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Le Bernardin

Happy New Years!

Au Revoir New York! Now how do I celebrate an end of an era? I’ve got the perfect answer…

By dining at one of New York’s most prestigious restaurants, Le Bernardin by Chef Eric Ripert. Often regarded as the world’s best seafood restaurant, Le Bernardin currently resides at #15 of the best restaurants in the world. Did I mention the 3 Michelin Stars and 4 star New York Times rating?A requirement to dine at Le Bernardin is that all men must wear a suit jacket and must have it on the duration of the meal. Stay Classy. If you’re ever lucky enough to arrive early before the rest of your party, you’re greeted with a plate of flaky parmesan breadsticks in the waiting room.

I mean seriously, how awesome is this? 99% of restaurants don’t even serve starter bread as delicious as these breadsticks. Yet, these appear while you’re still waiting in the foyer. Amazing.Let the free swag continue! As soon as we’re seated, the sommelier presents us with $75 worth of complimentary champagne.While sipping on the delicious crisp champagne, a gorgeous plate is placed in front of us. Served as an amuse bouche, is a Poached Oyster with Truffle Foam over a Sea Salt Bed. The oyster has a tremendous flavor while the foam provides a silk-like texture, add in a sprinkle of that sea salt and I guarantee you it’s the best little oyster you’ll ever have. Did I mention, all of this was served before we were even presented with menus? My friends and I elected to go with the tasting menu, be aware that it’s going to take a while. Our entire meal lasted an enduring 4 hours. This was the clearest picture I could get of the ultra quick man with the bread basket. In between every course, this mysterious man floats by, delivering a basket of fresh and warm baked goods of your choice. Now not knowing that he would continue to show up, I grabbed a beastly three pieces off his basket. A rosemary olive breadstick and raisin bread. Another thing to note is that well of softened butter at the top. The bread man had a best friend, and his name was butter man. That well of butter was always fill to the brim thanks to butter man. Sometimes it was like magic, I would scoop some butter for a bite, but when I reached back for more, the well would instantly be refilled.Our first course arrives, and it definitely resembles a pair of lips. Layers of Thinly Pounded Yellowfin Tuna; Foie Gras and Toasted Baguette with Shaved Chives and Extra Virgin Olive Oil. The actual tuna ends up texturally similar to a jelly. The foie gras adds a velvety texture as well as contributes a nice depth of flavor. Finally, the baguette adds the final dimension of texture with that needed crunch.How romantic, they add a floating candle to your table. You have to indulge in a bottle of wine to complete this perfect meal.Here’s some more bread, the raisin bread again with a warm and soft sourdough roll. Next up, we have a Charred Octopus with Fermented Black Beans in a Pear Sauce Vierge Ink with Miso Vinaigrette and Purple Basil. Personally, I thought this dish had a strong Asian taste influence with the fermented black beans. And to be honest, although it was still good, it wasn’t my absolute favorite. I would’ve loved to have substituted this for something else.Before I can complain about anything, a magnificent jewel is placed in front of me. A plate containing a Warm Lobster Carpaccio with Hearts of Palm and an Orange Vinaigrette. The server comes around and drizzles a stream of warm melted butter sauce to top the lobsters. This dish would make all the angels in heaven jealous. The soft buttery lobster, is just so decadent that word’s cannot explain how perfect this dish is. I remember closing my eyes so that I could enhance my sense of taste. But as with all great things, it came to an end. Before I could lament, the next course was placed in front of me. Baked Wild Striped Bass with Cashew and Jalapeno Purée, topped Pickled Cucumbers and served with a Chill Blue Crab Consommé.  After the bass is doused with the blue crab consommé, the fragrance of the dish is so splendid it could calm a riot. The beautifully crafted consommé is perhaps the best pure broth that I’ve ever had. The flavor is absolutely ethereal and to be honest, I believe the bass played second fiddle to the broth. Keep in mind, that I’m not taking anything away from the wonderfully cooked bass, but just reiterating how tremendous the consommé truly is. Before I could wipe the gigantic smile off my face, I was served this little number, which made me smile even bigger (if that was even possible). Le Bernardin’s rendition of Surf and Turf – Escolar (aka White Tuna) and Seared Nebraska Wagyu Beef topped with a Sea Bean Salad and Eggplant Fries. I’m literally running out of synonyms for perfect and delicious. But that’s exactly what this was. The Wagyu without question was tremendous and the Escolar was flawless. The red wine sauce compliments both the steak and tuna, and those little eggplant fritters, well, let’s say I can eat a whole basket full of them. My goodness, are we done yet? Thanks to my friend Valerie knowing one of the sous-chefs, we were given another course (compliments of the chef). An immaculately cooked piece of Sea Bass with a deconstructed Chinese BBQ Pork Bun (imagine a steamed BBQ pork bun, but inside out). I don’t know if this fully counts as a dessert, but to me it’s just an intermezzo. Anyway, this “Panna Cotta” is Greek Yogurt served with a Candied Walnut and “Red Hot” Apple Gelée. A definite refreshing palate cleanser. Apparently, this was another complimentary dessert, actually it was a pre-dessert (a dessert before the dessert). An Egg Shell filled with Chocolate Mousse and topped with Sea Salted Caramel Foam.Finally our actual dessert arrives. A Dominican Chocolate Cremeux with Vanilla and Sweet Potato Sorbet with a Bourbon Caramel. This whole dessert not only works, but its abso-fucking-lutely amazing. All the flavors just work harmoniously together and nothing overpowers or is undermined. I now crave Sweet Potato Sorbet. Our last dish arrives, our Mignardises, a set of Petit Fours. A pistachio cookie, a chocolate wedge, a cream puff, and a fruit gelée a perfect way to end a perfect night.

