Category Archives: Nolita/Soho

Bullfrog & Baum Burger Crawl

My wife and I were invited on a really cool burger crawl hosted by one of NYC’s most influential restaurant public relations firms, Bullfrog & Baum. The crawl was to celebrate National Burger Day.

On the crawl, we visited five of the joints they represent and tried nine different burgers over the course of eight hours. We were with a group of about ten people, so we were able to split and share the burgers at each place (nine burgers is a bit much for one person, even if you stretch it over eight hours).

Stop 1: Porter House Bar & Grill

We tried three different burgers here, starting off like champs.

Burger 1: I had eaten the Bar Burger before, and it still holds up as one of the greats. In fact I liked it the best of all nine from the crawl. It’s a simple double patty with American cheese on a potato bun, with jalapenos. The best way.

Burger 2: They just debuted this Pat LaFrieda truffle burger blend and threw it onto a bun with braised short rib, red onion jam, melted Fontina cheese and even more shaved black truffles. Amazing, and probably in my top three for the day.

Burger 3: The Dry Aged burger is a beef lover’s dream. You really get that earthy, dry-aged beef flavor in every bite.

Stop 2: The Vine

The American Burger at The Vine is a great tribute to an old fashioned diner burger, but elevated in quality and flavor. I really enjoyed this one. Maybe one more slice of cheese would take it into top three favorites status.

Stop 3: Boucherie

I’ve had this baby before and reviewed it, so no need rehash too much. Great LaFrieda dry-aged blend. A wallop of intense flavor.

Stop 4: Black Tap SoHo

We tried two here. Only the strong survive!

Burger 1: Black Tap’s American Burger was excellent. So simple and delicious, perfectly cooked. American cheese, lettuce, tomato and mayo (on top in photo below).

Burger 2: The Greg Norman had already impressed me in the past. It was just as wonderful again. You’d think the wagyu beef would be overpowered by the blue cheese, but it just intensified the savory crust on the patty. Lovely. It’s on the bottom in the photo above.

Stop 5: Blue Ribbon Federal Grill

At our final stop, we tried two different burgers. And both were spectacularly crafted.

Burger 1: The Fed is a nice crisp patty topped with stilton cheese, thick cut bacon and pickles. The bun is an onion poppy roll that really works to enhance the flavors. What a great burger!

Burger 2: The Bar Burger here has no cheese, but it’s got an amazing crispy sear on the patty. It’s topped with a creamy whipped herb butter and pickles, and sits on an English muffin. Really simple and incredibly delicious. This one took me by surprise!

Such a crazy day! Not one bad burger in the bunch. In fact, all were pretty damn great. It was tough to choose favorites.

PORTER HOUSE BAR & GRILL
10 Columbus Cir
New York, NY 10019

THE VINE
851 6th Ave
New York, NY 10001

BOUCHERIE
99 7th Ave S
New York, NY 10014

BLACK TAP SOHO
529 Broome St
New York, NY 10013

BLUE RIBBON FEDERAL GRILL
84 William St
New York, NY 10038

Felix

I’d been to Felix a few times for drinks in the nice weather, but I never actually sat down to eat until yesterday. I was invited in to take photos of the food and post some stuff to Instagram, so my wife and I went for dinner and tried some good French classics.

First, the foie gras terrine.

This was incredibly smooth and creamy. It was served with toasted bread and some caramelized shallots. Highly recommended, but I actually liked eating it better with the table bread than the toast.

I had to get the beef carpaccio, just because, you know, beef.

It was beautifully plated with arugula and shaved parmesan. Also really tasty, and also recommended.

My wife went with the cassoulet.

This baby was packed with a massive assortment of meats: chicken, duck, pork and two types of sausage.

Very nice.

I went with what was described on the menu as both a cote de boeuf and an aged 40oz prime rib for two. However, what came out was more like a traditional steak as opposed to roasted prime rib.

It also felt like it was a little smaller than 40oz. Perhaps maybe 32oz.

I ordered somewhere between rare and medium rare. Some parts were spot on, and others were over. But the flavor was pretty good at a solid 7/10. It also came with a nice vegetable medley of string beans, carrots, mushrooms and baby Brussels sprouts. The fries were really great too.

