Bâtard

239 West Broadway New York, NY 10013(212) 219-2777batardtribeca.com

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While Batard is French by name, and European by description, the chef is more specifically Austrian and therefore so goes the cuisine, marked by certain dishes such as the off-menu schnitzel and the sizeable number of Austrian wines on the list.

Upon entering, you will be pleasantly surprised by the clean, elegant décor, especially after having seen the rather unassuming façade as you approached. The other surprise you are likely to notice is unfortunately unpleasant. The noise level is quite extreme, which takes a hair away from the romantic setting when you have to shout at your loved one the entire night. #acousticfail

Back on the plus side, the service was very good, without an ounce of pretense from host, to manager, to sommelier to waitress. Now on to the food!

Getting off to a rocky start, I was a bit surprised that there was no amuse bouche at such a high-end restaurant. To be fair, this is not the rocky part, but lumpy for certain. Where it got rocky for me was on the starters. The tete de cochon (pigs head) came as a strong recommendation from our server who made it sound far more interesting than it really was, basically a pork croquette topped with lard and placed over a kohlrabi slaw. The other was the lobster with avocado, fava beans and jicama. It was definitely the better of the two, but nothing I would ever strongly recommend.

Come round two, however, Batard served up a pair of knockouts. The first being the English pea tortellini in a pesto sauce with burrata broken up in such a unique way it almost tasted like ricotta. And the other knockout was the veal tenderloin. So tender you don’t even need teeth to chew it. It just melts in your mouth. And while that alone is noteworthy, the rest of the preparation was equally stupendous. They wrap the veal in a thin, flaky pastry and serve it next to a phenomenal grilled sweetbread and trumpet mushroom, which, upon request, they then douse in a veal jus that’s so sinful you’d have to be an asshole to pass it up. After all, the baby cow’s already dead. Might as well commit.

Come dessert I had my heart set on the caramelized milk bread with brown butter ice cream, having seen a picture (above) of it prior to dining here. But the dessert that stole my heart was the chocolate torte with tiny hazelnut semifreddos- so much better than the milk bread it tasted more like milk toast by comparison to the torte.

So while not entirely flawless, the highs at Batard are such that I can completely understand the hype. And whether or not it wins the James Beard for best new restaurant, it will most certainly be taking home two Ultimates, for veal and chocolate torte.

4 teeth

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The Ultimate Cocktail

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Maysville – New York, NY

Being that I’m a heat-seeker it should come as no surprise that I even like my drinks spicy. And what makes the alchemy of the Bourbon Bonnet such a triumph isn’t just the spice. It’s the refreshing contrast of elements, like the sweetness of the pineapple juice against the jalapeno infused bourbon. And while the spiciness is worth a warning for some, the bigger caution is that they are WAY too easy to drink. So much so that you’ll easily be three or four in before you even realize you left your underwear in the bathroom.

Minetta Tavern – New York, NY

While you’re sitting there stuck at the bar waiting for a table, do yourself a solid and turn lemons into a warm and fuzzy buzzy. Three sheets to the wind later you’ll care less about the fact that you just waited two hours for a burger. The drink is comprised of Tito’s Vodka, cucumber, agave nectar, rhubarb bitters, lime and something that apparently makes you fall in love with the notion of ordering a second round of Rhubarb Sophies.

The Rickhouse – San Francisco, CA

There’s something about this place that just makes you want to drink whiskey. And there’s something about the La Bonne Vie that makes you lose track of that whiskey. I would imagine the smooth bourbon is partly to blame. And the refreshing lemon and grapefruit juice doesn’t hurt either. Keeping it far from sweet. As does the fresh basil, which brightens the whole thing up. And bitters to bring an old school complexity and depth to the whole thing.

Balaboosta – New York, NY

There is a lot right about Balaboosta, but none righter than the thirst-quenching, buzz-inducing Hana. Made with Fifty Pounds Gin, triple sec, lime and arak, it’s a crazy mash up of cultures in a high ball. But apart from just being a kickass cocktail, the Hana pairs so unbelievably well with the food due to the arak.

