Showing posts with label Manhattan. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Manhattan. Show all posts

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Dim Sum at Jing Fong

As you’ll remember from my post last May, I never realized that a true “dim sum” meal was only served between the hours of 11am and 4pm on weekends. I literally thought it was a style of dining that could happen on any day at any hour, and Patrick and I learned the hard way that this wasn’t so. Over the long President’s Day Weekend two weeks ago, 7 friends, Patrick and I ventured down to China Town at an appropriate hour (1pm) to enjoy some Dim Sum at Jing Fong on an appropriate day (Sunday.) Boy were we in for an adventure.

Thanks to a good friend from home, I had been out until about 5am the night before this dim sum adventure, so needless to say, I was running a few minutes late for our 1pm meeting time. Since I have such punctual friends, some of them were right on time and were able to put our name in for a table. When Patrick and I rounded the corner onto Elizabeth Street, we saw a small mob assembled on the sidewalk in front of the restaurant. I panicked for a moment because I was getting what my friends and I like to call “hangry,” a combination of hungry and angry, the later being mainly caused by the former. Once we met up with our friends, we were told the wait wouldn’t be too long, and it really wasn’t.
I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly large parties were being called into the restaurant, and then I became skeptical. I mean, how could they possibly seat THAT many people THAT quickly? I would soon learn the answer to my question. When our table was called, I did a little yelp of joy and followed my friends inside.

What I wasn’t expecting was a very long escalator that we had to ride underneath a beautiful crystal chandelier.

An escalator in a restaurant? Hm, okay. There’s a first time for everything.

Nothing could prepare me for the room we were about to walk into. The only thing that makes me happier than a real football field is a restaurant the size of a football field, which Jing Fong is. Hundreds of people sat in the room as tables of varying sizes pulling food off of carts as they rolled by How glorious this dim sum idea was! I couldn’t believe the eating adventure I was about to embark upon.

The 9 of us sat at our table and almost immediately, about 12 plates of food were placed in front of us. They just kept pulling dishes off the cart and we just kept shaking our heads yes. More food, please! I squealed with excitement, pulled apart my chopsticks, poured myself a huge glass of water and a cup of tea and off I went.

I can’t really explain in detail every single thing I ate, but there were shumai (my favorite), dumplings, spring rolls, vegetables, chicken feet (Patrick’s fave):

and lots of other things filled with various kinds of meat (shrimp, pork, chicken, beef).  I absolutely loved the shrimp shumai:

and the Taro Cake:

A Taro Cake is a slightly spongy dish that my friend Kat encouraged me to try. It was a flavor unlike anything I’d ever had before, earthy and full of flavor. I highly recommend it if you ever find yourself out for dim sum.

Every time a cart rolled by, we shook our heads yes for more plates to be placed on our table.

The more we ate, the more water we gulped to offset the intense amount of sodium we were consuming and I was sure this meal was going to cost me a pretty penny based solely on how much food we had. When we couldn’t possibly eat another bite, we requested our check and I prepared myself for what I was sure would be a lot of damage. Not so. It came out to exactly $15 per person INCLUDING tax and tip. In New York City? For that much food? Surely there must have been a mistake.

I left Jing Fong with both a tummy and a wallet that were full and happy. We climbed back onto the escalator to go back out into the street and even though I was the thirstiest I had ever been in my entire life, I considered our meal to be a great success.

Have you ever done a dim sum brunch? What are some of your favorite dishes you’ve had?

Let’s Eat!
-The Fabulous Foodie

Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Best Sushi I've Ever Had... Ever.

Seeing as I eat sushi several times a week, it takes a lot for me to see that I just had the BEST sushi I've ever had, but I really did, and I don't see any sushi ever topping this.

One of my favorite things about my boyfriend (along with a lot of other amazing qualities) is that anytime I'm hungry, he's willing to go out and eat whatever I'm craving. Last week, I was craving sushi, and he mentioned that a co-worker had strongly recommended Sushi Yasuda on 43rd between 2nd and 3rd Avenues. I did my research and found very good reviews for this restaurant, so I gave them a call and was excited that they had an open reservation for two that very evening at 7:30pm, so I took it.

Patrick and I met near my office after work and hopped on the subway up to Grand Central and we walked from there. We had a hard time finding the entrance at first, but once we did we ducked inside to find a brightly-lit restaurant with very little decoration besides the light wood wall panels and a row of chefs lining the sushi bar against the side wall. We were shown to our table and handed two menus to begin what would be an unforgettable meal.

The first thing that struck me about the menu was the sheer absence of anything fried or covered in sauce. The menu was broken out into all different types of fish and even had a Pre Fix option where, for $22.50, you could choose five pieces of sushi, two maki rolls and either a soup or a salad. I don't understand why more sushi restaurants don't do this and instead force you to order specific rolls that they have grouped together.

I ordered the Seaweed and the Pre Fixe sushi: Yellowtail (2 pieces), Tuna, Spanish Mackerel & Eel with a Yellowtail Roll and a Tuna Roll. Patrick also got the Pre Fixe sushi and we ordered a Toro Roll to share. The Seaweed Salad was unlike any other I'd had before. The plate that was placed in front of me had 5-6 different types of seaweed on it, not just the green stringy variety I was used to. The plants ranged in color from red to purple to green. The dressing was served on the side and I dunked the leaves into the tasty sauce one by one. If I had to choose, I’d say the green stringy seaweed is the one I prefer, but it was a great way for me to try something new and was the perfect way to whet my palette for the sushi.

