Category Archives: Restaurant Reviews

Quality Bistro

Quality Bistro opened back in January, if I recall, right when I started a hellish new job with insane demands on my time. Then, of course, the entire city went into lockdown from Covid-19. Somehow my work-life balance got even worse. I’m only just now finally beginning to break away from the +60 hours/week grip of this gig, to get back out there and review restaurants for you savage bastards.

Anyway, the point of that bullshit preface is really just to say that I’m excited to finally write about a new(ish) joint that I’ve tried, especially one that’s serving some awesome food.

Quality Bistro is the newest restaurant in the Quality Branded restaurant group. You know them from my previous posts about Quality Italian, Quality Meats, Quality Eats, Maloney & Porcelli (rest in peace) and Smith & Wollensky.

Here’s my quick video run down of those spots, if you haven’t seen it:

First of all, this new place, Quality Bistro, is totally decked out. This is easily the most gorgeously decorated space in the entire Quality Branded suite of restaurants. High ceilings, beautiful booths, decor and tables – really on another level. They spared no expense. So when you go here, make sure you request a table inside. I recommend the booths in the room on the left when you walk in. The bar is sick too (hopefully some day soon we will be allowed to sit at one again).

The menu is decidedly French, which makes sense given the “bistro” restaurant name. But like all their other restaurants, they are aggressively beef-forward. I wouldn’t call them a steakhouse, per se, but they get very close to it. They offered five steak cuts when I was there: a filet mignon, a strip, a bavette, a tomahawk and a “cote de boeuf” rib eye for two. We went with the tomahawk, but let me run through the other stuff we tried.

We started with the escargots and the crab cake. The escargots are probably some of the best I’ve had in the city, rivaling Paul Denamiel’s at Le Rivage. Very close competition! And they’re in the shell too, which I love. Order these, and get a dozen because you save $10 when you jump from a half ($19) to a full dozen ($29).

The crab cake is massive. It’s about the size of an 8oz burger patty, thick too. Super crisp, great sauce. I think this would be amazing as a lunch sandwich with pickled green tomato on a brioche bun or a croissant, with a bit more green on top. Absolutely delicious.

Our mid course was the prime tomahawk. This comes slathered with Rogue Creamery smokey blue cheese – a TON of it!

The smell coming off of this thing was so amazing. It filled the massive dining room with funk.

The cook temp was a perfect medium rare. So juicy, so tender, and so packed with flavor. This is an easy 9/10. I stripped the fucker clean!

We chased that with the corn custard brûlée. I had high hopes for this, but it fell short for two reasons: (1) The inside was less custard and more clumpy scrambled egg. This is usually a turn off for me, but the flavor was really good, so I still devoured it. And (2), a bit heavy on the caramelized sugar on top. Too thick for my liking. The flake salt, however, really made the flavors on this pop. I can see this side being a star with a bit more fine tuning.

*SEE UPDATED REVIEW NOTES BELOW!*

Our third course was the Moroccan fried chicken. They serve a whole bird for two in a beautiful tagine with fresh cilantro, Moroccan pancakes and a trio of dipping sauces (spicy honey, Moroccan cilantro chimichurri and citrus yogurt).

The breading is really nicely spiced, with great middle eastern earthiness and aromas.

Absolutely jerkworthy. I’d get this again in a heartbeat. In fact, I’m glad we ordered big, because we took more than half of it home. I’m about to eat the left overs right now, and I’m psyched!

Last, we had the apple tart sundae with cinnamon ice cream. This was really good, and big enough to share with your date at just $12. The cinnamon ice cream tasted like Cinnamon Toast Crunch, my absolute favorite cereal of all time!

I guess that about does it for now. I plan to go back and try some of the other cuts, particularly the bavette frites, since that’s a little less common on menus. Definitely give this place a shot. Gaetano, Scott and Roger will treat you right. They provide amazing, clean service here, and you’ll feel safely spaced apart and very comfortable. Can’t believe I have to even mention such things right now…

UPDATE 10/24/2020

My wife and I went back for round two, and tried a bunch more stuff.

For apps, we tried the taste flame, which is the joint’s take on Detroit style pizza + bread service. This was incredible!

Probably my favorite app here so far though, is this tuna carpaccio. Spicy, fresh, and deliciously refreshing.

These jambon beurre bites are pretty damn tasty as well.

This time, my wife went with the branzino. This was perfectly cooked and very flavorful. It comes with a choice of either salad or fries.