The three sauces that came with it were Bernaise, peppercorn and blue cheese (and a small dish of dijon for the fries). My favorites were the peppercorn and the blue cheese, but I was going into the peppercorn more because the blue cheese sauce was strong.

For dessert we tried the apple tart (tarte tatin).

This had a great texture on the outer edges of the tarte, with a soft and tasty apple inside. A nice pairing with some vanilla ice cream.

FELIX
340 W Broadway
New York, NY 10013

The French Cheese Board

I was recently invited to the French Cheese Board by Peachonomics and The Baddish Group for a cheese tasting. I ended u learning a lot about cheeses, and since we were eating all cow’s milk cheeses, I figured it was worth a write-up on here.

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I had no idea that certain cheeses were meant to be cut and eaten in specific ways depending on their shape and size. Check out these charts:

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Pretty interesting. And this chart of cow breeds shows which cheeses come from which cows:

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What I found interesting is that, much like our Beef Check-Off system here in the States, Cheeses of Europe acts as a marketing tool and advocacy arm of the cheese industry across the pond. They organized this event as a way to educate foodies in NYC about French cheeses. I’m actually looking forward to learning more about cow’s milk cheeses. Maybe one of these days I’ll organize a beef and cheese pairing event, as I’m sure certain cuts of beef or methods of preparation would pair nicely with certain cheeses.

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Not only does the French Cheese Board sell cheese, but it also acts as an art gallery and food lab as well, where students can intern and learn about cheese.

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We tried a bunch of really diverse cheeses. My two favorites were the Brillat Savarin and Pont I Eveque. Both were softer and creamier than Brie.

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They served us some nice wines that went with the cheeses, and even put together some plated cheese hors d’oeuvres.

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I definitely recommend hitting this spot to try out some cheeses. The prices are very reasonable.

THE FRENCH CHEESE BOARD
41 Spring St
New York, NY 10012

Hida Beef

Hida is a region in Japan, located in the northern part of Gifu prefecture on Honshu island. That’s west of Tokyo, but not quite as far as Kyoto or Osaka. While I’ve never been there, I can tell it’s a place that I’d definitely want to visit.

Hida is known for it’s outstanding beef (Hida-gyu), which is derived from a black-haired Japanese breed of cattle. Laws are such that, to quality as the Hida brand, the cattle has to have been raised in Gifu prefecture for at least 14 months. The beef is characterized by intense, beautiful, web-like marbling with a buttery, smooth texture that melts in your mouth. The flavor is both rich and delicate at the same time. It can be likened to the top percentiles of wagyu beef, rivaling kobe and matsusaka in quality, with marbling grades of A/B 3, 4, and 5.

I was invited to a Hida beef tasting event at EN Japanese Brasserie, one of the seven restaurants in the area that will be serving Hida beef on their menus. The other six are Brushstroke, Hakubai, Hasaki, Sakagura, Shabu-Tatsu and the Members Dining Room at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This is the first time that Hida beef is available here in the States, so if you’re a meat aficionado like me, you should definitely hit one of these places and give it a try. This stuff is expensive though, so make an occasion out of it.

I tried the beef in four different preparations: (1) sliced raw, nigiri sushi style, and then kissed with the scorching flame of a blowtorch; (2) seared edges, a tatami trio, with three different kinds of salt; (3) “Hoba-miso” style, stone grilled with miso sauce; and (4) chopped raw, tartare or ceviche style, with citrus and uni. Despite all the marbling, the meat doesn’t come off tasting very fatty, like some highly marbled cuts do. It didn’t leave a coating of waxy or fatty residue on my palate like certain cured salamis with high fat content. And it didn’t cause the flavors of whatever I ate next to change or taste different due to that fat, which is sometimes the case with aged beef and cured salami. In short, it was really a very pleasing experience.

I’ll start with my favorite preparations: (2) and (3). The tataki trio was essentially three slices of Hida beef (strip loin), each dressed with a different salt element: yuzu soy sauce, sea salt and a special red salt that had hints of spice to it. All three were great, but I think I liked the classic sea salt topper the best.