With respects to all the other restaurants, this was by far the best meal of my life. Tons of unexpected dishes, outstanding flavors and unequaled company (thanks Valerie and Queenie) equate to one of my most sublime experiences ever.

Le Bernardin Scores:
Food: 10/10 – Eric Ripert, you are a culinary god. Not only did you give me a fascinating dish, you gave me 11.

Restaurant Environment: 10/10 – Even though it might feel pretentious with your suit jacket, you’ll find the entire restaurant is very welcoming regardless of your appearance.

Service: 10/10 – All the server’s knowing exactly what I want and need before I do, it’s a bit frightening (in an awesome way).

Value: 10/10 – Now this wasn’t cheapest meal in the entire world, but can you put a price on perfection?

Overall: 10/10 – I will be back, oh yes.. I will be back..

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San Francisco – Wayfare Tavern

What more can I say about chef Tyler Florence? He is my culinary god that I worship day and night. I can safely say that he is one of the sole reasons that manifested my food obsession. The days of Food 911 and Tyler’s Ultimate were the good days of Food Network, unlike the new-age shows dominated with cupcake decorating and cake building. Maybe it’s all the Bourdain I’ve been reading, and his hatred of everything Food Network. Whatever it is, I’m growing further and further away from this once sacred channel. Sorry about the side rant, where was I? Oh yeah, when I heard Tyler (we’re on a first name basis now ok?) opened his new restaurant Wayfare Tavern in San Francisco, it instantly rose to the top of my restaurant bucket list.As I made my way into restaurant, my jaw literally dropped, flabbergasted. Seeing Tyler stand in the kitchen with his arms crossed, I felt like a young teeny-bopper seeing Bieber for the first time in person. Screw Bieber-fever, this was Tyler’s Ultimate Fever. We’re lucky enough to be seated at a booth next to the open kitchen, I saw Tyler wave at me (not us, just me). However, I thought he was waving at somebody else, disregarded the gesture, and refocused my attention to the waiter. Again, I peeped over at the kitchen, and Tyler waved again. Acting like a dumbfounded idiot, I reciprocated with the most awkward wave that I will remember for the rest of my life. Sigh.

The meal started with warm buttery popovers that were crusted on the outside and ultra soft on the inside, served with some softened butter. Just awesome. I love when restaurants actually are meticulous and put some TLC in the bread they serve.

While sipping on some amazing Napa grown wine, a flurry of dishes is brought out before us.