Brushstroke – New York, NY

Apparently the Japanese Cucumber with Almond has been on New York Magazine’s top ten cocktail list 2 years running. I know this because our rather braggadocios waiter informed us of such. But as cocky as he was, he was also well within his right, because it really is quite something. Made with gin, lime, cucumber (obviously), and coarse ground roasted almonds used to dust the rim as a variation on the sugar and salt that you normally come across on most other cocktails.

Mata Chica – Ambergris Caye, BZ

It’s been a while since I was there, but that’s how enduring my love is for the rum punch at Mata Chica (of Temptation Island fame). Made by a charismatic young man named Winston, the balance of sweetness to refreshing to inebriating was dangerously perfect. Luckily you are in the middle of nowhere, with not a car in sight for miles, so drinking and driving isn’t even an option. Drinking and drowning, however…

ABC Cocina – New York, NY

You could give Tom Cruise a week and unlimited tosses and twirls with bottles and cocktail shakers, but I sincerely doubt he could ever make a cocktail as staggeringly good as the blood orange margarita at ABC. Not that there’s too much more to describe as the name of the drink itself is rather self explanatory, that said, the euphoric sensation you get when it hits your lips is beyond explanation.

Truck – Bedford, NY

I find it hard to go with just one drink here because the Power Wagon margarita is more than just a drink, it’s a franchise. A brand unto itself, spinning out seasonal versions like a game on the App Store. For example, here are some of the “updates:” grapefruit, blood orange, cranberry, pumpkin, jalapeno and of course the formidable classic. And everyone one of them is awesome. And everyone one of them is as strong as all get out, so go easy or go with a designated driver.

Burger & Barrel – New York, NY

Most Bloody Mary purists are about to scoff, so I’ll wait while you preemptively get those scoffs out of the way…. Done? Good. So, while I do indeed love the classic and have had my fair share of some delicious ones, this inventive twist on the tried and true had me at jalapenos. Made with tequila instead of vodka, the Bloody Maria puts the Mary through a Mexican lens and out comes a hybrid that could give the Prius a run for its money.

The Ultimate Cauliflower

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Tamarind – New York, NY

It’s actually not on the menu, but if you ask them to make it, make it they shall. Along with your day. And I mean that in the Dirty Harry-est way possible. Apparently it’s more of a street food favorite in India, fried up in a ketchup-based sauce of all things. So damn yummy you’ll wish you were reincarnated as a cow so you could come back here and enjoy four portions of it as a time with all of your stomachs.

Ilili – New York, NY

If you’ve read my Ultimate Brussels Sprouts post, than this will seem a tad redundant. It’s the identical dish, just seasonally modified when sprouts are out of season. It’s every bit as crazy delicious though. Made the exact same way, sauteed in a dream-inducing mixture of fig jam, mint yogurt, chopped walnuts, sherry vinegar and grapes. It’s the best thing to happen to the albino broccoli since cheese.

Westville

333 Hudson St. New York, NY 10013(212) 776-1404westvillenyc.com

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I’ve only ordered delivery form here, so this review is only about the food, which is the most important part of a food review anyways, so I’ll suspend my qualifications and just get into it.

Having heard rave reviews about their turkey burger it should come as no surprise that I ordered the turkey burger. And knowing me by now it should also come as no surprise that I thought was just okay. Not bad. Just nothing special either. But in all fairness I honestly can’t name a single turkey burger in my entire life that made me weak in the knees, so I guess it was an unfair expectation.

Another let down was the chocolate chip cookie. I say skip it. However, I also say do yourself a solid and double down on their homemade Oreo Cookie (pictured). Wow! Better than its namesake. Sorry Nabisco.

3 teeth

 

Brushstroke

30 Hudson St. New York, NY 10013(212) 791-3771 • davidbouley.com/brushstroke-main

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Once upon a time David Bouley was at the pinnacle of the culinary game. I ate at his flagship back in 1995 and it was as if I had never truly understood the purpose of having a mouth until that day.

Well, since then I have eaten at Danube (RIP) and now Brushstroke and while both restaurants were/are definitely good, neither are even close to what Bouley once was.

Located on the gravesite of Danube, a striking Klimt museum with food, this new swipe at glory comes from the Far East, backed by Japan’s finest culinary school, boasting more Michelin stars than the next ten schools combine. But unfortunately none of that really matters. Because at the end of the day, all one ever cares about is whether or not it gives you a foodgasm.

