All posts tagged “Italian

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Marea & Mary’s Fish Camp, New York

Seafood time!!

(Warning: I’m still cringing at how much I ate during the NYC trip. This post might lack excitement).

Marea

Marea on Urbanspoon

Marea is a two-Michelin-starrred Italian/seafood restaurant overlooking the south of Central Park. If standing outside the restaurant on a breezy, sunny day, you will certainly entice yourself with smell of fresh horse poo from sightseeing horse carriages (I did). The restaurant was otherworldly from that. Casual-elegant. Fast-paced service. You can aim to be there in order to be seen.

The food did not let me down. I ordered the five-course tasting menu at $75 (which on reflection I shouldn’t have). The amuse of three kinds of raw fish was okay. Langoustine was springy and fresh; fluke was nicely scented with thyme but bland (I’m not a big fan of fluke in general so I might be talking bullshit); tuna was complimented well with crispy Jerusalem artichoke. The basic salad of tomato, basil and burrata was upgraded with gently boiled lobster, a luxury to the eyes but redundant for the taste bud. The burrata was brilliantly sourced and served at a precise temperature for unforgettable buttery-ness; the tomatoes were expertly blanched; I also liked the extra touches of basil chlorophyll and crunchy basil seeds. Freshly cut semolina pasta made pals with naturally sweet crab and naturally sweeter sea urchin. The latter was cooked, with a touch of basil, to dissolve and form a creamy sauce – the tour de force of my meal at Marea and I highly recommend you go order this dish (as an A La Carte option). I still remembered the rich velvety depth (of sweet, musty sea urchin and tender crab meat) that glazed my tongue. Pan fried sea bass was not as inspiring but an enjoyable plate of food. The firm sea bass was strengthened by polenta in chilli and red wine jus (which tasted a little like well aged balsamic vinegar). Trumpet royale mushrooms was meaty. The desserts arrived a duo on one plate. On the left stood doughnut, chocolate, coffee ice cream and ginger (nice – tasted exactly like the description); on the right carrot cake, tangy carrot sorbet and white chocolate (nicer – and tasted exactly like the description. The other star of the meal (after the pasta) was, interestingly enough, the petit four, specifically the lemon meringue. The meringue (prepared Italian style) was expertly aerated and weightless; the “lemon” had a great depth of acidity; the tart base was carefully sweetened and crumbled at first bite.

A very balanced meal. Nothing to dislike. There were two things that were definitely worth a detour. But, instead of ordering a tasting menu, you might want to go for a two-or-three-course meal ^_^

Mary’s Fish Camp

Mary's Fish Camp on Urbanspoon

In charming and tasteful West Village was another renowned seafood spot in NYC, Mary’s Fish Camp. The seafood here was done New England-style (I deducted but might be wrong). The place was not big (a counter seating around 10 and 6-7 odd tables) and the ambiance was unpretentiously low-key and strictly not the place to be seen at. (Anonymity was best when I gobbled down a very large Po Boy). The queue – yes, QUEUE – started well before the restaurant’s opening hours and when I went the dining room was filled up in half an hour or so. (Imagine Barrafina).

I started with Crayfish Beignets served with green chilli salsa ($11). The beignets were fluffed and grease-free. It was such a shame that they could have tasted less of beignets and more of crayfish. The chilli salsa was impressively smokey and had a mild kick (reminding me of Thai-style grilled chilli relish from the North). Prawns with chilli de Arbol ($14) were what anybody should want to eat. The prawns were oven roasted with the heads intact, meaning I sucked the juicy head dry. The chilli de Arbol and garlic oil infusion was a devil – so hot and raunchy I could do with more bread to sponge it up. My only concern was that two of my prawns were rather limp. The meal ended with this main event of Fish Camp Po Boy ($14). Plump, deep-fried aphrodisiacs (AKA oysters) in a ciabiatta bun with sliced pickled gherkin, creme fraiche and a slap of Sriracha-style hot sauce. The vinegar acidity coupled with heat was a climax in my mouth; the various crunch (from shredded iceberg lettuce, gherkin, oyster, bread) worked my jaws well; and the naturally seasalt-y note from the oyster did not find itself lost in such a big-flavoured concoction. Loved it!