The Seaweed Salad was followed by the perfect bowl of Miso Soup that was the most flavorful I've ever tasted. It’s hard for a restaurant to improve too much upon Miso Soup since it is so simple, but this soup was truly wonderful—rich and aromatic with deep, full flavor. Patrick and I both picked up our bowls to slurp the last bit so as not to waste a drop.

We awaited our fish eagerly and I was very excited when large round plates were placed in front of us.

The rolls were smaller than I was used to but the fish was vibrant and looked incredible. Upon the first bite of the sushi, I was truly blown away. Never had I tasted a fresher piece of fish. Patrick had a similar reaction to his first bite and noted that the fish was “melty.” He asked, “what’s a better word for melty?” When we heard the man at the table next to us call his sushi “buttery,” Patrick and I nodded our heads at each other. That was the perfect word, as the fish was so tender and the rice so creamy that it fell apart in my mouth in the most wonderful way possible.

The biggest problem I have with sushi is that I usually eat it far too quickly. I do try to eat it slowly, but all too often, it’s gone before I can say “omakase.” I wasn’t about to let that happen with this heavenly sushi, so I made a great effort to eat my meal slowly, savoring each bite. Each piece of fish I ate was better than the one before it, and I was in absolute awe of the food I was putting into my mouth. I understood why every table in the restaurant was full.

Once we had each finished our Pre Fixe sushi, we moved on to the Toro Roll that we were sharing. I had been meaning to try Toro for a long time, but the letters “MP” next to it on most menus usually steers me towards the Maguro or Hamachi instead. Since we were in an obviously special sushi restaurant, we decided to spend the extra money to try the roll, and it was completely worth it.

Toro is Fatty Tuna and when you eat it, it actually melts away in your mouth. It was a very unique experience and although I felt the Toro was missing the substantial texture of the sushi fish I’m used to, I evaluated it without comparisons and decided that I absolutely loved it.

When we were done, I decided I wanted one more roll, and Patrick encouraged me to order another so I got an additional Yellowtail Scallion Roll. It was the perfect way to end a perfect sushi meal, and I was fully satisfied by the time we finished the roll.

An important thing to note is that when I get to a restaurant and water is delivered to the table, it’s my true preference that I’m given a large water glass. I drink a LOT of water with my meals so rather than risk an empty water glass, I’d rather a larger glass. I was slightly disappointed to see a tiny water glass in front of me when I sat down, but I do have to say, my glass did not have a chance to sit empty for even one second. My glass was refilled about 25 times, which seems both inefficient and impressive to me at the same time. I do think the restaurant would be better off providing larger glasses to minimize their own work, but I can’t complain about it since I was never without water.

If you love sushi and find yourself in Midtown East, I insist that you pay Sushi Yasuda a visit. Call ahead for reservations, order a ton of sushi, sit back and enjoy the best sushi New York City has to offer.

Let’s Eat!
-The Fabulous Foodie

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Come for the Meatballs, Stay for the Pizza

Only two years ago, Michael Chernow and Daniel Holzman revolutionized the restaurant scene and opened The Meatball Shop in NYC's Lower East Side. Serving a variety of meatballs and sauces, The Meatball Shop has been wildly successful, and for good reason. Those meatballs are DIVINE. The atmosphere is bustling and fun, especially at 3am, as the small restaurant is a favorite amongst those who have been out on the town all night (myself included.)

Due to my intense love of the Meatball Shop, I was slightly skeptical when The Meatball Factory opened in the East Village last October. I was worried that the "meatball thing" was getting a little too trendy and that this new Factory would try to be just like the Shop.

Always willing to be proven wrong, I accepted an invitation from a fellow food blogger to try out The Meatball Factory a few weeks ago. I mostly wanted to see if their meatballs could hold a candle to Chernow & Holzman's, so I grabbed Patrick and off we went to The Meatball Factory on a rainy New York City night.

The restaurant wasn't very busy when we arrived but I instantly liked how warm and cozy it was inside. Dark wood and dim lighting set the mood for our meal, and then the food started to arrive to the table. First, the restaurant's namesake.
We had the Turducken Meatballs (house blend of Shady Farms turkey, Bell & Evans chicken, Hudson Valley Farms duck confit, sage & allspice) with Dragon's Lair Sauce (green curry peanut sauce with red bell pepper and thai basil)

and Hog Wild Meatballs (raised heritage pork shoulder, ground heritage pork shoulder, Nueske’s cherrywood bacon fat, mascarpone and a dash of red chili paste) with Pepper Monkey Sauce (Dave’s roasted poblano bbq sauce- a smokey & tangy blend of roasted chiles & tomatoes, cider vinegar, & molasses.) 

I LOVED the Turducken Meatballs. They were tender and delicious and the Dragon's Lair Sauce was one of the best sauces I have ever tasted on anything. I had to restrain myself from picking up the bowl and drinking it, it was that good. On the other hand, I wasn't crazy about the Hog Wild Meatballs. I found the consistency to be a little bit chewy and too dense. The BBQ sauce was okay, but nothing special. Needless to say, I focused most of my attention on the bowl of Turducken balls. YUM!