Beginning with the Seared Sonoma Foie Gras served with roasted plums, tarragon and sea salt on grilled sourdough. What a phenomenal dish. The plums were sweet and succulent and a perfect complement to the buttery foie gras.Next on tap was a pretty similar dish, but something that I always order in the Salt Roasted Bone Marrow. The marrow is plated over a bed of Parsley-Shallot Salad with a Veal Demi-glaze on a Sourdough Toast with Molasses Butter. I’ll have to confess that I do love the foie gras more than this dish, but the bone marrow was no pushover either. I just think it was missing the unique element of something sweet to balance the saltiness.Our final appetizer was the Santa Barbara Sea Urchin from their raw bar. The sea urchin is presented on top of a Sweet Corn Puree, Bread and Butter Pickles, and Chervil. The dish was absolutely superb, and epitomized San Francisco dining with the use of fresh, in season, ingredients. The lightness of the sea urchin and sweet corn paired perfectly with the saltiness of the previous ones.On to the main events! This is Tyler’s rendition of Steak and Eggs. A Petit Filet Mignon topped with Soft Eggs, with toasted Dungeness crab, Asparagus, and a buttery Béarnaise. He should’ve called it the most decked out Egg’s Benedict in the world. Again, you notice the quality of ingredients in every bite and the perfect execution of every dish.The Wood Grilled Chicken Paillard is an artistic masterpiece of colorful ingredients served with Marin Organic Tomatoes, Frisèe, Bacon Lardons, Watercress and a drizzle of Roasted Chicken Jus. Honestly, if this is the kind of dishes that farmer’s eat, you can call me Old McDonald, because I’m putting on my overalls and carrying out my pitchfork.Finally, comes my dish, their Organic Fried Chicken dipped in a Buttermilk Brine, served with Roasted Garlic, Crispy Wood Herbs, and Lemons. To quote Usher, O-M-G! Drop everything you’re doing and fly out to San Francisco, make your way into Wayfare Tavern and order the most amazing Fried Chicken you’ll ever have in your life. The chicken feels as if it’s quickly fried and then finished off in the oven, since there’s no oily residue at all. The herbs and crust are simply divine. Every bite I smear the roasted garlic like it’s butter and squeeze some of the fresh lemon. This is in a whole different class of Fried Chicken, screw Shake and Bake, KFC, Popeyes, even the highly touted chicken at Blue Ribbon doesn’t compare. Mr. Florence, I see you in an even higher light.You might ask yourself, can this meal get any better? And my answer to you would be yes! (emphasis on the exclamation mark). Along with the three entrees, we also ordered a couple of sides, which included the best Macaroni and Cheese in the world. The Baked Mac and Cheese is laced with Jack Cheese, Garlic Breadcrumbs, and topped with Chives and Smoked Olive Oil. The cheese not only had extraordinary flavor but also had the perfect consistency, not too thick and not too watery. The use of larger macaroni pasta was a magnificent touch. Please, no more, this food-gasm is unbearable (in a great way).Our final dish was the Creamed Corn that was also topped with Smoked Olive Oil and Chive Blossoms. Continuing with the theme of the day, flawlessly executed and just marvelous to eat. I honestly think I’m running out of synonyms for this entry.But wait! There’s more! You thought that was all that we ordered? Keep dreaming, I have to end this momentous night with some dessert. Enter Big Papa’s Banana Cream Pie, filled with Banana Custard, Vanilla Wayfares (get it?), and topped with a Toasted Meringue. I’ve always loved banana cream anything, but just imagine Marie Calender’s Banana Cream Pie stepped up a few notches and that’s what we get here. Although it is a bit sweet, sharing this dessert amongst a few friends ends up being the perfect finishing touch.On our way out, we’re even presented with little Ginger Snap cookies that would’ve made the Keebler Elves quit their jobs.

