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Lindsay

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Entries in RIP: NYC restaurant cemetary (41)

Thursday
Aug022012

CLOSED: Dinner at La Promenade des Anglais

  • Restaurant  La Promenade des Anglais
  • Cuisine  French, Mediterranean
  • Location  461 W. 23rd Street (between 9th & 10th Avenues)
  • Phone  212-255-7400
  • Directions  Hopstop
  • Atmosphere  dimly-lit, dramatic, sexy, old world
  • Attire  smart casual
  • Ideal for  small to medium-sized group dining, 1x1, happy hour, dine at the bar, bar scene
  • Price  moderate
  • La Promenade des Anglais on Urbanspoon

From the moment that I walked in - on the early side, of course - to meet Devon for dinner, I was totally taken by and fell rather hard for LPdA (La Promenade des Anglais).  Be its surprisingly serene, street-level location within the lovely London Terrace Gardens - the knowledgeable *and friendly* staff - or the old-world, transporting atmosphere, this Southern French newcomer is a welcome slice of Gallic formality in an otherwise eclectic, casual neighborhood.

Until the host greeted me with his American accent, I was momentarily whisked back to Nice.  Deep browns and icy blues somehow "played nice" with splashes of zebra print and sunflower-yellow hues.  Much akin to the melange of decor/colors at the famous Hotel Negresco Oversized mirrors, brass sconces and chandeliers, black + white checkered floors, and rounded-windows + archways evoked that of a dressed-up brasserie.  From a bygone era. 

Photo from La Promenade NYC dot comSince Devon was running late - and I'm always early - I grabbed a seat at the bar.  The friendly 'tender informed me that I was in the midst of happy hour, which meant that quartinos of wine and specialty cocktails were half price!  Score.  I ordered a delightful French pinot and munched on two dishes of assorted nuts in anticipation of Devon's arrival.

Once seated, we were greeted by (what ended up being) the best server I've experienced in all my years of dining.  He was brilliant.  Enthusiastic.  Knowledgeable and passionate about food and drink.  And, on top of everything else, he was adorably handsome.  Do I have a crush?  Ya, maybe... 

Travis, our server, informed Devon and me that, aside from waiting tables, he regularly bartends at the restaurant.  So, because of his mixology mastery, we trusted him to customize our beverages:  A French martini (made with cherry vodka) for Devon, and a raspberry margarita for me. 

While I would have appreciated a bit more depth in flavor, I thoroughly enjoyed the unique addition of the freshly-muddled raspberries amidst the margarita's traditional lime base. 

And then, it was the moment of truth.  My completely unfair and ridiculous method of determining whether or not a restaurant is legit:  Sampling the contents of the bread basket, of course!

Accompanied by a dish of flaky Maldon sea salt was a basket containing slices of heavily buttered, grilled country bread, and one large, airy, round roll that reminded me of a less-dense version of a Parker House.  Both varieties were delicious and fresh, but what I think I appreciated most was the salt!

Being that we were in the thick of "Restaurant Week" (Typically, I could care less about 'Restaurant Week' because I always end up spending more that I wanted and the menu generally sucks.), Travis, our server, included the special $35 prix-fixe menu - that actually looked amazing - along with the regular dinner menu.  "You all can do this anyway you'd like," he said.  "For instance, if you want to split one Restaurant Week meal and also order a few things from the regular menu, that is totally fine.  Or if you want to do one menu over the other.  Whatever!"  Wow, now how often is a restaurant in New York this flexible?  Never.   

Devon and I decided to choose two dishes from the nightly dinner menu, and split one of the Restaurant Week menus.

...

Whipped Ricotta  appetizer from the nightly dinner menu

Fluffy, whipped ricotta cheese was kissed with fragrant thyme and honey and served alongside slices of buttery, grilled country bread.

Doesn't that puff of ricotta look like a cloud?  So soft and fluffy!  Melt-in-your-mouth creaminess with the most subtle hint of sweet honey. 

To dunk or to spread?  Either way, the mild cheese made a lovely crown to the buttery, smoky, grilled bread.

