppings to choose from (16 kinds, I think), while the price fluctuates between $2.50 – $5. Tater Tots ($2.50) were these little cylindrical hash browns. Light, crispy and additive. No greasy aftertaste. The New Yorker was an all-beef sausage ($2.50) served nude in a bun (toppings on request) seemed fried rather than grilled and did not burst much taste (BAHD’s Pimp Steak beats this one hands down). The Chihuahua ($4.50) was a bacon-wrapped frankfurter with avocado and sour cream. Velvety touch. The sausage was snappy and juicy and the bacon very crackling. The Chilli Dog ($3.75) was pleasant and claimed a good mustard heat. I wasn’t keen on the cloyingly sticky texture, though. Apart from this, I also felt underwhelmed by the paper-like bun (it tasted a bit like the ones we feed fish in Thailand). My favourite of the meal was The Corn Dog ($4.75). I liked the sweet gummy batter and the moist hot dog. My only criticism was that my Corn Dog was a few minutes over-fried, resulting in a mildly burnt aroma and bitterness.

Hot dogs, done!

So, the “secret”?!?

The telephone booth inside Crif Dogs leads way to a secret cocktail bar called PDT (“please don’t tell”) which is opened daily from 6pm till late. You need to secure a reservation over the phone at a designated time (I learn it is 10am of the day you visit). If not, aim to arrive very early. I can’t tell if their cocktails are good because, during our visit, the place was so secretive nobody told us it was shut (for refurbishment).

 

RATING: 4, 3 Out Of 5

 

KATZ’S DELI

205 East Houston Street
New York City
10002

Tel. 001 (212) 254-2246

www.katzsdelicatessen.com

ECONOMY CANDY

108 Rivington Street
New York City
10002

Tel. 001 (212) 254-1531

www.economycandy.com

CRIF DOGS

113 St Marks Place 2
New York City
10009

Tel. 001 (212) 614-2728

www.crifdogs.com

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Danji + Mandoo Bar + Turntable Mad for Chicken, New York

ACE!?

I felt marooned at Ace Hotel (where hip boys and girls play dress-up and doormen can tell a Raf Simons from a Prada bling) on the cusp of Midtown and Koreatown. In that premise there are a Michelin-starred (where I had an underwhelming breakfast), an oyster bar (I gave it a miss) and a very hot Stumptown Coffee (where you can also buy NYC’s acclaimed Mast Brothers Chocolate). There are also a No.8A (a design-focused shop that sells these amazingly addictive, not-so-easy-to-find-but-dead-cheap Girl Scout Cookies) and an Opening Ceremony boutique (that is remarkable for its mark up when compared to the bigger one on Howard Street). Too cool.

The positive side of being at Ace Hotel, however, is that the hotel is within the walking proximity of many Korean gems.

Danji

Danji on Urbanspoon

This is a modern Korean tapas bar and a recent winner of one Michelin star. High wooden tables and bar stools. No pomp. Walking in only. The dinner menu was more extensive than the lunch. I fell in love with the Beef Bulgogi Sliders ($12). The beef stripes were expertly marinated and doused in onion sweetness; the steamed and toasted buns were pillow-y; a touch of butter enhanced the unctuousness of the match; the shredded spring onions and the kimchi-ed cucumber gave it a slap of spicy refreshment. Danji is also known for its KFC. My Korean Fire Chicken Wings ($10) did that fame a justice. They were fried for explosive crispy-ness and glazed in spicy honey dressing, which having been infused with four kinds of chilli, boast a good depth. Sticky, finger-licking good. Spicy Pork Belly Sliders ($12) did not vouch for the same level of deliciousness. The combination of fatty belly and sweet Kochujang chilli paste was domineering and did not leave much room for the crunchy cucumber to counter.

Mandoo Bar

Mandoo Bar on Urbanspoon

This little dumpling place on West 32bd Street is not life-changing but will do as a quick bite place. The Mandoo (a Korean word for dumplings) were prepared fresh at the restaurant’s window and served either boiled (mulmandoo) or deep fried (gunmandoo). There were three variations for fillings: pork, seafood, and vegetable. I ordered a small nibbling portion of all three ($4 each). The boiled pork dumplings (below) contained pork and chive. The casing had a good dense texture. The seafood ones contained a mixture of prawns and seafood sticks and tasted slightly processed. The fried vegetable ones were pleasant. The filling was made predominantly from bean sprouts, cucumber and pickled turnip. Stringy and crunchy to contrast with crispy elasticity. Decent quality of oil and it didn’t leave much of an oily smell.

Turntable Mad for Chicken

Turntable Mad for Chicken (5th Ave/31st St) on Urbanspoon

THE BEST!!

Literally, the best fried chicken I’ve ever eaten in my life. Turntable Mad for Chicken was located on the 2rd floor of a nonchalant building (with dodgy, tacky shops on street level). You can’t see the restaurant clearly from the street and have to walk in looking for the sign. The second floor was split into the dining area, the bar and the private booths. At night ‘analog’ music can be expected. There were different portion sizes of dissected chicken to choose from – wings, drumsticks, boneless – and two Korean-inspired styles of glazing – non-spicy soy sauce or hot and spicy glazing. My first encounter (I went twice ’cause it was too dark for photography first time) was a medium platter of wings and drumsticks (lost sense of pricing, sorry!). Steaming hot. The skin was so crispy it shattered as I was biting the wings; the meat was incredibly tender and moist; the glazing was, surprisingly, bold, hot but not sticky. A good dose of heat and vinegar-y acidity and immensely addictive. I went again (failed photography = good excuse to return) for the soy glazed action (first drumpsticks below). Big umami taste. The sweetness was the main essence distilled by a hint of saltiness. All the elements were as perfectly technically executed as the hot and spicy ones. Still, the soy glazed lacked the piquant kick, the wow factor. (I also felt obliged to order another helping of the hot and spicy so you can contrast… )

(Special thanks to L’s brother for recommending TMFC :-D!!)


RATING: 4,3,4.5/5

 

And the addresses ^_^

DANJI

346 West 52nd Street
New York, NY
10019

Tel. 001 (212) 586-2880

www.danjinyc.com

MANDOO BAR

2 West 32nd Street
New York, NY
10001

Tel. 001 (212) 279-3075

TURNTABLE MAD FOR CHICKEN

314 5th Avenue 2nd Floor
(between 31st and 32 nd Streets)
New York, NY
10001

Tel. 001 (212) 221 2222

www.madforchicken.com