Tag Archives: nyceats

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, 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.

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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!

UPDATE 8/1/18

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.

OSTERIA MORINI
218 Lafayette Street
New York, NY 10012

Balzem

I was recently invited to a press dinner at Balzem, a little Mediterranean spot near the corner of Mott and Spring in Nolita that opened in the Spring of 2014.

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The dining room is rustic, with an airy 12-foot beamed ceiling, old mirrors, iron hanging light fixtures, and lots of reclaimed wood.

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The surprisingly roomy bar offers a wide selection of Mediterranean wines (40 different wines!), imported beer, and even some wine cocktails like the Hot Cab Manhattan, the Balzem Fizz, and the Ginger Ride. I tried the Efes beer (Turkish pilsner), which was nice, light and refreshing.

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The bar crowd definitely picked up at around 8:30pm, and it was actually getting pretty crowded by time we left at 9:30pm. Also worth mentioning here is the fact they they offer happy hour specials EVERY DAY OF THE WEEK from 5:00pm-7:00pm, where they have $6 Mediterranean wines, $5 beers, $1 oysters and $5 tapas/mezzes. That’s freaking amazing! I’ll definitely be back on weekends, for sure.

Here’s a quick shot of Mehdi (left), wine director and general manager, and Balahan (right), owner and executive chef.

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The menu features lots of tapas and mezzes, even some pizza, in addition to a smaller selection of entrees. Here’s the tasting menu we had for the press dinner, along with the wines that were paired with each course:

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The table bread was a nice crispy-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside, country style loaf, sliced and served with olive oil (with a variety of olives swimming in the dish):

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The chicken breast and orzo soup was really tasty. Made from a light tomato broth with Turkish red pepper paste, it packs a great flavor that you can accent with a squeeze of lemon. This dish was based on a family recipe that Balahan’s mother used to make.

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That red pepper paste, by the way, is not made from bell peppers, but a different kind – more like a Cubanelle – that’s red instead of green. It’s something that Balahan made as a kid growing up in Turkey, when his family would retreat to the mountains to cool off during the hot months. There, they made red pepper paste, pastries and breads. Sounds like a great way to spend the Summer – sign me the fuck up!

Next were the prosciutto wraps, which was my favorite item of the night. The meat was thin and perfectly cured. It was soft, and not too salty. The burrata cheese was perfection as well. High quality ingredients presented in a very un-fucked-with manner so that they shine.

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Basil leaf, balsamic reduction drizzle and some roasted red peppers is all they added. The green you see beneath the wraps are actually flattened pieces of pepper. Very nice, especially when paired with the clean rose we were served.

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We jumped out of order here to try the other cold dish; the branzini ceviche. This was really mild, despite being cured in lemon vinegar. This is the first time I’ve seen branzino prepared in a ceviche. I really liked how it wasn’t a soupy bowl of tart citrus, like you get in most joints. It was cleanly presented with some arugula and dill.

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Next up was the grilled shrimp dish. These were beautifully presented on a slice of grilled zucchini with parsley and garlic dressing, and accompanied by an arugula salad with tomato and lemon vinaigrette. There was a swipe of chipotle sauce too, so this dish was spicy. The sweet white wine we had with it was the perfect compliment to balance out the spice levels.

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The shrimp were cooked just right.

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My next favorite dish, after the prosciutto, was this octopus fucker. It was braised for 45-50 minutes in white wine that was spiced with lemon, bay leaf and black pepper. Then blasted on the grill for a nice charred and crispy outer edge, and finished in butter. So soft and light, yet meaty and satisfying.

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These zucchini pancakes were fucking great. Part of me wanted a more crisp texture, but when I got down on them a little more I didn’t mind. They’re made with feta, mint, scallions, parsley, dill, eggs and flour, then topped with a yogurt cream sauce. I could actually go vedge (vadge) with food like this. Awesome.

