I took my wife to Kissaki for her birthday since she likes omakase restaurants. This place did a great job. We went with their 13-course tasting menu, swapping out sashimi for nigiri on the sushi pieces, and we also shared a sake pairing (four generous pours that progressed through the meal).
My favorite items were the Santa Barbara uni, the thin sliced squid, the Japanese barracuda, and the Spanish mackerel.
I’m no omakase expert, but this place seemed to deliver very good quality at a great starting price point of $120 (for the nigiri – add $60 for the sashimi).
My only gripe: they should offer a combo of both nigiri and sashimi, since some of the nigiri sushi looked really interesting with wild toppings and flavors, while the sashimi pieces were more traditional and plain. A mixed piece menu would be a great way to get a taste of both modern and traditional.
Life Rooftop took over the space formerly known as the Viceroy at the top of Le Meridien hotel, near Central Park. The views are spectacular.
The cocktails are excellent.
And the food, which is more along the bites and small portions angle, is really delicious. The seafood tower is impressive. It comes with lobster, king crab, langoustines, shrimp, clams, oysters, caviar, tuna tartare and hamachi crudo.
The lobster roll is pretty packed full of meat too.
The stars of the meal for me, though, were the deviled eggs with caviar, and the wagyu tartare.
Their dessert sundae and churros were really great too. I’d definitely eat here again.
24 W 57th St
New York, NY 10019
My buddy Nick took me on a little British food tour in the West Village that started off at Dame, a relatively new pop-up style joint that only offers their incredible fish & chips on Fridays and Saturdays. Take a look at this perfection:
They also sell wines and other nice provisions.
But I have to say, these were the best fish & chips I’ve ever had. Really light and crisp outside with nooks and crannies galore in the fried batter. Tender and juicy inside, hot and steamy. Really great quality fresh fish, filleted and cleaned on site – no bagged or frozen bullshit. And absolutely perfect thick, crispy fries… I mean CHIPS.
Make your way over here for this special treat. You won’t be disappointed.
My wife took me to this joint for a belated Valentine’s Day date. This spot has some great seafood. We tried a lot of it, so I’ll get moving.
First, their bread service is incredible. I didn’t take a great picture of it, but the focaccia and sourdough are perfect. They bring it out with a dish of whipped butter mixed with some seriously high quality olive oil.
We started the meal with some fresh uni. This was a bit steep at $38, but it was so damn delicious, seasoned simply with some flake salt.
The stone crab claws were probably the low point of the meal. It was difficult to extract the meat (didn’t come out in good sized chunks), and over all it was just average in terms of flavor. For $25 a pop, we would have spent that $50 on more langoustines or carabineros (you’ll see that ahead).
The octopus with gigante beans was a good dish, but not excellent like some of the others. I would pass on this next time and focus more on the other seafood options.
Here’s one of those excellent dishes now: grilled langoustines.
These were perfectly cooked and incredibly flavorful. Make sure you save some bread so you can scoop out the succulent brains and eat them together like a makeshift lobster roll.
The carabineros shrimp were our favorite part of the meal. These giant, head-on shrimp from Spain are so deeply flavorful that it’s almost hard to explain. That dark red flesh is packed with natural fatty juices too. You’ll want to wipe some bread into that shit as well.
For our mains, we had Japanese snapper and a Niman Ranch rib eye. Both were served as composed dishes with sides of vegetables, and both were cooked really nicely. The steak was a solid 8/10.
For dessert, 16-layer lemon cake. So good with that blood orange sherbet swirl.
I definitely plan to go here again. They have beef tataki and lamb belly pasta on the menu that I need to try, but the daily seafood specials will be difficult to pass up again, I’m sure of it. Go give this place a shot.
