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istuffmyface

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  1. Had a lovely, long, and leisurely dinner here the other night. A delightful, descriptive wine list. A well put-together cheese and charcuterie plate (man, that ham hock pate). Here again, the cheese menu was very descriptive. Entrees were clams and chorizo with a killer broth and a hanger steak. This is most definitely now a go to neighborhood place and no longer really a retail shop (though bottles are for sale). So, yes, I think this ought to moved into the Restaurants forum.
  2. Showed up super early and sat at the bar around 5 on Saturday. Service nice overall and they let me take my time between courses and sipping on a couple of glasses of wine. And I'll assume that wasn't just because there were plenty of empty seats at the bar that time of night. Very hospitable. Started with the sea trout crudo that was super delicious and an incredibly balanced dish. A little crunchy element would've made it perfect. Went for the urchin linguine, and boy do I wish I had read this thread ahead of time. It was totally fine, but calling it sea urchin linguine sets up expectations for a briny, urchin-y pasta dish that this was not. Just a couple of lobes of uni in a very rich sauce. While not very generous with the urchin, it was a generous portion overall, I will say. On the strength of the trout dish, I'd totally go back.
  3. Have been excited about this place ever since they started talking about months and months ago. So had to take advantage of the opportunity to head over lunch. Got there about 11:50 and it was practically empty. 10 minutes later by noon it was nearly full. Opted for shio chintan and it was beautiful. So clean and simple. My one criticism is the broccoli rabe. Love that it comes with this. I love broccoli rabe, but it was a little awkward to eat given its size and texture. Love that menma is standard since that's my goto add-on at most places. This is different from Daikaya's as you might imagine. Daikaya without a doubt has my favorite version - deeply seasoned and rich. BK's was lighter and sweeter most likely because they're each braised in their respective stocks. Still very good, though. One last observation - the nitimago didn't seem to have spent any time in a marinade. All-in-all a lovely bowl. This is summertime ramen if there ever were such a thing. Looking forward to trying the paitan when I get a chance. Oh, lastly, the space is great and much roomier than Daikaya.
  4. Had a very nice solo meal at the bar last night. Arrived just before the doors opened at 5:30 and there were just a few other people along with me waiting. Had generous pours of the Chenin Blanc and later the Millstone Cider. I started with a smoked catfish dip that was very similar in composition and texture to the pork rillettes I had right after. But they were both right in my wheelhouse, so I was happy. The catfish was very smoky with pickled red onion and served with very rustic corn crackers that took me a few bites to figure out how not to break them when dipping them. This was easily my favorite dish of my night. The rillettes was good, but there are others in town (i.e. Restaurant Eve) that I prefer. Served with grilled ciabatta and some pickled elements. Had a hard time picking my third dish, but settled on the softshell crab. Served almost identically as @funkyfood had it, but with pickled rhubard instead of strawberry. I enjoyed it, particularly with the hollandaise that was very bright with lemon. The bar was never full the whole time I was there from opening to about 6:45. I'd say it was generally just a little over half full the whole time. Service at the bar was lovely. All-in-all a very relaxing, solo evening.
  5. Finally, finally made it out to the Annandale location today for a Sunday lunch with the family. Ordered a handful of stuff that was all varying degrees of great, but I'd say the spicy beef noodle soup (ordered with wide noodles) hit me in a very special place. I loved it and could be happy eating just this for the rest of my life.
  6. Surprised to see this thread [Ray's City Vista] still quiet and listed as "not opening". Ray's Hellburger at this spot opened back in October 2015. I've been a handful of times since. The burgers have been as good as I remember from way back in the early days at the original spot. And the chicken sandwich remains the best anywhere in the city. The usual non-existent atmosphere. Still feels like a pop-up many months in.
  7. Been to the cafe in Del Ray a couple of times for lunch now the past couple of weeks. First time I got the Korean fried wings to go. These were really good. They took about 15 minutes to make, so I strolled through the grocery part of the store. 6 big, crispy, nicely fried wings for $10.99 (plus some ok seasoned fries and a green salad that suffered from being in the same takeout box as the hot fries and wings.) Definitely excited about getting these again. Last week I tried the pork ramen. They have pork, chicken, or vegetarian. They all seems to come in the same milky broth. Toppings were 2 pieces of ok chasu, 1/2 soy egg (very nice), a slice of fish cake, pickled ginger, and I may be forgetting one or two other things. I ordered menma since it wasn't listed as coming with the ramen, but when I got my order there was menma in it, then 5 minutes later a bowl of more menma showed up. The menma itself wasn't highly seasoned but the shoots were good quality. Noodles were good and probably Sun Noodle if I had to guess. Broth wasn't terribly complex, and somewhat light considering the high emulsification. On first whiff, I swear I caught some kombu or fish in the aroma, but then it was gone on the next smell and undetectable on tasting. Overall it was a good bowl. A tier below the current all-stars in the area. Nothing great or complex or worth going out of your way for. But, if you're in the neighborhood, it'll do for sure. The woman serving who was there both times was very nice.