I did try to save some room for the rest of the food we had coming, the Shrooming Pizza with Roasted wild mushrooms, baby arugula & truffle time cream sauce and the Roasted Brussels Sprouts with maple syrup and red chili sauce.

The pizza was even better than the meatballs. I loved how thin the crust was and the mushrooms were earthy and perfectly cooked. The pizza was gone faster than it had come out, and we moved onto the Brussels Sprouts.

While Brussels Sprouts are my favorite vegetable, I tend to like them a little bit on the lighter side with just a touch of salt, pepper and olive oil. These were very tasty, but the maple syrup weighed them down and made them a bit too sugary. Don't get me wrong, we finished every last one, but I would have liked them better with less on them.

Even though this meal had us incredibly full, we knew we still had dessert coming, the Hot Tin Roof Sundae (Daves malted hot fudge & sea salt caramel along with candied nutmeg walnuts over marshmellow gelato.) I know I mention this in almost every post, but dessert just isn't my thing. This one wasn't much different, but it was still pretty tasty. The walnuts added a good amount of salt to the dessert, which I like, and mixed with the caramel I almost enjoyed it, but I left most of the dessert-eating to my sweets-loving boyfriend. But not before I had him snap a photo of me with a rare dessert that I actually liked!

Overall, I really enjoyed our meal at The Meatball Factory. I was glad we gave it a chance and was even pleasantly surprised that short of the name, The Meatball Factory is not trying to be The Meatball Shop. The Shop's meatballs are more of the rustic Italian variety and while the Meatball Factory is definitely riding on more of the trendy meatball wave, some of the food is good enough to sustain it. Some dishes were certainly better than others, but Patrick and I both liked the food we had and would go back again for more. Especially that Dragon's Lair Sauce!

How do you feel about the meatball trend? Shop or Factory? I'm still very strongly in the Shop camp if I had to choose, but it's best not to compare them, as they are two very different restaurants.

Let's Eat!
-The Fabulous Foodie

Monday, December 5, 2011

Amazing Ramen at Ippudo

As someone who considers herself a foodie in New York City, I know there are a handful of restaurants that simply can not be missed. At the very top of that list is Ippudo, the famed Ramen restaurant at the edge of the East Village. Notorious for not taking reservations (and not needing to), Ippudo often boasts over a 2-hour wait. I have gone in once or twice, learned of the long wait and left, and I now realize how big of a mistake that was.

Photo courtesy of

The night Patrick and I went for ramen, it was cold and rainy and truly perfect conditions for eating a huge bowl of comforting noodles. When the hostess told me the wait was only 45 minutes, I gave her my name and we happily headed to the bar to wait for our table. After a few beers (for Pat) and a yummy glass of cucumber sake (for me), our name was finally called and I squealed in excitement. While we had been waiting at the bar, a few people around us ordered some appetizers, and the pork buns looked and smelled incredible. We knew we had to get them.

As we were being shown to our seats, the cooks in the kitchen yelled a welcome to us and we were shown to a cozy table in the back. We immediately ordered a bottle of cold sake and an order of pork buns and then checked out the ramen options. We both knew that we wanted to try the most well-known dish on the menu, so we looked up the ramen that was featured on the "With Chopsticks" episode of one of our favorite shows, The Best Thing I Ever Ate. For that episode, Claire Robinson chose the Akamaru Modern Ramen from Ippudo, and so did we: The original "Tonkotsu" noodle soup topped with Ippudo's secret "Umami Dama" miso paste, pork chashu, cabage, kikurage, scallions, and fragrant garlic oil. We both also added a Nitamago (seasoned salt boiled egg) and  Kakuni (braised pork belly). 

The pork buns were, without any doubt, the most delicious pork buns I have ever tasted. A little sweet, a little savory and wrapped in an amazing, light and fluffy bun.I tried to eat it slowly to savor it, but I couldn't help it and it was gone in about 10 seconds. I know it's important to leave as much room for the ramen as possible, but honestly, you can not miss this pork bun.

Now, for the important stuff, the ramen. We saw the two steaming bowls of ramen being brought towards us and we could barely wait to dive into it. I knew I was going to burn my mouth, but it was the most worth-it pain I have ever experienced.
There aren't enough words to possibly describe how this soup tasted. Bold, complex flavors swirled in a sea of perfectly-cooked noodles and other treasures that hid just below the surface of the incredible broth. Patrick and I looked up at each other about halfway through our meal and realized that we hadn't said a word to each other since the food arrived to our table. For those who know us, it takes a lot to shut us up. This soup surely did the trick.

If you have the chance to make it to Ippudo in NYC for ramen, I'd highly suggest you do so. It's a food experience you really shouldn't miss. What are your thoughts on ramen? Amazing bowl of comfort food? Trendy food that won't outlast the test of time? Let me know what you think!

Let's Eat!
-The Fabulous Foodie

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Strip House Steak Rivals Luger

I know the title of this post is just ridiculous. A better steak than my out-of-body experience at Peter Luger last winter? Could it be? Maybe. All I know is that Jill, Lauren and I had been dying to try Strip House in the Village for months and we finally snagged a 9:30pm reservation last Saturday night.