Well, ecstasy was regrettably not in the cards, although many a dish in our tasting menu was indeed tasty. My favorite was the soup with foie gras. The smoked duck with sweet potato was a close second and the pork belly with peach and walnuts a close third. The custard and lobster soup was also pretty great, but the custard got to be a little much after the lobster ran out. The sashimi would be next for me with the best of it being the sweet shrimp. And then I’d go with the langoustines served with heirloom tomatoes or the skate and rice soup. Granted the latter was a bit too salty to be fair.

After that it was pretty average, mixed with a few flat-out misses for such a price point. The biggest misses being the rock fish entrée, which was so bland they tried to zazz it up with shrimp and mussels and even those couldn’t save it. The other fish option, the drum fish, had its zazz built in and was much, much better.

But the biggest misses of the night were the desserts. We had three and of the lot we didn’t finish a single one. The best was the soy ice cream with pecan, but that’s not saying much, because both green tea desserts weren’t even worthy of star-shaped sticker from one of my daughter’s sticker books, much less one from Michelin.

Service was good, but not flawless. A couple of mistakes here and there, like trying to clear a dish before it was finished. And décor, while nice, simply can’t compare to Danube.

And now for my biggest issue of the meal, the tasting menu itself. It is littered with additions to various courses, but for a hefty fee, and by “hefty” I mean roughly the cost of an entire meal at most other restaurants ($45-75 depending on the addition). So, you wind up feeling like a cheapskate for not adding them, when you are already throwing down some serious coin as is. And of course those dishes are the best sounding options on the menu. But if you opted in for each of them, you would more than double the cost of your dinner. So, make up your mind Brushstoke, either up the cost of your tasting menu and make it better, create a separate more expensive tasting menu that has these options already on it, or lose them altogether.

Back on the plus side, the cucumber and roasted almond gin cocktail is incredible. Refreshing, with a nice twist of dusted almonds on the rim. And the gin they use was so smooth I think it lifted a twenty out of my wallet without me even noticing. No wonder it’s been on the top ten list of Manhattan cocktails three years running. If only everything that followed was at the same level, then we’d be talking five knives instead of three.

3 teeth

 

Megu

62 Thomas St. New York, NY 10013(212) 964-7777megurestaurants.com

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If it were only a matter of decor and platings, this place would be off the charts, with it’s daily hand-carved ice Buddah set amidst an architectural tour de force. But that’s about all I can say that’s positive about Megu.

The service barely spoke a word of English, which would’ve been fine if we were in Tokyo, but in the United States, when you’re paying over 200 bucks a head,  I’m sorry, the least you could do is put someone in front of me who understands what I’m saying. After all,  you are in a service industry. And imagine if I was trying to tell him I had a nut allergy and he thought I was saying I had a nut affinity!

But that’s small stuff. Not the dying from nuts part. The language barrier part. What was most disappointing about Megu was the food itself. From a taste perspective not a single dish was exceptional and some things were down right inedible.

I mean sure, I like the novelty of drinking bone marrow foam out of an egg shell as much as the next guy. Eating foie gras terrine wrapped in gelatin so it looks like an old-school candy wrapper is pretty cool too. And the sheer inventiveness of cantilevering a smelt over a miniature bed of smoking coals is genius. But like I said, my eyes couldn’t have been happier, however, from my mouth to my wallet I was pissed.

I say skip it and go with a sure thing like Nobu. Especially if you’re going to spend this kind of money on Japanese.

2 teeth

Nobu

105 Hudson St. New York, NY 10013 • (212) 219-0500 • www.noburestaurants.com

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Now I know many people think this place doesn’t live up to the hype, and you’d be right if all you got were the normal pieces of sushi or sashimi that you would get at any other sushi joint. And therein lies your mistake. You can’t go to a place like this and just get sushi/sashimi- that stuff is only as good as what comes off of the boat. It’s not like they have some magical way of cutting the fish that makes it taste better or something.

That said, what you should be getting is their tasting menu. Quite possibly one of the best out there, primarily because it’s not the same for everyone. It all depends on how many times you’ve had it. When you go for your first time, the tasting will be completely different from when you return for your second, or third and so on. And it is here that you will see why the hype is indeed warranted. Things you would normally never even think of ordering will become you favorite Japanese dish you’ve ever tasted.