  8. I couldn't say whether Heather Roth is still the pastry chef or not. While the biscuit sandwiches are particularly good, I've never been that into the biscuits themselves. They stand up the contents of the sandwich, but I prefer a lighter, fluffier biscuit personally. But that's not why I'm here today. I'm here to declare Stomping Ground at the top of the list for dinner in Del Ray. I had previously gone to one of their special dinners over the summer - lamb shawarma. And it was a thoughtful (and very full) plate of super tender lamb, hummus, pita, and fattoush. Really delicious. Now fast forward to the past weekend. They're doing dinner for real now. A full menu. They were having a 50 cent oyster special, so it was hard to pass up. Oysters were served simply, but were very nicely and cleanly shucked. My wife had a salad with 4 large head-on shrimp. I had a bowl of Anson Mills grits with a poached egg and charred broccolini. Both were delicious. Also, excellent value. Prices across the menu are a few dollars less than what you might expect in the city or even elsewhere in the neighborhood. Service was very good and the atmosphere continues to be very casual, so no surprise that it is still a great place to bring a young kid. Easily on par with Evening Star, and most everything else in Del Ray is far behind especially since Reserve shut down. This will certainly start to be our go to for early dinners on a whim with our 1 year old now that the Front Porch is closed for the season.
  9. It had been almost exactly 4 years since my first visit here and 3 ½ since my last, so I've been eager to get back here. I had a rare solo night out, and figured getting a seat here early on a Wednesday would be easy and it was. As I recalled and like Komi, the service is just about perfect. Equal parts informative, hospitable, and unintrusive. If I had one complaint, it was the pacing. Courses were stacking up. For most of the meal, I had two courses at a time in front of me. Coupled with the fact that I didn't realize till 4 courses deep that I was being served the same portions as if for two (not a complaint!), there were times I needed to take a break, but was looking down at at least one, sometimes two delicious plates of food with my name on it. A notable difference from previous visits was this was far less of an onslaught of heat. Several courses had marginal, if any, heat, but this also allowed for more complexity (mostly.) Really there were no dishes with off the charts heat. Granted, I order Lao Hot at Bangkok Golden, so my scale may be skewed from the normal tongue. nam prik thai orn green peppercorn / salted fish / dried shrimp Their usual opener, some take on nam prik. As always, I loved this. Just killer. I had been seated for about 2 minutes when this came out, and already had a glass of wine in hand. tom kha snakehead fish / galangal / grachai First time I had gotten a soup here. Was kind of surprised and was curious to see how they served this to the non-solo diners (a single bowl for a couple). Delicate with snakehead dumplings. Really good. hor mak pla catfish / steamed curry / shrimp paste This came out simultaneously with the tom kha. This was definitely my favorite dish in the first half. Spicy, creamy, sweet fish and curry steamed in banana leaf eaten with sticky rice. Just beautiful. laap gai chiang mai chicken / offal / lanna spices Was handed a complimentary and complementary Belgian strong ale right before this to accompany. This was an interesting take on laap. Very funky and super crispy. Not really hot at all, which was partly a disappointment. But this was a case where I don't know that the funky flavors would've stood out as much. Not my favorite laap of all time, but a nice change of pace. This was when I realized I was being served double portions. It's also where I started to hit a wall. And also where I said, screw it, I'm eating everything they put in front of me. tow hu thouk tofu / ginger / peanut This was stunning. Super crunchy tofu. Tons of herbs. Spicy (medium spiciness) peanut dressing. Bright. Nearly perfect balance of textures and flavors. khao phat bla muuk squid / squid ink / egg This was the one dish that didn't excite me. I was already stuffed to the gills which is probably a considerable reason why I wasn't that excited about a dark looking and tasty plate of rice and squid. It was good, but I wouldn't have missed it. Of course, though, I finished the whole thing. si krong muu pork ribs / mekhong whiskey / dill The classic ending. You all know about this one. For whatever reason, it was better than I recall.