Like Marea, I can easily recommend Mary’s Fish Camp, depending what scene and what take on seafood you are after. And oh! GT went to Mary’s Fish Camp as well. We didn’t plan to order completely different dishes, so that you can have more photos to drool at here


RATING: 4 for both/5

MAREA

240 Central Park South
New York 10019
USA

Tel. + 1 212 582 5100

www.marea-nyc.com

MARY’S FISH CAMP

64 Charles Street
West Village
New York 10014
USA

Tel: + 1 646 486 2185

www.marysfishcamp.com

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Cotidie: Everyday can be an Italian Day in Marylebone

Relocation, relocation

Cotidie, meaning ‘everyday’ in Italian, is a brainchild of Chef Bruno Barbieri, who is a much respected chef in Italy as he not only appears on Masterchef (there) but is also a possessor of two Michelin stars, respectively at Il Trigabolo in Argenta and Arquade in Verona, neither of which I have been. Taking over the former site of Cafe Luc on Marylebone High Street, Barbieri launches a comfortingly imaginative Italian menu in a genteel bistro-like surrounding. The majority of fresh produce is imported from the chef’s homeland. While the sun did not shine bright outside Cotidie, my well-heeled dining companion and I found ourselves cheered up by the relatively eager, relatively handsome FOH. Friendly Italian hospitality, you know. Nothing more..

Entirely pleasant

The meal did not have much sparkles but was thoroughly pleasant. Like most Italian places, the menu consisted of small(ish) appetisers, pasta, fish/meat, side sections. The respective price for each section was £9-13, £15-17, £15-29, and £4.50. There was also a 6-course tasting menu at £65. Before my appetisers were a decent selection of cured meat – tongue-like piece, mortadella and fatty saucission with a lovely chervil garnish and a correctly prepared polenta soup. Scrambled eggs with hazelnuts and gorgonzola fondue (£9) arrived in cracked egg shells. The egg was pleasantly seasoned with a touch of sweet nutty-ness, but the texture could have been more scrumble-y rather than curd-y; the gorgonzola was mild. An enjoyable dish, nonetheless. Beef tartare served with Taleggio cheese and pistachio fondue (£13) intrigued me (in a good way). The finely chopped beef was cured in spices and oozed magical chacouterie-like robustness but with a tenderised tartare texture. The subtly salty cheese was thick rendering pungent creaminess, which complimented the beef well. (That said, at this stage, I became tired of the chervil garnish). ‘Fregula’ pasta with shellfish and tumeric stew (£16) was also prepared with care and understated flair. The ‘fregula’ themselves had a great bouncy texture. Having been cooked in seawater, its flavour was naturally enhanced and sprang alive with perfectly cooked shellfish trimmings – prawns, mussels, cockles, calamari. (The dish also came with a sprig of chervil). Tortellini in capon broth (£16) arrived nude. (Did the kitchen forget the chervil!?) The tortellini were freshly prepared and boast not only the precision in the making but a fluffy filling of capon meat. The broth was capon-made, bouillon-like but very light. Together it had a great clarity of flavours and addictive lightness. The mains were underwhelming, once compared to what preceded them. Stewed octopus in tomatoes and capers (£24) claimed umami richness and sweet sun-kissed acidity. It was a pity that the corn cream on which the octopus submerged was heftily salted, otherwise it would be a very good dish that nowhere else in London serves. (The chervil garnish metamorphosed into a mini bouquet of shoots). Braised vegetable with Piadina flatbread (£15) was that kind of dish that made me feel sorry for vegetarians. Though everything on my plate was nicely prepared, it appeared as if a result of two side dishes being thrown into one and with nothing to bind all together. Fried beignets (£10) restored joy. The beignets were cream-filled and light, contrasting well with the citrus-y caramelisation of orange rinds. The petit four was a sight to behold, though I was too stuffed to treat myself with many.