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The hot stone grilled preparation, Hoba-miso, was the only one in which the beef was cooked through. This dish is local to Hida. The sliced beef is placed on Hoba (a big Magnolia leaf) with miso and scallions, which then sits directly on the surface of the hot stone. As you can see, the before and after photos of this method indicate that this beef can be thoroughly enjoyed fully cooked if you’re one of those puss-bags who is afraid to eat raw or under-cooked meat.

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Fully cooking the beef did not take anything away from the meat. You still get that buttery smooth texture and melt-in-your-mouth flavor characteristics. In fact, the leaf and miso bring nice flavor accents to the beef that compliment it well. This, too, was a strip loin cut of beef, and it was presented to eat on grilled sticky rice patties.

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Here’s the chef, Abe Hiroki, who was grilling these delicious morsels to absolute beef-paradise perfection:

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The torched nigiri style reminded me slightly of spam musubi, for the sole reason that it was a warm meat item served atop sushi rice. Here, you can get a real, unadulterated taste of the beef in all its marbled glory. It truly is spectacular.

I’ve been eating aged beef for so long that something this pure and clean really blew me away. This was strip loin as well.

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This was the sushi master behind these perfect pieces of nigiri:

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Finally, this tartare or ceviche style came dressed with a citrus yuzu sauce and was topped with uni (raw sea urchin). Absolutely stunning and decadent. The reason I am interchanging tartare with ceviche is that, typically, ceviche involves fish and citrus, while tartare features meat and egg yolk. Since this dish had elements of both but not all, I figured I’d split the baby. Tarviche? Why not. Also strip loin.

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The event also showcased some nice sake selections with flavors ranging from dry to sweet, traditional to aromatic and fruity.

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In fact, the event began with a “breaking the mirror” ceremony on the casks of sake, as well as a sake toast.

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The governor of Gifu was even in attendance, introducing the beef, the region and the customs to the audience.

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The restaurant itself is beautiful, and I look forward to coming back to try some more of this amazing beef. Every preparation was 10/10 for flavor, and I highly recommend it.

EN JAPANESE BRASSERIE
435 Hudson St
New York, NY 10014

Bo Caphe

Vietnamese food is a tough nut to crack in NYC. Most of it sucks here, and the few places that people rave about just don’t really do it for me. I’ve been to places where they get one dish right, but fail on others. They have a great sandwich, but the soup in bland. You can literally go to almost any other city in America and find better Vietnamese food than you can in NYC, which baffles the living shit out of me. New York is the best at everything, so why not Vietnamese food? Who knows. The answer eludes me. Maybe the Vietnamese community just isn’t big enough here, or there aren’t enough courageous Vietnamese chefs that are willing to stretch their neck out and take a financial risk in the highly competitive and quick-to-closure NYC restaurant scene.

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Goddess Kali: house sake, sparkling wine, chia seeds, hibiscus, lemon and pineapple.

In any case, Bo Caphe isn’t like those lame joints that attempt to offer traditional Vietnamese food and then fail to deliver because there is not one single Vietnamese person on staff who would know how to make the dishes. Bo Caphe is embracing the non-traditional by proudly offering fusion dishes that you can get excited about, like the Bao Burger with taro chips.

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The burger had a nice char on the outside, with what seemed like diced onions mixed into the grind. It was juicy, and the steamed bun was the perfect Asian version of a soft and pliable yet strong potato bun. The addition of cilantro and green pepper sauce made it pop. The taro chips were a nice touch as well. They were thin, crisp, well seasoned and only occasionally greasy.

Being a French-Vietnamese fusion restaurant is nothing too outside the box, since binding the two cultures makes sense from a historical/colonial perspective. But Bo Caphe dives a bit further into French territory by offering a few selections that feature cheese, something largely not featured in Vietnamese cuisine, let alone Asian cuisine generally. Both the spring roll menu and bun menu featured cheese. The spring roll item, Vach Kiri, which literally translates to “laughing cow,” is a fried rice paper wrapper that’s filled with cheese and quinoa.

