Blackbird

619 W Randolph St. Chicago, IL 60661(312) 715-0708blackbirdrestaurant.com

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The first thing that struck me when I entered Blackbird was that the décor is very white without a morsel of black to be found anywhere, ironically. The other thing I noticed is that while the service is very friendly and knowledgeable about the menu, they are also unbelievably slow, to the point of distraction, taking 40 minutes just to take our order and that was only because I flagged him down. Not even bread or drinks came in this time. And once they did, our waiter dripped the wine all over the table and down the sides of the glass EVERY time he poured it. It was so bad I think I’ve seen less dribbling in the United Center!

Fortunately the wine was good (what was left of it after he dripped most of it on the table) and the Port of Call cocktail is just awesome and it comes with significantly less dripping, unless it’s self-inflicted. Also, I do want to mention that the wine list has some solid, affordable options and the bread was warm and yummy, served with a curried butter.

It was from that point on that Blackbird soared, from a tasty amuse bouche to a trio of incredible appetizers that resoundingly affirmed that this chef de cuisine got game!

The most creative of the three would be the panzanella salad made with sweetbreads and sweet bread. A fun play on words and ingredients, using Hawaiian bread as a sweet counterweight to the savory glands. As was the raspberry vinaigrette. But as good as it was, it was actually the weakest of the three, best by the turnip and foie gras soup. So creamy and rich you should have to pay luxury tax on every spoonful. And my favorite of the three, the endive salad, believe it or not. Served in a stunning bird’s nest (pictured) with a poached egg, crispy potato, basil, pancetta and dijon. Relatively simple, but positively brilliant.

Both entrees I tried were exceptional as well. Completely apples and oranges, but each superb in their own right. The halibut is perfectly cooked and artfully accompanied by peekytoe crab and gooseberries. It was also somehow both decadent (duck fat) and light at the same time. Whereas the beef striploin was a full on savory-palooza, cooked to perfection and surrounded by a wonderful chanterelle moat with additions of quince, horseradish and crispy polenta planks. Masterful!

The only miss of the night was the carrot cake, and by miss I actually mean that it was good, but in comparison to the complimentary eclair and the white chocolate bar I would skip it, because that complimentary duo beats the cream cheese out of that cake 10 times out of 10, and I’ve a HUGE carrot cake fan, so this is saying a lot.

What’s also saying a lot is that not since the Purple Pig have I had a meal this good in Chicago. Granted I haven’t been to Alinea yet, so stay tuned.

4 teeth

Kabuk

Merkez Mh., Tilkicik Cd., 48990 Bodrum, Turkey • +90 252 385 5431 • kabukrestaurant.com

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Having read a glowing article about Kabuk, we couldn’t resist the opportunity to try something new, away from the scene (and the squawking parrots) that has become the Yalikavak Marina. And I have to say, box checked. The setting is tastefully done, set back from the waterfront, but still overlooking the sea with a beautiful trellis and strung lights overhead.

The attention to detail doesn’t stop there either with their starfish embroidered table linens, solid wine list and inventive cocktails such as their frozen, blended-to-order peach belini and an “interesting” wasabi martini made with Russian Standard and complete with a strip of seaweed floating on the surface.

Come the food, they start by offering up what appears to be an amuse bouche (more on this later) of grilled jumbo shrimp and a basket of bread with a wonderful herbed dipping oil. Not only does it make the bread sing, it makes the shrimp dance as well.

After that came the Kabuk salad made light and refreshing with the addition of fresh chunks of peach. Definitely recommend this as it is the only solace from shellfish on menu, between the bread and dessert.

As for the shellfish options, while extremely pricey, I also thought they were very good for being non-Turkish preparations. The tagliatelle with langoustines was nailed- granted the plural billing of this dish is a bit of an over-promise because there was only half of one langoustine. But at least it was perfectly cooked with a killer kickin’ red sauce.

So Italian done, but what about Spanish? Well, I’ve definitely had better paella’s but I’ve also had worse. And I hate to say it, but Kabuk topped the master himself, Thomas Keller, because the paella at Ad Hoc was pathetic. I also like the presentation, served in a paella pan (of course), but over an open flame with a giant wooden rice spoon.

For the grand finale, the pumpkin sorbet presentation is insane! Served as a flaming sorbet mountain, they carve each portion off of the summit for your amusement. And while all of this pomp and circumstance seems like it might’ve been with the agenda of distraction, the sorbet was actually pretty darn good.

