Tag Archives: tasting

The Modern

My wife and I came here for our 10th wedding anniversary.

We did the six course chef’s tasting menu. But first we started with some nice cocktails.

We did the groundskeeper and the terracotta navy. Here’s what’s in them:

The first thing to come out was this interesting tartlet amuse that had some sort of cheese and mushrooms inside a tiny pie crust.

The bread service consisted of a nice rosemary focaccia and small buns of pretzel bread.

The first of the six courses was their egg on egg on egg. Custard, yolk and caviar with a toasted brioche stick. Really delicious and easily a top dish for the year.

Next was this snapper crudo/tartare preparation.

Another top dish for the year goes to this foie gras tart with strawberries. Both white/green strawberries (tart) and red (sweet). A perfect dish in every way, with some meringue and tart strawberry salsa on top. Really nicely balanced between savory and sweet.

Next up was the first of the main proteins; the sea bass with mushroom in minestrone broth. Really light and flavorful, and it came with a pasta made from noodle-ized celtuse root.

This five-spiced, dry-aged Long Island duck was the winner for the mains though. Beautifully tender with lots of flavorful punch from the Thai basil puree and leaves.

Along with our complimentary anniversary cupcake (pictured above), they brought us a dessert amuse of mango fruit leather and ice cream, made to look like dim sum.

And finally, our dessert was this nice pistachio cake with lemon ice cream, white chocolate, balsamic reduction and some crumble.

We really enjoyed this meal. It was hefty in price, but we truly loved every dish. Also this is a no-tipping restaurant. Here’s the William:

THE MODERN
9 W 53rd St
New York, NY 10019

Gem

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

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

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

Drink 1: Cynar, sweet vermouth, champagne.

Course 1: Local Shellfish/Seafood

This array of beautiful plates consisted of the folowing:

Nori crisp with clam, fava bean and preserved citrus.

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

Surf clam with grilled blueberries and rose.

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

Caviar with sorrel dressing and green almond.

A really flavorful and herbacious spoonful of joy.

Scallop with grilled cucumber and salted plum.

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

Course 2: Smoked Cod with Apple, Caraway and Horseradish

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

Course 3: Grilled Asparagus Chawanmushi with Ham and Dried Fruits

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

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

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

Drink 2: Cynar, sweet vermouth, sherry.

Course 5: Ramp and Calabrian Chili Lasagna

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

Course 6: Cabbage with Foie Gras and Chicken Vadouvan

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

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

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

Course 8: Pork Feast

This course consisted of the following dishes:

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

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

Pork and chive sausage with broccoli.

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

Roasted sweet potato logs with black sesame.

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

Pulled pork lettuce wraps.

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

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

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

The ice cream and mascarpone were meant as toppings.

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

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

GEM
116 Forsyth St
New York, NY 10002

Secchu Yokota

My wife’s birthday is just around the corner, and her friends were taking her to dinner here to celebrate. When one of them had to cancel last minute, I filled in to avoid the $50 charge on the credit card for a missed seating.

This joint only has eight seats and two seatings per night (6:00pm and 8:30pm), so that’s why they charge your card if you bail on a seat. Harsh, but understandable. They have to fill up to make money.

Anyway, this was a long and tasty meal, consisting mostly of Japanese tempura. It wasn’t the prettiest food for photos, but it certainly was yummy!

Here’s what we had – and keep in mind I’m just going to list the dishes and then quickly blab about the items that really stood out.

Red snapper broth with mushrooms.

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Red snapper sashimi: this was really delicate and clean, and it went perfectly with the shio-bonito ponzu and wasabi salt, which were provided for dipping.

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They also gave us pickled daikon and a bamboo charcoal salt as well, which was equally excellent, and apparently helpful in digestion due to the charcoal.

Berkshire pork pate. Very nice, and notably French!

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Now we are getting into the tempura. The fryer oil they use is a blend of sesame oil and cotton seed oil, which has a very high smoking point, great for super crispy batters and fast frying.

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Crispy shrimp shell. Yes – the exoskeleton! I joked and said that we ate crispy fried xenomorph face-hugger exoskeleton (that’s an Alien reference if you’re unaware).

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Shrimp body.

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Okra: really flavorful and fresh. The tempura batter was almost like a second skin on the veggie, just crispy.

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Yellow pepper.

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Mackerel.

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Eggplant.

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Lotus root.

