Showing posts with label restaurants. Show all posts
Showing posts with label restaurants. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Tasty Persian feast at Zeitoon


Seeking a new food adventure this week, we set off to Zeitoon, a Persian restaurant recommended by a friend's co-worker.  Since we don't go to Middle-Eastern restaurants often, all of us wanted to try many dishes on the menu without killing ourselves.  Thankfully, the kitchen was able to accommodate us and preparing the dishes family-style that was easy to share.  Their dips and kabobs are definitely must-try.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Manhattan's Finest: The Nomad




When I stepped into the Nomad restaurant at the Nomad Hotel with its nostalgic and upscale vibe, that was when I felt like I was a true grown up.  It was busy, with 40's + crowd, and everyone seemed like they'd been here before numerous times. Loud chatters filled the atrium as people sipped from their wine.  Dressed up parsnips seemed to be the  popular snack as they were flying out all night.  We were on a mission; to try their famous roasted chicken.   However, I ended up falling in love with other few dishes on the menu instead.

First off, we could not get enough of their artisan flatbread.  It was baked crisp and topped with sun-dried tomatoes, rosemary, garlic, and white beans.  It was hard to not fill up while waiting for the courses to arrive.

As you can see, I had no idea the marinated fluke would be a stunning art on a plate.  And yes, it tasted as amazing as it looked. The basil oil brought out natural sweet flavors of the heirloom tomato while the subtle acidity complement the fluke, making it the star. This was my favourite dish of the evening.  

Out of all the things on the menu, there's always a soft spot for poached egg, no matter what time of the day.  And this time was no different and it had to be included.  A perfectly poached egg peaked through a cloud of foam and brown butter with asparagus and crispy quinoa. When it comes to food porn, there's nothing that's more visually tantalizing than cracking a perfectly poached egg and watching the yolk slowly oozes out. Only this time, the yolk dripped down to a cloud of foam clouds. Although the sauce was a bit too high in sodium, it was an awesome comfort food no less.

Looking at this dish, comparing with other items we just had, we were not as wowed by the seemingly humble appearance.  However, the king crab tagliatelle with Meyer lemon and black pepper proved to be the underdog.  Frankly, it was a well executed dish.  The tagliatelle pasta, made in-house, had the perfect texture. It was lightly seasoned with lemony flavor, but it was enough to make an impression. Topped with succulent king crab meat, we gobbled it up the entire plate within minutes. 

When the suckling pig confit with pears cabbage and mustard showed up at the table, we already knew what we expected out of it; ultra crispy skin, a fatty layer with moist and tender meat.  

The star of the show, and what many come to the Nomad for, was the $79 whole roasted chicken with foie gras black truffle and brioche. It was the most pricey and fancy roasted chicken we have paid for.  It was presented to us fresh out of the oven before being carved up and prepared 2 ways (like a Peking duck).  It looked gorgeous with golden brown glistening skin with arrangement of fresh herbs.  But aside from that, the only other thing I seemed to notice was how small the whole roasted chicken looked compared to the size of that gentleman's hands holding it!

The different meat of the chicken was prepared two ways. Accompanied by white bean truffle puree, the breast, served skin on, was very tender but the truffle essence was very faint.   

Meanwhile, the dark meat had a more rustic take, served in a skillet with green beans and mustard seeds with a touch of acidity from vinegar. The crispy skin bits were a real treat.  Overall, the chicken was good, but in my opinion for $40-50, not $79.

Our food journey at the Nomad ended with 2 modern desserts.


I loved the artful presentation and play on 2 contrasting textures for "milk and honey".  You get the crunchy harder bits from short bread brittle with the sweet, yet mellow honey ice cream.

When it comes to taste, I thought this plum dessert was more unique than the rest.  There was a lot of flavours and textures going on in this dish; from sweet to tart to salty from the corn sabayon, spongy to rich to creamy, even temperature ranged from warm to cold.  While it was yummy altogether, I had a great time dissecting each component with each bite and trying to figure everything out.  It was unique, distinct, and special. A dish you wouldn't find at just about anywhere.

I would love to come back to the Nomad again for their creative takes on snacks, appetizers and desserts.

The NoMad on Urbanspoon

Friday, October 4, 2013

Manhattan's finest, Bouley by David Bouley


 

If you are looking for an exquisite dining experience in Manhattan, bring yourself and your loved ones to Bouley, a French contemporary restaurant in Tribecca and try their 5-course tasting lunch menu. I may advise that you either clear out your schedule for the afternoon or give yourself about 2.5 to 3 hours for the complete course.  Trust me, when you are seated in this luxurious oasis in Manhattan, you would not want to rush through your meal. 

