Showing posts with label Michelin star. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Michelin star. Show all posts

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Bouchon Yountville

Following the Micheline Guide for San Francisco Bay Area & Wine Country, we visited the recipient for 2011, Bouchon restaurant in Yountville.  Thomas Keller created Bouchon as a traditional Parisian bistro, a more casual version from the French Laundry.  With two other locations in Beverly Hills and Las Vegas, Bouchon offers French classics as well as a raw bar.  
As we walked in the restaurant, it was lively, crowded and noisy.   It was much too hectic and we were asked to choose between squeezing cheek to cheek at the bar, or burn in the sun outside on the patio.  I decided to sit out on the patio and bask in the sun instead.  The weather was nice, it was more calm and serene.  I couldn't help but admire the beauty of fall foliage coupled with a nice sunny weather.  

The house made French knots were served with fresh butter.  The knots were served warm with chewy doughy inside.  The crust was still pretty hard to bite into.  

The soup of the day was sunchoke soup.  It was fresh though there wasn't much flavour.  It was thick and creamy on its own and became too heavy with the added creme fraiche.  It wasn't so bad after I dunked the French knots in the soup and let them bathe in the bowl.  The bread soaked up the creamy soup quite nicely.

The beef tongue salad was quite delightful and turned out to be more pleasant than I imagined.   Tender thin slices of beef tongue with added crisp had executed flavours.  There were sweetness from beets, tart from berries, and fluffy creme fraiche.  It was a fairly sophisticated dish and I didn't feel like I was eating beef tongue.

The roasted lamb leg with lamb jus was a rustic dish.  For medium rare, the lamb a bit over-cooked, and quite bland.  The jus has a concentrated onion flavour, but it could've been more rich with lamb flavour.  It was a dish that had so much potential, but didn't go very far. 

I was a bit disappointed with the soup and entree as they were only mediocre, and the fact that the most impressive dish was the salad.  It was good, but not great enough to book one month in advance or obsess over.  In my opinion, you can find much better value with comparable quality and at lower price elsewhere.  


Bouchon on Urbanspoon

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Fine dining at 2 star Michelin restaurant, Picholine

Picholine, meaning olives, is accredited 2 star Michelin French restaurant in the upper west side New York City.  From the moment I walked in, I fell in love with the elegant setting of hanging chandeliers and soft lavender and cream colour tone.  It provides both great ambience and service that, if I lived in New York, this would probably be my favourite lunch spot. 

Their dining options include a tasting menu, prix fixe menu, as well as a la carte for dinner.  For lunch, we were tempting to order the 7 course tasting menu.  But since the menu is fixed, we each ordered the 2 course prix fixe for $28 with additional course for $12 to sample more food instead.

I sort of regret not ordering their cheese plate after learning that it is what the New York Times called "the best cheese presentation in the city".  Even the manager asked us, "no cheese today?" and I declined.  Why, what was I thinking? I obviously wasn't.

For the amuse bouche, we were given a plate of crispy parsnip and butternut squash panna cotta with chopped cocoa and almonds.  Although, I overheard a discrepancy that it was pumpkin at another table.  Anyways, it was light, dessert-like appetizer, but not too sweet.  

Served with "avocado marble and citrus caviar", the Hamachi Cru is similar to a ceviche or tataki.  It was creamy, and has a delightful refreshing taste from the citrus.  The hamachi was also very fresh that it melted in my mouth.  I didn't taste any spiciness from jalapenos that were supposedly in there though.

I was hoping to taste something new and different and this dish definitely delivered.  The Tuna Napoleon, only described as "the taste of Riviera" was the most unique and the delicious dish I've had in years.  Fresh tuna slices layered between two crispy crackers (I'm not sure what those were) served with olive oil ice cream over eggplant puree.  I had no idea how raw fish and ice cream would taste together.  But when I tried them all together, it was divine, thanks to the multi-leveled textures and aiding spices. The tuna pieces melt in your mouth together with the coolness of the ice cream.  More flavours came out as chewing is enhanced by crunchy texture from the crackers and creaminess from the eggplant puree.  The more you chew, the more you taste the spice from chili flakes, and saltiness from the seasoning.  But, in the end, they are all balanced in harmony by the sweetness of the creamy ice cream.  The great thing about this dish is how complex it really is in flavours and textures.  You start off with a flavour and end of in a totally different note, while going through 3 different textures at the same time.  It just blew me away. Truly an amazing dish.  The next dish to come had a lot to live up to.