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Hokkaido squid. In fact everything here is actually FROM Japan.

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Sweet potato.

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Hokkaido scallops: These were almost raw, and absolutely delicious. Just the outside was cooked from the closeness of the flesh to the hot oil. My favorite bite of the night.

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Eel.

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Uni (sea urchin) wrapped in nori (seaweed) paper: very creamy. If uni is your thing, then this is the place to get it. I’m still a hit or miss guy when it comes to uni. I think I like it best when served cold (like revenge), with no seaweed paper.

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To finish the savory courses off, you get a choice between the following two items:

(1) Rice with red snapper bits and a hearty miso/mushroom soup.

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(I didn’t shoot the soup)

(2) Green tea soba noodles with eel.

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This was so fucking beautiful, and was probably my second favorite dish of the night. It came with a dipping sauce as well (I didn’t shoot that but I did take another photo of the noodles).

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Dessert was a raspberry sorbet with a sesame crisp, and a yuzu creme brulee. Both were simple but excellent.

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Lastly, I apologize for the poor photos. I didn’t bother to color correct when I got home. I mainly just focused my photo editing efforts on that beautiful soba dish because I knew I was going to post it on Instagram.

All in, this was a great meal, albeit a bit pricey. The uni and eel tempura items were add-ons that really bumped up the cost. Also drinks: They’re always bill killers. But I definitely recommend giving this place a shot. There aren’t too many Japanese joints doing real deal tempura omakase in this low price range ($65/pp to start).

SECCHU YOKOTA
199 East 3rd Street
1st Floor, New York, NY 10009

Betony

My wife and I learned that Betony was closing at the end of 2016, so we rushed in to finally give it a shot. It’s been on our list for a while but we never got around to trying it, despite living just a few blocks away.

We did the two course prix fix for $42, but my wife started with this interesting parsnip foam and scotch cocktail. So interesting.

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The tables are adorned with this olive oil crisp stuff that is addictive.

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Then comes the tasty and warm dill bread with a honey yogurt butter, and right around that time the waiter will bring out the amuse, which was a black truffle tea. So aromatic and delicious.

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My wife started with the fluke carpaccio. This was killer. The flavors really popped here due to the Indian lime and cilantro pickling that they worked on it.

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I went with the toasted grains and sprouts with labneh (Lebanese cream cheese / strained yogurt).

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A bit girly for my style, but I really enjoyed it and it was a substantial portion size. Plus I didn’t want to double up on lettuce greens or potato (the other app choices) since I know those were coming in my entree.

My entree was tenderloin, which was sous vide to a perfect medium rare prior to being charcoal crisped on the outside.

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It came with roasted fingerlings, grilled romaine, and a lettuce and tomato puree.

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I honestly wasn’t convinced that this was in fact a tenderloin, but I’ll go with what the menu said. I would have guessed a sirloin, due to the texture and shape, but it was really great nonetheless. Only down side: could have used a little more char on the outside. 8/10.

My wife went with the poached egg cavatelli. This was tossed with crisp crosne, aka “Chinese Artichokes” (and sometimes even “Japanese Artichokes”).

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The dish was more like a soup in terms of consistency once you popped the egg. Not really my speed, but the pasta was perfect, the sauce/broth was really tasty, and the portion size was good.

We skipped dessert because we were stuffed, but I’m sad to see this place close. Too bad we hadn’t come sooner. Pricey, but good.

BETONY
41 W 57th St
New York, NY 10019

Scotch & Whiskey

This page is dedicated to the greatest liquor around: whiskey. Aside from a dirty, dry, gin martini, a glass of scotch and/or whiskey is probably the greatest thing to happen to the male sex since the discovery of female tits, ass and vagina. Read and learn all about these great accompaniments to dinner.

You may sometimes see it spelled “whisky,” or generically (and often erroneously) referred to as “scotch.” You might also see scotch lumped in with things like bourbon or rye. Shit, you’ll even see single malts confused with blends. But words have meanings, my friends, and this is where you will learn them, and where you will find my opinions about which are the best.

Terminology

Whiskey/Whisky: Whisky is alcohol that’s been distilled from fermented grain mash. All whiskey must be distilled at a minimum of 40% and a maximum of 94.8% ABV. The spelling is generally different based on which country it is from. A nice rule of thumb is that countries that do not have an E in their name do not spell whisky with an E. Examples: Scotland/Japan = Whisky; America/Ireland = Whiskey

Where Brooklyn at???
Where Brooklyn at???

