Tag Archives: mussels

Nice Matin

My wife and I were recently invited into Nice Matin to help promote their Provencal menu in their celebration of Bastille Day.

I’ll say this: Nice Matin is the best French joint in the restaurant group’s ownership among other French joints (L,Express, Cafe D’Alsace, and Le Monde).

We tried a few small bites and drinks from that menu, and, of course, the strip steak frites from the regular menu.

First, we started with some Ricard, which was sponsoring the evening’s French kick-off night. Some diners win goodie bags, and you can enter for a chance to win a trip to France.

Tapenade:

Mussels:

Squash Blossom Beignets:

Onion Tart:

All of those were on the special menu, and all were really good. I think the favorites, for me, were the onion tart and the tapenade, but the squash blossoms were really light and tasty and the mussels were really nice.

The steak was a solid 8/10. The meat was super tender, and I really only took points off because the cook was a little bit over what I asked (medium rare).

The fries were perfectly cooked, but the addition of the Provencal herbs (like lavender) was a little bit aggressive.

For dessert we tried a sesame panna cotta and an olive oil cake. Both were really great, both flavor-wise and texture-wise.

Also, really nice bread here. Warm and tasty.

I definitely recommend this joint for anyone looking for some good classic French fare in the neighborhood.

NICE MATIN
201 W 79th St
New York, NY 10024

Le Monde

Le Monde is a French bistro up on 112th and Broadway. They serve up classic French fare in a nice environment.

I went in to try their steak frites, mussels and burger. Here’s how it went down:

This is a shell steak, which is usually used to describe strip loin, though not always. Based on the shape, tenderness and quality of the cut, I’d say this was indeed a strip loin, so I’ll include it with my rankings of strip steaks for category purposes.

The meat quality is pretty good. Not much fat or gristle. Good texture and tenderness, and it even comes with marrow.

No dry aging, but I wasn’t expecting much for a $30 plate with fries and sauces. 7/10.

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My wife had the mussels. These were pretty good, and the broth is great for eating with the table bread or simply a spoon.

I also tried the house burger, which is topped with roasted tomato, gruyere, onion and lettuce. Not pictured are the fries and Bernaise sauce that come with it for just $15.50.

Not too bad at all! Though it was a bit too tall for regular “by-hand” eating.  used a fork and knife, otherwise it would have been all over my beard.

We also tried their house made foie gras terrine.

You can tell this was home made due to the chunks of organ meat within the terrine. It wasn’t as smooth as I had hoped, but my wife liked it very much and she’s more of a traditionalist on this stuff.

For dessert, the chef made us some special custard-filled crepes that were topped with an orange mango glaze.

Overall this was a good meal. I recommend this joint if you’re in the area and looking for a classic but casual French joint.

LE MONDE
2885 Broadway
New York, NY 10025

Esperanto

Esperanto is a fun, brightly colored Brazilian and South American food joint on 9th and C.

The open and inviting bar boasts a nice selection of unique cocktails, like the mazcalita, made with mescal, lime juice and ginger (right).

There’s even some hard to find Brazilian beers available, like Xingu and Itaipava.

For just $2 you can get these all served michelada style (with lime and tomato juice, which I love).

The first thing that Chef Cesar brought to the table was this really nice country style bread with their house made dipping oil, which is also available for sale by the bottle.

It’s infused with peppercorn, garlic, fennel, red pepper and herbs. It is absolutely delicious. I’ll definitely be going back to buy a bottle of this delicious potion.

My wife and I started with two apps. First was the fried goat cheese salad with cashew pesto.

This was really awesome. I’m usually not a huge fan of goat cheese, but this was so smooth and creamy inside. It was a great contrast to the crisp outside. And that pesto? Green gold!

This next app is far and away the best preparation of mussels that I’ve ever eaten. They’re roasted in a half shell and baked with garlic, paprika, butter and parmesan cheese.