Here’s a run down and guide for all the food I had in Barcelona and San Sebastian. If you followed a link here for a specific restaurant, just scroll down until you see the restaurant name in bold – I did a bulk review here for all of them. In summary, here are my top dishes of the trip:
Mountain and Sea Fideua; Xiringuito Escriba (BCN)
Grilled Prawns; Xiringuito Escriba (BCN)
Roasted Piquillo Peppers; Lomo Alto (BCN)
Mussels in Tiger Sauce; La Mejillonera (SS)
Ham, Cheese, Sardine & Candied Pistachio Pintxos; Txalupa (SS)
Ham & Mushroom Sailboat Pintxos; Karrika Taberna (SS)
Cheesecake; La Vina (SS)
Potato Tortilla; Bar Nestor (SS)
Cream Puff; Izar Pasteleria (SS)
Iberico Pork Shoulder; Kokotxa (SS)
Suckling Lamb; El Asador de Aranda (BCN)
Suckling Pig Tacos; Hoja Santa (BCN)
Vanilla Custard Filled Churro; Random Churro Truck (BCN)
You might notice that the reviews go from BCN to SS and then back to BCN. Very astute of you. That’s because I wrote these in semi-timeline order. We travelled to BCN first, then spent a few days in SS before returning to BCN to finish the trip. In any case, read on and salivate.
TAPAS SIN FRONTERAS (BCN)
We ate here, which was across the street from our AirBnB, to kill some time before check-in on day one of the trip. We got some paella, salumi, and anchovies. Everything here was just mediocre. Not the best way to start the trip, but at least there was some jamon iberico involved.
XIRINGUITO ESCRIBA (BCN)
This beachside paella joint was slammed! There’s a great open-air dining room that overlooks the beach along the Mediterranean Sea, and, as you might imagine, the seafood here is amazing.
The “mountain and sea” paella was visually the star of the show here. Check it out:
But the version that’s made with pasta (fideua) tasted better and had better texture.
We also had some ceviche, guacamole, “pan con tomate,” Galician style octopus and grilled head-on prawns to start.
The prawns were amazing, and one of my top dishes of the entire trip.
The ceviche was just okay, but the guac, the tomato bread and the octopus were all excellent. In fact, that octopus was a close contender for another top dish of the trip. This place was just incredible over all.
Another standout starter was the jamon “air bag.” The crispy cracker-bread pillow gets broken and you eat the ham with it. Awesome.
The highlight of dessert was the pistachio cake with orange sorbet. So delicious!
The other selections weren’t too shabby either, one being a multi-layered combo of dolce de leche and tiramisu, and the other a classic puff pastry and cream combo.
In sum, Xiringuito Escriba is a “must go” spot if you’re looking to eat at the beach in Barcelona.
LOMO ALTO (BCN)
I came across this spot in my research for all things meaty in Barcelona.
This place is all about the beef! Dry-aged, “vaca vieja” (old cow) to be specific. The old cows, some as old as eight years at slaughter, are dry aged for months here, on site. Typically this type of meat is turned into burgers in the US, but here in Spain it is a sought after delicacy.
They offer 12 different breeds of beef to choose from.
Pro tip: say no to the bread. They will automatically bring out bread portions for each person at the table and then charge you upwards of four euro per head at the end. We got them to remove the charge since it was pretty much all stale and we barely touched it. The olives, however, were awesome.
We started with some very meaty items. Tartare, carpaccio and beef tongue. This was a great way to get to know the flavor of dry-aged dairy and old ox meat, which is what these were prepared from. Bold, savory, unique. I really liked all of these, and they came with a pair of nice spiralized potato chip things.
The croquettes were nice as well.
The steak we had was a rib chop from an 8yr old dairy cow that was dry aged for 90 days:
This had some of the most interesting and unique flavor from the dry aging. It tasted like blue cheese. The texture was a little bit aggressive – not tough, but more chewing involved. Some folks love that. Over all I’d say this was an 8/10.
The steak came with roasted piquillo peppers, fries and a salad. The best part of this entire meal was the dish of peppers! They were amazing, and oddly enough a top dish of the trip.
This place is heaven for folks who love dry aged beef, and who also love Spanish beef. A definite must try if that fits your bill. I personally like US beef better, but “when in Rome” … (or, in this case, “when in Barcelona”).
VARIOUS PINTXOS & BARS (SS)
This San Sebastian pintxos joint specialized in mussels and served them something like five or six different ways.
