Thursday, January 31, 2008

A Few of My Favourite Things

Here are the main things the Restauranteurs/chefs wanted to see more of in 2008:
A decent size serve - enough to taste the components of a dish
The rise of Merlot and Reisling
A greater role for hosts - residential style dining in restaurants
Jamon Iberica
Creativity with vegetables
and one that specially appealed to me
More marijuana smoking before dinner - improves the appetite and the takings!

AND

What they've had enough of:
The term 'Celebrity chef'
Salt on chocolate
The expression 'Molecular' gastronmy/cooking or whatever
Waste and the use of non renewable resources
Chemicals, Foams, Degustation menus
Fusion
Bottled water
Restaurants with 120 seats! or more.
I would add to that list waiters who ask what you would like to drink before you've had time to look at the drinks menu and waiters who presume to comment, uninvited, on your menu choices with meaningless compliments like 'excellent choice' sir!
Any more suggestions?

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Disappointed

Every now and then I go to that middle of the road , indeterminate East meets West fusion style restaurant, Barbarino and Wong It's fairly consistently ordinary. I'm not sure if other places are getting better (I doubt it) or they are getting worse but last week I found it less than ordinary. Their famed ribs had very little meat on them, The "crisp" potato wedges were completely soft, the shredded duck noodles were over salted and the honey chicken cloyingly sweet.
The fact that the serves are generous doesn't count for much when they taste so poor.
It will be a long long time before I go there again
Score: 11.75/20

Tempura Hajime

Tucked away behind an unobtrusive black wooden door with no outside signage Tempura
Hajime is typical of many Tokyo restaurants. Specialising in tempura it has a fixed price ($68) degustation style menu there is place for 12 diners at a 3 sided bar.
Because
it is small and quiet it is not difficult to talk to anyone although it’s certainly easier to chat with those closest to you.
Depending on word of mouth TP was booked out for 3 months ahead until recently when they decided to only take reservations one month ahead so now they’re only booked out one month ahead!!

Dai, the shaven headed proprietor/chef, stands behind the bar with a deep pan of oil (90% soy, 5% tea and %5 sesame) on gas burners on each side with a tray of flour and a bowl of batter and a few simple instruments.

He’s happy to chat while attending to the cooking.
After taking an order for wine, there is a modest selection of Saki or red or whites available, the waitress brought us a plate of sashimi – two small slices of the most tender and delicate Kingfish, tuna and salmon with a very mild wasabi and a pleasant dipping sauce and a few slices of red gurney on a green salad with a light creamy sauce in a separate small bowl.

A superb start to the meal
This was replaced with a bowl of dipping sauce, some chopped white radish, salt and lemon juice

and Dai began by rolling the first tempura dish, a prawn, in flour.
Each dish was served separately after being taken from the boiling oil, shaken and placed on a fresh folded sheet of paper. There was never more than the tiniest drop of fat on the paper and the batter was invariably light, crisp and hot
Each thing we had was quite excellent. The food retained its character and distinctive taste and could be dipped in lemon or have salt sprinkled on it to ones personal taste.

I will just put the photographs here without much comment. Suffice it to say this is, of its type, a superb dining experience. For reasons not clear to me the captions relating to the pictures have not come out where
i put them when writing this review but it's not very hard to work out where they should be
Prawn












Asparagus







S
S

Scallop stuffd with sea urchin















Sweet potato












Salad with sea weed


Mushroom stuffed with prawn meat














Baby corn

King George whiting










Eggplant with chicken stuffing








Teriyaki eel














Nori wrapped fish with pickled plum and sesame seeds










Fried vegetables and seafood on a bed of rice

Youghurt with grape fruit juice and cointreau

Toward the end of the meal we were brought a shot glass of apple flavoured saki on ice which acted as a lovely palate cleanser










Score:17.5 /20

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Tevere Manhattan

Sister, or brother, of Va Bene this restaurant at 1589 3rd Ave, near 84th St., established by a Roman Jewish family, produces excellent glatt/kosher Italian meals. Regarded as a bit expensive I'm getting used to it after a week of adding 8+% tax and then 18% tip to what starts off as pretty reasonable priced dishes. A plate of pasta which I paid an outrageous $11 for 20 years ago now ends up at about $26.50 translated to A$ that's about $30 - expensive but hardly crippling.
One bit of advice if you eat in an ethnic restaurant order what they do best. If you get out of their comfort zone you're likely to regret it.
This is a fairly sophisticated restaurant although the best dressed people in it (excluding my wife) were the waiters. The tables, set with white linen, are reasonably spaced, and conversaion is posible without straining.
The food is good and the serves good size.
We enjoyed a range of pasta dishes - fettuccini with mushrooms, ravioli and lasagna with a bottle of 2004 Bartenura Chianti and very tasty desserts - a Napoleon crisp layers of pastry with 'cream' not the ral thing of course, between each layer, apple pie and sorbet.
Price: Around $65/person
Comments With my growing experience of Manhattan kosher restaurants I can confidently say this is among the best of them
Score:14.25 /20

