Category Archives: Restaurant Reviews

Hillstone

My wife and I tried this place today on the recommendation of a friend of mine who spoke highly of the prime rib.

I give this a solid 8/10. For $46 you also get two sides with it, and the slab of roasty, beefy goodness is very well portioned.

It had a nice cap, good flavor both on the crust and throughout, and they serve it with a great seasoning salt (tasted like a sweet but spicy old bay salt), horseradish cream sauce, and gravy in a tea kettle.

The item that stole the show for me though was this grilled artichoke appetizer that our really nice and helpful waitress Marissa recommended.

The halves were perfectly seasoned, steamed, grilled, and then hit with some finishing salt. Absolutely awesome.

They serve some good crafted cocktails, and the bar is impressive as well.

Not a bad lunch!

HILLSTONE
153 E 53rd St
New York, NY 10022

Warren 77

This joint puts up some solid pub food. I came in with a group of food bloggers to help them promote their Stanley Cup game night specials (the joint is owned by an ex-NY Ranger). Anyway, here’s what we had:

Wings

These are breaded and served lollipop style. I liked them, despite generally having less of a preference for breaded wings.

Nachos

Stacked high with tons of toppings. Really good.

Boneless Chicken Wings

For the vagina in your group who doesn’t want any bones. Still good though – and also breaded.

Fried Pickles

A little too salty for me, but I liked the texture and sauce.

Philly Cheesesteak

I loved that this was on a hot dog potato bun. They said they usually serve it on different bread but ran out. I say stick with the hot dog bun. It was great. Low budget and tasty.

Double Cheeseburger

This was nice and basic too, but well executed. For $11 this is a great deal (fries were $3 extra, shoestring style, and  very nicely cooked). Their “77 Sauce” is like a Big Mac sauce. Dig it.

WARREN 77
77 Warren St
New York, NY 10007

Gem

I took my wife to Gem to celebrate our 9yr anniversary. Gem is home to the young rising star fine dining chef Flynn McGarry. He’s only 19yrs old, which means The Cake Dealer and I have been married for nearly half of his life!

Anyway, the meal was a set price tasting menu, which ran about $330 (tax and tip included, but before drinks, which was an additional $78 for three each). Here’s how it went down:

Everyone at the 6pm seating was given a glass of champagne upon entering, which I thought was cool. My wife and I opted out of the $100 drink pairing and decided to try three cocktails throughout the meal instead. They don’t have high proof liquor yet, but they do a good job making cocktails with wine, champagne and liqueurs. I think they also serve beer as well.

Drink 1: Cynar, sweet vermouth, champagne.

Course 1: Local Shellfish/Seafood

This array of beautiful plates consisted of the folowing:

Nori crisp with clam, fava bean and preserved citrus.

This was my first bite. It had a nice fresh, briny sea flavor and qas a good way to wake up the taste buds.

Surf clam with grilled blueberries and rose.

Nice contrast of sweet and savory here. Tasty broth in the shell as well.

Caviar with sorrel dressing and green almond.

A really flavorful and herbacious spoonful of joy.

Scallop with grilled cucumber and salted plum.

This was the star of the course. Really nicely balanced and incredibly flavorful.

Course 2: Smoked Cod with Apple, Caraway and Horseradish

This was probably my favorite dish of the meal. The broth was awesome, and the contrast between sweet/tart apple and smoky/savory fish was perfectly executed.

Course 3: Grilled Asparagus Chawanmushi with Ham and Dried Fruits

This consisted of both shaved and cooked asparagus, an asparagus custard, ham broth, and what we guessed were figs and cherries. Very nice. I think this was my wife’s favorite dish.

Course 4: Grilled Squid with Morels, Blackberry, and Hazelnut Mole

This was both beautiful and delicious. I really loved the flavor combination with the hazelnut.

Drink 2: Cynar, sweet vermouth, sherry.

Course 5: Ramp and Calabrian Chili Lasagna

This was a perfect dish. I could eat an entire sheet pan of this shit. It has a light spice from the chilies, a great freshness from the ramps, and a good crisp texture from the baking process. The delicate use of cheese, pinenuts and a pesto based sauce made this really unique.

Course 6: Cabbage with Foie Gras and Chicken Vadouvan

I loved this course as well. I only wish there was more actual foie gras meat. But the cabbage was served two ways: crisped and cooked with a sort of chicken broth reduction. The rich foie fattiness and savory flavors were abundant in this dish. Excellent.