I went with the bavette, and also went with the French fries option.

They developed a great char on the outside…

While maintaining a perfect cook temp on the inside…

This was a solid 8/10. Really nicely executed.

On the side, we gave the corn brûlée another spin, and MAN were we glad that we did. As I expected, with the improvements I outlined above, this dish was a star. Much nicer texture inside (real custard-like), and lighter on the sugar top. PERFECT!

So that’s two steaks down, three to go: filet, strip, and rib eye for two. I’LL BE BACK!

QUALITY BISTRO
120 W 55th St
New York, NY 10019

D’Espana

Despana is a little wine shop, gourmet Spanish grocery, and tapas/pintxos bar in Soho, all rolled into one. My wife won a wine tasting here in a silent auction, so last night we went in to give it a shot.

We tried six different wines from Spain that utilized grape varietals that I have never tried before. All were great. I’m not a wine snob by any means, but I do appreciate the good stuff and I know it when I taste it.

Speaking of tasting good shit, the snacks here are delicious.

That lean muscle lomo on the bottom right side of the charcuterie board was amazing. And that sous vide octopus? BUTTER!

Give this place a shot if you’re in the area.

D’ESPANA
408 Broome St
New York, NY 10013

Balthazar

In all my years in NYC, I never tried Balthazar until last night. I had heard all the great stories: awesome steaks, awesome fries, awesome bread. Only one of those is true, but there are other things worth noting.

My wife and I stopped in for a quick meal at the bar. We started with some nice stiff cocktails, and a pair of apps: escargots and steak tartare. BIG FRENCH.

The escargots were awesome. We crushed them quickly. The tartare was average to good, but the slices of toasted bread were awesome. In fact, the Balthazar bread is so good that other restaurants use Balthazar bread for their bread service.

For our mains, we had the burger and the steak frites.

The burger was really good. Nice crust, great flavor, ample cheese coverage.

The steak, however…

… was Applebees level trash. It was cooked nicely, but the quality was average at best.

I can make anything look good, but this was a 5/10 or 6/10 at best. At $42 this felt like a rip off, and I think it was either flank or flatiron. Not strip as I was kind of expecting. The fries were very good, but not quite at awesome level. Go across town to Raoul’s if a killer burger and steak frites is what you’re after. Here, I would stick to the bread, the burger, and the snails. And yes, the fries are still worth trying if you haven’t already.

BALTHAZAR
80 Spring St
New York, NY 10012

Oceans

My wife took me to this joint for a belated Valentine’s Day date. This spot has some great seafood. We tried a lot of it, so I’ll get moving.

First, their bread service is incredible. I didn’t take a great picture of it, but the focaccia and sourdough are perfect. They bring it out with a dish of whipped butter mixed with some seriously high quality olive oil.

We started the meal with some fresh uni. This was a bit steep at $38, but it was so damn delicious, seasoned simply with some flake salt.

The stone crab claws were probably the low point of the meal. It was difficult to extract the meat (didn’t come out in good sized chunks), and over all it was just average in terms of flavor. For $25 a pop, we would have spent that $50 on more langoustines or carabineros (you’ll see that ahead).

The octopus with gigante beans was a good dish, but not excellent like some of the others. I would pass on this next time and focus more on the other seafood options.

Here’s one of those excellent dishes now: grilled langoustines.

These were perfectly cooked and incredibly flavorful. Make sure you save some bread so you can scoop out the succulent brains and eat them together like a makeshift lobster roll.

The carabineros shrimp were our favorite part of the meal. These giant, head-on shrimp from Spain are so deeply flavorful that it’s almost hard to explain. That dark red flesh is packed with natural fatty juices too. You’ll want to wipe some bread into that shit as well.

For our mains, we had Japanese snapper and a Niman Ranch rib eye. Both were served as composed dishes with sides of vegetables, and both were cooked really nicely. The steak was a solid 8/10.

For dessert, 16-layer lemon cake. So good with that blood orange sherbet swirl.

I definitely plan to go here again. They have beef tataki and lamb belly pasta on the menu that I need to try, but the daily seafood specials will be difficult to pass up again, I’m sure of it. Go give this place a shot.

OCEANS
233 Park Ave S
New York, NY 10003

Ishikawa

My wife told me about this joint that just opened their second location on the upper west side. I took her here for an early surprise Valentine’s Day dinner, since she has to travel on the actual date.

Everything we had here was incredible, and at a price point of $155 for the premium omakase, you really get a ton of high quality pieces. I think there were almost 20. Below are a few of my favorites.