What's for Dinner in 2008

Recently Zagat invited a number of restaurant owners and chefs to say what they would like to see more of, and less of this year.
Now I don't want to prejudice peoples views so I won't tell you what they came up with except for one guy who asked bloggers to butt out and leave reviews to the professionals!
Anyway I think it was an interesting idea.
So how about it readers
Please send you comments for what you would like/dislike for this year.
I'll put my two bits in in about a weeks time.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Va Bene - Manahattan

At 1589 2nd Ave close to E 83rd St. this Italian Jewish restaurant serves a wide range of appetizers - soups, pizzas salads, pastas, fish dishes and desserts. No meat
The formerly dressed waiters were the best dressed people in the place which had a pleasant tone about it. Not too noisy and well spaced tables.
We started with a thin crust cheese pizza and a soup followed by a variety of pastas and desserts.
It went so fast only 2 slices were left when I got my camera out!


Everything was typical domestic Italian with large good solid serves at very reasonable prices.

Fettucini in cream sauceSpaghetti pommodoro

Above the special - pasta with salmon in a pink sauce ((tomato and cream)

Apple strudel Crepes with chocolate sauce
Excellent sorbet - Berry, lemon and mango
We skipped the wine
Price US$170 for fourof us
Comments Fair value in this fair city. Of course one can eat for a lot less

Score:13.25 /20

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

My Most Favourite Food - Manhattan




We tried this small kosher restaurant on 45th Street for breakfast. The proprietor was very friendly but that was the best thing going for the place. Eggs Benedict with a smear of Bearnaise were very ordinary. The strawberry pancakes were nice
but there must be a thousand little brekky places the equal or better.
Bottomless coffee but tea by the cup though they offered additional hot water on request was good.
Price: Probably normal for New York but $16 + tax + gratuity =over $20. Not for the down at heel

Comments Sorry guys but this is not a patch on Melbourne breakfast cafes

Score: 10.5/20

Monday, January 14, 2008

China Grill - Manhattan

We walked in off the street to this Chinese/fusion restaurant at 60 West 53 Street and unexpectedly had an most excellent meal. The large, split level room filled quickly but service was friendly, informative and reasonably paced.
We began with two appetizers. A good size serve of slightly spicy vegetarian potstickers and tofu fried in a tempura batter - a very tasty startand a large serve of superbly tasty noodles with crisp peanuts, some pieces of duck and lots of sweet very fresh prawns in a light sate sauce. A must have if you go there.

We were pretty well fed after sharing two mains.
The large salmon fillet had been marinated and the pan fried leaving the skin crisp and the fish, barely but perfectly cooked for maximum taste
and duck two ways presented with thin pancakes so the breast could be wrapped up and eaten 'peking' style. The confit of the leg was shredded and served on a large but delicate pancake on the plate in a separate dish.
The small dish of plum sauce was a little sweeter than usual
It was too tempting to leave without trying a dessert and the home made ice cream and sorbet proved to be another great choiceWine We enjoyed a pleasant 2004 Da Vinci Tuscan chianti ($40) There is a modest selection of international wines by the glass or bottle starting around $10/glass and $40 /bottle
Price With gratuity this all came to US$225 for three very well and happily fed clients
Comments Rather noisy but reasonable. My only complaint is that it is impossibly difficult to eat rice with pointy chopsticks off a flat plate