There were some highs and some (not so) lows at Cotidie. Also, when we informed the FOH of the over-salted main, we were offered complimentary sweet wine as a compensatory gesture. Towards the end of the meal, I warmed to the place. The cooking, in general, has a character; many dishes I ate are addictive food I don’t mind having everyday; and given time, Cotidie can progress into something exciting. So, I will be back.

(But, before that, please garnish with chervil when you really, seriously need to).

RATING: 3.5/5

COTIDIE

50 Marylebone High Street
London
W1U 5HN

Tel. 020 7258 9878

www.cotidierestaurant.com

Cotidie on Urbanspoon

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Mele e Pere: Italian Fare On Brewer Street

Apple and pear

That’s the meaning of “Mele E Pere”. The designer took it quite literally and mounted a polychromatic window display of apples and pears – some metallic ones, some Murano glass ones – on the street level of this mysterious Italian eatery on Brewer Street. In fact, the entrance was pretty much a camouflage. Judging from the moss green facade, the bright neon signs, the vintage sofas and the vast number of chandeliers, one would certainly assume this was a furniture shop. No staff in sight. Just a menu neatly but unnoticeably placed on an old-school pressing machine of sort. The restaurant itself was situated in a vast, den-like basement, which I accessed via a staircase adorned with vintage handcrafted tiles. The creamy wall paint and the mix-and-match wooden tables glowed in spotlights. Trattoria-style. Cozy. Charming. With a smart bar.

 

Cozy Italian to match

The chef Andrea Mantovani worked at Harry’s Bar and was head chef at Anthony Demetre’s Michelin-starred Arbutus and Wild Honey. At Mele e Pere, the menu was northern Italian and not overfussed. The starters were priced between £7.50- £11.50; the pasta could be served starter-sized (£7.50- £9.95) or as a main (£10.95- £15.95); the main came with a free side of your choice (£16- £19.95); an additional side cost £3.50; and the desserts were around £5.50 each. Warm Salad of Razor Clams (£9.50) was this coarsely sliced, springy razor clams tossed in olive oil, parsley, tomato and a medley of finely diced celery and carrot. The vibrant acidity from tomato and the squeezing of lemon made the dish very pleasant to eat, while the sweet cannolini bean mush balanced it off well. That aside, I detected some minuscule slices of octopus and, as the menu only read “razor clams”, I wondered if they were intentional. Artichoke Risotto with Lamb’s Neck (£9.95) lacked a cheesy shine, while the taste was very intense bordering on being too salty for my liking. This had much to do with the infusion of pungent artichoke cubes and rich lamb reduction. There wasn’t so much flavour from wild mint as billed (which could have elevated the dish). The piece of lamb’s neck, however, was expertly done. Moreish and very tender. I wouldn’t mind eating just a full portion of this. Roast Cod and Fennel (£17.95) was underwhelming. The cod was nicely seasoned and correctly roasted. It would look so much prettier if served with the “roasted” side up. The garnish of a blanched tomato and grilled fennel chunks did not much and I couldn’t help thinking I was eating disparate parts rather than everything as an entity on a plate. My side of grilled vegetables (inclusive of the main course) was also so-so and could do with a finishing touch of extra virgin olive oil drizzle. Tiramisu (no picture and I also couldn’t recall the price) had a lovely coffee forte but could do with more sweetness.

My meal at Mele e Pere was reliable, but not exciting. In fairness, the place delivered what it promised to be – the “trattoria”. The FOH was attractive, attentive and sweet. The bar surely would be quite hip at night. The bill for a 4-course with water, juice and a glass of wine came to just £60.