Course 7: Aged Beet, Creamed Beet Greens and Beet Bordelaise

This was a vegetarian play on steakhouse cuisine. The beet was dry aged, smoked, and seared. When it first came out I thought it was venison. The flavor was deep and hearty from the prep and cooking process, but it still held true to beet flavor. The best part was the creamed beet greens. A near exact replication of good creamed spinach. The bordelaise was a bit heavy handed. Half of that amount would have been fine.

Course 8: Pork Feast

This course consisted of the following dishes:

Pork neck with a sauce made from snails, mustard seed and smoked maple.

I liked this, especially when dragging the pork through as much sauce as possible. Perfectly cooked, and a rare cut of pork that you hardly ever see being utilized in fine dining.

Pork and chive sausage with broccoli.

This was delicious. The sausage meat was formed around a shaved stalk of broccoli before being cooked. It reminded me of some shrimp paste sausage items you sometimes see in asian cuisines.

Roasted sweet potato logs with black sesame.

These were a bit sweet, so I recommend eating them last even though our waitress said that there was no particular order to this course.

Pulled pork lettuce wraps.

The fresh herbs combined with the sweet meat made me think of asian cuisine here as well.

Drink 3: Rhubarb cooking liquids, St. Germain and champagne. Sorry, no pic. It was pink, bubbly and in a champagne glass.

Dessert: Rhubarb and Green Strawberry Galette, with Olive Oil and Thyme Mascarpone, and Vanilla Ice Cream with Blueberry Compote

The ice cream and mascarpone were meant as toppings.

This course really stole the show, and it finished the meal with a bang. We both loved it. The tart was so light and flakey, and all the flavors really paired well together.

That does it. Great spot for a date! Tip is included in the pricing here, and you pay in advance when you make a reservation. So you should only expect to pay up for drinks.

GEM
116 Forsyth St
New York, NY 10002

Denny’s

I ate a burger at Denny’s this past week for the first time in my life. I was actually kind of impressed with it. The burger meat needed a punch in the flavor department, and the sauce on the burger was too plentiful and too sweet (bourbon sauce), but over all it was pretty decent.

The burger patty itself was loosely packed (a good thing), and it had a great crisp all over. It wasn’t overcooked either. The toppings were layered on in just the right amounts, and there was good cheese coverage.

The cheddar bun was a big surprise. I was expecting it to flake apart and crumble under pressure, but it was fresh, pliable yet soft, and held up to scrutiny.

I’d eat here again, though maybe I’d opt for a standard cheeseburger instead of the bacon bourbon burger, so as to avoid the overly sweet sauce.

DENNY’S
60 Nott Terrace
Schenectady, NY 12308

Marseille

My wife and I went to Marseille in the Times Square / Hell’s Kitchen area to help them promote a special menu for Stinky Cheese Week.

We started with some drinks, and then had a few more. They were all good. Coffee old fashioned, Stinky Cheese Week special negroni, Lillet spritz, and some champagne.

In fact I really liked the bar here as well.

I also really liked the bread and butter they served us with dinner.

We started with the Stinky Cheese Week special French onion soup. I enjoyed the cheese, and the beef broth had a pretty good flavor.

I’ve had better elsewhere, but it was certainly satisfying.

The escargot were a bit light on flavor. I was able to pick up the herb flavors easily, but the garlic and butter application was much less than what I’m used to. In fact it may have been an oil instead of a butter. At least that’s the concensus my wife and I came to. I didn’t dislike them, they were just very light and unexpected.

My wife ordered the duck, which had an interesting preparation. It struck us as more German than French: It came with boiled potatoes as opposed to gratin (menu said gratin). And it also came on a bed of sauerkraut, which seemed to throw off the flavors and compete with the duck.

Unfortunately the duck itself was tough and overcooked in parts.

I had the steak frites. While I ordered it medium rare, it came out at about medium well or well done. It had decent flavor though, despite the awful sin of overcooking, and the fries were actually great. 5/10.

Continuing with the Stinky Cheese Week theme, we shared the blue cheese ice cream profiteroles for dessert.

I kinda liked it. It was like eating a cheese plate in profiterole form, as the ice cream had the cheese in it, the cream puff represented the toast, crackers or bread, and the apples and honey came in the form of a sauce for pouring on top.