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Last of the small plates, and my least favorite of the small plates, was the Italian meatballs dish. The garlic tomato sauce was nice; velvety, smooth, sweet yet tangy and spicy… but the meat was a little dense for my liking, and I wasn’t a big fan of the pine nuts and raisins within. The ball itself was made from good quality veal, worked with thyme and basil. I just have a very picky sense when it comes to meatballs: it’s very difficult to compete with my mom’s. I did really like the sleepy-time red wine that was served with the meatballs (Nero D’Avola, Mortilla 2013).

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Now for the entree – lamb skewers with flat bread and some sauces. Yes!

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The sauces were mint, parsley, garlic, oil and vinegar (left) and yogurt (right).

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The lamb was cooked perfectly. It was light, flavorful and soft. No overly gamey flavors, no chewy sinew, nothing. Nice and simple, but well executed.

We sampled three sides with the entree. First, and by far the best of them, was the truffle mac and cheese. It wasn’t over the top like some “truffled” items are these days. This was a gentle and proper use of the truffle, with perfectly cooked fusilli pasta and quality cheeses.

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Same goes for the presence of truffle in the potato gratin side – not too aggressive. I liked this dish too – it just needed a little pinch of salt as you went down into the deeper layers of potato.

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The last, and least liked of the sides (and probably our least favorite overall) was the wheat and veggie rice. It had good texture, but the flavors were a little flat, it was a bit dry, and it just didn’t seem to go well with our entree.

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And just when you thought you tried too much food, along comes dessert. All ye fat men rejoice, for there is chocolate ahead in thy future:

Chocolate layer cake (this ended up being my favorite of the three despite my usual hatred of chocolate cake). The cake itself was a slight bit dry, but the hint of salt really made it work in terms of flavor.

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Chocolate mousse cake. Nice texture, creamy and flavorful.

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And finally, tiramisu. You could taste the rum in this bad boy, but it wasn’t overpowering. It was moist and flavorful. The others liked this dessert the best (I was outnumbered).

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That about wraps it up for Balzem. Highlights of the meal were definitely the prosciutto wraps, the octopus and the ceviche. Those would be absolute must-try items, especially if they’re only $5 a pop at happy hour. That shit’s a no-brainer. The ambiance is also killer here. Really nice inside. And when you go (you will), you should chat with Balahan and Mehdi. Both guys are really awesome, friendly, and hands-on. In fact, the service in this joint is top notch and classy. It makes a great date spot, a great pre-game spot for food and drinks, and it has that amazing happy hour. I will definitely be back as a paying customer. Most likely I will head down for happy hour, but the brunch menu looks enticing, as well as the lunch deals ($12 for soup/sandwich or soup/salad).

BALZEM
202 Mott St.
New York, NY 10012

BRGR

Last night I had the chance to drop in for a bite at BRGR with my buddy on his recommendation. This place holds up against the fast casual joints like Shake Shack, Burger Fi and Schnippers.

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The decor makes it feel like you’re in someone’s 1980’s style finished basement, but updated for today’s interior design norms.

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Good quality burgers, nicely cooked, great seasoning, quality buns and toppings. I had the “beautiful day” burger. American cheese, lettuce tomato pickle and grilled onions. Awesome. Next time I would get a second patty on top.

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The fries here are on par with Mc Donald’s. Golden shoestring types, with a good crisp and well seasoned.

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The black and white shake is ready to drink as soon as it comes to you. Most places serving shakes make them too think and you can’t get the shit through the straw, unless you can suck harder than Jenna Jameson.

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For dessert, I had a hot dog. I was confused as fuck when they brought it out to me.

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They split and grill the dog long ways, and then cut the dog in half and arrange it on a hamburger bun. Pretty cool. This one was topped with lettuce, tomato, American, mustard and pickles. Delicious, but the burger take the stack here.

