27 January 2009

Chow Bar, 230 W 4th St. (at W.10th St.)

Because Dave never wanted to go to any Asian-fusion restaurants, and Dad and I were always too busy imbibing in ridiculous amounts of Belgian brewskis at the Castle to go, I finally found the perfect opportunity to hit this little gem in West Village - with Adrian last Saturday.

He took care of the reservations, and after doing the subway tour of the world (no no no, thank YOU, MTA), we stroll up on a blustery, frigid, January night at 7pm and are quickly seated. Neither of us had eaten that much that day (Adrian - a few cookies and a carrot, me - a piece of bread with one slice of turkey and one slice of munster cheese), we quickly decided on two appetizers and a bottle of the Moon Princess sake. (Moon Princess? What the hell does that mean? Our waiter didn't know either, which ended up being a theme of the night.)

Before I kick into the appetizers, let me take a quick moment to tell you about the ambiance of Chow Bar. In two words: mad chill. The vibe was absolutely perfect for the night - chill electronic vibes (one of my favorite parts of this experience, actually), Asian-type decorations on the wall, nearly non-existent lighting save for the candles on the table. Perfecto.

So, the appetizers. We kicked off the night with the spicy tuna tartare, which was infused with wasabi, had crispy wonton chips & was drizzled with ponzu sauce, and a bowl of edamame. The edamame could have been better (see: saltier; read my review on Decibel), but the spicy tuna tartare was exactly what we needed. 41 Greenwich's tuna tartare didn't even come close to comparing- the wasabi was absolutely incredible; just the perfect amount of spicy just when you needed it. The chips were great, the ponzu sauce was a taste straight from Japan (I brought back a small bottle of ponzu sauce with me; I find that it's extremely hard to find here, but it could be primarily because I don't know Japanese). Absolutely incredible. I might have actually made Adrian eat most of the edamame so that I could take all most of the tartare. Don't hate on my jack moves.

Just as we had finished our appetizers, our mains came out as the dining room started to fill up a bit more. With the intent of sharing, Adrian got the lemongrass grilled chicken with tamarind glaze, cucumber salad and coconut rice, and I got the roast pork sandwich with kimchee, cilantro, plum sauce and matchstick fries.

The Good: The roast pork sandwich. For some reason, when I read the menu, I thought it said pulled pork, but after I had taken the first bite, I wasn't just pleasantly surprised, I was enthralled! The fusion of the pork marinated in sweet plum bbq sauce, sour chunks of kimchee, cilantro (holy shit did you just say cilantro?!) was simply a match made in heaven. I'm not going to lie, the cilantro truly made the sandwich and bonded all of the flavors together in each heavenly bite. The matchstick fries were superb - imagine, in a perfect world, when every fry in your McDonald's container are all crispy and that nice medium brown. Imagine, a plate full of those with this heavenly sandwich. Imagine that they're dusted with sesame seeds. Imagine a world that could not get much better except it just did with some wasabi infused mustard on the side. Now, I'm not going to spoil your imagining by telling you about the little pile of "cole slaw" off to the side with some cabbage and raw onion that was highly mediocre, but that was just about the only place where the dish fell short, and this might have been purely personal preference (Adrian really liked it).

The Bad: The lemongrass chicken. I felt this dish was bland, boring, underwhelming, unexciting and tasteless much like our service that night was. The chicken was char-grilled to the point where you could almost taste the charcoal, and there was no lemongrass flavor, just a little tasteless heat that hit you a few seconds into your bite. If I wanted tasteless heat, I could have eaten a habenero. There was also a pile of equally as boring slaw underneath the chicken. Blah. Oh wait, the advertised cucumber salad? Don't get too excited - it was only 3 small slices of cucumber on top of the pile of rice. Last time I checked, there's more to a cucumber salad (let alone salad in general) than three slices of cucumber. Just about the only redeeming part of this dish was the coconut rice, which you can actually order as a side (and is probably what we should have done with a different main). The menu claims it had sesame seeds and scallion in it, but I didn't see any and frankly, I'm not complaining. I feel like the tactic to execution of this amazing, perfectly sticky rice was to use coconut milk instead of water. So absolutely tasty, I made a note to try this in my flatmate's rice cooker one of these days.

The Ugly: Our dessert of crispy chocolate wontons with mint ice cream. And by ugly, I mean the only thing that could and/or would be ugly would be me after I ate them every day for the rest of my life because it was just that damn good.

Chow Bar gets 4 forks - only because they fell short on the lemongrass chicken and our highly unknowledgable server who couldn't make a recommendation to me about anything (sake, appetizer, main, dessert) if his life depended on it.