Grain Whisky: Whisky made, at least in part, from grains other than malted barley.

Malt Whisky: Whisky made primarily from malted barley.

Irish Whiskey: Yup, you guessed it… whiskey made in Ireland. It must be distilled to an ABV of less than 94.8%. Additional rules are that it must be aged three or more years in wooden barrels, and if two or more distillates are used the whiskey must be labeled as a “blend.”

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Scotch: The mash must be barley, it must be from Scotland, and it must be aged in oak barrels for three or more years at an ABV of less than 94.8%. Pretty simple.

Single Malt: Essentially this just means that the whisky is a product of a single distillery.  A single-malt Laphroaig may contain whisky from many barrels produced at their distillery, but it must contain whisky produced only at Laphroaig.

Blended Malt: Also known as vatted malts, these are a blend of single malts from two or more distilleries.

Single Grain: Very misleading. It means barley and one or more other cereal grains were used, produced only at a single distillery (similar to single malt).

Blended Grain: Blend of single grains from two or more distilleries.

Blended Scotch Whisky: A mix of both single malt whisky and single grain whisky, sourced from several different distilleries.

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Single Barrel: This is a whisky from a single barrel, unmixed with other barrels. Very rare.

Bourbon: Grain mix must be at least 51% corn, and bourbons are from the USA and aged in new charred oak barrels. Straight bourbon is a bourbon that has aged two or more years. While most bourbon is made in Kentucky, it is not a requirement. Bourbon can be no more than 80% alcohol (160 proof) and no more than 62.5% when put into casks for aging in new charred oak barrels.

Tennessee Whiskey: Straight bourbon made in Tennessee and filtered through charcoal.

Rye: In Canada, there must be some rye in the mash. In the USA, however, there must be at least 51% rye in the mash, and they must be aged in new charred oak barrels. Like bourbon, straight rye is a rye that has aged two or more years. Rye can be no more than 80% alcohol (160 proof) and no more than 62.5% when put into casks for aging in new charred oak barrels.

Personal Preferences

I have two distinct likes when it comes to scotch. I enjoy the extremes of the spectrum: creamy and sweet like butterscotch, and super medicinal and peaty.

Let’s start with the peaty ones: Laphroaig 10 is like baseball glove leather, and I mean that in the best way possible. Very smokey and definitely an acquired taste. I absolutely love it.

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That, Ardbeg (both the 10 year and the Corryvreckan) and Lagavulin are my favorite of the smokey, peaty varieties.

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I have a great book called “Michael Jacksons Complete Guide to Single Malt Scotch” that I found to be very useful (Not Jacko – some other dude). It also rates them out of 100. Lagavulin 16 (their most common) gets like 96/100. That’s pretty fucking amazing for a bottle that typically costs $75-$100 (depending on how hard you are being raped in cities). Tasting anything higher ranked is going to cost you a shitload of scratch. In fact, I don’t think I’ve tasted anything rated higher than Lagavulin. Get it. It’s fucking totally mint.

For the smoother types: I like Macallan 18, Glenlivet 21, Balvenie Double Wood 12, and Glenmorangie 18.

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That Glenlivet 21 is as clean as a freshly shaved snatch too, assuming there was a shower taken afterwards, and no STDs or weird rashes… One Christmas Eve I drank nearly half a bottle of GL21 and had no hangover whatsoever the next morning. Happy Birthday Jesus!!! The smoothies I listed here are all a bit more expensive (though Balvenie is not) but well worth it.

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The Macallan and Glen Livet 12 years are nice to start with if you’d like to try something smooth as well, but I prefer the Balvenie Double Wood by far at that price point. They call it “double wood” because it has two hard cocks. No… because it is aged for most years in oak casks, but then finished in sherry casks, so it has a unique flavor.

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Scotch Flavor Map

I came across this pretty cool chart thing a while back, and kept it handy for quick reference. This gives you a little visual of the flavor profiles people often discuss with scotch:

Map
From http://www.foodrepublic.com/2012/01/03/all-hail-scottish-whisky-flavour-map

Regions of Scotch Production

There are essentially four main regions of scotch production in Scotland, and each region has flavors that are often typically associated with their scotches.

Speyside: fruity and delicate. The valley of the river Spey is often associated with flavors like vanilla, honey, apples and pears.