Similar to escargot, this dish really packed a wallop of flavor, especially when you hit it with some of the fresh lime and cilantro. The parmesan turns into a really nice, crust over the top, adding another textural element of crunch.

It’s funny, too, because I was just explaining escargot to someone the other day who had never eaten them. I described it as being like mussels, but baked with butter, garlic and herbs as opposed to steamed in a pot.

We tried two entrees. First was the moqueca, a traditional South American stew made with coconut milk, ginger, cashews and spices.

We chose shrimp as the main protein, but you can also choose snapper or a mix of snapper and shrimp. This dish reminded us of a Thai or Indian curry dish, but less spicy. However, the “fixins” will set that distinction aside some, as this dish comes with a jar of pickled hot peppers and farofa (cassava meal starch, for thickening the stew is desired). Add one or both to your desired levels of spice and/or thickness.

We also tried the Argentinian style grilled hanger steak.

This comes with homemade guacamole and chimichurri sauce, a side of rice, and a side of stewed black beans.

The steak comes out pre-sliced and cooked to a nice medium rare. When you slather the sauce and guac onto a slice of steak, you’re entering a blissful and exciting meat eating experience. The flavors really pop!

For dessert we tried two items; the homemade coconut flan and the chocolate lava cake. I’m usually not a fan of lava cake, mostly because it is never executed correctly and the middle firms up too much. That wasn’t the case here. The inside was warm and ooey-gooey, and the vanilla ice cream was the perfect way to cool down after each mouth-warming bite.

The coconut flan was awesome! It had a really nice firm, custardy texture. It had threads of fresh coconut mixed into the custard too, to offer an additional pop of coconut flavor with each bite.

This was a great meal, and I look forward to going back. Esperanto has daily happy hour specials, and nightly entertainment like bands and DJs. It’s really a great place. They even have a fresh juice bar off to the side of the restaurant.

Give this place a shot!

ESPERANTO
145 Avenue C
New York, NY 10009

Jubilee

Jubilee is a gorgeously decorated midtown east French restaurant that was founded by Eric Macaire, and is co-owned with Chef Luc Holie and his spouse Ilda. When you step into this joint, you feel like you’ve entered someone’s home, and are dining in their living room. Not only is the decor and atmosphere inviting, but the staff is very warm and friendly as well.

Jubilee is known for offering a variety of fresh steamed mussels in delicious sauces. There’s even a special, separate menu that’s dedicated to just mussels! If you’re like me and you can’t decide between the nine sauces, you can get a trio of mini pots to try. I suggest going with a group of people, that way you can get three trios to share as an app; you’ll be able to try all nine varieties!

My wife and I had the dijonnaise, curry and truffle chicken sauces. All were excellent but we liked the truffle chicken the best. What’s cool about the trio is that they remove all the mussels from their shells, so the juicy bivalves are swimming in pure flavor. And there’s a LOT of them in each cup; don’t be deceived!

A full size order of these will come with shells on, in a pretty metal pot. That’s more traditional. But I think the trio is a better value.

They also have some excellent prix fix offerings, both for lunch and dinner. For example, the dinner prix fix includes two courses and a beer/glass of wine. Not bad at all, considering they don’t cut corners on the selections or portion sizes. I’ll take mussels, a hanger steak with fries and a beer any day for under $30. That’s great!

Speaking of steak and fries, they serve up a pretty great boneless “cote de boeuf” rib eye frites here.

That’s a lot of fries! And they are perfectly golden crisp, to boot, and well seasoned. The steak is about an inch thick and 14oz. It had a great sear on the outside but maintained a perfectly pink medium rare on the inside. 8/10. Better than many midtown steakhouses.

Add the complimentary green peppercorn or bernaise sauce on top and you’re in heaven. Those sauces are great for fry dipping too.

Speaking of dipping, I couldn’t stop myself from dipping the fresh country style table bread into my wife’s platter of escargot that she got for her app. The buttery, garlicky, herby sauce was addicting!

And speaking of the bread, it was served with a smooth, spreadable soft butter. I hate when the butter is hard!