As for decor and service, I personally think the decor is better than most. Maybe with the exception of Koi and Megu- however I find the food better at Nobu. And as for service it’s always been excellent.

Also, one final word of advice, from having done this a couple of times with great success. The art of the walk-in. Most couples head to Nobu Next Door thinking that it will be easier to get a table, but I assure you that your wait will be double or even triple what you would wait if you were willing to sit at the bar in Nobu instead. I much prefer it. You get the food handed to you right from the chef himself and you’re eating at the real deal, not the Plan B.

5 teeth

Marc Forgione

 134 Reade St. New York, NY 10013 • (212) 941-9401 • marcforgione.com

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Umm… I’m gonna go with WOW! That pretty much sums it up. I loved just about every last drop of this restaurant and ate most of those drops as well.

To start, the décor is great. Just teetering on the edge of casual and beautiful. With an energy about it that hits you the moment you enter. Some may find it a bit loud, which it is, but that’s part of the fun- having you yell at each other about how good your food is.

As for service, our waitress was tremendous. Not in size, but in personality and attentiveness, without ego or plastic undertones. But not flawless either. For example, our cocktails came quite a bit late to the table, mid-way through our starters, but this was do to the bar losing the ticket. Now, normally you’d think this would be cause for docking a knife, and normally it would be. But is it the rarity of flawlessness that matters or is it how they handle the occasional hiccup? In this case, both the waitress and bartender came over to personally apologize for the mix up and delivered the drinks within a minute after. And yes, they were worth the wait. Especially the Summer Sangria with a richness almost as if there was Bourbon in there as opposed to wine.

But by now you’re probably getting pissed because I haven’t gotten to the food yet, so let’s get to it.

First up would be the amuse bouche, which is comprised of two dishes. A basic ceviche that is nothing to write home about, and a wonderfully explosive cream cheese puff pastry, that is worth flying home about.

Next came the buttery brioche-like bread which was so buttery and delcious, the fact that it came with butter was like gilding the lily. But as good as the bread is, I strongly recommend that you skip it in favor of the Texas Toast that comes with the Spicy Lobster which was so incredible it was as if my taste buds had died and gone to taste bud heaven. The lobster meat and bread in that sauce- OMFWow!

But not to be outdone, the tortellini is also very impressive, packing it’s own heat and a complexity to its sauce that unfolds in your mouth like a story.

Wait, I probably should’ve saved that description for the Halibut entrée, because that sauce was also quite the tour de force, minus the heat. But so rich and layered it was more like a meat dish.

Now here comes my one nit. And I blame myself for it. I had gone there fully prepared to get the highly acclaimed chicken, but our served talked me out of it and I went with a lamb special instead. Now, the lamb was far from bad, but at 48 bucks a plate, not bad IS bad. At that price I should’ve lept out of my chair and danced a jig after every bite.

The dancing, however, was not far behind, because the S’more dessert had me giddier than Kevin Bacon in Footloose. Just the presentation alone- well, of everything really, but with the “charred” marshmallow on a stick and the salted “chocolate bar”- if my tongue had hands it would applaud.

The other dessert was no slouch either. A deconstructed key lime, which had it been the only dessert on the table would be receiving all the adulation right now.

Such a treat. Finally an Iron Chef restaurant that lives up to its metal. A tribute to the fact that he is still the one actually in the kitchen. Saw him with my own eyes the last time I went.

Which brings me to another evening of incredibleness. The amuse bouche this second time was a touch less impressive. An homage to the NYC bagel and smoked fish. Good, but not grand. The graganelli with short ribs and black truffles, however, was mood-altering-good.

Also, this time I had the heavily revered under brick chicken and I have to say, while good for a roasted chicken, it’s still just a roasted chicken. I’ve had MANY a chicken dish that bests it. From One in Irvington, NY (RIP) to ABC Kitchen to Son of a Gun in LA. Don’t get wooed by the hype. There are so many better options on the menu.

And once again, come dessert, Marc knocked it out of the park. The best “pumpkin pie” I’ve ever had. Made in souffle form, served with a very complex and equally delicious sorbet made from bourbon, squash and three other things I can’t remember. If an afterlife exists, and they serve food, this must be what it tastes like.

5 teeth