  10. Had a wonderful dinner last night at Komi. Our first time back in more than 5 years, and hopefully our next time back is sooner than that. Service was as excellent as I remembered it. Friendly, casual, but just the right amount of attentive. We probably interacted with 6 different staff members with no lack of consistency or continuity. Bill, the sommelier, guided my wine choices very well and seemed surprised and excited when I told him I prefer Chenin Blanc, remarking no one had ever mentioned that before. All of the dishes were terrific. There really wasn't a dud in bunch. A few that were stronger than others, but I'd be nitpicking if I were to point out flaws. Can't remember them all, but here's a good sampling. A steamed brioche with creme fraiche and cold smoked trout roe that summoned the taste of bagels and lox. Sashimi of horse mackerel with a garnish that I can't recall - possibly avocado and pistachio, but that may have been the next dish. Two preparations of scallop. A quickly seared bay scallop with meyer lemon that exploded with flavor. And a thin slice of raw diver scallop which had a garnish that may have been the avocado and pistachio. This was the first real stand-out Grilled sourdough bread with duck rillettes with pickled ramps. This one really knocked me out. At first vinegary, then sweet from the ramps, then earthiness from the rillettes. So well-rounded and balanced. Grilled octopus. Another one of my favorites. A super light foie gras mousse. Mascarpone stuffed date that tasted almost chocolatey. I remember this one from our first visit. Fava bean agnolotti with crab, uni, and garlic bread crumbs. Cheese dumplings (Greek gnocchi) made with housemade cheese from both cow's and sheep's milks with beech mushrooms, asparagus, and almond. Both pastas were pretty great, and it was a toss-up between which I preferred. Overall I preferred the agnolotti, but the presence of the almond as a textural element in the gnocchi was fairly revelatory for me. And then main course. As soon as the plate hit the table, and I saw those little squares of crispy skin, I knew exactly what I was looking at before the server described it. Roast suckling pig with pita, lamb fat hummus, berbere spiced yogurt that went perfectly with the pork, and very crisp fresh bread and butter pickles. All exactly as I had hoped for. Meyer lemon sorbet followed. Lastly, I'm spacing on the details of the second and final dessert, but I do recall a sheet of coconut meringue that was the best part of it. We left with oatmeal raisin lollipops and a small cardboard box personalized with "happy anniversary" that we've yet to open.
  11. Got takeout the other day. Not good. Rice on the sushi was sticky and mushy and not well seasoned. Besides a bunch of sushi, we had an order of chicken tatsuage that was cold and dried out since it was likely fired well before the sushi order was finished. Despite its proximity to my home, I just don't see myself returning. Too bad.
  12. Went here with my wife and our 2 month old for a lateish lunch over the weekend. The service was extremely accommodating to us. They were quick and attentive. They even went so far as unnecessarily whispering when serving us, so as not to disturb our son in his stroller next to our table. The restaurant was lively enough that they could've spoken in a normal speaking voice and still not disturbed him, but I really appreciated the effort and thoughtfulness. My wife got an assortment of sushi - spicy tuna and yellowtail rolls, eel, salmon, and yellowtail nigiri. The rolls were a little overly sauced. I tasted both the eel and the salmon, and the fish was clearly fresh, delicious, and well presented. The one knock was that the rice was warm. I had udon with beef gyoza. The noodles in the udon were a little soft, but the broth was good. And while the gyoza on their own were just good, dunked into the broth, they tasted really great, truly delicious. My wife and a couple of other new mothers went for lunch a few days later and similarly great experience. Demonstrating that there is more to a meal out than just the food, I am certain we'll be returning, because while our lunch was somewhere around slightly above average, the service was enough to win our hearts. I look forward to eating around the menu to find the winners.
  13. I was lucky enough to land a reservation at Blanca for my 40th and, nearly two weeks later, I'm still thinking about it. Having eaten my way through my share of triple-digit tasting menus, I can safely rank this experience among the top (somewhere alongside Komi and Blue Hills at Stone Barns). Given their strict no pictures or cell phone policy, the only pictures I was able to snap were of the ramshackle courtyard as they lead us from Roberta's into the building housing Blanca and of the control panel for the Japanese toilet seat in the restroom. I had trouble recalling all of the details of each course even just later that night while sipping on a scotch, so I've only provided some of my favorites below. For those who are lucky enough to go, a few tips. There's not much of a dress code (i.e. no jacket required). I wore a collared shirt, v-neck sweater, and jeans, and I'm pretty sure I could've gone even more casual and been fine. They really strike a balance between fine dining and a very relaxed atmosphere. Given its location in one of the historically rougher parts of Brooklyn, use the closest subway or better yet use a car service (we asked them to call one for us as we paid our bill and it was there when we were ready to leave) if you really want to be safe. While I didn't partake in the beverage pairing, it looked just as epic as the meal. A whole slew of variety (cider, beer, wine, sake of all kinds) and a lot of rare sounding stuff. And now (excerpted from my blog post which explains some of the other information) -- It came time to plan