Riding high now on the four knife express, suddenly things went off the rails. The check came. And while we knew the place was pricey (hell, the crab legs on the menu were 780 TL!!! That’s $275 US!!! ), the bill seemed a bit higher than our order, drawing attention back to the “amuse bouche,” which was ringing in at a whopping $9 per shrimp! Now, I’m not exactly one to wince at paying through the nose for food, after all, I’m used to dropping coin at Keller, Barber and Boulud restaurants, but when you present something as if it’s courtesy of the chef, you are misrepresenting things if you then intend to charge for it. Plus, to charge that kind of price for overcooked, under-seasoned shrimp that only tasted worthy with the help of the herbed oil (intended for the bread), then you’ve got some serious balls.

But not only did Kabuk go sleazy on this move, they doubled down on the sleaze when we brought it up to the manager, who made us feel like we were being cheapskates as opposed to taking any ownership in the miscommunication. So much for “the customer is always right.” And so much for four knives, because that definitely cost them one. It will also cost me ever going there again. Or recommending that you should ever go there either. However. to sandbag Kabuk with one or two knives is a bridge too far. I’d be pulling the amateur shit I hate so much about Yelp reviewers, so I refuse go there. I enjoyed the meal. Just not the ending. Sort of like the movie Heat, in restaurant form. So three knives it is… but with a ginormous asterisk.

3 teeth

Le Moulin de Mougins

1028 ave Notre-Dame de Vie 06250 Mougins, France • 04.93.75.78.24 • moulin-mougins.com

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Moulin just might be the easiest three Michelin Star restaurant to get a reservation at in the world. We’re talking 24 hours notice on a Friday night kinda easy. Suspiciously easy. Like as in “is this place really as good as they say?” cause if it were, shouldn’t it be harder to get a table? Or is it simply the fact that Cannes goers don’t even have it on their radar? Thinking it’s too far or too expensive, neither of which are true.

Inside the décor is lovely with exposed parts of an antique mill poking through the walls here and there. However, the garden is truly the place to be, set on multiple levels with beautiful flowers triangulating every table. My one gripe would be on the lighting system, a lamp at the table’s center with the cord cutting across the top, dangling over one side. Can’t a brother get a candle up in this bitch? Or drill a hole in the center of the table and run the cord through? Or what about cordless lighting? Or overhead? I know I seem really distracted right now by something so seemingly trivial, but drawing even more attention to this problem was the fact that the lamp was attracting a horde of flies, which doesn’t exactly make for the most aesthetically pleasing centerpiece in the world. But dropping the subject since I can tell you’re annoyed, let’s get on with the review…

At the onset, things definitely started off cold, both figuratively and literally. The cold soup amuse bouche was so unimpressive I didn’t even bother to finish it, which had me nervous for a spell, but then a second amuse bouche hit the table and this one was very good. A spinach, bacon and cheese dip that when combine with their fresh baked fig bread was like a ballet of savory and sweet.

After that the hits were fast and furious with all three appetizers killing it! The seared foie gras with cherry compote and marinated slivers of cherry was excellent. As was the spider fish stuffed zucchini blossom and the asparagus risotto.

The two entrees I tried both rocked it as well. The duck, while served in an inventive, tubular presentation, was regrettably a touch on the dry side, but because it came with the dreamiest Ultimate mashed sweet potatoes, whipped into silk, this sidekick swooped in like Robin to its Batman, handily saving the day (and the dish).

Opposite the duck, the other main course was a moist, citrusy sea bass packed with favor and a touch of sweetness, also made special by it’s companion, an earthy black rice, that when placed together on the same fork was like a happy marriage between land and sea. Which, in a lesser-known ruling that the Supreme Court also legalized last week along with same-sex marriage.

Sadly desserts had the weakest showing of the night (other than the cold soup). The lemon tart was flat out terrible. The macaroon was okay and the chocolate, espresso tart was an imperceptible notch above the macaroon.

But all in all, one of the best means to be had in Cannesland. It’ll make you happier than winning a Grand Prix. Well, almost.

4 teeth

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

Periyali

35 W 20th St. New York, NY 10011(212) 463-7890periyali.com

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Having just been to Greece last summer I was entering with a healthy dose of “food tude.” Hey, I kinda like that. Ferocious Foodie TM!

And while décor and service failed to impress, the food rose above expectation. Not that the menu is anything inventive. Truth be told it’s all of the usual suspects from octopus to mousaka and souvlaki to baklava.

Our meal started off with an amuse bouche of sorts, a Greek bruschetta is about the only way I can describe it. Crostini topped with feta tomatoes, cucumbers and red onion. I’m not exactly sure why they offer it though. It’s not inventive, nor amazing. And if it’s simply to give you a little taste of something before your meal arrives, it would seem that the olives and bread would handily suffice. Instead, it only serves as a failed attempt to reach for a class of dining they simply aren’t.

After that we split a Greek salad that passed as ruffage and an octopus, which did everything it was supposed to, clean and simple and perfectly tender, yet somehow it just didn’t reach tentacle supremacy.