Lowlands: fresh, light. These malts are fragrant, floral, taste of cereal and are light in color.

Highlands: smooth and floral. In the west, you have some maritime influence in the flavor, and in the central highlands you get some honey and heather.

Islay/Skye Islands: peaty and briny. These robust malts are laden with the medicinal / iodine aromas of the sea.

Drinking Tips

One thing I like to do: drink the first half of my glass neat, then throw one or two ice cubes in and allow the flavors to change. It’s like having two different glasses of scotch in one, because the ice and water allow the scotch to open up (kind of like wine), and different aromas and flavors can be more easily detected.

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The ice sphere is so much cooler than the ice cube. The ice cube is such a square.
The ice sphere is so much cooler than the ice cube. The ice cube is such a square.

Another cool thing I learned at a tasting: splash a little scotch on the palm of your hand and rub your hands together like Mr. Miyagi. Then smell your hands. All sorts of aromas are unleashed. You’ll smell florals, vanillas, nuts, wood, etc. Very cool.

An interesting trick: suck air in through your teeth as you have some scotch in your mouth and on your tongue. The break-up and aeration of the liquid will release aromas and flavors that you might have otherwise missed.

Most important: take your time. I sometimes see scotch amateurs order a nice scotch and then shoot it fast. What a waste! Don’t be that fucking guy.

Organize a tasting: maximize your exposure to various scotches. If you’re anything like me, you have a bunch of buddies who love to drink. Chances are, a good crew of them dig scotch. Call them up and organize a scotch tasting. Everyone can bring their stash and you’ll have a really big selection to work with. Check out this selection we amassed last Christmas. Fuck yeah! I think we had 30 bottles total when a last minute arrival showed up, and it was something he brought back from China. Sweet!

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A final note: scotch isn’t for everyone. Some people just don’t like this shit. Tastes are subjective, but tastes do change over time. I always hated tequila, for instance. But I respect the spirit and understand how tons of variety exists in the product lines. In fact I’ve recently started to come around to tequila through my enjoyment of aged mezcal. Maybe you’ll come around to scotch if your first impression is bad. Keep trying. You never know – your taste buds might have adjusted and now you might love scotch if you tried some good ones.

Other Resources

For a more in-depth dive into terminology, check out THIS SITE. Start at A, and work your way through Z. Do it. Don’t be a bitch.

Www.Maltmadness.com is a great resource, as is www.Malts.com. Whisky Magazine (out of the UK) is fantastic as well, also online at www.WhiskyMag.com.

You should also check out my post on the Whisky Advent Calendar. Needless to say that was a great December – a December to remember for sure.

day 24: master of malt 50 yr speyside (3rd edition)

Momofuku Ko

My wife and I came here as one of my Christmas gifts to her. We had heard lots of amazing shit about this place, so we were excited to go. This meal happened at the new restaurant space on Extra Place. Since it was relatively recent since they made the switch, we had the pleasure of actually seeing and meeting Chef David Chang in the restaurant. Pretty awesome, seeing as I feel he is one of the most important and innovative chefs of a generation. Here’s a shot I took of him and my wife after we finished our meal:

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So anyway, check out the tasting meal we had: easily one of the best meals of my life. My wife’s photos came out amazing, so I included them too (overhead shots).

We were seated at the corner of the U-shaped bar, and felt that our every need was attended to, constantly. The service here is amazing, and it feels as if each diner has a pair of chefs and waiters all to him/herself. The presence of management is always felt as well. They really go above and beyond to make sure you are having a great meal.

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First was a Concord grape soda & jelly shot to prep the taste buds. Fizzy and sweet.

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We were already sipping on some cocktails. Mine was a gin drink (on the left) called “Shrub,” and my wife had a bourbon drink called “Quartet.” Both were excellent. We had a pair of hot damp towels too, to get all that subway stripper pole germ shit off of our hands before eating. The cool thing about this meal is that it’s not pretentious by any means. You eat with your hands for most of the meal.

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The first food items were a lobster & mint cylinder, and a dry aged beef tartlet with carrot. The beef was really flavorful and savory. I wanted more! The lobster and mint combo was surprisingly good, and it was a refreshing bite.

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Next was an amazingly tasty bite of sushi. Striped bass with nori, pickled veggies and daikon.

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Then came a millefeuille of rye phyllo dough layered with trout roe and green tea powder. Absolutely stunning to look at, and even nicer to shove down your throat. Just be careful not to breathe while eating or that green tea powered may have you coughing.

