Tag: New York City

Per Se, New York City, United States

How much hassle is it to arrange a surprise birthday meal in New York City from London? No matter how much upfront planning I did, it was still nearly impossible. I was going to treat my friend Darcy to a nice meal in NYC at the last weekend of August 2011 since it’s her big birthday. My plan A was to book Le Bernandin, but it’s closed for refurbishment in August; then I booked Picholine and they confirmed the reservation, with me thinking that it’s all sorted. However, about a fortnight before the visit, I got a cryptic e-mail saying that they cancelled my reservation. It’s only when I rang the restaurant that they told me they would be closed for refurbishment also (is that all they do in New York in August?). So in the end I opted for my safety net Per Se, which might be impossible to book (and Darcy would be able to guess) but worth a try.

Then what happened? Hurricane Irene hit New York that last weekend in August and nearly the whole of New York (including Per Se) was shut down. But at least Per Se managed to sort out a table for the weekend after for Sunday lunch, which I happened to be back in Manhattan anyway. Then it’s working out with Darcy’s boyfriend on how to throw the scent off the trail, and so I made up a story of going elsewhere but meet at Columbus Circle.

Luckily when the big day came, everything worked according to plan. Darcy got a birthday greeting from the restaurant as soon as she arrived, and once we settled down at the table, we had the tough task of deciding which menu to go for. In the end, I chose the vegetarian menu (which was unusual, but after a whole week of stuffing my face stupid, I could do with a lighter meal) while the rest of the table chose the carnivore menu.

The amuse-bouche reminded us of Mr Underhill’s in the UK, as they were more sophisticated versions of Gougeres, smoked salmon cones and sweet potato cone.

Per Se - Gougeres Per Se - Salmon Cones and Sweet Potato Cone

(1) “Oysters and Pearls” – Sabayon of Pearl Tapioca with Island Creek Oysters and Sterling white sturgeon caviar

Per Se - Oysters and Pearls

My first course was Sweet Corn “Veloute” with Hass avocado and thyme-scented buttermilk sherbet – Every time I saw sweetcorn soup of some form, I always thought of my most favourite version at Restaurant Sat Bains. Here, the combination of the avocado and sherbet actually worked really well with the sweetcorn. All the various flavours just came to life in the mouth.

Per Se - Sweet Corn Veloute Per Se - Sweet Corn Veloute

(2) Hawaiian Hearts of Peach Palm with navel orange, cherry belle radishes, mache and black winter truffle puree

Per Se - Hawaiian Hearts of Peach Palm

Torchon of Elevages Perigord moulard duck foie gras, with compressed Garden State peaches, fennel bulb, Marcona almond butter and petite basil

Per Se - Torchon of Elevages Perigord Moulard Duck Foie Gras

Braised fennel bulb with Per Se raisins, sunflower seed puree, nepitella mint and crispy Greek yogurt

Per Se - Braised Fennel Bulb

Sauteed fillet of Atlantic striped bass, with Florida Creek shrimp, sweet peppers, cilantro shoots and saffron aioli

Per Se - Sauteed Fillet of Atlantic Striped Bass

Yukon gold potato “mille-feuille”, broccolini, cherry belle radishes and black winter truffle puree

Per Se - Yukon Gold Potato Mille-Feuille

Butter poached Nova Scotia lobster, glazed turnips, watercress and Oregon huckleberries

Per Se - Butter Poached Nova Scotia Lobster

Swiss chard leaves “piccata”, with toasted farro “tabouleh”, violet artichokes, Cipollini onion shoots and black olive puree

Per Se - Swiss Chard Leaves Piccata

Thomas farm’s pigeon “pastrami”, rye seed pancake, red wine braised cabbage and “Thousand Island dressing”

Per Se - Thomas Farm's Pigeon Pastrami

Hen egg omelette, Matsutake mushrooms, French leeks, Vldalia onion “soubise” and Mizuna

Per Se - Ham Egg Omelette

Snake River farms’ “Calotte de boeuf”, Squire Hill Farm’s butternut squash, young onions, tarragon puree and Nasturtium caper cream

Per Se - Snake River Farms' Calotte de Boeuf

Mascarpone-enriched cranberry bean “Agnolotti”, cherry tomatoes, haricots verts, parmesan crisp, basil and Armando Manni extra virgin olive oil emulsion

Per Se - Mascarpone-enriched Cranberry Bean Agnolotti

“Hittisau”, buckwheat crepe, seckel pears, broccolini, toasted hazelnuts and balsamic vinegar

Per Se - Hittisau

“Pata Cabra” with charred eggplant puree, cucumbers, citrus blossom and greenmarket peppers