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The fried chicken bun had some goat cheese. I enjoyed it, as it added a different texture and flavor combination to compliment the pickled carrots and daikon on top, but I can see how this might not be everyone’s cup of tea.

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The braised beef bun, on the other hand, was pretty straight forward and delicious. No cheese that I could taste. And while I was eating this one I remarked that I was surprised the Bao Burger didn’t feature any cheese. Of all places to have it, that seems like the most proper fit for cheese in Asian cuisine.

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The noodles here were fantastic. We tried two styles: one was cooked lemongrass beef, and the other was raw diced salmon. The salmon dish was reminiscent of a poke bowl but with noodles and fish sauce for dressing rather than soy-based sauces. It was refreshing and tasty.

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The lemongrass beef was my favorite of the two. The beef was really tender and packed with great lemongrass flavor and aromas.

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Both noodle dishes were topped with peanuts, shredded carrot and cucumber, fresh mint and a veggie spring roll.

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The next two dishes we tried run the gamut from traditional Vietnamese to traditional French. No real fusion here; two dishes in the style of two different countries. The first, of course, is pho.

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This aromatic, comforting soup is not bad for NYC pho, but my wife and I are just spoiled by the soups we had up in the mountains of SaPa in Vietnam. Nothing can compare. In any case, if you need a fix, this is not a bad bowl. The noodles are slightly different than the usual flat style (these are square spaghetti shaped, like “alla chitarra”), but the aromas are great and they use cilantro, which is what we saw in Vietnam fairly often. If you dress this bowl up with some hoisin and sriracha, you should be good.

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The second dish is a marinated skirt steak with salad.

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The steak was largely French-inspired, even down to the mustard seed sauce (which I liked very much). The steak was a bit over-cooked for my liking, but it packed a lot of flavor and was charred nicely on the outside. I’d order it again, for sure. 7/10.

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The watercress salad featured some nice ripe avocados, tomatoes and red onions.

The dessert menu has some interesting selections. First was a molten chocolate lava cake with coconut. The lava wasn’t very melty, but the sauce that came with it was delicious. The coconut here was similar to the inside of a mounds chocolate candy bar.

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This black sesame ice cream was more like a cream ice of shave ice texture and flavor; light, refreshing, icy rather than creamy. It was delicious, especially with the toasted sesame seeds on top.

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This next dessert was an interesting take on the avocado shakes that I love to get from Vietnamese restaurants. This was a chocolate avocado mousse. You could taste equally the avocado and the chocolate, which was a flavor combination that I never thought or expected to like. It was great!

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The only down side was that they didn’t have the spicy pineapple, sumac and mint salad dessert item. I was really looking forward to trying that out. Also just FYI: I was invited to this joint as an “influencer” – basically free food in exchange for pics and an honest review. So there it is.

BO CAPHE
222 Lafayette St
New York, NY 10012

Pasquale Jones

The Charlie Bird restaurant team recently opened this joint, and since opening it has gotten a lot of hype and attention from the food fanatic community. Namely, for the pizza and the pasta.

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My wife and I came here with a crew of other food instagrammers so that we could try a lot of stuff and snap a bunch of pretty pictures.

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The menu isn’t too extensive, which I liked. It listed a bunch of eye catching stuff that I wanted to try. I was also happy to see escarole make an appearance here in the greens section (though I didn’t get to try it out).

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We tried three starters: pane carasau, cuttlefish and sugar snap peas. All were good, but slightly small in terms of portion size for the price point. While this is a “no tipping” restaurant and one should expect higher pricing, I felt that they went a bit too far. Based on my accounting of things, I’d say they are charging about 40-50% more per item. If you figure a 20% tip into the math, then you’re still overpaying by 20-30%, depending on the particular item in question. So while the idea of a no tipping restaurant may seem great, the real loser is the customer, who can no longer adjust their tip downward for low food quality or poor service. Our waiter was kind of a dick, and I wasn’t super impressed with the food either. As such, I felt like I over-paid for several aspects of the meal.

The pane carasau is essentially what you might get for free in a bread basket at a high end Italian joint. It was really just thin, crispy bread chips with a small dollop of delicious, warm honey and black pepper ricotta. $9.