Gazpacho "Riviera Style"  appetizer course from the Restaurant Week menu

A chilled soup of coarsely pureed tomatoes, garlic, and onion - somewhat resembling salsa - was topped with croutons of grilled bread and a dollop of ricotta.

While I sipped a few spoonfuls, I ultimately made use of the sliced bread in our basket to dip in to the gazpacho.  The puree was so flavorful and delicate; not laced full of tomato and onion chunks like the gazpacho's I've typically seen.  My only complaint was that the ricotta dollop was oddly dense in texture and tasted off/sour/pungent.

Scallops   entree from the nightly dinner menu

Plated atop a bed of spring vegetables, prosciutto "chips," and a lemon-kissed beurre blanc, were four perfectly-seared, seaweed-crusted scallops.

To be honest, I liked the accompaniments more than the actual scallops.  Aside from the fact that they were a tad bit too soft/mushy, their flavor was off.  And I can't help but chalk this up to the "seaweed crust" component.  I had a feeling that seaweed would be a buzz killer...

Steak Frites  entree course from the Restaurant Week menu (note that Steak Frites is also available on the traditional menus)

Plated atop a butcher's block were slices of perfectly-cooked skirt steak, a small dish of salsa verde (to top or be used as a dip for the steak), and a bowl of homemade rosemary French fries.

Every component of this entree was spot-on.  Dynamite.  The beef was charred on the outside and the interior was cooked to our requested medium-rare.  Despite the cut, the meat was not gristly or overly chewy.  Although fragrant and flavorful, I did not pair the salsa verde with the steak.  The French fries were sturdy and crunchy on the outside, revealing a soft, velvety core.  Bravo! 

Warm Chocolate Fondant  dessert course from the Restaurant Week menu

A.K.A. "molten-chocolate cake."  This version varied in that it was encrusted by a lighter-than-most exterior " cake shell" that, rather seamlessly, gave way to a warm, molten-chocolate interior eruption. 

I was hoping that the white, almond-shaped dollop on the plate was ice cream, not whipped cream.  Bummer.  The combination of the latter with the warm, sweet cake just pales in comparison to a sub-zero scoop of vanilla ice cream.  

...

Devon and I enjoyed every aspect of our experience at LPdA.  From the atmosphere and excellent service, to the delicious food and drink, we could not have been happier diners. 