Per Se - Pata Cabra

“Honeyed plums” with plum compote, honeycomb, whipped plums and burnt honey ice-cream. “Peach Lemonade” with toasted oat crumble, lemon soda and Pearson Farm peach sherbet

Per Se - Honeyed PlumsPer Se - Peach Lemonade

Ice-cream sandwich, and Thomas Keller Oreo ice-cream biscuit

Per Se - Ice-Cream Sandwich Per Se - TKO Ice-cream Per Se - TKO Ice-cream

“S’Mores” – Tcho chocolate torte, vanilla marshmallow, candied Virginia peanuts and caramel ice-cream

Per Se - S'Mores

“Raspberries in black and green” – Macerated raspberries, black sesame, raspberry gateux and matcha-scented ice-cream

Per Se - Raspberries in Black and Green

Variety of truffles, macaroons

Per Se - Mignardises Per Se - Mignardises

Address: 10 Columbus Circle # 6-REST, New York, NY 10019-1219, United States
Telephone: +1 (212) 823-9335
Website: www.perseny.com

Opening Hours:  Mon-Thu 5:30pm-10pm; Fri-Sun 11:30am-1:30pm, 5:30pm-10pm

Food: 9/10
Ambience: 5/5
Service: 5/5
Total: 19/20 [Based on visit in September 2011]

Soto, New York City, United States

[UPDATE: 2021-12-28: This restaurant is permanently closed]

My first visit to Soto, a Japanese restaurant in Lower Manhattan, was actually in April 2012. It was so impressive that I went back with the “usual suspects” of food friends in October, the Saturday before that superstorm Sandy hit Manhattan.

The restaurant was not easy to find, as there was no sign or name outside to indicate the location of the restaurant. So if you do ever visit this place, remember it’s number 357!

The menu was extensive and served a whole range of dishes that sounded delicious enough without even sampling them! The four of us decided to pick with the dishes we really wanted to try, and then go for another round of ordering afterwards – if there were any dishes in the first round of ordering that were really exceptional, we could just ask for another portion in the second round.

(1) Fluke Ponzu (Thinly sliced fluke with chive, shiso leaf, ginger shoots, scallion, under mizore ponzu sauce) was fresh and worked well with the citrousy ponzu sauce.

(2) Goma Tofu (Black sesame and white sesame tofu, served with wasabi soy sauce and soy form) had a silky smooth texture with a rather delicate soy sauce.

Fluke Ponzu Goma Tofu

(3)  Uni Tempra with Uni Powder (Deep fried sashimi quality sea urchin in tempura batter, flavoured with home-made uni powder)  was interesting with the sea urchin just melting in the mouth. A first dish that won our hearts and got a repeat in round two of ordering.

(4) Sea Trout Carpaccio (Cured sea trout with black truffle sea salt, chive and caviar, served with watercress with miso mustard sauce and sesame) was so fresh it was almost like eating by the sea. Another dish we simply had to repeat in the second round.

Uni Tempra with Uni Powder Sea Trout Carpaccio

(5) Chawan Mushi (Traditional organic egg custard soup with shrimp, chicken, shiitake mushroom, mitsuba, gingko nuts and yuzu zest) tasted a little bland at the start but the flavour grew with every mouthful of it, and finished off to a very nice memorable taste.

(6) Botan Ebi Tartare (Chopped botan ebi sweet shrimp with fresh ginger, topped with uni served with shiitake dashi broth) had the expected sweet taste of the shrimp. However there was too much of a ginger taste.

Chawan Mushi Chawan Mushi

(7) Uni and Yuba (Black soy bean milk skin with finest uni, served with shiitake broth)  was one of the very few disappointing dishes – a lack of flavour of any kind.

(8) Tuna Tartare ( Chopped big eye tuna with pine nuts, asian pear, cucumber, scallion, sesame seed in spicy sesame sauce) was like a fish version of the Korean Yuk Hwe (raw beef), and it was delicious with a nice hint of spiciness.

Uni and Yuba Tuna Tartare

(9) Uzaku (Broiled fresh water eel with tosa vinegar and sweet eel sauce, garnished with japanese cucumber) was the third winning dish for us. The sweetness of the sauce coupled with the delicious eel meant that we simply had to order another one to make sure it was that good – and it was!

(10) Steamed Lobster with Uni Mousse (Layers of steamed Maine lobster and uni mousse in lotus wrap, garnished with smoked uni and caviar) was so beautifully presented that it left us staring at the dish for quite a while, wondering who would have the courage to ruin the piece of edible artwork in front of our eyes. However, the meat of the lobster was a little too cold (maybe we should have stared at the dish for longer to let the meat warm up a bit more) but the sweetness of the uni mousse really lifted the flavour of the dish.