Since I usually do write about the full experience, I will get out my complaint that our table wasn't ready on time and we had to sit and wait a full 25-30 minutes before we were seated at a table smack in the middle of the crowded bar. But whatever disappointment this caused quickly melted away as soon as we started eating.
 (photo courtesy of - this was our exact table!)

 For our appetizer, the 3 of us split the New England Sea Scallops with edamame succotash, black truffle butter and corn broth and the Caesar Salad with hearts of romaine, paprika croutons and shaved parmesan. Both were very yummy and we were all so starving that the food was gone before I could even think to take a picture. Oh well, sometimes you really just have to live in the moment.

Something I may have mentioned about my dear friend Jill in the past (sorry Jill) is that we like our meat cooked a bit... differently. I mean this in the most loving way possible, but my friend really likes to make sure that cow is dead. Not me. It could be mooing and I'd likely still eat it. Medium rare is how I like mine cooked, the bloodier the better. Gross to some, yes, but not to Lauren. This is why the two of us decided to split the 40 oz. Classic Porterhouse for two. Lauren had to be talked into this cut, but I'm pretty sure she was very happy with our decision.

For our sides, we chose the Black Truffle Creamed Spinach, Sautéed Wild Mushrooms and Sautéed Green Beans With Garlic.
Yum! While I only took a small taste of the spinach to save my stomach, all 3 of these were absolutely perfect. The green beans were crisp, the spinach creamy and the mushrooms earthy. Wonderful compliments to our unbelievable steak, my plate was truly a work of art.
I know a lot of people would be turned off by how rare my steak was, but this was an utterly perfect piece of meat. Since Lauren loves Filet Mignon and I love NY Strip, the waiter gave her more of the Filet and me more of the Strip. Amazing. Fantastic. Incredible. I can't use enough words to describe how phenomenal this steak was. Was this better than Luger? I don't know if I can actually make that call, but this was pretty darn close.

We didn't leave any room for dessert (big surprise for me) and overcame our food coma with espressos and capuccinos for the table. Then we strapped on our dancing shoes, headed out in Meatpacking and had a great night. I'm curious though, how do you like your steak cooked? Do you think medium rare is too bloody? Do you agree with me that medium well is a waste of a perfectly good piece of meat? Well, I say, to each their own, just don't overcook MY steak.

Let's Eat!
-The Fabulous Foodie

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Great Find: Burger & Barrel

For over a year, I walked from the East Village to Soho across Houston Street to work. The space at the corner of Mercer & West Houston always looked like a spot that would work well for a restaurant, but nothing good was ever there. Until now.

After a day of Christmas shopping around the city, Patrick and I found ourselves hungry in Soho. We passed by Burger & Barrel noting that it looked good, and after checking out the menu, we were sold, it looked awesome. We walked in the door and we were greeted by a trio of friendly ladies and shown to a table for 2 near the bar.

The decor of the restaurant was the first thing I noticed, all dark wood and red tiles arranged to look like exposed brick. Our waitress was attentive and friendly, and she loved that I took pictures of the food (seriously, she high-fived me.)

Patrick & I decided to share 2 appetizers and 1 entree, so we each picked an app to start with. I chose the Short Rib Tacos and he chose the Tuna Tartare. The waitress assured us we had made solid choices, and brought us the wine and beer we had ordered.

When the food came out, it looked delicious. Two small tacos that were bursting with color and a perfect circle of Tuna Tartare topped with Avocado Mousse and surrounded by crunchy chips were placed on our table. The tacos tasted even better than they looked. The Short Rib was tender and full of rich flavor, not at all dry as Short Rib can sometimes get. The veggies inside the taco were fresh, and served as the perfect compliment to the meat.
The Tuna Tartare was the perfect shade of red/pink and tasted exactly as it should: chilled, with a great texture and taste. The Avocado Mousse on top was awesome and paired really well with the fish. The chips were the right amount of salty, and served as a great serving utensil for the fish and avocado. When all 3 elements were eaten together, the result was perfection.
For our main dish, we chose to share the Fried Cornish Hen with Mashed Potatoes, Gravy & Cole Slaw. The waitress again assured us we had made a great choice, and I only believed her once I tasted it. Frying a Cornish Hen results in a less greasy, juicier take on classic Fried Chicken. While I wish the portion had been a little larger since Patrick and I were sharing, that is my only complaint. We "ooed" and "ahhed" our way through the entire dish until our plate was completely empty.
When we were finished with our meal, we decided to share the Salty Peanut Butter Brownie Sundae, which was good, but I wouldn't recommend it. The brownies were cold and the Peanut Butter drizzle was just okay. This further confirms my theory that dessert isn't worth saving room for, but I'll leave that argument for another time. Overall, the meal, the drinks, the decor and the service were all outstanding, and I highly recommend everyone try this place as soon as possible. It's only been open for 3 months, and it's only a matter of time before it turns into a Soho gem.

On the dessert topic, I'm interested to hear your take on ordering dessert. Do you always order it? Never order it? Do you specifically leave room for it, or are you one of those people who proudly shouts "I always have room for dessert!" after a meal? Let me know, I love hearing from you.

Let's Eat!
-The Fabulous Foodie

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Brunch Spots: Stanton Social

To write about brunch spots in NYC and not include Chris Santos' Lower East Side gem Stanton Social would be a crime. Stanton Social is a beautiful restaurant and bar that I first knew as the place to get an awesome dirty martini amid beautiful people on a Saturday night. The first time I tried it for brunch, my life was forever changed.