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The cuttlefish was steep at $18 for this plate:

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The pickled peppers on top were a nice hit of heat, and it was cooked nicely in terms of texture, with only a slight bit of it being, perhaps, a bit overcooked and chewy. It tasted clean, though, and the charcoal grilling method added a nice earthy ash flavor to it.

The snap pea dish with watercress and cream was probably the best of the three, but, again, extremely overpriced at $17.

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The peas carried a nice sweetness, but I was hoping for more cream.

Now for the pizza (category 1: full pies only, no slices available). We tried two pies: little neck clam and the special pizza of the day, which was a morel mushroom and cheese pie. The clam pie had good flavor, but it felt a little sparse on the actual clams and toppings. That means the diner feels ripped off when paying $24 for six small slices. That’s a hell of a profit margin when you think about how cheap it is to make this shit!

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The morel pizza could have used more toppings a bit closer to the edge of the crust. That wasted real estate also translates to the feeling of being ripped off when the bill comes. This was, however, the better of the two pies, in my opinion. The morels had a meaty quality to them, and a good amount of earthiness.

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On the pasta angle, we went with the baby goat pappardelle. This was a delicious dish. The meat was very tender, and the pasta was well dressed with sauce. The texture of the pasta was just right. While the portion size felt a little bit small for $23, I didn’t mind as much because it was top notch quality.

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For the meats, we tried two dishes: pork shank for two, and dry aged rib eye for two. Let’s start with the pork.

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This was delicious. While a bit small for two, the price of $48 wasn’t too bad. Well, I mean, when you compare it to the outstanding crackling pork shank with firecracker apple sauce at Maloney & Porcelli, which only costs $36 and can feed two people with extra to bring home, then, yeah, it’s way overpriced here. But given all else on the menu, I felt this was probably the best bargain. The flavors were outstanding and it had hints of sausage spice from the fennel and rosemary. This is a must-order if you decide to come here.

You can pass on the rib eye, however. It definitely delivered on the dry-aged flavor, but it was very small for two people to share at $125. If I had to guess, I’d say this was about 22oz on the bone. Maybe 24oz. For that size steak at a steakhouse, you pay between $50 and $60. So here, I would have expected to pay about $75 to account for the tip being included. At $125, we are looking at a massive fucking mark-up.

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Contrast this with the best rib eye in Manhattan over at Osteria Morini, just around the corner, which offers a steak that’s more than twice the size of this thing at 52oz, with 120 days of dry-aging flavor, and accompanied by two generously-sized sides for just $145. Uhh… no brainer. Anyway, this steak had a bit of chew to it. Not as tender as we had hoped and expected from dry-aging.

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It was cooked perfectly to medium rare, and it had a great crust on the outside. The crispy meat surrounding the bone was excellent as well. However there was no rib cap to speak of. Perhaps it was butchered off for some other use. 7/10.

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The steak came with this nice roasted onion:

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And something came with this side of citrus-dressed arugula:

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But the highlight of the night, aside from the pork shank, was seeing Michael J. Fox and Dennis Leary in the dining room, eating together with their wives.

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To sum up: skip this place unless you are focused on the pork shank. If that’s not your thing, then stick with the pizza and pasta, but I, personally, would still go elsewhere for those even though both were pretty tasty.

PASQUALE JONES
187 Mulberry St
New York, NY 10012

Osteria Morini

My wife was recently browsing around the Instagram foodporn landscape when she came across this image of a massive rib eye:

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Photo Credit: Osteria Morini: @OsteriaMorini on Instagram

I was immediately intrigued when she shared it with me, but I kind of just put it on the mental list of places that I needed to try. Like any fool who is just looking at photos and not actually READING captions, I missed the integral part of what was going on and why my thoughtful wife sent it to me:

“BIG news. Literally. Tonight only we are serving 120 day dry aged Tomahawk Steak. It’s on a first come basis and there are only 7, so call to reserve yours now.”

120 fucking days?!?? Wow. So a few days go by and I get this frantic text from my wife: “GET YOUR CAMERA AND MEET ME AT OSTERIA MORINI TONIGHT AT 6PM!”

