For less than $79, my wife and I scored this Groupon deal for Bocca, which gave us $120 to spend. In reality we probably paid about $68 for the Groupon, since we almost never buy them unless there is an additional discount code.
Anyway this Italian joint had some pretty interesting items on the menu. Here’s what we ordered:
This shit was really fresh and clean. It was a great way to start this incredible meal.
Grilled Octopus Crostini with Chorizo, Kalamata Olives and Chic Peas
The octopus was perfectly cooked, and when I took a bite with a little bit of everything together, the flavors really exploded. Such an awesome Mediterranean dish.
Strozzapreti with Nduja
This was amazing. If you don’t know what nduja is, its a spicy, fatty and spreadable sausage product that lots of people eat with bread in southern Italy. Here, however, the geniuses rendered it down with tomatoes into a decadent sauce. Highly recommended.
Cacio e Pepe (Spaghetti alla Chitarra in Pepper and Cheese Sauce)
This was prepared table-side, and was absolutely delicious.
It’s a really simple dish, but sometimes that’s all you need for a winning food item. It’s no wonder this dish is all the rage in NYC.
Hanger Steak with Mushrooms
This fucker was awesome. Seriously. It was cooked to a perfect medium rare, and the selection of wild mushrooms (I think Hen of the Woods and Porcini) really brought out the earthy flavors of the beef, which happened to be black angus from Creekstone Farm. 9/10.
Another thing worth mentioning is this great beer they serve.
This is right in my wheelhouse, since it’s an unfiltered, super bubbly Belgian farmhouse wheat beer.
My wife picked up a Gilt City deal for Le Rivage, with which we shared a 62-day dry aged, bone-in Creekstone Farms/Pat LaFrieda New York strip steak, two sides, a bottle of wine and a dessert for about $100. Pretty great deal, especially if you can use a discount when buying the flash deal.
Anyway, Le Rivage is a cozy French joint in the theater district on 46th Street between 8th and 9th Avenues.
They gave us some nice table bread with whipped butter to start:
And the wine was an 80% Merlot 20% Cabernet blend that was actually pretty good.
The long, 62-day dry aging process imparted a bit of nuttiness and funk to the flavor of the beef. This baby was masterfully prepared. It definitely can hang tough with some of the best steakhouse cuts in the city. Get your ass over here and try it, if it is still available on special. I give it a 9/10. Why not the full 10? I felt like it needed just a hint more salt, maybe just some finishing salt even, but not much.
The steak came with two sauces, so dipping into these added some of that saltiness that I was looking for from the seasoning. The sauces were a wine reduction and a peppercorn:
Our sides were actually very abundant. We ordered broccolini and fries, but they brought out two dishes of fries, one dish of broccolini and one dish of carrots. We had lots to bring home.
I’m a big fan of broccolini, and I cook a mean broccolini at home quite often. I was impressed with it here. It was simply treated with seasoning, garlic and oil. The carrots were buttered and slightly sweet-glazed, and the fries were nice and crisp.
For dessert, we went with the chef’s recommendation, which was a Jacques Torres chocolate chip cookie and a sweetened, spiked milk.
So simple, yet so tasty. After chatting with the chef for a bit, we learned that he is best friends with Pat LaFrieda, and that Jaques Torres is his godfather! That’s a serious pedigree, and it shows in Chef Paul’s abilities. He did a great job on the steak, especially.
I definitely recommend giving this place a shot, especially if you like to take advantage of Gilt City deals (not sure if this one is still available), or even just their regular three course price fix specials, which are offered daily for between $25 and $40. Very reasonable.
UPDATE – 6/30/16
I went back to Le Rivage to try Chef Denamiel’s award winning French Onion Soup Burger today. Holy fuck, people. This thing is absolutely amazing. It’s not a surprise that he won the “Judge’s Choice” award in New York City Wine & Food Festival’s 2013 “Burger Bash” with this baby, beating out the likes of burger master Chef Capon in the process.
His patty grind is usually between 60/40 and 70/30 lean/fat, and the beef also comes from Pat LaFrieda, just like the steak I reviewed up above. He seasons the patty with salt, pepper, drawn butter and brown sugar before it hits the grill. After the first flip, he puts on a slice of a Swiss gruyere type cheese called Emmenthal, which melts around the patty to seal in the medium rare juices. This then gets placed onto a butter-toasted sandwich-sized English muffin, and then topped with cognac-reduced confit onions, and then a bechamel cheese sauce for good measure. The top bun is placed on top, and then the French flag toothpick with roasted cocktail onion and gherkin gets popped on. Viola – perfection.