This restaurant is a winner in every aspect and one that I foresee returning back to time and again.  I especially look forward to visiting my crush, Travis, while he mans the bar on his server off-nights...!

~~~

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle 

Friday
Jan132012

CLOSED: The Meatball Factory

  • Restaurant  The Meatball Factory
  • Cuisine  meatball-centric, Italian, pizza
  • Location  231 2nd Avenue (at 14th Street), Manhattan 
  • Phone  212-260-8015
  • Directions  Hopstop
  • Atmosphere  rustic, casual, warm
  • Attire  casual
  • Ideal for  small groups, 1x1, kid-friendly
  • Price  affordable, though prices add up quickly
  • FYI  beer and wine only

I can't tell you when it officially started - or why, for that matter - but lately, I've become obsessed with margaritas and meatballs.  Separately, of course.  And, speaking of 'balls, I've wanted to check out The Meatball Shop for the longest time, but have hesitated due to its insane popularity and, from what I've heard/read, even more insane wait times.

The Meatball Factory, on the other hand, is relatively new to the 'ball arena, having only been open for a matter of months.  Aside from the fact that Top Chef alum, Dave Martin, is in charge of the kitchen, I haven't really heard or read too much about the place.  So, having craved 'balls all month long, I figured that it was high time to give this newcomer a try.

The 1,600 square foot space is hugged by rustic, exposed-brick walls and comprised of a full-sized bar (though not fully stocked), two and four-top tables/chairs, and restrooms for...are you ready for this...men AND women!  "Unisex" stalls do not exist here.  Thank god. 

Phillip, Em, and I arrived for dinner at TMF (The Meatball Factory) at 6:30pm, and were seated immediately.  After we settled in and removed some of our wintry layers, we each ordered a glass of wine.  No margaritas here, folks.  TMF does not serve hard alcohol.

The food menu at TMF is organized like this:  1) Choose a meatball from a selection of eight, including a vegetarian option 2) Choose one of eight sauces to pair with your meatball.  Can't decide on one?  A 3-part sauce sampler will cost you $3 3) Order accompaniments, ie. pizza, pasta, meatball sandwiches, salads, side dishes, or cheese fries. 

So, with that, the three of us decided to split a handful of items and not one, but three sauce samplers.

1 order of "Old School" meatballs, 1 order of "Meatzza, Meatzza" meatballs

The picture, above, doesn't really do the 'balls much justice, but I wanted to give you a visual of how they're presented.  Since we ordered three sauce samplers, our 'balls were served naked, as opposed to swimming in gravy.

"Old School" 'balls: composed of hangar steak, heritage pork, veal, aged asagio cheese, and thyme.  I found these 'balls to be firmly-packed and slightly overcooked.  However, I really enjoyed their robust, garlic-y flavor.  Ideal sauce pairing:  Fire Roasted Marinara, Hells Bells Vodka Sauce, or Meat House.

"Meatzza, Meatzza" 'balls:  composed of braised beef short ribs, hangar steak, filet, buffalo, potato, and parmesan cheese.  I absolutely loved these balls and found them very moist, meaty, and packed with flavor.  The potatoes added a unique creaminess and the cheese produced just the right amount of salt.  Ideal sauce pairing:  Shroom Central, Truffle Time.

"Shrooming" Crispy Crackerbread Pizza

A crunchy, yet perfectly buttered and pillowy crust was liberally topped with a schmear of "Truffle Time" sauce (composed of cream, shallots, brandy, sherry, truffles, fontina, thyme, and oregano), roasted mushrooms, and peppery arugula.   I thoroughly enjoyed this pie, especially when I topped each bite with a hunk of meatball.  Delish!

Dave's World Famous Black Truffle Mac 'N' Cheese

What could possibly be better than mac 'n cheese created with house-made pasta noodles and rich, black truffle?  Not a whole lot, especially if you're my dinner guests, Phillip and Em.  I, on the other hand, prefer the traditional Southern version, chock-full of elbow pasta, cheddar, and Velveeta. 

As you may know, I've grown tired of truffle-mania.  I'm over it.  The flavor, especially that of truffle oil, overwhelms every dish.  That being said, I'm not one to ever "say no" to a plate of mac 'n cheese.  Especially when it's homemade and happens to look as good as it does in my picture, above.  

I loved the use of the corkscrew noodles and the fact that there were actually *real* bits of black truffle in the decadent sauce (which also happened to be the same sauce that served as the base for our pizza)!  The three of us, literally, had a fork-fight over the last noodle.  Luckily, there was plenty of sauce leftover to sop up with bread.    

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Red chili sauce and maple syrup combined to form the sweet and spicy flavor base for this plate of roasted Brussels sprouts.  I could have eaten five more servings of these addictive greens that were lick-the-plate delicious!

Hot Tin Roof Sundae

All I have to see are the words "sea salt caramel," and I'm sold.  No questions asked.  I will order it.

To be honest, I haven't had a sundae since I was about five, so I didn't really remember what one was comprised of until I took my first bite of the Hot Tin Roof.  Here goes:  malted hot fudge, sea salt caramel sauce, candied nutmeg walnuts, and marshmallow-flavored gelato.  Whew!  Wasn't there supposed to be a brownie in there, somewhere?  Maybe, maybe not.  But there should have been.  Something to break up the glop of cloyingly sweet syrups and sauces.  Thankfully, the walnuts added a very necessary textural crunch. 

Conclusion

Midway through our meal, the restaurant was packed!  New Yorker's really do love their meatballs.

In terms of the namesake dish, I think that ordering a sauce sampler is ideal, as we found it to be a little challenging when attempting to pair a specific 'ball with one sauce.   

My friends and I enjoyed ourselves and look forward to returning and sampling more 'balls.  In fact, the three of us have to decided that, for our next dinner date, we'll head over to The Meatball Shop to scope out the competition.

Let the 'ball games begin!