The first thing that sets Stanton Social apart from other brunch spots is the fact that the menu is tapas-style. Tapas? For brunch? Oh yes.

If you're anything like me, you'll order eggs for brunch and when they come, you'll wish you ordered pancakes, and vice versa. Or, you'll go all out and order the special that has eggs, bacon, ham, sausage, pancakes, biscuits and waffles, eat everything and then need to lie down to take a 100-hour nap. (And if you're a Dane Cook fan, you'll note that this is also called "taking a coma.")

But not at Stanton Social. Here you can order a stack of Silver Dollar Pancakes, 1 small Bacon, Egg & Cheese Slider, a tiny plate of Huevos Rancheros and an order of Pumpkin Mini-Muffins and still have room for the famous French Onion Soup Dumplings. This concept is brilliant, and I went for brunch this past Sunday with Patrick, Caroline and two of Pat's friends from Baltimore. Here is what we had.

Caroline and I started with the Pumpkin Muffins with Cinnamon Butter. Seasonal, moist and absolutely delicious. Pumpkin is one of my favorite flavors, so if there is a pumpkin item on the menu, I will usually order it. These muffins didn't disappoint. Patrick got the Ricotta Fritters with Raspberry Jam, and they were sweet with a wonderful ricotta flavor. We all know I'm not one for sweet, but if there is any kind of cheese, I'm in.
The next dishes to come out were the Huevos Rancheros, Red Snapper Mini Tacos and Spicy Lobster Benedict. The Huevos Rancheros are the perfect minature portion of the classic dish with scrambled chorizo & eggs, black beans, 'salsa fresca' & aged cheddar.
The Snapper Tacos were a delight, although I thought they were a little too tiny, and I didn't try the Lobster Benedict, but Caroline & Pat seemed very pleased with it.
One of my favorite items on the menu is the Double Smoked Bacon, Egg & Cheese on a Buttermilk Biscuit. This comes with a side of crispy salt & vinegar chips, and I have to say, this version of the classic blows away every other I've ever had. The biscuit is buttery (stomachache alert!), the bacon is smokey and the cheese is oozy. This is the point in the meal when I've stopped trying to make conversation with my friends and am just sitting there in awe of the delicious food I'm eating.

Another item that my friends ordered that I didn't try was the 'Kobe Philly' with Truffle & Goat Cheese Fondue. Those who did have it said it was their favorite thing they had. Sounds like I missed out, but there's always next time!

We rounded out the meal with the Spicy Lamb Souvlakis with Tzatziki, Lime & Harissa Aioli, the Social Mac & Cheese with Chorizo & Ovendried Tomato and the aforementioned famous French Onion Soup Dumplings.
The Lamb Souvlaki is delicious and is one of Pat's favorites, the Mac & Cheese was very good, although a bit heavy for me, especially after everything I'd already had, and the French Onion Soup Dumplings were, as always, incredible. A beautiful dumpling filled with piping hot French Onion Soup on a toothpick topped with a crouton and tons of ooey gooey cheese make for Stanton Social's top brunch item and my personal favorite. I'm not kidding when I tell you, if you try nothing else on the entire menu, go to Stanton Social and order yourself these dumplings. You won't be disappointed.

All 5 of us ended our meal absolutely stuffed, and the ONLY bite left on the table was the end of the Mac & Cheese. We were all too full to take the last bite. This is a brunch that I will recommend every New Yorker try at least once, go with a good group and share everything on the menu. The food is incredible.

Chris Santos has just opened another restaurant called Beauty & Essex around the corner form Stanton Social. I have dinner reservations there next week, and I can't wait to try it and write about it.

Well done, Mr. Santos. Well done.

Let's Eat!
-The Fabulous Foodie

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Ciano: The Food Shines

I'd been hearing about Shea Gallante's new restaurant, Ciano, for weeks. Email newsletters, Twitter updates, NY Times' Diner Journal articles... everything promised delicious, non-pretentious food in the Flatiron District.

When I logged onto Open Table, my go-to source for restaurant reservations, I was excited to see one single 8pm reservation left for Ciano's opening night, November 5th. The menu looked fabulous, and the restaurant seemed very promising.

As soon as Patrick and I stepped in the door, I was impressed with the warmth of the restaurant and the inviting decor: low lighting, candles, bustling but not too loud. After waiting a few minutes, we were shown to our table, a cozy two-top, and our meal began.

Right off the bat, we could tell the waitstaff didn't quite have their act together. But, we both realized it was opening night of a new restaurant, and we'd be patient. We ordered two glasses of wine and started to look over the menu.

Immediately, we both decided we had to try the veal meatballs. When our waiter finally came over to our table after waiting about twenty minutes, we were told they were out of the meatballs. No problem, we ordered the Scallops with Brussels Sprouts.

After waiting about another twenty minutes, the waiter came back over to take our dinner order: we decided to share both the Pappardelle with Duck Ragu and the Slow-Roasted Lemon-Rosemary Chicken.

When our scallops came to the table, I was impressed with how delicious they looked.
At this point, we were starting to get slightly annoyed at how impossible it was to get our waiter's attention anytime we needed anything, but then we tasted the dish. The soft, tender scallops were bursting with flavor, and the Brussels Sprouts added the perfect texture and taste to the dish. We both let out a long "mmmm" as we attacked the dish until there was nothing left. "Okay," I thought "maybe they have some work to do on the service front, but this food is GOOD."