It was very interesting, but admittedly not for everyone. In fact stinky cheeses in general would fit that chatacterization, but what can I say: I love some stinky cheeses.

MARSEILLE
630 9th Ave
New York, NY 10036

Harolds Meat + Three

Last night I tried a ton of really great American, and specifically NY/NJ, comfort food here at Harold’s Meat + Three. There’s a lot to discuss, so I might as well get right down to it.

WINGS

Brined, smoked and grilled, these are some of the best, most deeply flavorful wings I’ve ever had. They have a great charcoal, wood-fired flavor to them.

PIZZA

We sampled two wood fired flatbread pizzas. The first, an arugula, cheese and ham:

The second, egg, cheese and Taylor ham. Amazing. Off the menu, but you can ask for it at brunch time.

BURGERS & SANDWICHES

Breakfast burger with sunny side egg, taylor ham and American. This tasted like a great white castle slider mixed with a classic deli style egg sandwich.

The South Jersey Soul Crusher: five thick cut, griddled slices of Taylor ham (or pork roll, depending on which part of Jersey you’re in), on an everything bagel. Perfect hangover food.

Egg sandwich with American cheese, salt, pepper and ketchup. A classic, but on a potato bun, and with some pork roll added for good measure. So tasty.

The award winning burger. This baby is simple and delicious. Two smash patties, lots of american, pickles, and a smear of ketchup and mustard, all on a potato bun. Perfect.

BLT. Perfectly executed with Harold Moore’s smoked bacon and crispy Taylor ham bits.

Speaking of smoked bacon, we had a plate of that as well. Incredible.

CHOPS

The rib eye steak.

This is wet aged and simply grilled to a perfect medium rare. Served with an array of veggies so you feel good about yourself.

The lamb blade chop.

I love when places offer interesting and less common cuts of meat. Harold nails it with a citrus marinade, Italian herbs and crushed red pepper. A squeeze from the grilled lemon really made this do backflips on my tastebuds. Check out the perfect cook temp inside:

PASTA (sweet potato tortellini)

There’s smoked ricotta, sage and brown butter in those beauties.

TRIPE STEW

That’s garlic bread on the side there with it. Super tender, great sauce with aji panca chili.

BISCUITS

This biscuit with pork roll bits inside was incredible. Great way to start the meal (sorry I’m adding it here so late).

DESSERT

Miniature soft serve vanilla ice cream cones. My favorite kind of ice cream. I’m a simple man.

Chocolate cake with ice cream on top. Gotta have the rainbow sprinkles on the frosting too.

Not one bad bite in the bunch. I really suggest you get down here and try this place ASAP. So good, and currently still somewhat “under the radar” of people who like to line up like assholes for food. Not for long though. This place is amazing.

HAROLD’S MEAT + THREE
2 Renwick St
New York NY 10013

Le Coq Rico

Le Coq Rico is essentially a steakhouse for fowl. They serve whole, half and quarter birds – everything from chicken to duck to guinea hens. The menu is quite impressive.

My wife and I went in with a photographer who shoots food photos and runs social media accounts as a side business, so we got to try a bunch of things.

First off, they make great cocktails. We tried their old fashioned, and it was excellent.

Since we went in for brunch, we also got to try a pair of their fresh juices. The orange one is called Sirocco Breath, and it’s made with celery, carrot, apple, turmeric and nutmeg. Pop a shot of vodka in this and it is an amazing cocktail as well. So tasty and fresh.

The reddish purple drink is called the Root Twist: beet, ginger and orange. Very nice.

To start, we had the Caesar salad with chicken croquettes. This was  a great salad.

The foie gras terrine en croute was so amazingly flavorful. This has won competitions all over the world. A definite must order.

Okay now on to the main feature. This is a 120-day old Brune Landaise pastured chicken, poached and roasted to perfection.

After slicing:

Some plating:

I really enjoyed this. All the dark meat was juicy, succulent and flavorful, and even the breast meat was incredible – especially when you drizzle some jus on it.

We snacked on this with some fries and a mixed greens salad with vinaigrette.

Now, I know the chicken is the main star, but you NEED to save room for dessert. I’m serious. These are some of the best desserts I’ve had. Every one of them was incredible. Perfectly executed French classics.