BRGR
1026 3rd Ave
New York, NY 10065

Rosemary’s

My wife and I came here with two other couples for a late night dinner tasting on New Year’s Eve. My overall impression was that the food was good, though there were definitely a few missteps along the way. I’d certainly eat here again from the regular menu. Perhaps the tasting menu was just a bit too ambitious, not to mention that it took a really long time to get through (the place was PACKED on NYE). I really liked the decor of this joint. It used to be a stationary store, from what I hear, that burned down and was later reopened as the restaurant. The space is wide open, has a European look and feel with a large rear wine bar, horizontally oriented subway tiles and exposed brick on the walls, and beamed, exposed wood ceilings.

Okay so on to the good shit, the shit that matters. The food. The joint is Italian, but there is definitely a more northern influence to the style, and even some American twists.

Here’s the menu we were served:

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First I will show you the table breads. These assorted rolls came with a sweet honey butter that was likely mixed with ricotta.

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The “assaggi” was essentially a fried rice ball made with faro grains instead of rice. It was really nicely executed. Juicy and earthy inside, crisp and light on the outside.

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Next were the veggie offerings. I liked the beet dish. It was fresh and had a citrus pop to it.

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The sunchoke soup was delicious, though I tasted more of a potato leek type of profile as opposed to the distinct, unique sunchoke that I love. A portion of the cup was crusted with pistachio nuts.

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The rabbit/carrot/maple dish threw me for a loop. I couldn’t taste the rabbit or find a meat texture, although I definitely tasted something salty/savory. It was more of a foam or airy puree dish than something solid. The carrot was nice and the maple made it shine as the star of the plate. The stick looking thing coming out the left side is a dried crispy carrot shaving or slice.

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The next plate contained both seafood selections; an oyster with a grapefruit foam, and some thinly sliced octopus atop a crisp, flatbread made from chic peas. I liked these both very much, though I may have preferred to taste JUST the oyster without any added citrus.

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For the meat and cheese selections, we started with a burrata beggar’s purse filled with caramelized tomato jam and basil puree. This was pretty good, though I may have just rather had a blob of burrata with a little honey and olive oil. When people start taking that wonderful cheese and turning it into a vessel for holding other shit, they ruin the texture and deliciousness of the cheese.

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The beef tartare with egg and caviar was more like a mini-burger with the bread involved. I would have liked it better if it was on a single, thin slice of toasted bread as opposed to being on a bun. Otherwise it was good.

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The fois gras was excellent. The pomegranates probably were not needed. Perhaps maybe some caramelized onion jam or some pickled items would have been a better choice to pair with it.

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The baby bow tie pasta with rock shrimp and lemon was good, but there was a bit of a bitter aftertaste due to the lemon. Otherwise it was a nice dish.

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The gnudo (a pasta-less raviolo), however, was probably the best item of the night, and it came with a nice helping of shaved truffle to really give it that earthy depth. Awesome.

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Next came a shot of chilled kale juice with blood orange to cleanse the palate.

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The first of the main dishes was bay scallops with mushrooms and a sea urchin sauce. The urchin was a little overpowering, so I wasn’t too much of a fan. The scallops were cooked perfectly though. I just wish they used a sea scallop rather than bay scallops.

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Another favorite of the night was the porchetta. While my wife had a few dry slices, mine was excellent, and the center piece was dark meat that had a real great crisp and flavor to it. Good fat content as well, and it was even served with what is one of the best pork rings I’ve ever had.

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Desert was somewhat of a letdown, although it did have its moments. First was a chocolate ice cream soda with devil’s food and candied orange. I liked the soda/ice cream portion, but didn’t like the devil’s food and orange bit. When you live with The Cake Dealer, you get spoiled as far as baked items go.

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The other dessert, which was intended to be creative and skillfully prepared, was pretty much a disaster as far as everyone at our table was concerned. The cake portion beneath would have been fine on its own, or with a more normal, natural topping. The blood orange item was a chemically induced film that had an awkward texture – like the skin that forms on top of jello. Ugh. It was sort of a shitty way to end the meal.

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However, an even shittier way to end a meal is seeing this whopper at the end. Yikes! Too many bottles of wine (they don’t serve hard liquor).