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This red snapper tartare may have been my favorite dish of the night. It came mixed with a jelly made from the fish bones broth/flavor, and dressed with yuzu, lime and shiso spray.

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Another refreshing and light dish was this raw scallop with pineapple dashi, drizzled with basil seed and basil oil soup. Awesome.

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Next was probably my least favorite dish, but it was still nicely executed. Beets with brown butter and bonito (dried anchovies).

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The following is the absolute best preparation of uni (sea urchin) I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating. Prior to this, I wasn’t exactly the biggest fan of uni. I’ve had some great preparations (like at Takashi), but nothing ever really blew me away to the point where I would go out of my way to have it. This was amazing though. It was raw, and served with a fermented chic pea puree and topped with lemon olive oil. So fucking creamy!

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This next dish was fun to watch them prepare. It was torched mackerel with rice, wasabi and dash ponzu sauce, sitting on a wasabi leaf. Sushi, essentially. The cool thing was that they used an infrared torch to get that char on the fish without imparting any fuel flavor from something like a butane torch.

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After some googling at home, I found that Chef Chang has actually endorsed the product, and supported their Kickstarter efforts. The product is called the Searzall. Check it out – it’s fucking cool:

The trout mousse with pickled sunchoke and kale in a dashi broth was warm and comforting. A bowl of this on a cold winter night would hit the spot. They poured the broth in table side. I shot some video of it (six seconds), but it really wasn’t that exciting so I decided to just show the photo.

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Another highlight of the meal was the soft scrambled egg with Siberian caviar and sweet potato flakes. It had great texture from the flakes, great briny salt from the caviar, and the egg was perfect.

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They also served the egg dish with some sourdough bread and watermelon-radish salted butter. The butter was very unique and flavorful. Very fresh and light. The kind of butter you can eat by the vat and not feel guilty about it.

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My next favorite course, and my wife’s first favorite course, was the celery root agniolotti pasta with Tandoori spice and fucking white truffle. This was perfect in every way. It was soft and pillowy, yet it had crunch from the truffle (it was crisp!). It was slightly salty, but I really didn’t mind because the flavors were so robust.

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Next was a slow cooked branzino with yogurt sumac sauce. It was toped with spiced sunflower seeds, which came off slightly bitter, but still nice to eat. Also mixed in was artichoke. This dish had the skin on. Typically I don’t eat fish skin unless it is crispy, but this was awesome. It was soft and tender. It felt like any other part of the fish meat when I popped it into my mouth.

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This next dish was both salty and spicy. It was roasted lobster tail and sweet potato in a lobster sauce with fried ginger. The sauce would have been perfect if it wasn’t so salty. I found that if I didn’t dip too often into the sauce, then I really enjoyed this dish. The lobster meat was cooked perfectly.

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Most interesting dish of the night goes to the Hudson Valley foie gras that seemed to be grated as if it were super soft cheese. It was garnished with pine nuts, Reisling wine jelly and lychee. This, too, was salty, but I enjoyed it very much.

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Here comes the meat, bitches! Venison loin with a sauce made from cranberry and deer blood. It was served with a side of whipped potato that had been combined with with butter and a cheese that was reminiscent of a Stilton or blue cheese. As you can see below, the venison was cooked rare, and if I had to guess, it was sous vide style, and then lightly torched.

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A palate cleanser came next: Clementine sorbet with Campari.

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The dessert was highly anticipated. A guy a few seats down from us when we first arrived had just gotten his bowl, and was flipping out about how great it was. He didn’t want to eat it because he didn’t want it to end. Coconut lime sorbet with banana rum meringue and wafers.

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There was complimentary coffee:

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And a small tray of macarons and chocolates came along with the bill:

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I should also make note of the music at this place. It was excellent, as if the selection were based off of my favorites. There was lots of 80s music, and oldies. They even played our wedding song, which was nice. I felt bad because I was in the middle of chatting with one of the chefs about all the delicious shit in the fridges at the back of the restaurant, otherwise I would  have liked to bust out and dance with my wife beside our seats.

It was so cool though – floor to ceiling fridges make up one whole wall in the back, and you can actually see what you’re eating and how it is stored. Here are some of the awesome things I found in the fridges: truffles, aging tuna, cheese cloth wrapped foie gras, aging venison loin (unless that is some sort of sausage) and a variety of aging beef.

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