Mille Feuille:

100% Chocolate Profiteroles:

L’Ile Flottante:

Chef Westerman’s Vacherin, Ice cream side:

And Sorbet side:

I highly recommend this place. Share a fowl for the table, and go ballistic on desserts. You won’t be disappointed!

LE COQ RICO
30 E 20th St
New York, NY 10003

Mifune

I was invited into Mifune with my wife to sample some of their meat dishes and post some photos on Instagram. But we started with some cocktails, because Shingo Gokan, the man behind the cocktail menu, is an award winning “mixologist.”

This is the Seven Samurai, which is made with rye, aged sake, East India sherry, bitters and smoke:

Pretty beautiful, and really tasty. The smoke aroma was as intoxicating as the booze, and it was similar to a smoked old fashioned.

The Throne of Blood is made with Japanese whisky, Bourbon Antica, Torino and bitters. This is similar to a Manhattan.

The Hidden Fortress, made with bourbon, milk, honey shrub, orange cordial and bitters, is super smooth and tasty.

Finally, we tried the Drunken Angel, made with Hibiki, Umeshu and shiso. This was also great. Very light and crisp.

Now on to the food. The first thing we tried was the steak tartare.

This is made with Angus beef, poached egg and tosazu sauce (a seafood style vinegar). Watch the video as the egg breaks into the tartare:

It was delicious. More like a beef tartare soup – very interesting.

This next item was on special: bluefin tuna temaki. It’s a rib section of bluefin tuna, served with seashells for scraping the meat out and making hand rolls with all the fixings.

Check out this video. Pretty insane!

At just $40, this is a great deal. We probably got about 10 or 12 hand rolls out of this baby.

Okay now on to the meats! First, a straw smoked rack of lamb!

The lamb was perfectly cooked to medium rare.

It came with roasted garlic and grilled fennel. But the real treat about this dish is that when it comes to the table for eating, it’s served in a clay dish that has a smoking chamber underneath, so you get to smell that awesome straw smoke aroma the whole time while you eat.

Next up was washugyu tenderloin.

Washugyu is an American Black Angus and Japanese Wagyu cross breed that achieves a great balance of beefy flavor and tender marbling. This is the same stuff I sell in my shop, pretty much. Anyway, it was incredibly tender and flavorful. They got a nice sear on the meat too. 9/10.

It’s plated up with a shallot puree and some roasted veggies.

This was easily one of the best meals I’ve had in a while. I highly recommend this place, especially for that bluefin tuna temaki. You should go ASAP if you have any interest, because I don’t know how long that will be available on special.

MIFUNE
245 E 44th St
New York, NY 10017

Beefsteak at RiverPark

In case you are unaware, a “beefsteak” is an old timey party that involves people who dress in fancy get-ups and eat copious amounts of beef, typically without utensils and with their hands. They date back to NYC in the mid 1800s, pretty much the time period in which I should have existed. Essentially, this is Tux-Con + Carcass Club. I’m all about it.

I was invited to attend and help promote for the most recent beefsteak event at Riverpark, where there have been three such meals to date at the famed Tom Colicchio’s behest. He is credited for reviving the banquet, and I love him for it.

Anyway, my role consisted of taking photos of some dishes and posting them ahead of the big night. Then I was allowed to attend for free with a guest. Here are some of the photos I snapped:

There was even King Cake, leg of lamb, some marrow toast and potatoes au gratin. The food was pretty much the same on the night-of, with the exception of the steak being a proper rib rack roast (I was very happy about that).

And we dressed the part to a T. Check out me and my buddy all topped up.

All of this to say that point of my post is really just to share the above photos and tell you that the chef at Riverpark is excellent, so it is worth going in to eat from the regular menu.

RIVERPARK
450 E 29th St
New York, NY 10016

Oka

Some of you might remember my recent review of The Crimson Sparrow, up in Hudson, NY.

That was one of the best meals I had all year in 2017. Well, now the Chef/Owner has a Japanese-inspired small plates izakaya joint over in Murray Hill called Oka, and the meal I just ate there is likely to be one of the best meals I will have this year.

A little bit about Chef John McCarthy, which I have shamelessly jacked from the Oka Website:

John is a former lawyer who left a legal career to attend the French Culinary Institute. After graduating from FCI at the top of his class, he worked for Chef Wylie Dufresne at wd-50 for several years, ultimately becoming Chef Wylie’s research and development cook. John is also a certified sake sommelier, and has spent a considerable amount of time in Asia. He lived in South Korea for three years when he was in high school, and he typically travels to Japan at least once a year to either stagiaire or travel for food and drink research and development. For the past two years, he has partnered with Chef Hiroyoshi Amano to prepare two dinners for Outstanding in the Field at the foot of Mt. Fuji for Fujisan Winery.