I responded. “Okay. Why, what’s going on?” Then she proceeded to explain to me the details of what I had glanced over a few days earlier. She’s a very patient person. I do this often, apparently. But my mouth dropped. She had secured us one of the seven 52oz, 120-day dry-aged Pat Lafrieda/Creekstone Farms rib eyes just a week or two in advance of our 7-year wedding anniversary. They only offer them on the first Wednesday of every month, so scheduling is limited. Anyway, I ran home and got my camera, because we were about to celebrate with the best steak we’d ever eaten.

The steak is not trimmed of any excess fat, and the bone is left with all the meat still attached prior to cooking, as you can see in the Instagram photo above. This is ideal when dry-aging, because eventually you have to trim off the outer bark and you inevitably lose some meat when that happens. Better that it be fat and gristle than your spinalis dorsi. Even still, this particular cut is still left with tons of surrounding meat and tenderized fat. Ours came out to the table pre-sliced, beautifully plated and ready for gorging:

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Everything is edible on this. Even the fat breaks down into a really delicious beef jelly after that much time aging.

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The cap was truly something to behold. Packed with tons of flavor and so fucking tender. As for the eye (longissimus dorsi), just take a look at this perfectly cooked masterpiece of a slice:

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I half expected something so funky and nutty that it would almost be unrecognizable as steak, and more akin to blue cheese. But it was mild and pleasant, not so robust that it became odd tasting, like what can happen with some long aging processes. This was just right. I was smiling the entire time. This is the best steak I’ve ever eaten. 10/10.

But let’s not brush aside the other great Italian cuisine going on here at Osteria Morini. The bar has a great selection of Italian-inspired cocktails that are really unique and interesting.

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The atmosphere is home-ish and comfortable. It’s warm and inviting, with lots of wood tones.

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By 8:30pm the lights had dimmed significantly and the place was wall-to-wall jammed. The food is so great, it is no wonder why. But when you take the stellar service into consideration, a packed house becomes a no-brainer. GM Phillip Buttacavoli made us feel very much at home, and all employees from servers, to kitchen staff, to bartenders were really helpful, pleasant and nice.

The foccacia table bread was warm, toasty and nicely seasoned.

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We started with the stracci pasta: long, wide ribbons of egg-forward pasta with a braised wild mushroom sauce and rosemary oil.

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Perfectly cooked, and delicious through and through. The other pasta dishes all sounded great too. I will definitely be back to survey more of those selections.

The steak, which was a very fair $145, came with our choice of two sides as well. We went with the parmigiano roasted asparagus and the parmigiano fingerling potatoes.

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The asparagus reminded me of the kind my mother used to make. Very simply cooked but with parmigiano over the top to add in some salt and flavor. And the potatoes were perfectly crunchy and nicely seasoned all around.

For dessert, we tried the gianduja budino: a baked chocolate and hazelnut custard with candied hazelnuts, brown butter and salted chocolate cake crumbles.

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I loved it. It had just the right amount of sweet and savory to strike a great balance. They even gave us some complimentary glasses of saffron and cardamom amaro to go with the dessert.

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We ended up using a great Gilt City deal on this meal. My wife paid something like $145 for $200 worth of credit to apply to the bill at pretty much any Altamarea Group restaurant (except for Marea). That left us with a little bit to cover at the end.

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What a fantastic meal. I can’t wait to go back!

OSTERIA MORINI
218 Lafayette Street
New York, NY 10012

Frozen Sweet

This little ice cream joint serves up some interesting flavors like taro, Thai tea and green tea.

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They do this cool thing where they spread out the cream and ingredients on a cold table and then scrape up the ice cream in these cool log curls. Check it out:

We stopped in here with a gaggle of food bloggers and ordered up a few cups to sample among the crew. Here’s a shot of what the Thai tea looks like:

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As you can see, they offer panda and monkey cookies as toppings. They also have face emojis, like this one with the taro flavor:

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And last but not least, this flavor is vanilla with banana mixed in, and then a nice money-shot of sweetened condensed milk dripping down the panda’s face. Hashtag cummybear. This is the one that was being made in the video above.