This is definitely one of my new favorite burgers; it really is unique. I walked out with a full belly, but I was still craving another one. Pretty sure I will be back again very soon, especially because the place is close to both work and home.
Burger still on point:
Even my maniac food photographer homies agree:
Croque Madame is stellar!
Quiche is the best I’ve ever had in my life:
You can even buy it frozen, to go, to fire up at home!
And the escargot is executed with perfection:
Garlic bacon frisee salad: amazing. Tangy and delicious.
Beef Bourguignon: hearty and soul-warming.
DECKLE FOR FOUR
This is probably the greatest thing you can eat. The deckle for four is the spinalis part of the rib eye, wrapped and rolled into a pinwheel. It gets quickly seared for crust on the outside, and then finished low and slow like a roast. Call two days ahead for this to reserve it.
My wife was recently browsing around the Instagram foodporn landscape when she came across this image of a massive rib eye:
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:
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:
Everything is edible on this. Even the fat breaks down into a really delicious beef jelly after that much time aging.
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:
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, and still a 10/10 on a second visit years later.
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.
The atmosphere is home-ish and comfortable. It’s warm and inviting, with lots of wood tones.
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.
We started with the stracci pasta: long, wide ribbons of egg-forward pasta with a braised wild mushroom sauce and rosemary oil.
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.
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.
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.
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.
What a fantastic meal. I can’t wait to go back!
Had a bunch of pasta dishes, which were all excellent:
Octopus was really tender, and had a nice char on the outside.
Incredible “White Label Burger.” Custom Pat LaFrieda beef blend with tomato, speck aioli, and fontina cheese with sides of parmesan and parsley onion rings and fonduta.
And crispy breaded veal wrapped in prosciutto and covered with truffle cream sauce.
218 Lafayette Street
New York, NY 10012
Originally set up by the late meat enthusiast Josh Ozersky, this is the 11th Meatopia event. Meatopia also happens in other cities worldwide, expanding like my belt size after indulging in these delicious meats.
The concept here was pure wood and coal fire, no gas or electric. Just flames and meat carcass. Some shit was done quick on the flames for a sear, and other shit was done low and slow in smokers like these:
With heavy hitters like Creekstone Farms and Pat LaFrieda involved in the mix, you can imagine how excited I was to be here. And without mincing words I will simply say this: Meatopia is the greatest food event I have ever attended in my life.
Upon walking out onto Pier 92, I was blasted with the invigorating scent of roasting meat, and bathed in the billowing bovine smoke that was coming off of the giant Pat LaFrieda fire pit. Heavenly rays of sunlight shone down through the smoke and kissed the meat, as if God himself was proclaiming this to be a righteous undertaking.
What a sight to behold! And nothing was wasted from this animal. As you can see, even the head got picked apart by the savage carnivores that roamed the pier. Even the guys at Gotham Burger Social Club took a bite.
Want to know the most depressing part about the LaFrieda station? I didn’t know this meat was for the crowd. I thought they were providing the meat for all the other stations to use in their dishes, like a supplier of sorts. By time I figured out that I could eat this shit, they had run out. That’s right – they ran out of 1000lbs of meat!!! I was on line for it, five people away from getting a bite, when they finally called it quits on the beast. Not even a scrap!
I did try every other item at the event, however, which is probably a rare claim to make for anyone who attended, I would imagine. There was so much food. I think maybe 30 stations or more. It was very easy to get full if you weren’t smart, or fat.
My first and last stop of the day was this killer broth made by Marco Canora’s “Brodo.” This hearty and hot beef stock was just the right thing needed to keep warm on the windy pier.
As I wandered around with childlike wonder, I couldn’t help but be drawn to the Beatrice Inn station, where Chef Angie Mar was slinging pig for her hungry meat minions. I found myself just staring at this shit. Something deep inside me was triggered. Something primal and cave man -esque…
These not-so-little piggies were roasting on a spit all day and night.
Watch them spin!
So the actual food item being served here was a whole roasted wild boar, blackberries, port and mash. Here’s what a small plate looked like. My photo does it no justice:
This was succulent, juicy, crispy and savory. It had a slight hint of sweet from the berries that made the pig flavors pop. It was one of my top choices of the day, for sure.
Another favorite was Hometown Barbeque. This was a masterful execution of beef rib. So tender and juicy. I know those words are used up like cheap hookers, but they are accurate. The bark on these ribs was crisp without being too hard – just enough to lock in all the meat juices. It had sweetness, but the savory beef flavor was the star of the show.