I truly can’t say much more about how utopic the night has been. I enjoyed beyond a doubt one of the best meals of my life with some of the greatest people (Thanks Tiff and Vanessa). My only advice about eating at Wayfare Tavern (which would’ve made my night complete) is what I learned at the end of the meal. Is that Tyler loves meeting his guests and fans and is a very approachable individual. If you were like me and were simply waiting for him to come around and interrupt your meal, you’d be at a loss. Our waiter told us that we should’ve asked him to meet Tyler. But this only gives me more reason to head back to San Francisco and visit Wayfare Tavern Again.

Wayfare Tavern Scores:
Food: 10/10 – My first and quite possibly only perfect score. Not only did I enjoy great food, it was a great experience.

Restaurant Environment: 10/10 – To personally be at your restaurant shows a lot and how much you care about your actually restaurant.

Service: 10/10 – A kind staff and great recommendations, helped garnish a perfect score.

Value: 10/10 – To set this straight, you can’t enter Wayfare Tavern thinking Dollar Menu, but for what you get. I’ll gladly pay my first born.

Overall: 10/10

Craft

In the culinary world, instead of the popular phrase WWJD, the phrase would be converted to WWTCD. What would Tom Colicchio do? The celebrity chef is best known for his role as head judge on Top Chef. His impeccable resume consists of multiple James Beard awards, highly touted restaurants from across the nation, yada yada yada. This is all splendid. However I’m interested in just one thing, if Tom Colicchio can impress me.

To answer this question, I went to his flagship restaurant Craft in New York City.Shame there was construction going on, I couldn’t take too many pictures of the facade.The fresh flowers that welcome you at the front door are a nice touch. The open space is a breath of fresh air. I’m tired of all these New York restaurants using every single square foot to their advantage. If you look to the top left of the picture, that entire glass room is their wine cellar. The beginning of many drinks to come. The Edison was a vodka based cocktail with lemon, passion fruit, and champagne. So what, if I enjoy a tasty fruity drink. The bread is nothing fancy, which kind of disappointed me. All the other restaurants on the same tier do tasty biscuits and fresh baked bread. Nope, not at Craft. P.S. they don’t even give enough butter for the bread. Amuse Bouche of Asparagus Soup with Creme Fraiche Shooters. Extra Salty.Ruby Red Shrimp. With a name like that you can’t fail. Right? These bad boys tasted like they came straight from Chinatown. $18 for a few measly shrimp? At least they were peeled.Suckling Pig Ballotine. What in the world is that? I have no idea either. The dish reminded me of cow tongue, but it really was more like a whole plate of bacon. I love foie gras!! I forgot what the server said, something along the lines of a Papaya reduction. Sorry, I was just way to hungry to listen. They serve the foie gras with some warm toasted brioche (which they should serve at the beginning of the meal). Sadly, this was probably the best dish of the night. The 28-day Dry-Aged Sirloin is served with a tiny bit of bone marrow. The steak was juicy and tender, to go along with all the other fine qualities you look for in a cow. However, it didn’t really carry that wow factor with it. My entree was served in a copper pot. Don’t be tricked because the dish is served in a pot, a smurf would even complain about the size. (Use the size of the spoon as reference)So what was in that magical pot? Some Beef Short Rib from the what was probably the smallest cow known to man. Served with a couple of roasting vegetables, the ribs had a very sticky glaze, which made it a bit uncomfortable to eat. Before I could even start enjoying the dish, it vanished in a couple of bites. So in light of the tiny sized entrees (one which was a duck dish that was not posted), we ordered a bunch sides to fill our stomachs. The Garlic Risotto was done to perfection. Flawlessly cooked and flavored, a plus in my book. The addition of bread crumbs to the Spinach Gratin provided a crunch texture that I haven’t had in other creamed spinaches. Onto (sarcastically) the best side dish ever! Hen of the Wood Mushrooms! We had 3 of these bad boys for $15, making them $5 a pop. What a joke! The waiter must have been laughing at us when we ordered them. Yum Yum. I always love potatoes gratin. And to finish the meal, a nice glass of peppered whiskey.Chocolate Bread Pudding with Espresso Ice Cream and some Dried Apricots. Just call it a moist cake.Maple Pound Cake with Maple Ice Cream and what was almost a Maple Chocolate.Ok, besides the Foie Gras, this is the best thing on the menu. Their Sugar and Spice Doughnuts with dipping sauces. Freshly baked and amazing. I can honestly eat these puppies everyday.What’s funny is, before they give you these tiny sugar cookies, they tell you that it was specially prepared by their pastry chef. Who cares? they’re sugar cookies, and tasted like they were from the supermarket.