I should've ordered something else I was less familiar with, but I'm a sucker for scallops.  So I ended up ordering Diver Sea Scallops which was served with curried squash, kale, shaved coconut and pomegranate.  The scallops were too cooked than how I normally would like them, but they were still tasty.
This following dish, the Pained Hills Farm Sirloin, also met the expectation but didn't go well beyond.  The sirloin was cooked medium rare, but it wasn't that well-seasoned.  Coming from Alberta, I have very high expectations when it comes to steak.  The BĂ©arnaise cloud was light and fluffy. The creamed spinach was much too salty and it had to be consumed at the same time with both the fried onion, and the steak to ease out the intensity. All that was missing was a bun and it would've been a really good steak sandwich.

The final entree was the Squid Ink Fideos (vermicelli) served with prawns and topped with Pimenton (spanish paprika) aioli.  I think I would've appreciated it more, if I wasn't born and raised in Thailand.  With my experience, this dish tastes EXACTLY like a thai street dish called "Pad See Ew" which is stir-fried noodles in soya sauce. Needless to say, I didn't love this dish either and was a bit disappointed at how "Asian" it tasted.  I'm sure it was more coincidental with the ingredients they used, but I was expecting a much more elegant dish.  As I think back, there is a place in Pattaya, Thailand that makes a killer creamy and spicy squid ink pasta.  It was much better there.

After the entrees, we were presented with house made assorted chocolates.  They were delicious.

Citrus tasting arrived in 3 parts; orange crepes, creamy citrus meringue, and grapefruit sorbet.  The orange crepe arrived in thin crispy biscuit forms layered with lemon diplomat and topped with "lime caviar".  The grapefruit sorbet was extremely refreshing.  I enjoyed this dessert much more than the squid ink fideos.  

Last but not least, Pear "Belle Hellene" consisted of sweet poached pear with chocolate soup and mascarpone sorbet.  The chocolate soup was quite thick and rich, but not too sweet.  

Overall, I love the overall elegant setting and attentive service.  Food wise, the majority of the dishes we ordered were good for a restaurant at this calibre, though we expected much more.  Even though the main courses didn't impress me that much, the Tuna Napoleon was really something special.  


Picholine on Urbanspoon

Monday, November 15, 2010

Lunch at Aldea

A recent recipient of the Michelin star, Aldea offers contemporary Portuguese cuisine combining modern approaches to rustic dishes.  My sister and I stopped by there for lunch on my first day in New York City.  Located in the Flatiron District, the restaurant ambience was calming.  Wooden panels, cool blue and white colour schemes represented the earth, air, and water elements, making us feel relaxed stepping in to the space.  I felt relaxed indulging in the space. With opened kitchen viewing, we also got to observe the chefs at work.   The service was exceptional. Our servers were attentive, informative, and very professional.

My sister wasted no time ordering the set lunch which at $24.07 for a 3 courses.  The first course was the rustic pork and duck terrine served with wine jelly and arugula.   There was the essence of the smokiness similar to bacon and ham with a thicker taste. It was descent.

The second course, skate with escabeche jus and zucchini ribbons. I had no idea what a skate was and apparently it is a type of cartilaginous fish or rays. I just learned that skates are suffering from overfishing and are listed as vulnerable.  Since it was after the fact, I didn't get a chance to ask where the restaurants get their skates from.  Anyways, back to the tasting.  The fish was cooked really well, crispy outside and tender in the middle.  We have a pet peeve of seared or pan fried fish being too dry and tasteless, but this dish was done really well.  It was well seasoned, with a buttery, melt-in-your-mouth texture complemented by the tanginess of the jus.  

I ordered the opened-face sea urchin sandwich with heirloom tomatoes for $17.  Though the size was quite small, I was absolutely blown away by its taste.  The uni was probably one of the freshest I have ever had.  No need to fly to Tsukiji fish market here.  It literally melted in my mouth, and combining with kelp (or “sea lettuce” as they called it), was a reminiscing taste of the ocean.  I could vision myself snorkeling with the sea urchins in the south coast of Thailand.  I still fantasize about that sandwich today.  It was refreshing, tasty and worth every penny.  

Pepe’s dessert was the roasted apple tart with cinnamon ice cream.  She said she really liked the ice cream as the cinnamon flavour was quite pronounced.  I was more captivated by the presentation of my butternut squash parfait ($9). The white maple cake made to look like sea sponge along side with the vibrant butternut squash mousse, maple caviar, olive oil ice cream and caramelized pumpkin seeds.  And yes, it tastes as good as it looks.
Overall, Aldea is great for value; great food, relaxing ambience, and probably one of the best service I’ve ever had. I would definitely return again for my next visit to NYC.


Aldea on Urbanspoon