After another very long wait, our main courses arrived to the table. The delicious smells were overwhelming, and the presentation of the food was beautiful. Patrick ordered another glass of wine and we started to dig in. At first we ate slowly to wait for his wine, but minutes ticked away and it never showed up. When we finally did get the waiter's attention, he assured us the wine was "being poured." We continued to eat, but the wine never showed up. We were finished with the food before the waiter came back to the table, at which point Patrick pointed out that his wine had never shown up. The waiter apologized, and we canceled the wine order.

In spite of the wine debacle, I must say, the food was incredible. The pappardelle was perfectly-cooked al dente, the duck ragu was absolutely delicious and the chicken was quite honestly the best roasted chicken I have ever tasted. Juicy, tender and flavorful, the skin was crispy and the taste was amazing. We finished every last bite, and agreed that the food was fabulous.
Now, we all know how I feel about dessert, but the salt from the meal actually left me craving a taste of sweet, so we thought we'd look over the dessert menu. We asked our waiter to bring some over, and he said he'd be right back with them. 5 minutes passed. 10 minutes passed. 15 minutes passed. The waiter was nowhere to be seen. Before we knew it, another waiter brought over our check, and told us to have a great night. I guess that was the end of that!

We paid the bill and still left a nice tip, because we were sure the waiter was trying his hardest and we realize that opening night is difficult.

Because the food was SO good, I decided to give my feedback to the restaurant on their Facebook page. I wrote that I was disappointed in the service, and waited to see if a response would come from the Ciano team. I only half-expected to hear anything.

Well, let me tell you, not only did they write back promptly, but I heard directly from Shea Gallante himself! He wrote me a personalized, long Facebook message apologizing for the service, assuring me that it was the pains of opening night, and letting me know that this is not the experience his team is striving for. He wanted to know what he could do to make me happy.

Mr. Gallante, you've already done it. We were initially upset with the service, but I do understand that opening a restaurant is difficult, and the service shown on opening night doesn't necessarily predict how the service will be moving forward. Your food was absolutely delicious, and your personal response to me made up for the service we received on opening night. We will be back to Ciano to again eat your amazing food, and we will certainly give the waitstaff another chance.

Chefs and restaurateurs, take notes from Mr. Gallante. He knows what he's doing in the kitchen, and he knows how to treat his patrons.

Let's Eat!
-The Fabulous Foodie

Monday, November 8, 2010

Brunch Spots: Cafeteria

Cafeteria, a popular 24-hour restaurant in Chelsea, has a motto: You Are. You Eat. If that's true, I'm 3 amazing little bowls of the best Mac & Cheese I've ever had, and I'm perfectly okay with that.

When my friend Jill and I wanted to get brunch one Saturday afternoon, we chose Cafeteria because we'd both eaten there before and remembered the food being delicious. We had both never been for brunch, so we decided to give it a try. And boy am I glad we did!

At first, I was a little intimidated by how many people were waiting for tables, but the hostess told us it would only be about 25-30 minutes, so we decided to belly up to the bar and order some mimosas to kick off our Saturday afternoon. At only $10 a pop, I had a delicious grapefruit mimosa while Jill had an equally yummy OJ mimosa.

When our table was ready, the two of us agreed on one thing: We HAD to try the Mac & Cheese. Several orders of the ooey gooey deliciousness had passed by while we waited at the bar, and we just had to have it for ourselves. We ordered one "Mac Attack" while we looked over the rest of the menu. The Mac Attack consists of a taste of each of their 3 Mac & Cheese flavors:
-Cheddar & Fontina
-Smoked Gouda & Bacon
-Truffle Oil
All 3 were incredibly good, but my personal favorite was the Smoked Gouda and Bacon. I highly recommend the Mac Attack if you're planning a visit to Cafeteria.

Although the portions of Mac & Cheese look small, they were very filling, but we still went ahead and ordered brunch main courses. Jill opted for the BLT with chips while I got cheesy egg whites, turkey bacon, side salad and a biscuit.

When the BLT came out, we were both shocked about how huge it was. Jill knew right away that she'd only be able to finish half of her sandwich, if even that much, and that she'd be taking the other half home to eat later. The portions at Cefeteria are definitely very good for the price.
My scrambled egg whites were perfectly fluffy and cheesy, the biscuit was delicious, the side salad had a great-tasting balsamic dressing and the turkey bacon was very tasty.
Neither one of us did much damage to our meals because we were quite full from our appetizer, but regardless, all the food was very good, and I can't wait to go back to Cafeteria for brunch again.

Mac & Cheese, in its purest form, comes out of a blue box, but a lot of restaurants love putting their own spin on it. What is the best Mac & Cheese dish you've ever had? Do you prefer it as a gourmet dish, or as Kraft originally intended? Let me know, I'd love to hear from you.

Let's Eat!
-The Fabulous Foodie

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Fabulous Food: WD-50

If you're going to claim to be a foodie in NYC, there are certain restaurants that just have to be on your "must try" list. Per Se (it can't be the #1 restaurant on every NYC list for no reason), Del Posto (to see if it really deserved that 4th Michelin star) and, as the title of this post suggests, WD-50 (because what does "molecular gastronomy" really taste like, Mr. Dufresne?) Ever since I met my boyfriend Patrick a few years ago, this restaurant has been at the top of his "must try" list. For his birthday last week, I decided to surprise him with dinner at WD-50.