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The ice cream here is light and not too sweet, which is nice because you can eat a bunch without feeling like you’re fucking yourself over.

FROZEN SWEET
184-186 Mulberry St
New York, NY 10013

Taureau

Taureau is a French fondue joint down in SoHo that’s owned and operated by the same badass chef dude, Didier, who runs neighboring La Sirene and cross-town East Village gem Le Village.

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My wife and I were invited here to round out a trio of press dinners for Didier’s restaurants.

The atmosphere here is cozy, with dim, warm lighting. Taureau derives its name, logo and decor concepts from the Taurus zodiac sign. It’s an earth sign specifically, and everything served and used for decor is of the earth (no fish on the menu, lots of natural objects for decor, dark wood and earth tones for the seating and tables, etc).

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The concept of fondue is pretty simple: melted cheeses, hot oils, mulled wines and melted chocolates, in which various meats, veggies, fruits, breads and other items are dunked and dipped prior to eating. It’s not complicated or messed with here at Taureau. As with his traditional French bistro La Sirene, Didier has kept his fondue concept restaurant straightforward, and I believe it’s the only fondue gig in town.

The fondue experience is inherently communal. No guys: there’s no LSD, cult leaders, hippies or outdoor multi-day music festivals. I only mean “communal” as in everyone is using the same cooking vessel. As such this lends itself to be a good place to go both with a group of friends, or even for an intimate date. After you share cooking vessels, you can share a bed together. And with music like Barry White playing during the meal, the mood for such behavior is subconsciously set. One caution I will give you is this: be prepared to come away with a scent of cooking oil on your clothing. Didier has some good air circulation in the restaurant, so it wasn’t as thick as I expected. However sometimes the fondue pots can smoke up a little bit, and the oil smells can cling to your fabrics – JUST the oil smells though; the cheese and chocolate smells don’t cling. So even though Barry White may have lubricated your libido while you were indulging in chocolate covered strawberries with your lover, you both may come away with a “fast food employee” smell on your persons that could ruin the mood. I suppose you can simply double down on the sexy and eat topless if you want; then there will be no smell on your clothing. However, while it’s perfectly legal to go topless in NYC, it may be frowned upon by the restaurant and its diners, and if you drip hot oil, liquefied cheese or melted chocolate on your nipples, you may regret the topless dining decision very quickly (unless, of course, you’re into that weird shit).

I have to be honest here: I had been to a fondue joint out on Long Island once and I didn’t like it very much. It felt over-priced and the food was underwhelming. But here, I knew I was in good hands with Didier. Everything I have ever tasted from his kitchens was high quality and really delicious. As such I was excited to dive in.

Okay so, basically, you choose your price point and fondue accompaniments (very reasonably priced, ranging from $43/pp to $52/pp), and soon the food starts to come out as the fondue pots heat up on built-in electric heaters that are embedded in the tables. They serve wine too, so you can pair your cheese fondue with white, and then transition over to red for the meats:

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The first course is a salad along with some croutons, which is unlimited if you choose to gorge yourself:

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The salad is mixed greens, lightly but evenly dressed. The croutons are for your cheese fondue course that comes out with this. We tried four different cheese concoctions. The first was a nutmeg-infused cheese, which smelled like fall:

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Then a combination of various Swiss cheeses:

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And a cauldron of Monterey jack and cheddar cheese:

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But my favorite was this earthy truffle perigord cheese:

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It went perfectly with our side items for dipping, which consisted of broccoli, chorizo, fennel sausage, and portobello mushrooms:

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In particular, the mushrooms with the truffle cheese was an incredible “double-down” on the earthy flavor notes. And the chorizo went really nicely with the nutmeg cheese. The spice of the sausage was off-set and balanced by that touch of sweetness from the cheese. We kept diving in, dipping food, and dodging and ducking from any errant drips of melty cheese as we reached over and across each other. Dodge, dip, dive, duck and dodge. Just like the five D’s of dodgeball, from the Dodgeball movie:

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Some drip-catching plates could have been helpful, I suppose, and I guess we could add a 6th D for the dodgeball reference, for Didier. He has truly created some really amazing cheese combinations, and that truffle cheese was the big star of the show for the evening. I just kept going at it, even when all that was left to dip was the broccoli!