GO FOR: Easy Italian. Charming space.
RATING: 3/5

(read about new rating here)

MELE E PERE

46 Brewer Street
London
W1F 9TF

Tel. 020 7096 2096
Mele e Pere on Urbanspoon

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Novikov “Italian” Restaurant: Life in Mayfair Bubbles

A millionaire’s hotspot..

Mayfair restaurants are usually filled with properly rich people but at Novikov the degree of wealthiness verged on being obscene. There was a catch, still. The ambiance at Novikov’s “Italian” was strangely and grandiosely relaxed. The dark bar entrance led the way, via a glitzy wine cellar, to a brightly lit dining room, suggestively of a spacious Italian villa. There was a white “ceiling” made of meticulously laid planks of wood from which the “sun” (AKA spotlight) beamed through; the floor was richly parqueted; and the touch of wood here-and-there contrasted well with the sprightly display of fresh vegetables and herbs. The very long and alluring “deli” counter and the gigantic fire oven behind it were the centrepiece of this handsome venue. Equally handsome were my neighbouring diners, a group of over-preened Russian girls with bubbles and a jolly Italian family of six, while on another end of the restaurant was Novikov himself looking after his pals. All seemed millionaires or at least very comfortable with parting with a large sum of money for a “Capretto Sardo” at £46. Looking around, I couldn’t help thinking… “Wow”.

Expensively rustic

The cheerful and friendly manager approached with the menu that read your very usual kind of Italian. Homey. Unfortunately, the pasta station was out of order (meaning I had to opt for the more expensive meat/fish for mains). The spectacle followed suite with a lavish parade of fresh ingredients to my table – crimson beef, live and kicking lobsters, sea bream that glittered, and some juicy langoustines – and a delectable description of how they could be specially prepared. I couldn’t help thinking another “Wow”.. but no..

Dishes were presented rustically. A big basket of bread was accompanied with moreish and piquantly rosemary-ed tapenade. The salami platter (£16) included highlights of delectable fennel-infused saucisson and dainty parma ham. Burratina (£15.50) was supremely fresh and milky, while the imported tomatoes – juicy and sweet – were one of the most intense (and intensely pricy) I’d ever tasted in London. Loved it. Fungi Misti (£18.50) – a dish of sauteed wood mushrooms with fried eggs, truffle shavings and chicken jus – was more of a breakfast dish and suffered (yet ever slightly) from excessive rosemary leaves. Very good but might not be worth the price. The Other Bib’s Pork Chop (£16.50) was faultless. Big, tender and delicious. My “Capretto Sardo” (£46) which was described to me as a free-range goat kid flown in premium from Sardinia was served with grilled black olives, pane carasua and rich meaty jus. The kid itself had a delightful game-y scent but tasted mild. The problem, however, was that there were more bones than meat for £46. Perhaps, if the cost had gone into its being flown in premium, next time the kid could do with a Ryan Air flight. The side selection of grilled vegetables (£5) – mellow, well charred onions, spongy aubergine slices, sweet pepper and paste-like garlic – was memorably scrumptious. Before the dessert menu was presented, there came another procession of specials-of-the-day cakes. Tempting but I called for the proper menu. Interestingly enough, the proper “Italian” dessert menu seemed to be flown in from Asia, or more precisely, from the “Asian” restaurant next door. I looked away from Coconut Custard and picked one of the most western dishes of the bunch – milk chocolate fondant (£11)!

… it tasted correct – rich, leak-y, creamy – but it also oozed an unappetizing buttery layer.

Novikov “Italian” has done well in creating an experience – the decor, the buzz from the staff, the reliably good food, the excess. Throughout the meal there was nothing that I disliked, although the bill of three-course meals for two plus an affordable carafe of wine, juices, tea and water at £218 was also.. quite an experience.

