I just got back from a long work trip to New York City. I know there are hundreds of the country’s best restaurants in the city, but I couldn’t resist staying loyal to a few favorites.
If you read the blog, you know I’m a huge Mario Batali fan and that Babbo is perhaps my favorite restaurant anywhere. This is why I couldn’t resist going to Babbo twice. I had every intention of trying Blue Hill (recommended by the NYC foodie), but since I was dining solo, the bar at Babbo is a better dining environment. I can’t explain it, but the space overall (with the exception of the second floor) is wonderful – very warm, cozy and even a bit rustic. And the bar is ideal for people watching and eating.
The first night I had the braised fennel and pear salad with gorgonzola and bucatini all’ amatriciana with guanciale. The salad was simply outstanding. I’ve never tasted anything quite like this. The flavors all worked so well together, especially the gorgonzola and pear. The pasta on the other hand was good, but not great. I enjoyed the dish, but I have to admit, the version at the old Battuto was better. I almost didn’t order this pasta because I make it all the time at home and wanted to try something different. But I figured Mario’s version would knock the socks off local Battuto, but surprisingly it didn’t. If I never had Battuto’s version, I’d say this was a great dish. But I did, so all I can say is it was good.
For dessert, I can’t recall the name of what I had, but it was a warm apple dish wrapped in some type of dough with cinnamon gelato. It was a perfect fall dessert – every single bite.
For the second dinner, I started off with Armandino’s salumi (culatello and hot sopressta) and the beef cheek ravioli with crushed squab liver and black truffles. This is the infamous meal that Dominic Cerino said was the best plate of food he has ever had – apparently better than sex. How could I not try this dish?
The salumi, of course, was great. Again, I almost didn’t get this because a few weeks ago we had the same thing from Armandino’s place in Seattle, but couldn’t resist. It’s that good and something I know I won’t have anytime soon. The ravioli was also great. While I wouldn’t say it was the best plate of food I’ve ever had, it was damn good and definitely up there. Earthy overall and a little rich, but not overwhelming in the least. I would definitely order this again. To finish it all off, I had the saffron panna cotta with peaches and peach sorbetto. This was phenomenal. I love saffron but have never had it in dessert. This was a nice surprise and worked really well with the peaches. I’m now going to seek out saffron-inspired desserts!
I have to admit, I’m a big Gordon Ramsey fan. I love Hell’s Kitchen and The F Word on the BBC. And from everything I’ve read about this cursing chef, he’s truly like that in the kitchen but exceptionally nice and well-mannered outside. Being the fan that I am, I had to check out his restaurant in the London Hotel for lunch.
I opted to go with the tasting menu, which featured two small entrees: scallops with raisin puree and corn fritters and braised short ribs with pommes puree.
The scallops, although small in potion (one and a half), were packed with flavor. I wasn’t sure what to expect with the raisin puree but it was surprisingly delicious! And the mini corn fritters were a nice touch, too. My only regret is the size of the overall dish. But I suppose that truly is a taste. The short ribs, on the other hand, were a bit larger in size and more of a meal. They were braised in wine and pomegranate and served with the silky smooth and creamy pommes puree – the best I’ve ever had. I did enjoy the braised ribs, but wasn’t overly crazy about the wine and pomegranate sauce. It needed a bit more wine and little less pomegranate.
This was another spot recommended by the NYC foodie. He said if you love cheese, and I do, then this is a must-try place. He described it perfectly: a big brasserie of sorts with simple French food. I ended up going to this place twice for lunch and dinner. It’s close to the hotel I stayed at so I knew I could be in and out fast and back to work.
For dinner, I started off with the chickpea soup with Moroccan cilantro and yellow fin tuna carpaccio with fennel and ratatouille vinaigrette. To finish it off, I had two cheeses: piero robert and abey de ballock.
The soup is perhaps my new favorite soup – it was that good. I asked the server to tell me the basics and he said onions, chickpeas, vegetable stock and Moroccan cilantro. It sounds too easy so I’m wondering if he was holding out. Either way, I’m going to try to recreate this at home. Hopefully Heather’s Heat with carry the spice I need. The tuna was ok. I wasn’t overly impressed with this dish, but luckily was still stuck on the soup so I really didn’t care. The fennel was too strong and overpowered all other flavors. At least the cheese was also wonderful. But to me, most cheese it. The creamier and stickier the better.
For lunch, I had the croque munsieur (fancy grilled cheese with Gruyere and prosciutto). Now how can that not be delicious? There was even melted cheese on the outside. I know this sandwich was bad for me and probably packed with two day’s worth of calories, but it was so good I didn’t care. Add of glass of wine, which of course I did, and it was a very memorable lunch in New York.
My one client that I was in town with is a huge fan of sushi and Japanese food in general so I was excited to take him to Nobu. As far as sushi goes, it doesn’t get much better than this.
Since there was four of us, we ordered a little bit of everything and some things twice! Since my client spent several years in Japan, I let him do the bulk of the ordering. I don’t remember the names of everything we had, but each dish was perfect and did not disappoint anyone. From what I can remember, we had the sashimi salad with matsuhisa dressing, yellowtail sashimi with jalapeño, rock shrimp with creamy spice sauce, squid with garlic sauce, black cod with miso and numerous rolls and sashimi. Seriously, every single bite was fantastic and we all walked out of there very happy and eager to go back.
This was the first time at Nobu that I didn’t see any celebrities. In the past, I’ve seen Howard Stern and Mandy Moore. Apparently 6 p.m. is too early for the celebs to eat but ideal for me.