Not only does he know his way around sake, but he has also crafted some really nice cocktails and curated an impressive selection of spirits as well.

In addition to the impressive cocktail and spirits menu, there’s also a really great happy hour from 5:30-7:00, during which the listed items are just $5.

I was happy to see one of my favorite Japanese beers on that menu, Orion:

Okay so let me get down to business. My wife and I tried a bunch of stuff here. Everything on the menu looked so good that it was really difficult to decide what NOT to order.

Okay so first, the baguette:

This unassuming dish was a great way to open up the meal. The shio kombu butter with smoked salt was wild and invigorating, and the perfectly grill-toasted Balthazar bread was excellent and fresh.

We actually dragged some of it through our second plate, which was the salmon roe with yeasted sunchoke puree and sunchoke chips.

I’m in love with all things sunchoke, so I jumped at this right away. This dish would make for a perfect light breakfast. It was just the right balance of smooth from the puree, pop from the roe, and crunch from the chips.

Just when you thought a Caesar salad couldn’t get exciting, John McCarthy serves you one that is.

This is Romaine lettuce with smoked Caesar dressing, nori panko, anchovy, crispy baked parmesan chips, and shaved, dried bonito flakes. For those of you who are all about that nice fish flavor in a proper Caesar salad, this is all you. It was bonkers.

Next up, steak tartare.

This was easily one of the best tartare dishes I’ve ever had. It stands out among the competition for its notably unique flavor profile. Chef John brilliantly swaps out some of the more standard tartare ingredients for things like pine nuts, gochujang and shiitake to bring this traditionally French dish into his Asian comfort zone.

This next dish was simple but so delicious. Deep fried maitake mushroom, seasoned with za’atar and served atop a smoked dijon mustard sauce. If for some fucked up reason I ever have to give up meat, I would need to consume a lot more fungus like this to try to fill the void. It was meaty, savory, and satiating.

This is grilled baby squid with charcoal garlic oil, kewpie mayo and micro daikon.

The charcoal garlic oil was really something special here. Very simple cook on the squid, but lots of complexity in the sauce.

These giant grilled head-on prawns were massive!

The simple preparation of soy, ponzu and citrus salt allowed them to really shine for the superb products that they are. Make sure you suck the juices out of their heads!

I really dig rice cakes. This Korean version is like gnocchi, only made with rice flour instead of semolina and egg.

This preparation is kinda like mac and cheese; it’s baked with creamy white cheddar and garlic oil, and then topped with spicy cod roe. It might sound weird, but this and the tartare were my favorite dishes of the night! These were like little pillows of chewy goodness with a touch of crunch on the outside, all in a velvety cheese sauce.

Hamachi collar.

There was so much meat on this baby, and every bit of it was juicy and bursting with flavor. I’m convinced this is the best part of the fish. I loved every bite, and it went well with the soy and yuzu lemon zest seasoning that was on it.

This next beautiful and tasty dish is fried rice with pickled mustard greens and mustard seed. Nothing goes better with fried rice than a sunny side up egg. Bur seriously, how gorgeous is this?

The hits just keep on coming. Buttermilk fried chicken:

All the best, most tender parts here. And that dipping sauce is a chili and black sesame mayo. Really nice.

STEAK!

This was a 30-day dry aged Niman ranch cut, which was grilled up and served with a nice house spice made with dried mushrooms and a bunch of other umami bomb type ingredients. Really flavorful!

And last but not least, dessert:

These are Chinese fried dough crullers with white caramel ice cream on a bed of chocolate coffee crumble. Such a dynamic and interesting combination of flavors.

In fact that’s kind of the theme running through the entire meal. Every bite keeps you guessing, and every dish is not only visually arresting, but amazingly tasty as well.

One final note about this place: I love how casual it is. The food is all stunning and delicious, but there is no pretense or attitude. There’s plenty of space to stretch out between tables, unlike other crowded izakaya spots around the city.

There’s also some great bar seating as well.

I highly recommend this place. Get over there and give it a try.

OKA
439 3rd Ave
New York, NY 10016