15 January 2009

41 Greenwich (41 Greenwich Ave. at Charles St.)

Greetings fellow readers! Hopefully this lazy Sunday afternoon is finding you warm & cozy in your respective apartments or houses, and staying in out of the 29 degree snow and cold (like it is here in NYC).

My good friend Dernyn invited me out to dinner on Tuesday night, and after him giving me huge jack-run-around-moves in Soho, I whined that all I wanted was some tagliatelle or pappardelle pasta with some ragu sauce. (What I was really looking for was the exact dish I had at Gradisca, but that's beyond the point.) Dernyn said, "I know exactly the place."

After a quick (and almost GTA-like) cab ride to West Village, we walk downstairs to 41 Greenwich. The restaurant maybe sat 30 people, but luckily we were seated almost immediately. At this point, it's about 830p, and my brain is switching off from lack of caloric intake. We quickly decide on a 2006 Malbec, the tuna tartare appetizer, the salmon for Dernyn, and the pork chop for myself with sides of rosemary potatoes and brussel sprouts.

(Note how I did not get the pasta I wanted; however at that point, I was so hungry I didn't care.)

Our tuna tartare came, and I hate to say it, but I've had better. The tuna was good, but the sesame, radish, scallion and tubettini that came with it totally overpowered the taste of the fish. I ate almost the entire roll of bread, and a good 2/3 of the bottle of wine by the time our food came. The pork chop was HUGE - when they said it takes 40 minutes to cook, they weren't kidding. I tried some of Dernyn's salmon, again it was just alright - but I'm not a huge cooked salmon person, and I know he is. My pork chop came with a bit of fennel and cinnamon roasted apples, and when getting a bite of that, and a bite of really fatty pork all in one...heaven. When it was a middle piece...just okay.

Our server brought out the sides, and they accidentally gave us the spinach instead of potatoes. They then brought out potatoes, and comp'd us the spinach which would be great, except...I don't really like spinach. No seriously, i try it just about every time I go out to a restaurant, but I just can't get into the consistency. Maybe some day....

The brussel sprouts were very firm, a spring green in color and seasoned just right with some salt. The rosemary potatoes on the other hand....absolutely outstanding. Perfectly seasoned, perfectly cooked, so that the consistency was slightly crunchy on the outside and warm and soft on the inside. I strive to make these potatoes just about EVERY night for dinner! What am I doing wrong?!?!?! Anyways...

Carmen (Dernyn's sister) came by to join us, and ended up helping us out with our remaining sides and ordered a dish of her own. We ordered another bottle of wine (a pino noir), and some raw oysters from Puget Sound.

I swear, the oysters were the highlight of this meal. Oysters are something I've worked very hard to get over the dislike of, and damn. These were incredible. Definitely comparable to oysters from Long Island I had when our team went out to dinner on Google at Brasserie 8 1/2. We ended up ordering dessert, but I swear these oysters could have been my dessert. It seriously tasted like I was surfing, with seawater in my hair and sea breeze against my skin with every bite.

Lastly, our desserts arrived (I was more than stuffed at this point). Dernyn got some sort of chocolate brownie concoction (again, go figure) and Carmen and I split strawberries with a balsamic reduction and some crème fraîche on top. Props for innovativeness, as I've stated I'm not a dessert person, and I've never seen it before, but the balsamic reduction was such an unlikely yet delicious combination with the strawberries. Light, fresh and tasty.

41 Greenwich gets 3.5 forks...ambiance was great, service was great, oysters were great, but mains and appetizer were just okay.

12 January 2009

Schiller's Liquor Bar, 131 Rivington (at Norfolk St.)

Happy Monday (barely) fellow readers! I hope this post finds you well in your office tomorrow morning, cup of joe in hand, perhaps a bagel in the other...

I bring you this post straight from Schiller's Liquor Bar in the Lower East Side. My friend Dernyn and I rolled in about 130pm after an interesting cab ride into the city from Astoria (we got to pick up McDonald's and give it to the cabbie's family on the way in). Schiller's was just starting to pick up, but we were lucky enough to snag a table after about 15 minutes (instead of the 30 they were saying).

We settled easily on a bloody mary and a 30 year-old port to start, followed soon thereafter with eggs benny (the one thing you can't hate on me for ordering nearly ever brunch I attend), and a croque madame.

The eggs benedict were pretty good - I've had some that are bad, but these were fairly standard. The only beef (rather ham?) I had with them was how many onions they fried the potatoes with. I handed over my plate to Dernyn who LOVES potatoes and onions, and they were too intense for even him.