The door handle is even a mussel.
We arrived just as they opened, and as a general matter I found that this is the best way to eat pintxos: Get there early, before the crowds and while the pintxos are freshly made and not collecting bacteria as they sit out on the counter, sans sneeze guards and subject to all kinds of touching.
We tried two mussel dishes: Spicy “tiger” sauce, and wine/herb sauce. Both were incredible, but the spicy tiger sauce (orange/red) was a bit better. Great for bread dipping.
We also had fried calamari two ways: one with shishito peppers and one with a bravas style spicy, creamy sauce. Both excellent.
This unique place was the first and one of our best stops in San Sebastian. It’s definitely worth a stop on your pintxos crawl.
At this place, you need to focus your attention on the cheesecake.
It’s fantastic. Rich, creamy, and delicious.
One order gets you two slivers, so if you’re planning to hit a bunch of places for tapas/pintxos, you can just get a single order to share among two or three people.
This is one spot that every guidebook will tell you is great.
We enjoyed it, but it was mostly more of the same type stuff that you see at other places. In my opinion, it can be skipped.
This joint had one of my favorite bites of the trip: A ham, cheese, sardine and candied pistachio crumble pintxos bite. It blew me away.
When you need a sweet fix, hit this little shop and get the cream puff. I picked the one that looked like a hot dog shaped bun. It was one of the best bites of the trip.
These pine nut clusters were great as well.
If you need a cold sweet fix, this is your place. They have various flavors of ice cream pops, and you can have them dip the pops into various flavors of chocolate and then sprinkled with various toppings. I went with an oreo ice cream pop, dipped in dark chocolate and then hit with crushed waffle cone bits. Awesome.
We hit this spot on a whim before lunch on our last day in San Sebastian and tried a handful of pintxos that looked unique and different from the standard pieces we kept seeing all over the place. Turned out to be a great decision, as that sailboat looking thing (ham and stuffed mushroom) turned out to be one of my favorite pintxos of the trip. Also a great place to have a spritz.
This little spot is essentially a deli/meat shop with some dry goods products for sale as well, but they have a window on the street side where they sell meat cones and sandwiches.
Of course I picked up a cone of ham to walk around with and snack on. The aged flavor was immense on this ham! So good.
My new favorite bar in the world sits on top of Monte Urgull in San Sebastian and overlooks Santa Clara Island and Bahia La Concha. The walk there is half the fun, and the bar itself is in an isolated nook of the castle/battlements of Castillo Monte Urgul. Take a look:
Talk about AVERAGE! Everything here was just meh, but this place is always on pintxos lists for tourists. Pass.
We ate dinner at this seafood joint along the docks.
This was a mediocre meal, but there were a few highlights that were good. This side of asparagus was not fresh. It was canned or pickled.
The grilled octopus was one of the highlights here. It was cooked nicely and had some spicy flavored potatoes with it.
The grilled squid skewers were okay. Nothing special, but not bad by any means.
These prawns were good as well, but not nearly on the same level as Xiringuito Escriba.
The bay scallops were pretty, but a little overcooked.
I enjoyed the baked langoustines though.
BAR NESTOR (SS)
This place is iconic in San Sebastian for all of the main items they serve. Get there at 11:45am and wait to reserve your slice of potato tortilla at 12pm, when Nestor opens the window and starts taking names (they only have 12 slices a day).
It’s one of the best things I ate on the trip. Crispy, gooey, delicious.
Come back at 1pm when they open and sit for a meal. You can reserve a table or spot at the bar when you give Nestor your name for the tortilla. Once seated, they’ll bring out a pair of steaks for you to choose from.
Say yes to the tomatoes; they’re fucking amazing.
Say yes to the peppers; they’re great, too.
The steak itself is 8/10. There’s not as much dry-aged flavor as Lomo Alto in BCN, despite the restaurant and street smelling intensely “dry-agey” and beefy-delicious. That aroma – that Spanish “vaca vieja” – is unique and intoxicating. It doesn’t always translate to flavor, but this cut was more tender and had a better crust than Lomo Alto, so it evened out.