My first visit was in mid September and the experience was exceptional from the moment you walked through the entrance corridor and greeted with the intoxicating scent of fresh apples. The waiting room was elegant with a sophisticated Old World vibe.  The boutique dining room with a lavender theme makes diners feel welcomed and relaxed. The service, as well, was impeccable. 

The amuse bouche of the day was a simple tomato gazpacho topped with yogurt and lobster, and a side of cracker with creme fraiche and black truffle.  It was gone quickly, but at Bouley, they do not leave their guests to starve. Before we could have time to peak through the back, looking for our first course, a man pushing a cart of daily-made artisan breads reeled the wheels to our table. The selections were endless. We tried as many selection as we'd like. 

Then, arrived the first course; fresh oysters paired with kiwi and New England Big Eye tuna.  I've never thought oysters and kiwi would work together and initially found it bizarre. It was no accidental experiment, though. The combination was a dynamite. The tartness and sweetness of the kiwi balanced out with the fresh-from-the-sea flavor of the oysters. 

My sister's Big Eye tuna was even more of a knock out dish. An extremely sophisticated dish, slices of fresh tuna were placed on top of a delicate and aromatic apple foam and topped with caviar. If the oyster and kiwi was a smart pair, this was Einstein.  My palate went into a frenzy trying to figure out what these new flavor combination  meant. This would be one of the dishes we would fly back to NYC for. 


Another dish that captivated my soul was the second course: the porcini flan. If I had to share this dish with anyone, it would be the ultimate test of my love and devotion for that very person. Inspired by traditional Japanese steamed egg pudding dish, chawamushi, this was a French spin on the Asian classic. The egg pudding was soft and delicate, disintegrating immediately as you take the first bite. The broth infused with porcini and black truffle was earthy, savory and fragrant. The meaty pieces of dungeness crab in the broth also elevated everything.  A very refined dish and one of my favorites. 


For the main course, I ordered the duck breast in the sweet, caramelized, and savory sherry date jus with clementine confit and polenta. My sister ordered the organic chicken baked "en cocotte", which was extremely moist and tender. It was served with emerald hued kale and roasted garlic. 
 


Moving to the fourth course, what I call an intermission, I had the white peach soup topped with sorbet, while my sister refreshed her taste buds with strawberries rhubarb and gelato. 

By the time the final dessert course arrived, we felt like we were entering food comatose state.  My sister ended her course with hot caramelized Anjou pear with Breton biscuit lemon verbena and delicious hot toffee sauce. The dessert also came with a side of Tahitian vanilla and lemongrass ice cream.  I indulged in the decadent chocolate soufflĂ© accompanied by a white coffee cloud, white chocolate ice cream and a fluffy chocolate mousse.  We were one step closer to going to food heaven. 


Just as we thought we were finished, we were offered with more delectables...

If you are looking for a fulfilling gastronomic experience that will entice your every senses, make a reservation at Bouley. 

Bouley on Urbanspoon
Bouley Restaurant on Foodio54

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Spanish tapas: Sardine Can and Espana

The Sardine Can

Every single time we stopped by the Sardine Can, it was always running at maximum capacity with hungry diners pacing around the front door, praying there would be an open seat soon (doesn't matter where).  The night I hit up this Gastown gem with my friend S was no different. Luckily, we didn't wait around too long and got 2 cozy spots at the bar.  Created by the same folks behind Pied a Terre and La Buca, the name "Sardine Can" was quite fitting, as we did feel a little bit crammed in the modest, yet crowded space. 

 I was quite intrigued with how simple and minimal their kitchen was.  And much more intrigued by how fast the chef was able to fly out those orders, keeping consistency with excellent quality control.   As we both were not too familiar with Spanish tapas, S and I weren't quite sure what we should order and so we only order 3 dishes like 2 old shy introverts who didn't go outside that often.  Now that I looked back, we should have ordered at least 2 more dishes; smoked ham wrapped prune stuffed with Mahon cheese , and slow cooked pork cheeks.  What were we thinking?
 
The smoked sardine on toast was probably what they are known for.  For only $5, I thought the portion was reasonable and the taste made this a steal and a half.  When you think 'sardine', some of you (me included) might think of small oily canned fish served whole.  However, the smoked sardine was a smooth spread, dressed with lemon juice, perhaps capers.  It was not fishy at all.  Instead, it was salty, tangy, refreshing on crisp toasted baguette.   A wonderful dish that left me wanting more.
We also ordered steamed clams with chorizo sausage and mushrooms in sherry cream sauce.  I enjoyed the clams.  They were meaty and not all shrivelled up. The tomato sauce had just the right acidity and the chorizo sausage had just the right spice and smokiness.  I ended up filling my belly scraping up sauce with sourdough bread.  Lastly, the mushrooms were cooked well enough that the texture was tender, but still firm and not soggy.   The sherry cream sauce was fantastic, but I wish they had baked it with cheese.  Just eating a big bowl of mushrooms got mundane after a while.  