The croque madame was absolutely incredible. Well, incredible for NYC - obviously it was better in France, but still tasty. Proper cheese (sometimes you get the wrong cheese which totally kills the dish), proper ham, proper frying. Only thing, the bread was too big for the egg. If I may get snobbish, I prefer my croque madame to be have an egg that covers the entire piece of bread, so that one may enjoy a bit of egg with every bite.

Also, no salad with the croque madame. What's up with that.

Immediately following, we enjoyed some delicious champagne (what would brunch be without it?) and I had a cappuccino. A fine way to end a delicious meal (and kill off some of the buzz that was slamming me from that bloody mary. Wowee was it strong.)

Another great and notable part of brunch was our service. We had an incredible attentive waiter who was full of humor and recommendations.

All in all, 3.5 forks.

04 January 2009

Wine Barrr, 1313 Linda Street (right off Detroit Rd.), Rocky River, OH

Due to the recent decline development of both my best friend and I turning into wineos, after a long, hard day of Christmas shopping, we felt it none other than fitting and appropriate to drop a few hundred hard-earned dollars on some delicious wine and appetizers.

After a last-minute liquor store run to pick up some some imbibements a few days prior, I had to convince Maresa that Malbecs are indeed good and can be incredibly tasty. It was about 20F that day, with a windchill of about -1F, so I took the liberty of ordering the Catena Mendoza '06 Malbec. Regulated at a perfect 54F (I think), I haven't tasted a Malbec that good since....um....well...anyways.

With Maresa now converted, we decided to mack on an appetizer recommended to me by both my father and sister - the avocado and brie bruschetta with fresh tomato and herbs. I'm a huge fan of bruschetta, but not a huge fan of brie, and with avocado? Avocado goes in guac, not on a traditional Italian dish.

Of course I was completely wrong, and by the 3rd glass of wine for each of us, Maresa and I were debating if we should save any for our compadres who were arriving later, or if we should consume the rest and just order another plate.

Other than that, the rest of the food & wine was just alright, save for the truffle mac & cheese that one of my friends ordered, which was quite stellar. We had a Bordeaux that was just alright (I think I'm more of a full-bodied red fan anyways), and a few other apps that were pricey, but just okay (duck wontons, fries, PEI mussels).

The service was good, ambiance was classy, and our server was (somewhat) knowledgeable about the wines on the list (he recommended the better Malbec, but knew nothing about the Bordeaux).

I walked away with a hefty tab and an awesome black long-sleeved shirt that says "wino" in bold white letters across the front. You know me - always keeping it classy (& real!).

I'd go back for the bruschetta and the Malbec, but that's about it. (My father would argue otherwise.) 3 Forks:

Decibel. 240 E. 9th St (between 2nd and 3rd)

Greetings Fork readers!

As I'm sure you're well aware, 2009 is now upon us which only means one thing - time to turn over a new leaf and begin again with new resolutions and promises to ourselves. Mine are simple - dine more, wine more, and of course - blog more. We'll see how true this holds. ;)

Since I haven't really been out to any amazing restaurants as of late, I'm going to blog about one that I find myself and my friends frequenting often - Decibel Sake Bar.

Decibel was introduced to me last year sometime, and isn't really a restaurant, but rather a sake bar in East Village. On the corner of East 9th and 2nd Ave, you'll see a small, lit sign directing you to walk downstairs. Good luck getting a table after 10pm ANY night of the week - the establishment only seats about 60 and tables fill up fast. This shouldn't make you feel intimidated; and neither should the speak-easy feel where no matter what your age, they ID you at the door and you're forced to wait in a tiny room until they let you in past the rope blocking the entryway into the main room.

Decibel boasts an incredible sake list, and I have not once been disappointed by the service (we nearly always get a server named Jim, who is extremely knowledgeable) nor the ambiance, nor the sake. He even recommended where to buy said bottles of sake that we consume on a near-weekly basis.

In addition, the "tapas" (or small plates, if you will) never disappoint. Be it the unagi (that Adrian always eats like, six bowls of), the yellowtail tuna sashimi (which I always eat like, three plates of), the wasabi dumplings (holy crap are you in for a kick to the face), or the okonomiyaki (Osaka style, not to be confused with Hiroshima style, which I prefer), you won't be disappointed at how well they compliment the sake you will be consuming in mass quantities.

Only thing that's killer is the price - you'll always walk out with at least a $100 tab if you're not careful.

Decibel gets 3.5 forks:
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