Two slices of potato tortilla, tomatoes, peppers, steak, and two glasses of wine: €63.80.
What an experience! Here’s a short video of the process.
We did the market tasting menu at this Michelin-starred restaurant. It started off with some fancy breadsticks.
Then a trio of snacks – seaweed cake, creamy fish puff and a relatively flavorless bite of something that I can’t seem to remember at the moment (the orange thing).
This white tuna ceviche was fresh and delicious.
I really enjoyed this grilled calamari dish as well.
Kokotxa means cheek in basque, and this hake cheek was a delicious bite for the restaurant namesake.
The crispy skin hake filet was great as well – probably one of the best bites of the meal.
But the star of the meal for me was the iberico pork shoulder, and it was mainly why we chose the market tasting menu instead of the chef’s tasting menu (it wasn’t on that menu). One of the best dishes of the entire trip right here. I wanted three more plates.
The two desserts were both good, and both featured interestingly flavored and balanced sorbets.
Petit fours for the finish:
I definitely recommend Kokotxa if you are in San Sebastian and looking to change up the diet from pintxos. It’s one of the cheaper Michelin-starred places in the area too.
Our final meal in San Sebastian was this chop house. We started with foie gras, lomo (cured pork loin) and roasted piquillo peppers. The foie and peppers were mediocre but the lomo was outstanding.
Another “txuleta” (chop/steak in basque, and the restaurant’s namesake) was consumed here as well. This one had less aged flavor than both Bar Nestor and Lomo Alto, but it was nice and tender. In fact, it was more tender than both of the others, so we evened out again at an 8/10.
Having loved the hake cheeks from Kokotxa the night prior, we went in on two styles of them here as well. Bad move. Should have gotten more meat. The fried ones weren’t as battered or seasoned as I expected, and they were also a little soggy (not crisp). The sauced ones were even worse – they were slimy and seemed almost undercooked.
DINNER AT HOME (BCN)
One of my favorite things about travel in Europe is just hitting the local supermarket (Mercadona) and snacking at home for a meal. High quality stuff for very cheap!
We also got an extra strip steak just for fun… Another 8/10.
…And some lamb ribs as well. These were incredible! I would have called this the best dish of the night if it weren’t for the next one…
The real star here was the 1/4 suckling lamb; a leg:
This crispy skin, fork tender beauty is fall-off-the-bone soft. Simply put, it’s the best lamb I’ve ever had. This dish is reason enough to book your trip to Spain. Skip the vaca vieja and get this!
For dessert, us adults decided to eat some of what was meant to be for the kids. Ice cream in the shape of a dick, and some chocolate cake with whipped cream and ice cream.
This bottle of sweet licorice flavored amaro type liquor came out with the bill. Very nice digestif.
What a meal! This place is a must on your trip to Spain.
HOJA SANTA (BCN)
Hoja Santa customized a tasting menu for us based on a handful of things we were interested in and pointed out to the waiter on their a la carte menu. This Michelin-starred restaurant ended up being the best all-around meal of the trip.
Here’s what we had:
Trio of snacks: gastronomic/spherized olives and peaches, along with a Caesar salad tostada with chicken skin.
Trio of solid cocktails: michelada, mezcal and margarita foam ball. So cool.
Ceviche with catch of the day white tuna and octopus.
Trio of tacos: conchinita pibil taco puff, beef brisket taco with jalapeño tortilla, and bone marrow with sesame tortilla. All awesome, but the brisket with jalapeño tortilla was incredible. One of the best bites of the meal.
Foie gras mole with thin crispy bread and some sort of quinoa meatball things.
Arabic lamb tacos with tomatillo, avocado and sour cream sauce, radish, limes and crispy flour tortillas. These were incredible, and almost shaped up to be the best bite of the meal if it wasn’t for the final savory dish.
Check out how tender this meat was!
One of my lamb rib tacos:
The final savory bite, and best part of the meal – possibly even the best dish of the trip – were these suckling pig rib tacos with cilantro cream, herbaceous pig drippings sauce, pickled cabbage, lime and fresh corn tortillas with pig stamps on them.