 

GO FOR: Rustic Italian comfort. Millionaire watching.
RATING: 3.5/5

(read about new rating here)

NOVIKOV ITALIAN RESTAURANT

50a Berkeley Street
Mayfair
London
W1J 8HA

Tel. 020 7399 4330

www.novikovrestaurant.co.uk

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Downtown “Cipriani” London: Another (Pricy) Italian Address in Mayfair?

Another “Mayfair” Italian..

There are many Italian restaurants in Mayfair. (Don’t ask me why). There are many “Burlington” streets, gardens and places in Mayfair. (Don’t ask me why). And putting the two together it took me and The Other Bib 10-15 odd minutes to find this new site of world’s renown Cipriani restaurant in Mayfair. Cipriani, if you do not know, dates back to the 30′s and has its root in Venice. Its first establishment was known as Harry’s Bar. After decades, Harry’s Bar metamorphosed not only into Italy’s national landmark but also a luxury global brand of hospitality. Therefore, old-world charm, a Titanic-like interior with glistening wood veneer, a doorman and a hell lot of jolly, waistcoated FOH to fulfill your deepest desires are expected..

Food

Italian. Venetian. Unnecessarily big bread basket. Big price for both food and wine (as one would expect in Mayfair). (Relatively) Big portion on a medium-sized looking plate. Burrata served with Sauteed Zucchini and toppled with shredded basil lacked texture contrast and acidity to score success. Despite the cheese’s notable freshness, the dish was just all too gooey and basil-y. Raviolo of Ricotta, Egg and White Truffle was not only an extraterrestrially expensive dish but also it landed solo on the plate as if a flying saucer. The firm ricotta filling was pleasant enough and the hidden yolk that burst at the first slicing added some excitement to the eating. The downside was that the truffle did not smell much and I was not keen about a ditch of butter underneath.

Mixed receptions for the mains. The Other Bib’s Ragu with tagliarelle was decent but could do with more meaty depth. My Fegato alla Veneziana ticked all the boxes. I liked the very well cooked, well herb-ed and well pepper-ed veal liver slices. Its robustness was in fine tune with the stripes of sweet, gently stewed onions. Very comforting dish. I can come back for this. The diamond-shaped fried polenta could have been hotter and more crispy.

The joy of the meal was the desserts. Made-to-order ice cream (took 15 min) was this gargantuan bowl of wonderfully soft Fiordilatte oozing very milky perfume. The crushed almond and buiscuit as well as the deliciously dark chocolate melt proved ideal companions. I also asked for a slice of Pannatone to go with my ice cream. The BEST pannatone I’ve ever eaten. Spongy with slight elasticity, juicy raisins and subtle but delectable citrus-y note.

Top Pick?

Among many Italian restaurants in Mayfair, Downtown will never be my first pick. Acceptable meal, highly acceptable service, but too many faults for the quite high price. That said, I have to give the FOH two big thumbs up. The service was not at all discriminatory. No judgement passed on how we appeared. No seating hierarchy (like at Delaunay for example). Oh and which “Burlington” is this place located exactly?

Just look for a small alley next to Issey Miyake.

GO FOR: Ice cream.
RATING: 3/5

(read about rating here)

DOWNTOWN CIPRIANI LONDON

15 New Burlington Place
London
W1S 2HK

Tel. 020 3056 1001
www.cipriani.com

C London on Urbanspoon

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MY 2012…

Happy New Year to You All ^_^

My 2012 started with a cancelled holiday, a lukewarm winter, a depressingly lukewarm washer-dryer, a cat that shuns me and no bloody decent restaurant opened during those festive days. No resolutions. Not too much to look forward to in 2012, apart from the grand opening of Pitt Cue Co., the arrival of Barrafina in Covent Garden and a handful more of restaurants, such as Mari Vanna, Dabbous, Lima, and Bubbledogs. I predict the street market scene prevails, and very much so for burgers, steaks, and quite possibly, fried chicken. There will be more veggie-oriented places to counter that trend. Small portions will still be in. Fine dining chefs will serve less jus and will plate their food in the same manner as Rene Redzepi. Ethnic food – Asian in particular – will never move away from being stereotyped and Asian supper clubs will be the ones (for me) to look out for. That said, I feel Latin/South American might be the new thing for 2012.