~~~

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle

Monday
Sep262011

CLOSED: Close, but no cigar: dinner at Ciano

  • Restaurant  Ciano
  • Cuisine  Italian
  • Location  45 E. 22nd St. Street (between Broadway & Park Avenue), Manhattan 
  • Phone  212-982-8422
  • Directions  Hopstop
  • Atmosphere  rustic, warm, 'cabin chic'
  • Attire  business casual
  • Ideal for  small groups, 1x1, bar, date night, intimate private events
  • Price  expensive

"Remember this block?"  I asked Megan, as I simultaneously raised a clasped fist in to the air, as if I were about to throw a punch.  "Hahhahhahah!  Of course I do," she chuckled.  Memories.  I used to live in a tiny studio apartment on the lovely stretch of 22nd Street, between Park Avenue and Broadway, from 2006-2007.  In fact, it was my first NYC apartment experience sans roommates.  Sounds fancy and glamorous, right?  Wrong.  I was leasing my unit, which just so happened to be located in a "co-op" building, from the owner, a Ned Flanders-like idiot from Florida.  To make a long story as short as possible, the nightmare began in February 2007 when, for two consecutive weeks, the building was without heat.  After many failed attempts to reach the super, I called '311' and filed a complaint.  Unbeknownst to me, the city doesn't take matters of heat lightly.  An inspector was dispatched to our building the next day to get an internal temperature reading.  We failed miserably.  13 degrees below the legal limit, to be exact.  Because of this, The City of New York ended up taking my building to court.  And, because of that, my building had me evicted.  Needless to say, I hate 22nd Street.

To celebrate both of our belated birthdays, Megan and I decided to treat ourselves to dinner at Ciano.  Having arrived just before our 7pm reservation, I was pleasantly surprised when the hostess offered to seat me as an incomplete party.  Luckily, I didn't have to wait more than a couple of minutes for Megan to appear. 

While we waited for our glasses of wine, Megan and I took in Ciano's fabulous, 'Tuscan farmhouse meets cabin-chic' interior space.  Think: unfinished plank wood floors - warm hues - splashes of exposed brick - an open fireplace - various large skylights - mini topiary trees.

"Cheers!"  Our glasses of wine clinked.  "To both of our belated birthdays, and hopes that our meal at Ciano will be able to take the 'taint' out of 22nd Street," I exclaimed. 

After perusing the dinner menu, Megan and I decided that we would split a handful of dishes instead of ordering individually, as the prices were steep.  Moments after we placed our food order, we 'broke bread' with a duo of freshly-baked plain and pizza focaccia.  A spicy, chili-flecked oil and truffled butter accompanied.

Roasted Veal Meatballs  Luckily for me, Megan isn't keen on beef, so these morsels had my name - and my name, only - written all over them.  Hovering atop a shallow dollop of white polenta, were two amply-sized (meaning slightly bigger than a golf ball) meatballs that were encased in a rich, red wine-heavy glaze.  The interior of each yielded a soft, almost velvet-like texture that completely melted in my mouth. 

Smoked Burrata Ravioli  Ricotta (not smoked burrata, FYI) cheese ravioli was lightly kissed by a zucchini-basil pesto/toasted almond brown-butter sauce.  Having pictured something totally different - heartier sauce, smokier and more dense cheese - from what we actually received, I was a bit disappointed by this pasta.  While it wasn't bad or even below average, per se, this is not a dish that I would ever consider reordering, should I return to Ciano.

White Polenta (side dish)  As my friend, Robin, would say, "meh."  There is no question in my mind that Ciano whips up their version from scratch, but Megan and I found the polenta to be a bit boring.  There was something missing.  Pepper, maybe?  Perhaps it could have used more melted parmigiano cheese?  Come to think of it, Ciano's rendition was a bit undercooked for my liking; I prefer mine to be a bit more dense.  Perfect example?  The polenta on the brunch menu at Five Points.   

Caramelized Diver Scallops  Of all of the dishes that we ordered, this was the most visually appealing.  Sexy, if you will.  Prior to sauteeing, the top of each scallop was individually scored with a knife.  This seemed to result in a deeper, more golden brown exterior and caramelization (note to self). 

The shellfish sat atop a whole-kernel corn ragu that was dotted with sliced mushrooms and salty pancetta.  While the flavors were spot-on, I wished that the scallops had been cooked just a little bit longer, as they weren't as firm as they had appeared.