But I can’t forget to tell you about my app: the foie gras terrine. It was so incredibly smooth and flavorful, and so incredibly velvety and decadent. I highly recommend it.

We also sampled the grilled leek salad, which comes topped with a pair of fried quail eggs for good measure. I’m typically not a fan of leek texture – a bit too woody for me – but these took on an almost braised quality, and, as such, were super tender and flavorful.

Not only was the food good here at Jubilee, but it was also beautifully presented and plated. For example, take a look at this sea scallop and orzo dish.

Absolutely stunning, not to mention the perfect sear on those babies. And that sauce you see around the risotto was an earthy truffle and porcini blend that was drinkable.

No French meal would be complete without some house made French desserts. For me, creme brulee is an old standby that never disappoints. Here, it was smooth, rich with flavor, and perfectly caramelized on top.

But, rarely seen on menus is a Paris-Brest. I was excited to see it here. It was so light and airy, yet it still packed a walloping punch of flavor. That might have been my favorite of the desserts. It was really pretty, too.

And finally, warm chocolate cake with ice cream. Pure decadence. It was so soft and chocolately inside. It was kind of hard to pull away from this and eat the other stuff.

Dessert also came with these tiny little soft lemon cookie/cake hybrids. There’s a fancy French name for them, but a big, doofy, arrogant, proud American ogre like me doesn’t know it off hand and is too lazy to go looking for it.

In any case, this place is one of my favorite French restaurants now. They have weekly specials mapped out for the entire month. Right now is coq au vin, and later in the month there’s a beef bourgignon. I may have to go back very soon! I hope you go as well.

JUBILEE
948 1st Avenue
New York, NY 10022

75 on Liberty Wharf

Brunch in Boston, at the Fish Pier, needs to consist mainly of seafood. Despite being directly across the street from Del Friscos, we had to hit this joint and see what was what.

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Everything we tried here was excellent. The first thing we sunk our teeth into were these little doughnut/croissant/danish things that come to the table in a metal basket.

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There were amazing. Sticky, not too sweet, bite-sized and covered with nuts of some sort.

I ordered the mussels, which came in a really nice, spicy tomato-based broth with chorizo. Seriously some of the best I’ve had.

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My wife ordered lobster eggs benedict, which came with breakfast sausage and hash browns as well. This was a lot of food for $20. The lobster was supple and juicy, and the eggs were cooked nicely.

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My wife’s uncles split an order of fish and chips and an order of the seafood stew. Unfortunately I didn’t get a shot of the golden, crispy-fried cod and french fries, but I did get a pic of one of the bowls of stew (they split it out into two bowls).

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75 ON LIBERTY WHARF
220 Northern Ave
Boston, MA 02210

Camille’s

We hit this Key West joint because it was well-rated on Trip Advisor for having a great bloody mary.

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The awesome, friendly and very knowledgeable bartender, Al, mixed this wonderful shit up perfectly. It’s made with house-infused bacon vodka and a killer bloody mix that had both spice and meatiness.

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We were so impressed that we came back for dinner that night to try the all-you-can-eat crab dinner.

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Not bad, but like Prime Steakhouse here in Key West, it could be anywhere. The crabs were tasty, but they’re not local or fresh. I was hoping that they had some stone crabs on the menu.

Al recommended earlier that we try the artichoke dip. We weren’t that impressed. It was made with pickled artichokes I think, not fresh, so it had an awkward flavor and texture.

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My wife’s mussels appetizer was massive. Big enough for an entree, and they were good to boot.

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I also got to try this nice blueberry wheat beer as well:

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Overall I’d say you should come here for a bloody, talk it up with Al and share some mussels. Skip the rest.

Square One

For our first meal in Key West, we hit up Square One. The place had a really nice drink menu and food selections, so I figured it was a perfect spot to try.

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The decor is minimalist rustic, if that makes any sense.

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It looks like pig wings have made their way down to Florida. The ones here were a healthy size and tasted really great. They were breaded lightly and fried crisp. The meat was super tender.