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In sum, I probably wouldn’t go back for a tasting menu, but I would certainly try some of the more traditionally prepared items. The stuff where they tried to be Richard Blaise just fell short.

Eataly

Here’s a shameless photo-dump of some mouth watering scenery at Eataly, Flatiron’s legendary Italian food market. I suggest coming here for a long day. Get lunch, walk around, taste shit, walk around some more, taste more shit, and then sit for dinner. Enjoy the food porn, you bastards.

Front signage:

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Hallway: like a department store for food.

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Desserts:

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Signage for what looks like a great roasted meats sandwich joint:

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CHEESE!

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Nice looking seafood:

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“Meat: restaurant:

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Shellfish:

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Eaters:

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 Of course I managed to find the meat counter:

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 Pasta shelves. There are rows and rows of aisles like this.

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Expensive fois gras:

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Bread bakery:

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Pizza:

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Bella Vita Pizza

Bella Vita is a little pizza place on 58th street between 6th and 7th Avenues. I’ve walked by it a bunch of times and was intrigued because the pizza looks like my mom’s style of pizza – unruly sizes of mozzarella scattered upon a saucy pie crust. Let me tell you – the regular slice here was amazing. Not greasy, crisp as hell, soft to bite down on, and tasty as fuck. The sauce itself is sweet but tangy. The mozz is fresh and melty. Al it needed was a few leaves of fresh basil and this place is a done deal for my current favorite in the city. It rivals Saluggi’s. Check it out below – regular slice was $2.75 I think. Sicilian was $3.50 and the topping slice was like $3.25 if I am not mistaken. Yet a pie is only like $19. Not bad. Garlic knots are 3 for $1.25, and they re-heat them by pressing them under a sandwich press, which is awesome!

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BELLA VITA PIZZA
158 W 58th St
New York, NY 10019

Duane Park

As usual, my wife got a sweet deal for this place; dinner and a show for two for $60. I wasn’t expecting to like either the food or the entertainment, but I was surprised at how good the food was, and how fun the entertainment was.

We started at the bar, which is really elegant and fancy. It’s set up like a 1920’s sort of art deco social club. They have a nice cocktail menu ($14 each). I had the Bowery Honey Bee, and my wife had a “That’s Gold, Darling.”

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The table bread came out in a stainless steel cone, and was served warm and toasty, with a dish of white bean puree that resembled hummus, but with less aggressive spices.

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Our deal entitled us to a limited menu three course tasting. I started with the roasted shrimp and grits. The shrimp were perfectly cooked and the grits were creamy. I just wish there was more!

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My wife had the mushroom veloute, which was creamy, earthy and rich.

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For my entree, I had the ale-braised pork shoulder, which came with mashed potatoes and sliced, roasted carrots. This was really nice. The meat was tender, soft and juicy.

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My wife had the salmon, which was perfectly cooked and came with cannellini beans and tomatoes. I typically don’t like cooked salmon, but this was really tasty.

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For dessert, I chose the sticky toffee pudding. It was mor elite a bread pudding than a proper pudding, so I was taken back a bit when it came to the table. It was delicious though, and warm. The ice cream scoop on top was the perfect balance.

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My wife had the cheesecake of the day, which was apple. Very unique. And good timing for around the Thanksgiving holiday: a mash up of New York (cheesecake) and Americana (apple pie). Great flavors.

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The entertainment was a blast. The band was playing classic soul and motown hits, and the singer was excellent!

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He even did a few duets with a female vocalist – serious hips on her!

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The funny thing about the show was that in-between songs, a pair of burlesque ladies would come out and jiggle their shit on stage. It was basically a classy strip joint in period-piece attire (or lack thereof).

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The best part was watching the band as THEY watched the dancers, laughing, crack jokes to one another as they played, etc. The guitarist was getting dresses and bras thrown at him from across the room. He dangled this red sparkly one from his guitar:

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DUANE PARK
308 Bowery
New York, NY 10012