A sad sad showing Tom Colicchio, I had such high hopes. Also, update your website once in a while to include your current dishes, it would definitely be helpful.

Craft Scores:
Food:  7/10 – Taking the portion size out of consideration, the food was very good, with some winner and loser dishes. It definitely wasn’t what I expected from Tom, nor do I believe it will ever earn a Michelin Star.

Restaurant Environment: 9/10 – The vaulted ceilings, open space and relaxed environment set up a perfect dinner location.

Service: 8/10 – The sommelier apologized for not having the wine that we requested, but gladly gave us an alternative. Our glasses were always kept full which is definitely a plus.

Value: 3/10 – I really wanted to visit the McDonalds next door, does that say much about the portion size?

Overall: 7/10

DBGB

What kind of food blogger would I be if I did not partake in dining at highly touted restaurants? Keeping that in mind, I had to sample the offerings of one of the most decorated Michelin Star restaurateurs/chefs in the world, Mr. Daniel Boulud. And can I say, Mr. Boulud, I left with a lingering feeling of disappointment.The exterior facade as well as the interior walls of DBGB are completely covered from ceiling to ground with quotes by famous people that have influenced the culinary industry.Undoubtedly the name DBGB is a reference to the historical, now-closed, CBGB landmark that resided a couple of stores down. The bar area was actually very quiet when we first arrived at around 6:20 on a Tuesday night. The shelves of the restaurant are lined with copper cookware donated by Boulud’s so called culinary “friends.” The giant copper pot in the middle was donated by Anthony Bourdain. The famous list of chef’s go on, which include the modern day chef diety Ferran Adria. The workers at DBGB are all dressed to mock Ted Mosby from HIMYM (sorry I couldn’t get a picture). Dark brown v-neck sweater over a white crew, with a pair of jeans on. Wait a minute, they’re mocking me!Call me a duck serial murderer, because I will kill as many as it necessitates to obtain this creamy gem. Hands down the best dish of the night was what we started with, which probably lead to high expectations and the eventual demise of the dinner. Anyways back to the dish. The Housemade Foie Gras Torchon is paired with a Spiced Kumquat Confit over a stream of honey-like Jaggery Gastrique. But wait it gets better.Each is served with a perfectly toasted slice of buttery Brioche to create..If you ask me what angels in heaven eat, I have your answer. Each bite is an all out assault on your taste buds with the sweet nectarous confit, the herbaceous greens, the savory creamy foie gras, the honeyed gastrique, and buttery bread. I can die a happy man.A nice little sauce caddy that they bring to you when you order the Hot Dog that I don’t believe I used.DBGB is well known for their impressive sausage selection, but Ill save the Spicy Blood and Pig Head’s Sausage for next time. I turned into a culinary pansy and ordered their self named DBGB Dog. The All Beef Hot Dog was topped with Sauteed Onions and Mustard Ketchup with 299 Relish (in case you were wondering, their address is 299 Bowery) and served with an order of fries. Boy that’s a spicy hot dog (reenact that with a heavy Italian accent). The snappy beef wiener (stop giggling) and the spicy, almost horseradish-like sauce are a perfect match. The slaw also adds a crispy element.

The fries tasted just like In N Out fries, but had a deeper color and for some reason were all extremely short. When it comes down to fries, size does matter, and these tiny things just don’t satisfy.