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These duck dumplings were a very nice Chinese inspired appetizer as well. The flavors were robust.

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My wife had this nice bowl of mussels, which were actually an appetizer portion but probably big enough for an entree if you are indulging in a few starters.

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The snapper was all gone, but they had some local grouper. It came seared, and served atop some nice soba noodles.

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A couple of days later my wife and I went back to try their flight of bloody mary drinks at breakfast.

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From right to left that’s tomatillo and melon, carrot habanero, yellow tomato and regular tomato. Each was rimmed with a different type of salt to accentuate the flavors within. Really nice.

I had a lobster cobb salad to go with the bloodies. Lots of good quality lobster meat!

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If you’re ever in Key West, I highly recommend this place. It’s great for drinks at the bar or any meal of the day. If native New Yorker Lucas is tending bar, you’ll have a great experience.

La Sirene

What’s more diddy than P-Diddy? Didier:

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I guess I should say WHO is more diddy than P-Diddy. Okay you’re probably confused…

Didier is the owner, chef and manager of three excellent NYC French restaurants. I’ve written a rave review of Le Village from a previous press meal, and now I’m writing one for La Sirene, the popular classical French joint on Broome Street, just east of Varick at the lower edge of Soho.

Anyway, Didier is an intense, animated guy who is really passionate about his food. Everything he serves is of superior quality and taste, and made right there in-house. After eating at two of his restaurants, I can safely say that there is nothing that the man can’t execute with flawless precision. Every app, entree and dessert I’ve tasted has ranged from far above average to excellent, with one or two “best I’ve ever had” things in there as well.

Didier focuses his energy on classic French dishes, made from family recipes that he has been honing for upwards of 30 years. Some of these dishes are so labor intensive that you wonder how the hell he could be cranking them out seven days a week. Even some of the sauces take days to prepare, all from scratch – from roasted bone stock, reduced with wine, and distilled into just a few ounces of absolute heaven in a bowl.

Other French places I have been to will have something like coq au vin or cassoulet on the menu, yet every time you go in and ask for it, they are somehow not able to make it for you. They’re “out” of cassoulet. And other French joints only serve those crazy, impossible dishes one day a week. “Monday Dinner Special: Coq au Vin.” Not served any other day of the week. This is not the case at La Sirene. Didier cranks these fucks out like a machine, and they are all amazing, and available every damn day for hundreds of diners. That is quite impressive, to say the least.

So let’s get right down to business, shall we?

La Sirene recently acquired a liquor license (it used to be solely BYOB), so we started with some Spanish wine: Temperanillo (red) and Airen (white). Both were smooth, but I tend to gravitate toward red in general.

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The table bread is all made in-house, and is a rustic farmhouse style with a crusty outside and a soft, fluffy, absorbent inside that’s excellent for dipping into the sauces that come with the mussels.

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While I got to taste a little bit of everything that each of the five press diners ate, I will try to just focus on the items that my wife and I ordered – really because I ate more of those items than the others.

First was the sauteed baby octopus. This was simply tossed with garlic, parsley, tomato, olive oil and mushrooms, and served warm on a bed of mixed greens. The ‘pus was perfectly cooked. Nice and tender, with great flavors. Although one doesn’t exactly associate this sort of dish with classic French cuisine (it sounds more Mediterranean / Greek-Italian), it was a definite crowd pleaser. Everyone liked it.

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My wife had the Creole mussels, which were served in a creamy tomato and chorizo broth with herbs. We liked this a whole lot better than the other mussel dish we tried, which was “Rochelaises” style, with curry and apples. The chorizo just goes so well with shellfish, and I was sopping up that amazing sauce with bread for a while after the mussels were fully devoured.

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When in France, do as the French do: Eat snails. These little shits were so damned tasty. Buttery, garlicky, herby and tender. I could easily put down three dozen of these like nothing. Didier’s escargot is a must-try, and the best version of the dish that I’ve ever had.