Despite being constantly insanely busy, service was prompt and our food never took too long to arrive.  However, I did not feel like the ambience was somewhere I could sit down, be comfortable and enjoy my meal for very long.  Everything there felt so hectic and so we decided to venture out elsewhere. S and I did regret not staying to try the chocolate terrine on toast.  

Sardine Can on Urbanspoon

Espana

The second Spanish tapa restaurant the girls and I hit up recently was Espana on Denman.  The atmosphere at Espana was warm and inviting.  It was dimly lit and the bar area showcased their wine collection.  Walk into Espana after 7 pm and you will find yourself in the same predicament as at the Sardine Can.  And they don't take reservation here either.
 


B and I tried out red wine concoctions; mixed with lemonade, and one with cola ($6 each).  The first tasted like sangria, the latter just tasted like coke.  It was worth a try.
P described her wine to be smooth, light, easy to drink and doesn't overpower the food.
 
Iberian ham croquettes arrived with a wedge of lemon.  After tasting it, the rest of them certainly did not require any sauces.  The croquettes were exactly how they were meant to be; crispy batter, smooth, creamy and well seasoned inside.  We got a taste of the ham in small bits, not huge chunks.
The second dish that arrived was "OMG" good.  It blew us away.  The 2 pieces of 'toasts' arrived looking like slices of cake.  The thick bread was a spongy with crispy edge, topped with a thick layer of pate of chicken liver infused with anchovy and sherry.  The flavour was pretty much a party in my mouth.  As a bonus, the acidity of the balsamic vinegar cut through the pate making the party with a twist that could go on all night.  It was sooooooo good.
  
If there's one dish we never go without ordering, it's crispy pork belly.  Check out the marbled layer.  The skin was thick and, most importantly, crispy.  The meat was tender and came apart easily, the fat just made the world go round. Despite being served with my nemesis, white bean, they managed to get me to eat it too.   Props go to the supporting romesco sauce topping on the crispy pork and pesto mixed in the white bean.  
The octopus salad was on the special that night.  When it arrived, we had to double check with our server, "I think we ordered octopus salad".  "This is it,"she replied, "the octopus is there....there and there."  It was so dark, everything looked the same, and so we couldn't tell what was what on the plate.  It was a warm salad, a bit too salty in my opinion, although I really liked the chorizo on this dish.  It was slightly crispy with full-flavour.  The octopus was surprisingly tender, chewy but not rubbery.  The arugula tossed in lemon juice and olive oil livened everything up.  The fingerling potatoes were crispy and made good fillers. 
The house-made morcilla (Spanish blood sausage) with fried egg and mushrooms was a special dish.  It would easily be an excellent brunch dish also.  It's got all the proteins and iron one would need to face a hard day.  The sausage was savoury with a crumbly texture, and swimming in a light gravy-like sauce.  
We actually debated for a long time whether or not to order the paella.  Although we were already full, I knew in my heart if I didn't order it, I'd spend the rest of my life wondering "what if?".  There's certainly no room for that! Actually, what pushed me was the key ingredient, squid ink.  It always tastes so good in pasta, and even bread, but I had never tried with paella before.  For $32, the paella arrived in a large pan, black as night.  The flavour of the rice was amazing, full of flavour, zesty from lemon juice and probably hundreds of capers mixed in with the rice.  Despite the octopus being done well, tender and not rubbery, we all wished there was more seafood or more topping on the rice.  The ratio just didn't seem to match.  


We were full to the brim, yet this time, we all called for desserts. And, we were glad we did.  The catalan cream custard arrived in a ramekin.  Once we dug in, it pretty much revealed itself to be a creme brulee.  The burnt sugar was so thick and crispy and I love the taste of burnt sugar so much.  The custard cream was light, fluffy and creamy.  It was worth the weight gain.  
Again, speaking of weight gain, I don't care if I end up doubling in size from eating this dessert everyday.  Initially, we thought the trifle was 'too big'.  After digging in, pfft...there was no such thing.  The cake was saturated with sherry and layered with tangy blood oranges, pomegranate, and fluffy whipped cream.  I learned a lesson tonight. I shall always drench cakes with sherry before I eat it.  It was too good.  Or, maybe I just love the taste of alcohol too much.
Espana Restaurant on Urbanspoon