Usually I never ask for waiter recommendations, unfortunately I did this time. He advised us to order the Pan Roasted Monkfish. And by the way Mr. Waiter, I know what Monkfish is, you don’t have to condescendingly explain it to me. P.S. It was terrible. The Pan Roasted Monkfish is served over a bed of Spaetzle (which were similar to little doughy pieces of chinese rice cake), Hen of the Woods (a type of mushroom), some smoked bacon (that had the texture of rock hard dog treats) and some red wine au jus. I forced myself to eat every bite, almost bursting out in tears. Save my dinner Frenchie Burger! The tiny 6-oz patty is constructed with Confit Pork Belly (mmm), Arugula, a Tomato-Onion Compote, Morbier Cheese, on a Peppered Brioche Bun, with Cornichon (small pickled French cucumbers) and Mustard and also served with their miniature fries. I read reviews criticizing DBGB about their portion size, and I would have to agree. The meager sized burger (barely the size of Shake Shack at 5 times the price), was dusted with pepper and salt.

Every bite made me crave and wonder what my dinner would’ve been like if I went to Minetta Tavern instead. The Black Label Burger was only $5 more, but worlds better (better fries too).

DBGB Scores:
Food: 7.5/10 – Started off with great flavor, but tailed off. My Recommendation: Serve American sized portions in America, not this tiny French crap.

Restaurant Environment: 6.5/10 – Loud, Loud, Loud. Can’t even have a decent conversation.

Service: 7/10 – Besides treating me like a brain-dead child, everything else was spot on.

Value: 3/10 – Again, what’s with the tiny portions? I’m paying for it aren’t I?

Overall: 6.5/10

Welcome to my new food blog! Minetta Tavern.

First off, I’d like to thank those that motivated me to get this thing done. Hopefully, I can get this blog to thrive and survive and morph into something that I can be proud of. This is dedicated to all my friends and family that have been there from the start. I truly hope you guys enjoy it.

My first entry is going to be a review of one of my favorite restaurants since I moved to New York City.

MINETTA TAVERN.

I’ve already wrote an extensive review on Yelp, which you can find here.

But since that review, I’ve probably gone back around 3-4 times and each time had been a different pleasurable experience. Which is why Minetta is ranked as one of my all time fave restaurants. Taking pictures at this vintage-esque restaurant proved to be quite difficult; but I tried to manage with whatever light I had.

Located in the heart of Greenwich Village; surrounded by local dive bars where NYU students go to, well act like college students; you’ll find a charming little restaurant that has more of a speak-easy feel than those gaudy Midtown restaurants. As soon as I step in, I find myself planted on one of the barstools soaking in the comedic performance by the satirical bartenders.

“whadayahave?”said one of the bartenders, trying to be smooth I respond “the usual.” I receive a slight snicker for my efforts. I order a Murray Sour.

Murray Sour - Yamazaki 12 Year Whiskey, cardamon infused Agave Nectar, Fresh Orange and Lemon.

A surprisingly smooth full flavored drink. As with many whiskey based drinks; there’s always the lingering fear of the overpowering whiskey dominating the drink. However, with the Murray Sour – the drink is so perfectly blended that the harshness of the whiskey is eased and mellowed out.

Almost done with our drinks; we place our order.

First round of appetizers appear:

Roasted Bone Marrow with Baguette Soldiers and Shallot Confit

Oxtail and Foie Gras Terrine with Poached Leeks

Tartare Goutez - Veal with Black Truffle, Lamb with Argan Oil, olives and mint, and Beef with Mustard and Cornichons.

You would expect the “hors d’oeuvres” to set you back a pretty penny. However, each dish is roughly $18; a value price to pay considering the price of the restaurants main star entree. The Black Label Burger ($26).

Black Label Burger - Selection of prime dry-aged beef cuts with caramelized onions and pommes frites

Paired with the highly sought after pommes frites from Balthazar; the Black Label Burger is the epitome of burgers. The construction of this masterpiece can be found here (A Hamburger Today).

You can also try Minetta Tavern’s other delicious entrees, but make sure you pair it with the Black Label

Bone In New York Strip Steak with Black Label Burger

If you’re lucky enough to get a reservation at Minetta Tavern; I highly recommend going. Rumors are that you have to make reservations 3 months in advance; however they only accept reservations 1 month in advance – go figure. If you want to get a shot at the best burger in the world; I recommend coming before the dinner rush (before 6:00-6:30). You won’t be disappointed.