There will be more trips (for me). I have kindled interests in Russia, Central Asia and towards the East. Moscow, St Petersburg, a few places in Japan, China, Vietnam and Burma are on my agenda. I look into wandering into North Korea, too. For Europe, I will be scouring not-so-mainstream regions and exploring more of Scandinavia, Belgium, The Netherlands and Germany. By the end of 2012, I will try making it to all The World’s 50 Best Restaurants. There will be more trips, weirder food .. and The Skinny Bib will (fingers crossed) metamorphose into “something”.

2011 in Few Words..

Before all that to happen, this is my quick 2011 round-up..

To start. I ate dogs. I ate cocks. I ate raw chicken. The latter came from Bincho Yakitori, the super restaurant that dares push all the boundaries for those up for it. I caught my own fish, sampled blowfish and found the taste not at all deadly. I made friends with a great handful of amazingly cool food enthusiasts. I even woke up early to travel with one. The “woke up early” will not happen again. I also had the fabulous opportunities to stuff myself at CC and many world’s destinations. I have learned to book tables a year ahead, though I spent 10% of my life on auto redialing but failed to snatch a table at Keller’s popup. I also spent another 5% of my life figuring out a new and less confusing rating system but only came out with this lame one. I still insist on being among the first reviewers of restaurants.

… it was definitely an eye-opening (or mouth-opening?) year and it would have been a lot less fun without you lot to share all these exciting things with  >__<

I’d also like to extend my best wishes to these 10 eateries that, despite their being old or new, I consider (un)advertised powerhouses of my London existence and have made my 2011 a superlatively indulgent year…

In no particular order…

Roganic… exciting food. Excitingly friendly flocks. And, mind those ceiling lamps!!
Opera Tavern… inventive food. Relaxed glam. Hot boys. Greatest neighbours. And don’t forget the Iberico Foie Burger :-9
Sushi of Shiori… an out-of-this-world sushi gloryhole. Thoughtful creations. If walking in is not possible, there is a takeaway option.
Big Apple Hot Dog… the hot dog pimp that gets London well stuffed. Now mobilizing between two locations.
Gauthier Soho… bonker chef + cute French twinks = comfortingly gay elegance. Also London’s most budget Michelin starred.
Barrafina… a real Spanish bustle that never dies down since its first opening. Best tortilla.
Dinner by Heston… a place that oozes warmth and charm. Occasional celebrities. No pretense.
Beirut Express… the BEST Sherwarma and many other great things. (Just turn blind eyes on service).
Hawksmoor Seven Dials… the best burgers & lobster roll in London in my book.
The Heron… uncompromising Thai (with distracting karaoke and horrifying retro disco look).

Apart from this, I instantly crave for Beijing Dumplings from Jen’s Cafe, Beef Pelmini and Truffled Salad Olivier from Bob Bob Ricard, Mac & Cheese from Spuntino, Wagyu & Truffle Sushi from Zuma, Duck & Foie Gras Borek from Quince, Pickled Herrings from Goodman’s, Eggs Benedict from The Wolseley, Madeleines and ejaculating Custard Doughnuts from St John, Wagyu Slider from CUT, Afternoon Tea from Espelette/The Connaught Hotel, Peking Duck from Min Jiang and Chicken Rice from Old Town 97. And, before I sound like I do not eat vegetable, I love Mushroom and Walnut Miso Udon from Koya very much.

And the most exciting of London 2011!?

Alex McKechnie!!… the superstar mixologist who came up with many super quirky, innovative cocktail and food pairings at Viajante Bar. (He has left, but Viajante & The Corner Room still rock). There will be more coming from Alex so check his site..

 

 

2012.. BRING IT ON  :-D