an outing for a milestone of a birthday, I started from a very short list. I first started with some regions and got it down to New Orleans, San Francisco and Napa, or New York. It didn’t take long to hone in on New York but still there was some more work to be done. I’ve always pined for a Thomas Keller meal, but Per Se and the French Laundry seem just out of reach for me. Three summers ago, I had one of my all-time favorite meals at Blue Hills at Stone Barns and have always imagined what they would do in different seasons, so this was the fallback plan. The backup plan if we weren’t able to secure reservations to a pretty new place called Blanca which sits in the ramshackle compound of Roberta’s a pizza place for those in the know out in Bushwick. And with a little bit of effort (none of my own doing, thanks to my companion who manned the phone) and luck we secured 2 of the 12 seats available for my birthday night. And for a month the anticipation grew and grew as I read the handful of reviews and reports from the past year since it opened. They ask that you check in at Roberta’s, then lead you through what looks like a cross between a construction zone and a junkyard. But then you arrive at a separate building that is at once austere, serene, yet fully comfortable. Clean, cream colored walls, cushy leather backed stools at the counter facing the steamy, smoky both hi- and low-tech (and always calm) kitchen, and Sticky Fingers blaring from the turntable. Then the relentless begins. I won’t even begin to describe every dish. I couldn’t if I tried. When trying to recount after the fact, at first I forgot some of my favorite dishes. That’ll happen when your head is swirling deep into a tasting menu of 25 or so courses that come like clockwork over the span of 3 hours. Oh, but before I mention a few of the dishes, let me mention the service. It was perfect. The right combination of attentive, informative, conversational, and absent. There and helpful when you need them, and helping someone else when you don’t. Like a great host at a party. The service really is part of the whole package, creating a really relaxed and fun environment. But now back to the menu highlights. It started with a slew of seafood dishes including a plate of 5 different raw preparations, each one better than the next. Needlefish, geoduck, herring, horse mackerel, and sea perch, each with their own garnish. A real microcosm of what the kitchen excels at. There were lightly breaded and fried veal sweetbreads with lime that were definitely the best sweetbread preparation I've ever had. Deep in my memory banks, I’m recalling perfectly tender squid, though I’d be hard-pressed to remember what else was on the plate. Shortly after that there was possibly my favorite savory dish of the night, thinly sliced strips of barely grilled Wagyu in a sweet kohlrabi broth that reminded me of sukiyaki. The paper thin, fatty beef literally melts in your mouth as you eat it. At some point deep in the middle of the evening we were presented with the simplest presentation of the night. A giant king crab leg still in its shell and a large dollop of plankton butter. And a hot towel to clean up with. A perfect dish for a kitchen that tries (and succeeds) so hard to present the most elegant and exquisite dishes and plates and presents them in the least stuffy way possible. There was a string of pasta dishes, including hand-rolled pici with squab and a single ravioli filled with nduja – a spreadable spicy salami. There was a course that was just bread and butter. But of course, it was 4 different breads and homemade butter. After about 15 courses, I thought this was going to be the end of me, but it actually invigorated me for the home stretch. In between some key transitional courses, there were some palate cleansing sorbets and granitas. Most notably, a celeriac gelato with lime gelee that tasted exactly as you’d expect and want. And a buttermilk sorbet with Meyer lemon marmalade. For the meat courses, there was a chicken dish that we watched all night as the whole bird – head and feet included – spun around in the oven for an hour, then was grilled on a yakitori grill – meat and skin separately and served on polenta. Obviously, the skin was the best part. And then another Wagyu dish for the ages. Aged New York strip cooked rare and sliced, served with radish, and a sauce enriched with melted beef fat. Finally dessert was the real surprise of the night. Following a cheese course of runny La Tur atop a lemon jelly, there were just a couple of similarly presented dishes but they might have been two of the strongest dishes of the night. The first is a contender for my all-time favorite dessert and absolutely one of my favorite dishes of the night. An orange sorbet sat atop a rye “foam” that reminded me of a zabaglione with crunchy rye berries sprinkled on top and a surprise dollop of caramel along the bottom. Totally amazing and wholly new. This was followed by an almost equally strong dish of apple ice with a thick sunchoke puree, dehydrated sunchoke chips, and some sort of sunchoke dust. Both desserts were complex, not single-note sweet, and completely unlike anything you’ve ever had before. So I enter a new chapter of my life noted arbitrarily by the calendar, I am thoroughly nourished and possibly changed forever by this meal, now more than 24 hours and a so-so night’s sleep in the past, that still has my head spinning trying to figure it all out.
  14. I'm blogging about food over at http://istuffmyface.com I write about any particularly interesting experiences I have dining out, but also the many cooking experiments I'm conducting at home. Admittedly, I tend more toward the later. Here's a pretty recent post on some kick-ass kale, ricotta, and bacon ravioli I made - http://istuffmyface....d-kale-ravioli/ Carry on.
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