Let me start off by saying that I decided to take Patrick to WD-50 in mid-September. When I went on (a popular reservation website) to make the reservation, I noticed there were only 6pm and 9pm reservations. How could this be? I was looking at dates that were a month out. I figured I'd give them a call. I told them I wanted a reservation at 7:30pm on October 21st. "Would you like to take 6pm or 9pm?" Seriously?! On a Thursday night a month in advance? Now I, too, was intrigued. I took the 9pm reservation and figured we'd just make a late night out of it.

We ended up at a bar in Soho for our friend Sam's last day at her old job before dinner, so we got into a cab around 8:30pm. I whispered the streets to the cab driver and made Patrick close his eyes. I was so excited to surprise him! We finally arrived on Clinton in the Lower East Side and got out of the cab across the street from WD-50. When he noticed the restaurant, a huge smile spread across his face. He looked like a little kid in Disney World. Finally we'd get to eat at the restaurant he's been pining after for years!

We stepped inside and were told our table was not yet ready, which was fine because we were early. We sat at the bar and ordered drinks. I had a fantastically crisp Savignon Blanc while Patrick, as usual, ordered the most intriguing cocktail on the menu, which was a mix of tequila and about 10 other ingredients. He loved it, and we were off to a good start.

When our table was finally ready, we were lead into the dining area and that is when we saw Wylie Dufresne himself in the open-layout kitchen. We were instantly starstruck. Great chefs are huge celebrities to us, and this was truly exciting. We sat down between two couples who were clearly enjoying the $140 tasting menu with $85 wine pairing, and we started to look over the menu.

Before we had decided what we wanted, the waitress came over with a bottle of Rose Champagne. She popped it, put it on our table and said "Happy Birthday, Love Mom." How sweet! Patrick's mom had sent a bottle of champagne to our table for his birthday. Thanks again Mrs. Patty & Mr. George, it was delicious! The bottle was a mix of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and it went perfectly with our meal.

Speaking of our meal. We decided to split 2 appetizers: The first was aerated foie with pickled beet, mashed plum & brioche. The texture of the foie was incredible, much like that of a chocolate mousse. When you took a bite with all the elements on the plate together, the taste was like nothing I'd ever had before.
The second appetizer we shared was the Peekytoe crab roll with salt ‘n vinegar chips & celery mayonnaise. Again, the taste was out of this world. The color of the celery mayo was incredible. The salt 'n vinegar chips added just the right texture and flavor to the crab roll. Patrick and I would take a bite of one of the appetizers and then trade plates until every last bite was gone. If our entrees were going to be anything like the appetizers, we were truly in for a treat.
For dinner I decided on the Duck breast with apple, cheddar & kimchee-cous cous while Patrick ordered the Iberico pork neck with smoked paprika spaetzle, peach & marcona almond. When they came out, I was pleasantly surprised at how large the portions were. Both dishes were cooked to perfection and smelled incredible. The dish with the broth is the duck, and the broth was a cheese-based broth (not butter, as I feared.) As we ate, we traded bites and marveled at how delicious it all tasted. Duck dishes I've had in the past have been both over-salted and rubbery, but this dish was both well-seasoned and very tender. I enjoyed every bite.
Patrick also seemed to love his pork dish, which I thought was one of the most delicious bites of pork I had ever tasted. The spaetzle was a delicious accompaniment to the meat, and the peach and almond added a nice flavor.
When we finished our dinner, we decided we had to try a dessert. As you know, dessert is a course I usually skip, but I already knew they were bringing out a candle for Patrick's birthday so I decided I would split something with him. I let him pick, and he chose the Hazelnut tart with coconut, chocolate & chicory. The dessert was actually more salty than it was sweet, so even I enjoyed it!
When we had finished the last bite, we thought the night couldn't get any better. That was until the waitress took us back into the kitchen to meet Wylie Dufresne himself! Amazing! He was so nice and humble, and it truly made the night one that neither of us will ever forget.
Happy Birthday, Patrick! I can't wait to go back and try the amazing tasting menu!

What is the #1 restaurant you're dying to try? If you could meet any chef, who would it be? My next goal is to meet Tom Colicchio, my favorite chef!

Let's Eat!
-The Fabulous Foodie

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Brunch Spots: The Bluebell Cafe

When I wake up on the weekends, the only thing I can think of is a big plate of eggs, potatoes & bacon. I like The Bluebell Cafe because it feels like home, and the food tastes like home.
The staff is friendly, the decor is very comfortable & inviting and the food is really good. When Patrick and I went a few weekends ago, I ordered the Bluebell Breakfast for $13.00.
It comes with two eggs any way (I got them sunny-side up), bacon, Cumberland sausage, buttermilk biscuit and potatoes. I don't know about you, but I'm a sucker for biscuits, and the one at Bluebell doesn't disappoint. My eggs were perfectly runny, the bacon was crispy and the french fry-like potatoes were delicious. The breakfast also comes with a few pieces of fresh fruit, which makes quite a lot of food for $13. The breakfast also comes with a fresh-squeezed OJ.