Dessert: Roasted Peach Napoleon  Unfortunately, I found this particular dessert slightly awkward to eat and, to be honest, underwhelming.  While I love the idea of 'peach Napoleon,' this version seemed to be more of an afterthought, especially with the ghetto spritz of chocolate sauce at 6 o'clock (if you're looking at the peach Napoleon, itself).  Isn't there a more clever way to construct this treat instead of using paper thin wafers and awkwardly-large peach slices?  Thank god I wasn't on a date...

Conclusion  I don't think it's fair of me to judge Ciano so harshly based on one meal but, let's be honest, there are a couple of reasons why I would not return: too expensive - many of the items we ordered were just 'mediocre' and the ingredients on the pasta dish were misleading.  However, there were things about Ciano that I did enjoy: atmosphere - bar scene - meatballs - bread + truffle butter.  So, would I go back?  Yes, for snacks and wine. 

Now, to the most important question of all: do I still hate 22nd Street?  Not as long as Ciano hangs on to those ridiculously amazing veal meatballs!  I'm serious.

~~~

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle

Wednesday
Jun082011

CLOSED: Press preview: Milk Street Cafe 

**Opening to the public on Thursday, June 23rd**

Originally hailing from Boston, Milk Street Cafe's second and newest concept is an "upscale Food Hall" located smack-dab in the heart of NYC's world-famous financial district: in the Trump Building, on Wall Street, of course!  You can imagine how thrilled I was to be included at their "private press preview," which was held this past Monday evening. 

Within the last handful of years, the restaurant scene in NYC's financial district has dramatically improved.  As a 2001 summer intern at the World Trade Center, I can remember how bleak my meal options were: pizza, hot dog, the food court in the mall beneath the towers, or Burger King.  That. Was. It.  Luckily, things have changed.  And rightfully so, because I've always wondered how so many downtown employees were able to eat relatively healthy - and semi-tasty - breakfasts and lunches.  Not to mention the folks who actually reside in this up-and-coming neighborhood!   

Going back to the topic: aside from my obvious curiosity about the Milk Street's concept, food, decor, etc., my fascination was especially piqued when I began to compile a mental list of potential Midtown "food halls" that I could compare to Milk Street.  Why Midtown?  Because that's where I work.  Both Dishes and The Plaza Food Hall came to mind; the latter, for the sheer fact that its name actually *contains* the words, "food hall."  But I decided to nix The Plaza Food Hall, as I've only eaten there once, and that was on a weekend.  So how would Milk Street stack up against Dishes?  Read on to find out...

Exterior signage - I like the touch of "adding flavor and jobs to Wall Street."Marble entry way with customized signageFor Milk Street's preview, a red carpet was rolled out from the front doors to the street which, at least I thought, made guests feel extra special.

Step & repeat: The Luscious Lifestyle Diva and me, yours trulyA look inside the 23,000 sq. ft. spaceVarious food stations, grab 'n go setupThe first thing I noticed about Milk Street, aside from its "Hollywood Regency" cum beaux-arts decor, was how large its interior space was!  23,000 square feet, to be exact.  And don't think that all of it is dedicated to food stations and beverage kiosks - there is seating for approximately 100!

Decor splendorYummy passed plates and hors d'oeuvresAfter sampling numerous hors d'oeuvres, gulping down two chocolate chip mocha frappes, and taking a guided tour throughout Milk Street's interior space, here is what really stuck out:

  • As I said above, the sheer size of the venue: 23,000 square feet!
  • Amount of food stations: barista, made-to-order breakfasts, made-from-scratch breads/desserts/pastries, pasta bar, Asian specialties, sushi bar, two create-your-own salad bars (one vegetarian, one non), homemade soups, a grill, rotisserie, carving station, AND grab 'n go stands
  • "Line Busters," which is a hand-held checkout system to speed up the payment process for those paying with plastic
  • Produce Soak sinks, which are sophisticated whirlpool systems used for cleaning produce
  • Website: so user friendly, in fact, that it will allow customers to sort foods/meals by their personal dietary needs (ie: if a customer is vegan, it will automatically eliminate all non-vegan items from the menu)
  • 80 permanent jobs will be brought back to Wall Street!

So, how does Milk Street stack up against Dishes, thus far? 

  • Food: I only sampled a couple of Milk Street's offerings, but from what I did have, Dishes still reigns supreme
  • Space:  Milk Street is much bigger and offers more seating than Dishes, plus its aesthetic isn't as sterile
  • Options: Milk Street offers more grab n' go options, whereas Dishes only offers a few - good for those on-the-go
  • Service: Dishes is not known for having the friendliest of service.  The staff at Milk Street, on the other hand, was knowledgeable and kind
  • Hours: Milk Street stays open until 9pm (M-Th) and until 3pm on Friday's - Dishes closes at 5pm (M-F)

Bottom line: Wall Street doesn't know what it's in for!  I think that Milk Street's success will be monumental and I cannot believe that it's taken any company this long to bring the "food hall" concept downtown.