Uzaku Steamed Lobster with Uni Mousse

(11) Uni Ika Sugomori Zukuri (Sea urchin wrapped in thinly sliced squid with shiso, served with quail egg and tosa soy reduction) was interesting enough though it lacked the flavour somewhat, which surprised me because I was expecting the sweetness of the sea urchin and the soft-boiled quail egg would really come through in this dish.

Uni Ika Sugomori Zukuri

(12) Tartare Tuna Roll (Spicy tuna tartare with asian pear, cucumber, avocado, sesame, pine nuts, scallion wrapped in white kelp) had an extremely creamy texture and easily one of the best tuna rolls ever.

(13) We also had a few pieces of nigiri sushi: Maguro (blue fin tuna from Massachusetts) and Zuwaigani (snow crab from Nova Scotia) were good but not that impressive, while the Anago (sea eel from Nagasaki) had a very slick texture and was absolutely delicious.

Tartare Tuna Rol Maguro Zuwaigani Anago

(14) To finish the meal off, it’s a selection of ice-cream mochi. Pleasant and light enough as a dessert.

Mochi

For a restaurant of this high calibre in the middle of Manhattan, the price was not ridiculously expensive. If anything, even with sake thrown into the meal, it cost no more than USD100 per person which was very reasonable indeed. I usually find Japanese restaurants that are Michelin-star-rated in the Western world rather disappointing, but Soto has proven that this is not always the case – if anything, it has become one of my favourite restaurants in New York City for sure.

Address:  357, 6th Avenue, Manhattan, New York City , United States
Telephone: +1 (212)-414-3088
Website: www.sotonyc.com

Opening Hours: Monday-Saturday 5:45-11:45 pm

Food: 9/10
Ambience: 5/5
Service: 4/5
Total: 18/20 [Based on visit in October 2012]

Fatty Crab, New York City, United States

When hurricane Irene struck New York City during the last weekend in August 2011, New York went into an unprecedented shutdown. Not only did the public transport system closed down that weekend, most shops and restaurants decided to stay shut the whole weekend. I’d hate to think the amount of business lost during that weekend, especially when the weather improved dramatically by Sunday morning.

Still, because of the transport limitations and I was staying near Columbus Circle, I decided to go somewhere not too far away for dinner. Fatty Crab on Upper West Side announced on Twitter that they were open on Sunday evening, so that seemed to be a good place to walk to for dinner.

The restaurant was not a typical Malaysian restaurant – the decor and music was very much appealed to the younger trendy Western crowd. The food was “inspired” by Malaysian cuisine (as the restaurant said so on the website) and other neighbouring South-East Asian countries.

Because of the hurricane, it was a reduced menu, but there were still plenty of choices on there. So to start, we opted for Jalan Alor chicken wings, and pork steamed buns. The belly of pork sandwiched in the steamed bun was divine – the flavoursome meat was served with a sweet soya and chilli sauce, with boiled eggs and coriander as garnish.  The chicken wings were coated with a rich glaze of soya sauce – maybe a bit too much sauce but the dish did satisfy my craving for chicken wings that evening.

Pork Steamed Buns & Jalan Alor Chicken Wings at Fatty Crab Upper West Side, New York City

The next dish was Bobo chicken satay with lontong cakes, red onion, peanut sauce. The chicken unfortunately was somewhat too burnt on the outside and without any proper marinade, a bit bland and dry inside.

Red curry okra at Fatty Crab Upper West Side, New York City

For the main courses, we chose Fazio Farms Fatty Duck, with pickled mustard greens, gula jawa, thai chili; red curry okra and rice. Unfortunately the duck, which was deep-fried, was so tough and greasy that after two small bites I already felt that I’ve had enough. The okra was somewhat overcooked and just did not look very appealing to go into the mouth.

Fazio Farms Fatty Duck at Fatty Crab Upper West Side, New York City Red curry okra at Fatty Crab Upper West Side, New York City

 

The meal started on a high with the pork belly in steamed buns and then gradually went downhill from there. Service was warm and friendly without being pretentious – that’s a major plus. The place was vibrant and certainly would make a fun night out with friends, as long as quality of food was not high on your list.

Address: 2170 Broadway (Between 76th & 77th Street), New York City, NY 10024, United States
Telephone: +1 (212) 496 2722
Website: www.fattycrab.com

Opening Hours: Monday to Wednesday: Noon to Midnight ;  Thursday & Friday: Noon to 02.00am ; Saturday: 11.00am to 02.00am;  Sunday: 11.00am to Midnight

Food: 5/10
Ambience: 4/5
Service: 4/5
Total: 13/20 [Based on visit in August 2011 ]