Strangely enough, while we were sitting eating our food, a man ran into the restaurant, went into the kitchen, and ran out a few seconds later with the fire extinguisher. It turns out that awning over the store next door had caught on fire, and this man was just walking by when he noticed the fire. Acting quickly, he ran into our restaurant to get the fire extinguisher, and then went and put the fire out before the fire department arrived. That day I had my eggs with a side of excitement!

Has anything exciting or unusual ever happened while you've been out at a restaurant?

Let's Eat!
-The Fabulous Foodie

Friday, October 8, 2010

FoodParc: A Gourmet Food Court

When I heard that there was going to be a new restaurant in Chelsea that puts a gourmet spin on the food court theme, I have to admit that I was a little skeptical. Visions of MSG-laden Chinese food & 3,000-calorie Cinnabons danced in my head.

I asked my friend Sarah to meet me at FoodParc (6th Ave between 29th & 30th) last night because I wanted to see it for myself. She loves food like I do, so it was an easy sell. From the minute we walked in the door, our mouths were hanging open in delight & surprise.

First of all, there were so many things to choose from! Sandwiches, salads, delicious-looking Asian-fusion dishes, smoothies, coffee, even a bar! I was instantly excited. Then we realized that for the actual ordering, you use a touch-screen computer with a built-in credit card machine. Cool! Once we made our selections (a process that took no less than 20 minutes) we paid for the food. I ordered half of an Eggplant Parmesan sandwich & a shrimp eggroll, and it only cost $9! That was a very pleasant surprise.

I then opted to receive a text message when my food was ready. Sarah & I took our receipts and watched as our order numbers appeared on a giant TV screen. Once my order was ready, I instantly received a text message and they called out my number for pick-up. Talk about efficient!

Once we had our lovely bags of food, we went to sit by the window. I opened the boxes and was delighted to find that the food looked incredibly delicious.
And it was! It truly tasted as good as it looked. Both dishes were piping hot and not the least bit greasy. The egg roll was crunchy and flavorful while the sandwich was cheesy and delicious. The only downside to the entire meal was that the tomato sauce on the sandwich was just a tad bit too sweet for my taste, but it still tasted so good!

I am very excited to visit this restaurant many more times to try everything on the menu. I noticed there was a build-your-own burger station that also had not only a BLT menu, but a grilled cheese menu as well. This place is too good to be true!

What is your opinion on one-stop shop dining? Do you prefer restaurants that stick to just one thing, or do you like this "food court-style" dining trend? If you live in NYC, have you tried FoodParc yet? Do you plan to? I'll definitely be returning.

Let's Eat!
-The Fabulous Foodie

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Fabulous Food: BONDST

BONDST has been my favorite restaurant since before I even moved to NYC. Why? I could go on all day, but here are a few reasons:
1. The food is exceptional
2. The atmosphere is sexy & intimate
3. Their Restaurant Week menu is to die for
4. Did I mention the food already?

Upon my first visit to BONDST a few summers ago, I tasted the Spicy Crispy Shrimp and the Chilean Seabass Skewer. Both dishes are amazing, but the Chilean Seabass Skewer may very well be one of the most delicious dishes I have ever eaten in my life. That is a bold statement, as I have certainly eaten a LOT of dishes in my time, but one taste and most would agree.

I have been telling my boyfriend about this restaurant for probably the last year. We had our anniversary last week, so I thought there was no better place to celebrate than BONDST. Personally, I prefer to sit downstairs in the lounge where they don't take reservations because you can't get the Seabass Skewer in the main dining room upstairs. Such a shame!

We stepped inside, sat down and began drooling over the menu. We decided we'd order 3 hot appetizers and 3 sushi rolls. I, of course, took pictures of everything. We started off with...
The Spicy Crispy Shrimp
The Goat Cheese Crab Cakes
And The Chilean Seabass Skewers
All 3 dishes were delicious, but that skewer has a special place in my heart. My boyfriend completely agreed. He noted, "The fish is sweet & smokey at the same time, and it flakes apart as you eat it." I'm telling you, get yourself to BONDST, sit downstairs in the lounge, and order this dish.

The miso glaze on top of the fish truly is both sweet & smokey, and even the mixed greens that come on the side have a delicious, fresh taste. I am always glad the dish comes with 2 skewers, because as I mentioned in my Tapas post, I'm not the best at sharing...
The 3 sushi rolls we ordered were Hot Eel Dice (top), Sesame-Crusted Shrimp with Citrus Curry Dipping Sauce (middle) and Spicy Tuna (bottom)

The rolls were great! I used to love eel, but all it takes is one bad eel experience. I remember getting an eel avocado roll one day from a West Village sushi spot, and the eel was a horrible, hard consistency with a terrible taste. I was skeptical to ever order eel again. The Hot Eel Dice roll at BONDST changed everything. The meat is tender and full of delicious, rich flavor. My faith in eel has been restored.

Patrick and I each ordered a drink, neither were anything to write home about, but I don't go to BONDST for their cocktails. I can't wait to go back, and I can't wait for Winter Restaurant Week! I make it a point to stop at BONDST every time Restaurant Week comes around, and as often as I can in between.

If you live in NYC, have you ever eaten at BONDST? What did you think? What's your favorite restaurant? Leave comments, I'd love to hear from you!

Let's Eat!
-The Fabulous Foodie