Of course, the one that involved wagyu and foie gras was awesome:

These two with highly marbled tuna belly were great.

This was also awesome; three different kinds of eggs:

I can’t wait to go back!

ISHIKAWA
207 W 80th St
New York, NY 10024

Jing Fong

Jing Fong on the upper west side might be my new favorite place for dim sum. Yes, it’s a bit more expensive than the old, storied downtown haunts, but the food is markedly better. In addition, while the classic dim sum joint will have rolling carts of tasty goodness meandering throughout the floor of the restaurant (which is a big part of the fun), those carts often smell like sterno, chemical flame or leaking natural gas. That smell always ruins the experience for me.

This place brings everything out that you order, sans carts. No smell. I liked that change-up, though admittedly there was a little less fun and intrigue to the experience. But over all, I really loved this place. Some favorites below:

Peking Duck Dumplings – probably one of the best dumplings I’ve had.

I usually hate these pork buns. Always too “bready” and almost always too sweet. Not the case here.

Take a peek inside the vagina slit below. Great ratio of bun to meat, and the meat wasn’t too sweet. Perfect.

Always important to eat your veggies:

Especially when there’s minced pork inside.

Very nice steamed rice rolls (though I wish they offered the ones with fried crullers inside too).

This crispy fried chicken with roasted garlic (entree dish, not dim sum obviously) was really nice too.

I’ll definitely be back here again.

JING FONG
380 Amsterdam Ave
New York, NY 10024

St James Cheese Company

This nice sandwich and cheese shop is a fun place to stop in for a quick lunch if you’re in the area. The bloodies are good, and the sandwiches and cheese are nice.

I could’ve used a little more roast beef on this sandwich, and thinner sliced, but the smoked blue cheese sorta made up for it. That was unique. But I think I’m starting to notice a NOLA trend with small amounts of sandwich meat down here. Not a good look!

ST. JAMES CHEESE COMPANY
641 Tchoupitoulas St,
New Orleans, LA 70130

Revolution

I, my wife and some friends ate at this joint for New Year’s Eve dinner before heading to a party in New Orleans. We tried a bunch of shit so I’ll get right to it.

STARTERS: steak tartare, charbroiled oysters, and crispy fried sweetbreads with mushrooms.

Of these, my favorite was the sweetbreads. They were crispy outside, creamy inside, and packed with lots of earthy flavor from the mushrooms. The oysters were great too, and over all the charbroiled oysters in this town are amazing almost everywhere we had them.

ENTREES: lamb chops and game pie.

These were both pretty good. I’d definitely recommend either one if you’re dining here.

SIDE: artichoke gratin.

This dish ate more like a dip, and as such would have benefitted from some bread or chips for dipping.

RESTAURANT REVOLUTION
777 Bienville St
New Orleans, LA 70130

Pho Tau Bay

After two previous visits to New Orleans I was dead-set on finally trying some Vietnamese food. This town has a large Vietnamese community, so I know the food will be good.

My wife and I picked this joint because it was the closest to our hotel that was actually open on New Year’s Day. It had nice ratings to boot. We started with a pair of Vietnamese drip coffees, which were excellent.

Next, we shared a banh mi sandwich – their signature “dac biet” special sandwich.

This was great. Just the right amount of filling, nice fresh French bread that didn’t rip my mouth apart from being too hard or crispy.

Then we had some soup. I had the large “dac biet” special bowl of beef pho. This was great for the price tag. It easily surpassed most of the pho I have access to here in NYC (obviously there are some big exceptions since NYC is finally getting some good Vietnamese food).

My wife had the bun bo hue, which I thought was a bit too pungent and overly fishy for my taste, but it was still good as far as this dish goes. Especially impressive were the noodles. The round, “thick spaghetti” style rice noodles typically used in this soup will often get overcooked and become mushy. Then they break easily when you grab them with chopsticks, which is a pain in the ass. But these were perfect.

Give this place a shot when you’re down here.

PHO TAU BAY
1565 Tulane Ave
New Orleans, LA 70112

NOLA Po’Boys

This little joint is the perfect spot to stagger into for some great drunk eats after hitting Bourbon Street. The po’boy is pretty good, despite not being on the traditional French bread.

This pile of meat really hit the spot though. It’s braised beef in roux gravy, on top of cheese fries. It’s like a NOLA poutine!

NOLA POBOYS
908 Bourbon St,
New Orleans, LA 70116