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The entrees were spectacular. Until this meal, I had never tried cassoulet. I think I might have just spoiled myself with this first. My expectations and standards on future cassoulet meals are now way too high, thanks to Didier. It’s like having a rib eye at Del Frisco’s for the first steak of your life. While I have nothing to which to compare Didier’s cassoulet, I can safely say that it is amazing. Behold, my new favorite French dish:

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It was so hearty and packed with flavor. So many different types of meat were happily co-mingling in this rustic dish. It was like a dream-come-true. Inside was a delicious potpourri of cannellini beans, carrots, tomatoes, garlic, duck confit, slab bacon and pork sausage, all braised with duck fat, white wine stock and foie gras jus. Come on… And on top was an array of homemade bread crumbs that were broiled to crispy perfection, so that every bite of this dish had texture versatility as well as flavor variety.

It was difficult to pull myself away from that cassolet. It was my wife’s dish. I, of course, had steak. At first I was conflicted: should I order the hanger steak, one of Didier’s signature items, or the “Tournedos Rossini,” a signature filet mignon item? BOTH STEAK and BOTH SIGNATURE DISHES! It was like Sophie’s Choice for me, except, unlike Sophie, (SPOILER ALERT) I didn’t have to hand one of my children over to the Nazis to save mine and my other child’s lives.

Okay, so after much back-and-forth, I quietly resolved that I would just come back again soon for the hanger steak. I ordered the “Tournedos Rossini,” which is filet mignon, topped with fois gras, truffles and a shallot/port wine reduction sauce.

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This was nothing short of decadent. The fois gras added that much needed fat element back into the cut of tenderloin. So good. And it was expertly cooked to medium rare as well.

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I was thoroughly impressed. For a non-steakhouse, this place does an excellent job with the world’s most prized and sought-after beef cut. Bravo!

Our entrees were served with a nice side plate of veggies. Celery with breadcrumbs and garlic (my favorite of the four), butternut squash, green beans (really fucking delicious, by the way – how on earth does one make green beans so damned good), and carrot puree. This plate comes with each entree, but sometimes Didier will mix up the contents depending on what’s fresh and in season.

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Dessert is such a treat when you’re at a place that really knows what the fuck they’re doing in the kitchen. La Sirene is one of those places. We tried five different desserts, and I made damn sure to take nice photos of each and every one, because they were all stellar.

I’ll start with the chantilly here. Essentially this was a cream puff item: puff pastry filled with vanilla whipped cream. Simple, elegant, light – and a cool, refreshing way to end a meal.

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The steakhouse man in me will always look for a creme brulee of some kind. The one offered here is a banana brulee. Custard with banana and cookie in it. Really delicious and perfectly executed, with generous chunks of very ripe and sweet bananas inside.

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This strawberry tart was actually my favorite dessert of the five. The tart crust itself was flakey, buttery and light. It was sweet, yet slightly savory, to counter-balance against the sweet strawberries, whipped cream and custard that was on top. A real winner for me. I wish I was able to eat more of this.

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My order was the profiteroles. These were essentially the same as the chantilly cream puffs, except filled with vanilla ice cream and draped in melty chocolate. Fucking awesome. And the whipped cream added that lightness that I wanted at dessert time, in addition to the sweetness.

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My wife ordered the chocolate lava cake. This was a sight to see. It comes served on a long plate consisting of three items: whipped cream, the cake itself and vanilla ice cream. See below:

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But when you cut into this baby, that ooey-gooey melty chocolate lava just oozes out of the center.

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I’m usually not a big chocolate-on-top-of-chocolate fan at dessert time, but this was a really great dish with a stunning presentation.

I think that about wraps it up. I look forward to coming back to try the other signature beef dish, the hanger steak, and I eventually plan to try out Didier’s third dining establishment, the fondue joint next door called Taureau. So far Didier is two for two with La Sirene and Le Village. Essentially he has taken victories at the Derby and Preakness, and I am interested to see if he will score the Triple Crown at Belmont. See what I did there? That’s a horse racing metaphor, because the Belmont Stakes are just a few weeks away, and we have a potential Triple Crown winner on our hands this year.