~~~

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle

Friday
Apr152011

CLOSED: Dinner at Baotique (at Covet Lounge): unBAOlievable opulence

  • Restaurant  Baotique at Covet Lounge
  • Cuisine  Pan-Asian
  • Location  137 E. 55th Street (between Lexington & 3rd Avenues), Manhattan 
  • Phone  212-223-2829  
  • Directions  Hopstop
  • Atmosphere  opulent, dark, sexy
  • Attire  chic/business casual, dress to impress
  • Ideal for  small groups, 1x1, romance
  • Price  moderate

What the hell used to be here?  That was the running question, leading me up the exterior staircase, as I entered Baotique at Covet Lounge this past Tuesday.  Jean and I had a 6:45pm dinner reservation and, in true Lunch Belle fashion, I arrived 15-minutes early.  As I approached the hostess stand to announce my arrival, it hit me: this was the former Azza space, which I had been to for a couple of birthday celebrations and after-parties.  A-ha!

In its entirety, the space is divided: Baotique (restaurant) is located on street-level, while Covet Lounge occupies the floor beneath.  One identical trait that these "fraternal twins" do share?  A captivating physical attraction - displayed via brilliant restoration and interior decor located, literally, in every nook and cranny of their mutual space.  Think modern-day opulence meets beaux-arts.  Brilliant.    

In anticipation of our upcoming jaunt to Belize next week, Jean and I had some serious debriefing to partake in, such as: packing lists, excursion agendas, and who would bring which books/magazines, etc.  Luckily, I didn't have to wait too much longer for her to join me for our 6:45pm reservation.  

"Hi doll," Jean exclaimed from across the room as she made her grand entrance.  "I need a drink."  Unfortunately for both of us, our waitress informed Jean and I that, in some sort of beverage-ingredient delivery fluke, the cocktail list was unavailable that evening.  Or something along those lines.  This was particularly odd, especially for a venue that, first and foremost, coins itself as a lounge - so much so, that the "Baotique" piece of "Baotique at Covet Lounge," does not even have signage from the street (the only giveaway is knowing the building number or recognizing the "Covet" sign)!  We settled for a glass of wine.    

With Baotique's seafood-heavy menu, chock-full of unique ingredients, I let Jean do the "driving."  We chose to split an array of dishes:

Black Cod Dumpling Soup

Docked atop a fragrant pool of lemongrass-scented seafood broth were homemade wontons filled with black cod.  Delicate, fried fish skin "barges" and wilted greens served as flavorful flotation devices. 

Chao Tom Roll

Each roll - tightly bound together by a moist rice-paper wrapper- was filled with vermicelli noodles, fresh herbs, a grilled shrimp cake, and topped with finely-chopped peanuts.  A sweet 'n sour carrot-based slaw and lime-scented fish sauce accompanied the rolls.  

Wild Mushroom Crepe

This was, without question, my favorite of the dishes that Jean and I shared.  What's not to love about a savory pancake filled with chanterelle mushrooms?  Nothing...except for the fact that the 'shrooms were fighting for interior "crepe territory" with chunks of tofu.  Minor buzz kill, especially for someone who loathes the mushy, white stuff.  Luckily, all it took was some creative rearranging.  I politely pushed the tofu aside and proceeded to eat my portion of the crepe. 