Score: 15.5/20

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Le Bernadin

Rated among the very very finest restaurants in New York I found this French influenced seafood restaurant oddly disappointing. Chef and part owner Eric Rippert has worked in Tour deArgent and Jamin both 3 Michelin star restaurants and was chosen by the James Beard Foundation as Chef of the year in 2003.
The restaurant occupies a very large, carpeted, high ceiling room with tables crowded together. There are a few very large Modiglinesque style paintings around the walls and the glass wall facing the street is covered, Japanese style with an open square lattice in front of an off white opaque thin material
After checking coats (jackets obligatory) We were led to our table past a central table decorated with a floral arrangement in 6 gigantic vases
There were waiters, drink waiters, somellieurs, and section captains everywhere. This was bustling and busy - not a relaxing sophisticated arrangement.
There are a variety of menu options including a four course choice of two appetizers, a main and a dessert ($107) , the Le Bernadin tasting menu at $135 ($220 with wine pairing) and the Chef’s tasting menu $180 or $320 with paired wines
The a la carte menu is divided into Almost raw, Barely touched, Lightly cooked about 10 selections in each and a few Upon request non seafood items
We chose the Chef’s menu which began with an offering from the chef – a scallop ever so slightly cooked in a slightly sweetish light mustard foam. A wonderful start
The first course was Fluke a thin translucent rectangle which had been marinated in white soy and yuzu and decorated with seaweed and spiced rice crispies a small appetizer, barely two bites, but quite a nice combinations textures
Sauteed baby calamari filled with sweet prawns contrasted with the crisp fried tendrils served with two very small wood eared mushrooms and calamari consommé would have been very good except that the delicacy of the dish was destroyed by the heavily over seasoned consommé – much to much salt and pepper.
The barely cooked wild Alaskan salmon was exquisite. Served with a miniscule daikon and enaki salad (a couple of tiny leaves) and a baby leak-wasabi sauce which was again over seasoned and did nothing to enhance the fabulous salmon.

The next course - Spicy langoustine curry, heart of palm meuniere and mango chutney. The sweet, delicate very fresh langoustine was completely overwhelmed by the spicy curry sauce which dominated the dish. Had there been more mango it might have modified the sauce and made for a better balanced and palatable dish
Wild turbot, Shiso-Matsutaki Salad (a tiny skerick of decoration hardly worthy of being titled ‘salad', was overcooked. At least once during each course the section captain, or a waiter asked if everything was to our satisfaction or were we enjoying the meal. When I offered my opinion he said he was sorry. After this happened a few times I asked what was the point of asking and being sorry. He said it was of concern to the chef and that if we were not pleased a dish it could be replaced at any time. This time when pointed out to the section captain- Julio, a very pleasant young man, the dish was replaced by a slightly less cooked piece of turbot. Again the soy in the lemon miso broth was too salty for the delicate fish and even the second time round was too seasoned for the dish
Escolar, a large fish referred to as Hawaiian or white tuna was poached in EVOO, served with sea beans and potato crisps this time with a lovely matching light red wine Bearnaise. This was an excellent textured dish but again a tiny serve which could do with a more generous amount of crisps After the Butternut squash puree served with vanilla cream and tiny beignets (there were three but I was slow to get my camera out!)
We got two desserts one complimentary surprise dessert and one a menu change with a complimentary glass of luscious Kracher dessert wine which complimented the desserts. The first was a superb combination of layers of caramel, maple syrup, and caramel foam seasoned with sea salt and presented in a topped egg
and the second was a hazel nut and chococolate truffle with honeyed hazel nuts, caramelized slices of banana on a biscuit base. Coffee and petit fours completed the meal.
We had wine by the glass – from $15 to $35 starting with slightly sweet Moselle reisling then a dryer Tesch Nahe 2006 Remiguisberg reisling which was perfect for the fish, then a Bordeaux syle 20002 Tokay pinot gris “Schwartzberg” Jean Pierre Dirler.
All in all it was an interesting meal, rather small to tiny serves with some failures. Larger serves would allow a better appreciation of the qualities of the ingredients and the dishes. The ambience of the place is upper class café style with suits. To crowded. Service is too efficient! And somewhat in your face. However Julio did take excellent care of us and very kindly gave me a copy of the 2008 Zagat Guide a particularly generous gesture

With a 15% gratuity it cost $550 for the meal
Score: 16.5/20

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Plaza Mayor Buenos Aires

On a corner of Venezuala and San Jose Streets and opposite two other restaurants this bright establishment was recommeded by our concierge. Named after the main square of Madrid (I think) it is filled with Spanish decor and the menus open like a Spanish fan. That was the good part.
Menus available in English too.
We had a very expensive seafood salad for two A$23 which had been steamed until it had almost no taste left, servrd with a lemon, resting on some ancient lettuce with which you could carpet a hallway. The only good bit was the octopus which was incredibly tender. A request for butter was rejected they claim to have no butter. The bread was stale anyway. Oyster gratin no they don´t have that either. Mixed seafood, the dearest dish on the menu, not available. A glass of wine no you have to buy a bottle Oh well they were cheap enough from about A$7 upwards Fortunately the beer was OK.
The next two dishes made me wish I never left home
A `pollak stew´consisting of a couple of fillets of overcooked fish accompanied by two large roast potatoes and a mass of onion rings all floating in a sea of oil and a pink salmon, requested barely cooked with mash potato and roquefort dressing was so overcooked you could resole your shoes with it.
Comments The service was slow and unenthusiastic I couldn´t wait to get out of the place.
Score: 8/20