Dessert was a frozen orange foam with amaranth, custard and some kind of tahini-like sesame butter.
And finally, and most impressively, corn ice cream with goat cheese, caramel and chocolate truffles. One of the better sweet bites of the trip.
I highly recommend Hoja Santa – you should definitely hit this spot on your trip to BCN.
RANDOM CHURRO VENDOR
These stuffed churros from a churro cart by the famous Gaudi park “Park Guell” (near the Alfonso X metro stop) were awesome. One vanilla custard (best), one dolce de leche (second best) and one chocolate.
Holy fuck I think that about does it! What a ridiculous amount of great food. I hope you take some of my recs if you ever make it over to BCN or SS. Salud!
My wife and I discovered Cardoncello diVino this week and so far we are loving it.
First off, they have great cocktails like the smoked negroni and grande stella (tequila, mezcal, elderflower).
The table bread is a good variety of quality breads and breadsticks, served with a zucchini puree.
To start, we had a side of Cardoncello mushrooms, salmon carpaccio and sardines.
The salmon was a slight favorite over the mushrooms, but not by much. All were very good.
The pasta dishes really shine here. This paccheri with veal ragu was absolutely perfect. Cooked to a nice al dente texture and impeccably seasoned.
This crab and lemongrass tortelli dish had a fresh pea sauce that was awesome.
For one of our mains, we had shrimp with quinoa in a sambuca sauce. It may sound weird, but I assure you it was great. Only thing I’d change is to maybe swap the quinoa for something heartier like a farro risotto, made with that sauce.
The wagyu beef cheek was braised to fork tender deliciousness. It’s very easy to mow through this dish very fast.
For dessert, we had a lemon and coconut budino (rice pudding) with raspberry jelly on top, and a goat cheese and barley tart that was a teetering balance between savory and sweet.
I’m psyched to go back and try more pasta dishes, as well as take on their extra virgin olive oil tasting.
43 West 27th St
New York, NY 10001
My wife and I came here for a friend’s birthday lunch. Here’s all the stuff we tried:
Watermelon Spritz: Aylesbury vodka with Aperol, fresh squeezed watermelon juice and Prosecco.
Thai Old Fashioned: Mekhong Thai spirit with Angostura, orange, kaffir lime and spiced chocolate bitters.
Calamari: fried calamari, cilantro, dried red chili, tamarind and fish sauce glaze.
Zabb Wings: fried chicken wings with chili, lime and mint.
Shrimp in 3 Crabs Sauce: lightly cured raw shrimp with lime juice, garlic, bird’s eye chili and mint.
Yum Som-O: pomelo, cilantro, fried shallot, apple blossom, toasted coconut flakes, peanut and tamarind dressing.
Grilled Pork Cheeks: Compart Duroc pork cheeks served with Jeaw sauce.
Market Oysters: served with fried shallots and nam jim seafood.
Coconut Crab Curry: southern style curry with crab meat and sea beans.
Short Rib Massamun Curry: grass fed short rib braised for 12 hours, potatoes and peanuts.
Crab Fried Rice: crab, rice, egg, scallion, cilantro and cucumber served with nam jim seafood and prik nam pla.
Steamed Fish with Thai Herbs: whole striped bass, chili, lime, mint, cilantro, cilantro and lemongrass broth.
Seafood Pad Cha: stir fried shrimp, scallop, squid, wild ginger, green peppercorn, basil, string beans and Thai eggplant.
String Bean & Pork Cracklings: sautéed with dried chili and garlic.
Sautéed Cabbage: with garlic and fish sauce.
Spicy Corn: with grape tomatoes and string beans.
Sticky Rice & Mango:
Coconut Ice Cream:
Okay, so that would be a shitload of dishes to review individually. I can tell you honestly that every single dish I had here was incredible, and that’s even including the vegan and vegetarian dishes. My favorites were the calamari, wings, shrimp in 3 crabs sauce, pork cheeks, crab fried rice, steamed fish, seafood pad cha and beef curry.