Jean and I were confused, however, by the garnishment of the daikon and mint greens, sweet 'n sour slaw, and the soy dipping sauce.

Pan Seared Wild Bass

Seared skin-on, I found this wild bass entree nothing short of brilliant.  The delicate fish sat atop an earthy heart-of-palm puree that was coupled with a fragrant, exotic green curry emulsion.  I appreciated the use of heavier ingredients - i.e. cream - against the light, flaky bass.

Foie Gras Duck Fried Rice

Can you say "overindulgence?"  Duck confit, duck bacon, foie gras, shards of scrambled egg, and scallions were gently folded into a mound of buttery, perfectly-clumped and sticky white rice.  Three forkfuls were more than enough.  

Melted Asian Eggplant

Jean, the self-professed "eggplant-oholic," suggested that we order the above as our side dish.  And I'm not going to lie, the name "Melted Asian Eggplant" sounded rather catchy and intriguing, albeit slightly frightening.  Kind of how I like my men.  Unfortunately though, it was nothing more than a greasy pile of the vegetable's innards, drizzled with, what the menu read to be, "scallion oil and yuzu soy cham."  Whatever that is.

In conclusion

For the duration of our meal on Tuesday evening - 6:45pm-9pm - our table was one of only four that was occupied.  Perhaps, this was due to the fact that it was a dreary, rainy Tuesday evening - or because:

  • Baotique has no signage from the street, creating a lack of potential "walk in" customers. 
  • Unless you're familiar with Covet Lounge, then you may be unaware of Baotique's existence.

I just have to wonder how a restaurant not in Anytown, USA but here, in NYC - that's virtually hidden and empty, at least on this particular evening - can stay afloat in such an expensive space and in such a competitive market.  Perhaps I'm being dramatic and this just warrants a return on a weekend evening. 

On to the food: there were parts of the meal that I really enjoyed - Wild Mushroom Crepe and Pan Seared Wild Bass - and other aspects that I did not.  I hate to sound uneducated - and hey, maybe I am - but I found the overuse of complicated ingredients to be slightly intimidating and unappetizing.  I think that many of these dishes would be much more delicious and user-friendly if they were tweaked/prepared with fewer components.  Because, honestly: if hungry club/lounge goer's from Covet are in need of a food-fix, I'm not sure how appealing the "Spicy Beef Belly" or the "Salt & Pepper Sweet Breads" will be.