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After about 15 hits of truffle cheese, I thought I might be full, but then the meat course came out. Our cheese fondue pots were swapped for four new pots: red wine, vegetable oil, olive oil and peanut oil. The idea here is to dunk your meat in for varying amounts of time (depending how thoroughly cooked you want it), and then add a little sauce to it before eating. The sauces included a dijon cream, truffle red wine reduction, peppercorn gravy, gorgonzola cream and Hollandaise.

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The sauces paired in unique ways depending on which meat you chose, and which fondue pot you used for cooking the meat. The meats are all marinated and pre-sliced, by the way, for maximum tenderness. Our meat selections were as follows:

Pork (cook for 45 seconds):

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Chicken (cook for 45 seconds):

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Filet Mignon (medium rare 15 seconds):

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Hanger Steak (medium rare 15 seconds):

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My favorite pairings were (1) hanger steak cooked in olive oil and topped with the truffle red wine reduction sauce; (2) filet mignon cooked in red wine and topped with the gorgonzola sauce; (3) pork cooked in red wine and topped with the peppercorn gravy; and (4) chicken cooked in peanut oil and topped with the dijon cream sauce. Really good shit.

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Dessert, as you can imagine, involved copious quantities of melted chocolate. We tried both the milk and dark chocolate varieties:

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We were served a plate of sliced fruit and dessert breads for dipping. Bananas, pineapples, apples, kiwi, grapes, strawberries, banana bread, white chocolate bread and even marshmallows were all involved.

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You can mix and match to your heart’s desire. I was actually surprised to find that I liked kiwi with milk chocolate. Pretty interesting.

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But you can’t really beat the simplicity of a chocolate covered banana or marshmallow:

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That about covers it for this really fun fondue night. If you’re up for something unique and different for dinner, this is definitely the way to go. When you go, tell Didier that Johnny Prime sends his regards.

TAUREAU
558 Broome St.
New York, NY 10013

Black Tap Craft Burgers & Beer

This little bar style burger joint in Soho slings some really great burgers.

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The place proudly advertises that they use Pat LaFrieda beef in the grind. It pays off because the meat is really fantastic, and the burgers are cooked to a nice medium rare.

We tried a few different burger styles. The All-American is a classic patty with American cheese, lettuce, pickle, tomato and a Thousand Island type sauce. The burger is served open face style so you can stack it however you like.

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Each comes with a side of fries as well.

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And it is cooked to medium rare whether you like it or not:

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It tasted exactly how you want your burger to taste. Big bold flavor, melty cheese, and perfectly seasoned beef cooked to pink through and through. The potato buns here are strong, sweet and pliable too. Excellent.

This steak au poivre burger was topped with blue cheese and served with a peppercorn gravy. The cheese didn’t overpower, and the peppercorn sauce really made this burger stand out as what was probably the best of the night. I felt like I was eating a steak!

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The Texan has cheddar and bacon, with an onion ring on top. This had great classic beefy flavor, with a robust kick from the bacon.

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And the Greg Norman is made with wagyu beef and topped with arugula and blue cheese, with a buttermilk dill sauce on the side.

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The beef on the Greg Norman was top notch. That shit was so funky, earthy and savory that I just wanted to keep going and going. It was probably the best wagyu burger I’ve ever had. Look at how amazing this redness is…

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We gave the onion rings and sweet potato fries a try as well, which you can substitute instead of regular fries for a small up charge. I liked the regular fries the best of the three, but here’s a shot of the sweet potato jammies for y our edification:

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In addition to having a great beer selection, they also have some nice shakes as well. My wife tried a coffee flavored shake, which was really creamy and tasty:

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They even do some fun collaborations sometimes, like this St. Patrick’s Day burger (Pat LaFreda) that is topped with Katz Deli corned beef.

Oh, and they serve some dynamite wings as well.

BLACK TAP
529 Broome St
New York, NY 10013