LA SIRENE
558 Broome St.
New York, NY 10013

Kingside

My wife and I stopped into Kingside for a quick meal because it looked amazing inside, and we had heard good things about the burger.

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So let me get right down to business here about the burger:

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As you can see, there is no lettuce, but there was a crunch element from this vinegary pickled and minced veggies giardiniera relish. Check it out below (hint: it’s not the white or red one):

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Not my go-to for a burger topping, but it at least satisfied the need for crunch. It had a hard/crusty bun, which is a big mark for the negative column, but it wasn’t unwieldy or painful. It was similar to The Breslin in texture, and for this particular burger, I think, it sorta worked. There wasn’t enough cheese. Another melty slice would have been ideal. But the soppressata was a nice touch on top. I wish the patty was flatter and wider, or just larger/wider in general, to make for better coverage of the bun. Essentially the bun was too big, and there was excess bread. It was cooked to a nice medium, which is how I ordered.

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As for the other stuff we tried: we had a way overpriced octopus app. One tentacle for $19, it tasted like tunafish, and didn’t have that charred snap on the outer portions. Otherwise it had a great soft texture inside, and serving with the hearts of palm was unique.

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My wife’s order of mussels and fries were good, in a cream based sauce, but not the best we’ve had. The mussels were, for the most part, meaty and large, which was nice.

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The fries here are amazing. They’re super crispy and perfectly cooked, just a little over salted perhaps.

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The bread at this joint is nice too. Warm, toasty sesame Italian bread sliced and plated beside some warm tomato sauce with garlic herbs and olive oil swimming within:

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But overall this place is just too overpriced. My burger was $22 with fries, that octo app was $19, and my wife dropped about $6 for about 8-10oz glass of iced tea that was filled with ice. Total rip for that. To sum up: skip the apps, get extra bread, and be ready for a few pet peeves on an otherwise tasty burger.

KINGSIDE
Viceroy Hotel New York
124 W. 57th St.
New York, NY 10019

The National

My wife and I tried this joint out today for a quick dinner. When we entered, we were hit with this beautiful staircase. Who knows where the fuck it goes, though…

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We thought it was odd that no bread was served to us, but the app came out pretty quick, and it had some sliced pieces of toasted bread with it. Steak tartare:

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This was pretty good. It was coarsely hand cut, which I am usually not a fan of, but it was soft and had good flavor. We didn’t realize there was a quail egg yolk sitting in it for mixing until we were halfway done with the dish. It was sorta buried under the meat. The tartare had a good spice to it from some cherry peppers. Nice touch.

For her entree, my wife ordered the appetizer mussels. This was a good sized portion, but it came with one lousy piece of bread for soaking up the delicious green coconut curry sauce at the bottom. It was topped with sliced garlic, pickled chili peppers and cilantro.

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Definitely a winning dish, so I recommend ordering it. We asked for more bread and were finally given our table bread, which we should have gotten earlier when we were seated. Soak up all that delicious sauce shit at the bottom!

I had the burger, with added cheddar. The burger, as-is on the menu, does not come with cheese. They had either cheddar or gruyere when I asked.

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There was some slight slippage when eating due to the slippery tomatoes (one slice would have been fine), but the burger had a great beefy flavor and the toppings were excellent. Pickled red onion, so I wasn’t dying of thirst all night long. Pickles, lettuce. Nice and simple.

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As you can see above, they were wise to dig out some of the bread so as not to have a burger stacked high to the sky. Good shit. The bread was nice too. Strong yet soft. And it came with some really tasty golden crisp French fries.

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Not bad! I think we ordered the right sort of shit here, so if you stick to these items I’m sure you will be pleased. My wife has been here before, and she said the octopus app, which I was thinking of ordering, was not that great – nothing special.

THE NATIONAL
557 Lexington Ave.
New York, NY 10022