Monday, January 07, 2008

Waterfront Restaurant Station Pier

This review is prublished as received

Hi
I would like you to post this review on The Waterfront Restaurant Station Pier.

Date 31st Dec 2007

Score: 5/20
We booked for New Years in the FINE DINING area of restaurant quite prepared to pay the $140 pp.
Arrived at 8.30 pm sat down NO service until we called waiter over at 9.15 pm to order a bottle of wine.Wine did not arrive at 9.30pm called over waiter,he said it would not be long,still no wine called over head waiter said he would attend to it still no wine ,at 9.45 pm called over waitress wine arrived in 10 mins. Waiter came to take food order, waitress served some cold soup (these dishes were not cleared at all) entree arrived approx 10.15pm no refill of wine we went over to ice bucket and served ourselves!!!
2 Mains arrived approx 11pm we were waiting for the 3rd I started putting salad on plate my husband was helping himself to potatoes when WHOOSH!!! they were taken away,wrong order (it was same as what we ordered) we said but we have started!!! waiter said sorry I have to take them then proceed to deliver to other table!!!
Called head waiter over fo another bottle of wine was served quickly,but no one ever refilled our glasses.Cheese platter was served 11.45pm,we were offered complimentary wine and port.
In all fairness to the waiting staff they were running,they blamed the kitchen but being a set menu we found that hard to believe.No apology was given by anyone!!!
The whole night turned into a joke would have done "Faulty Towers" proud!!! It was the worst service in a restaurant for over 20 years,we would CERTAINLY NOT recommend this restaurant to anyone.
Score: 5/20

I might add that I have been to Waterfront once and that also was once too often but it did not come near to this dreadful experience made worse as it was NYE

Golden Point - Buenos Aires

In the 900 block of Suipacha St, a street largely devoted to leather shops and factories in this area, we found this packed 2 story restaurant with a very inexpensive menu.

Bread, water or a soft drink, main and dessert for a flat 19 pesatos which is around A$7.50. It was a good solid meal. My chicken schnitzel was a large Maryland, crumbed and served with 1/2 a lemon and a mass of ceamy mashed potato.

The chicken oreganato had an olive oil oregano dressing and we had it with pumpkin mash.

Desserts were new to me. The flan was a custard with caramelised sugar and I had a whisky flavoured sweet shredded orange peel on a slice of cheese - I think!!

Good place to stop for a hungry shopper and a room full of Argentinians must know something
Score 13.5/20

El Viego Alamacen - Buenos Aires

As with all the tango shows promoters organize for pick up and drop off at your hotel in small buses. Punctuality is not a strong point and explanations as to delays are useless but they get there in the end.
There was an early show - from 8pm followed by dinner and a lateshow from 10pm. Eating at 11.30 or 12 is not unusual here.
The show was a traditional one with instrumental and vocal interludes. The dancers worked hard but lacked passion or sparkle and didn't achieve the sort of primitive sexiness of the finest exponents of this art. This actually led to the Tango being banned for some time for fear that it would encourage promiscuity. No risk here.
The show might have been indifferent but the meal that followed was awful - only the service was worse. The table was set with a bottle of average rd quaffing wine and some dry bread rolls. It took at least five requests before we could get any butter but nit eventually arrived. Choice of entree main and dessert from 4 or 5 options looked OK and I was happy with the Empanadas for starters. They were quite reasonable, fair size and filled with plenty of moist mince with some crispness still in the pastry. There were 2 on the plate which was a good serve
The main course of steak and chips was dreadful. M 'rare' steak was well and trully overcooked, the waiter forgot the mushroom sauce until he was reminded as he went on serving other customers. Argentinian beef must be better than this or the Australian export business need have no fears.
The chocolate mousse was the best thing on the menu. Two ladies I spoke to at the next table were in full agreement about the quality of their meals and the timing of the service
By Australian standards it was cheap the dearest dish being about $15 For a visitor I would strongly recommend you go somewhere else!
Score: 11/20


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