Jus' sayin'. 

~~~

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle

Wednesday
Mar302011

CLOSED: Dinner at Nuela

  • Restaurant  Nuela
  • Cuisine  South American fusion 
  • Location  43 W. 24th St. (between Broadway & 6th Avenue), Manhattan 
  • Phone  212-929-1200  
  • Website  click *here*  
  • Directions  Hopstop
  • Atmosphere  modern, spacious
  • Attire  smart/business casual
  • Ideal for  groups of various sizes, 1x1 diners, foodies, private events
  • Price  moderate to expensive
  •  

    Is it Chelsea or is it Flatiron?  Others call this particular area of Manhattan, located North of 23rd Street - South of 34th Street - East of 8th Avenue, and West of 5th Avenue, the "flower district."  But as far as I'm concerned, the verdict is still out.  I can say this with confidence because I am a resident of the no-borhood in question.  A "no-borhood" is a part of town that, for some reason or another, has not yet received its proper nickname.  Perhaps my 'hood is still trying to find its own identity among Chelsea and Flatiron, its iconic neighbors...

    Nuela, one of the no-borhood's newest restaurants, is located on a relatively quiet side street just off of bustling 6th Avenue.  While that may sound unfortunate, think again: it happens to be a stone's throw away from Mario Batali's Italian gourmet megaplex, Eataly.  I can only imagine the ample amount of foot traffic that Nuela attracts by the number of guests who pass by on their way to/from Eataly.

    Having beaten Ceci to our 6:30pm dinner reservation by about 15-minutes, I decided to have a glass of wine at the bar.  Forgoing my usual pinot noir, I chose a medium-bodied tempranillo, instead.  Unfortunately, I found both the wine and the goblet to be on the warm side (was the glass just taken out of the dishwasher?).  Meh.  What did lift my spirits, however, was the heavenly gratis bar snack that was given to each patron(s): a small bowl filled with salty, crunchy corn kernels - each the size of a horse's tooth - and fried leek "strings."  This homemade "snack mix" just may be worth the trip to Nuela, alone.  

    Salty corn kernels and fried leek "strings" make for one hell of a delicious, unique, and highly addictive bar snack. Moments after I had nearly consumed the entire bowl of kernels and publicly licked the salt off of my fingers, Ceci arrived.  We were promptly escorted to a cozy two-top overlooking 24th Street.  

    I quickly snapped this photo before taking my seat, so that you could get a vision of Nuela's modern space: ceilings reaching heavenly heights - bold, bright splashes of color set amidst stark white walls and contrasting deep, walnut-brown wooden beams.  I particularly love the wall art on the top right portion of this picture.

    As we perused the menu, it became clear to Ceci and me that the best way to experience Nuela would be to split multiple plates.   And just as our minds were almost made up, a young lady approached and graced each of our bread plates with a single pao de queijo and a small communal dish of - don't quote me on this - what tasted like a mixture of honey, black pepper, butter, and maybe even a touch of yogurt.  As if the doughy, cheese bread was not enough, I could have drank the accompanying "spreadable crack" with a straw.   

    Le menuPao de queijo (bread) and spread As intended, Ceci and I went along with our original game plan of sharing multiple plates.  In chronological order...

    "Spicy Tuna" with crispy rice and creamy pancaHave you ever dined at Momoya?  If so, are you familiar with their "Crispy Rice" signature (sushi) roll?  Anyway, it's one of my favorite plays on tuna - probably because it involves fried rice - and I suppose that this is what I had in mind prior to receiving Nuela's "Spicy Tuna."  Basically, the dish pictured above tasted similar to many 'o sushi restaurant's spicy-tuna mixture, however, this particular blend had that lingering "How long has this stuff been around?" taste.  You know, like when you start to wonder how long ago it was made.  I also found the crispy, puffed rice to have almost too much texture for the creamy-ish tuna. 

    Shaved hearts of palm salad with smoked dates, farofa, and coconut vinaigretteThis bed of greens was almost as delightful to eat as it was to visually admire.  Prior to this occasion, I had never had, much less even seen, shaved heart of palm!  Ceci and I particularly enjoyed how the farofa (the grain-like topping which replaces traditional croutons) added a flirty, savory crunch.

    Smoked-brisket arepas with sweet plantains, black beans, and queso blancoNow if there was one item on the entire menu that I could have ordered multiples of  - excluding the pao de queijo and the bar snack, because those weren't really on the menu -  then it would be the Smoked Brisket Arepas, hands down.  Delicate pink ribbons of smoked beef brisket were perfectly perched atop crispy, golden corn cakes, or "arepas," that had been liberally smeared with black bean puree, queso blanco, and ripe plantain.

    Short Rib "Lomo Saltado"While all of the other dishes above were "appetizer" sized, the Short Rib "Lomo Saltado" was the entree that Ceci and I chose to split.  And before I make a fool of myself or the restaurant, I need to be honest with you: I forgot when it was that I fell IN LOVE with short ribs and when I fell OUT OF LOVE with short ribs.  The "out of love" thing happened pretty recently, at least within the past year or so, because I keep making the mistake of ordering them.  Only to realize that, at the end of each said meal, that I f-ing hate short ribs!  They're gristly, virtually meatless, and never cooked properly!  Unfortunately, this version brought me no closer to my days of short-rib-bliss.  I felt like a 9-year old school boy/girl sitting at the dinner table pouting - using my utensils to push my meatloaf and green peas around my plate. 

    I tried really hard to get some decent shreds of beef off of the "rib," but I had more luck with the accompanying white rice and soy-soaked, overly-salted vegetables and French fries that sat below the meat.  This made me appreciate and long for the authentic version of the "lomo saltado" that I was so fortunate to experience in Peru and Ecuador in 2009.  Sigh.

    And just like the no-borhood in which it resides, perhaps Nuela is still looking for its place amongst its iconic neighbors.  Only time will tell...

    ~~~

    Until we eat again,

    The Lunch Belle