Occasionally some meat angel would come around and plop one of these dinosaur bones in your hands for you to gnaw on for a while. Some were from Hometown, and some were from LaFrieda.
Another favorite was this sri racha pork belly by The Backroom at Moody’s. I went back for it twice. The belly was cooked sous vide style for 48 hours (okay that probably involves electricity), and THEN smoked. It had a nice pungent flavor that reminded me of fish sauce or Vietnamese food.
They also presented a nice array of charcuterie:
My favorite of the day, just slightly ahead of that pork belly, was this hot beef tongue sandwich by Harry & Ida’s Meat & Supply Company. The meat was so soft, unlike what you might expect from common tongue preparations that can sometimes be rushed, or have the consistency of deli meat.
This was more like pulled meat, or braised stew meat. Absolutely delicious. And they even had a nice tongue hanging on display for food porn photos:
I’m jumping around again here, because I want to front-load this review with the most interesting shit up top, in the event that you meat minions start to nod off, or the ADD kicks into high gear.
CHORIZO ICE CREAM!
There. Did that wake you up a little? It was actually good. These novelty ice cream flavors always strike me as purposefully odd – done with the intent of shocking someone rather than actually delivering a good flavor. But this chorizo ice cream was lightly chorizo flavored, and it was balanced by the presence of caramel. Oddfellow’s is not pulling stunts here. This is good shit.
There was a healthy variety of rib eye and prime rib preparations going around (Hawksmoor London, Andre Lima de Luca and Balthazar, in particular). Never did I feel like the shit was overlapping or redundant. I was actually surprised at how nicely cooked they all were, given the windy conditions and an open flame that is hard to control or regulate in terms of temperatures.
Speaking of those wind conditions causing problems, I think Jason French and the guys at the Ned Ludd station were battling what was probably the worst of the wind conditions. They were one of the first booths next to the large tent in the back. As the wind whipped in from the southwest, it gathered along the tent walls and flowed directly to their station, which was on the south-facing side of the pier. WHAM. The wind over there was bonkers. I have no idea how they were even able to cook in such conditions.
The meat quality of their lamb dish suffered a bit, at least in the plate I had, as it was overcooked and slightly tough. My guess is that these guys were concerned about serving something raw, and wanted to keep the meat roasting despite the wind – so they had to keep stoking the flames. It was still really tasty despite all that nonsense, which is a testament to the chef and cooks. I think if they had more control over the environment this would have been a winning dish: Whole roasted pastured lamb with grape leaf cumin yogurt sauce, and a basmati rice salad with golden raisins and cilantro.
And I was glad to see a nice lamb carcass gracing their work station:
Perhaps the most prominently featured cut of the day was short rib. Check out all the different varieties below:
Tough to choose a favorite between those. If I had to, I’d probably lean toward The Cecil (their veal was really memorable), or Hill Country.
Naturally there was some brisket as well:
One interesting item was this braised beef cheek terrine from Employees Only. Super soft and flavorful. I was hoping to see more cheek represented at this event, but this was really nice with the pickled tomatoes and radishes on top.
The only place featuring strip was El Blok. It as really nicely cooked with fresh turmeric and sour orange, sitting on a side of smoked calabaza.
And several other pork and non-beef items, most notable of which was probably this Portuguese porchetta fried rice from 42 The Restaurant – a very interesting mash up of Asian and Portuguese flavors:
Funny thing about that last photo: I was joking that chicken doesn’t really count as meat. The sauce on there was actually really great though, so it became acceptable to serve at this event, in my eyes.
This station sent me home with a packet of Badia spice seasoning. I always like samples!
There was even some dessert as well. I didn’t take a picture of the cookie I ate, but this banana chocolate turnover with maple bacon and peanut butter from Oceana was excellent. In fact their menu looks pretty brilliant, and it’s somewhat nearby, so I will have to go with my wife soon to try it out.
Don’t look so glum, whoever you are working back there in the pit… There’s meat hanging behind you and I’m sure there will be other Meatopia celebrations in the coming months. Can you say MIAMI?!?
That about does it guys. What an amazing day. I don’t want to wash any of my clothes because the lingering smell of smoke and meat is too precious to cast aside. It should somehow be bottled and sold as cologne.
Oh yeah… one last photo – my stalker pic of Iron Chef Michael Symon, who was the host of the event. People were waiting for hours just to press the flesh with him. I was too busy eating for any glad-handing with celebs!