Oddly enough though, the whole branzino, while not too unlike the octopus, with its classic Mediterranean prep, proved to be spectacular! So flavorful and buttery. I haven’t loved a fish this much since Dory in Finding Nemo and I’ve had more than my fair share of whole fish, being that it’s practically the official meal of Turkey and I fancy myself to be an honorary Turk by association.

Bringing up the rear was the walnut cake and ice cream, which nosed out the baklava as our choice for dessert. In hindsight, I think I’d go baklava next time, because the walnut cake was a bit of a let down after experiencing the one at Gato. This one was a little on the dry side and desperately needed the ice cream to give it the moisture it was lacking.

On the boozy end of things, there are several tasty, affordable wine options and some on the pricier side well. We went with the Burnello, more on the pricier end, and it was excellent. Additionally, they complemented our dessert course with a complimentary dessert wine, which I also enjoyed.

All in all, I liked Periyali, but not enough to rush back. There are droves of better Mediterranean restaurants in the city and two right in the Flatiron alone, Almayass and Ilili, granted both of those are more middle eastern then Mediterranean, but the lines are so blurred between the two that it’s hard to tell where the tzatziki ends and the cacik begins.

3 teeth

Elizabeth on 37th

105 E 37th St. Savannah, GA 31401 • (912) 236-5547 • elizabethon37th.net

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Widely considered among the top three restaurants in Savannah it obviously became a ferocious obligation to dine here during my visit. And with hype at a steady boil, the odds were definitely not in Elizabeth’s favor as we entered the picturesque mansion.

When I say picturesque, I only mean this form the outside. Strongly. Just Google the restaurant and you are bound to see scores of exterior photos, but a meek sampling of interiors. This is with good cause. The interior is very run down and outdated. I know this is partly a purposeful homage to the historic Savannah structure, but there are droves of other historic icons all around the world that are older, and yet FAR more up-to-date. Take the Louvre in Paris for example. Esma Sultan in Istanbul. Or even the Poetter Hall right down the street in Savannah.

As a result, I found that the place fell shy of romantic, or even dressy. Service, however, was quite good. Attentive, knowledgeable and relatively good with recommendations.

As for the food, let’s start at the start, with a Prince Edward mussel amuse bouche, which definitely got things off on the right foot. This was followed by a pair of scallop oriented appetizers that we thankfully shared, because wifey’s was definitely the better of the two. Both were specials so if you don’t go soon, chances are you missed the boat, literally. The winner was a vidalia onion cream soup made with two types of the onion- the traditional Georgian ball of sweet goodness. And baby vidalia onions as well, which are a bit greener, yielding a touch of grassiness. It was awesome. As were the buttery chunks of scallop swimming amidst the onion pond, seasoned with a nice peppery kick.

With the other scallop app, it was a lone, perfectly seared mollusk perched atop a potato salad that sounds more underwhelming than it was, but still not up to the high standards set by the soup, thus it was the red-headded step child of the mollusk twins.

After that, the transgressions continued with another chef’s offering that would’ve probably done less damage to our perceptions had it remained in the kitchen. A salad sourced from the local garden with micro greens, herbs and clementines. Very pedestrian.

The Savannah Red Rice, while not as lackluster as the other misses, still didn’t make the grade by reputation. And when you’re a top restaurant in the South, one expects a pretty dazzling jambalaya. This was passable at best, mostly because it was very lacking in heat.

But then Elizabeth showed she was “woman, hear me roar,” serving up the best pork chop I’ve ever had. Cooked to grillmaster standards with a crisp char on the outside, tender and moist on the inner, and served up with one of the best slaws I’ve ever had, along with a five cheese mac that brought a creamy decadence to every bite. And when all three of those were on your fork at once, it was like a holy trinity of porky delectableness. You simply must get this. If you don’t, quite frankly you should be arrested.

And speaking of misdemeanors, the worst miss of the night came on the heels of such a soaring high. The Savannah Cream Cake is soooo over explained and complicated that it tricks itself into thinking it’s something more than it tastes like, which is angel food cake with strawberries. If I could have only one do-over it would be this. And I’d probably use it to get a second order of that friggin’ chop!

So, while the soup and the chop were definitely dishes for the books, the misses were one too many to go five knives and the decor inside was too dated to go four. So guess that leaves us with…

3 teeth

 

The Fat Radish

17 Orchard St. New York, NY 10002 • (212) 300-4053 • thefatradishnyc.com
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I heard about this place from the same person who recommended Vinegar Hill House to me, and considering how much I LOVED VHH, I figured I had to try Fat Radish.

As you can see from the number of knives below, it is no VHH. There is quite unfortunately nothing on the menu that I would rave about and only two things on the menu I would consider “good.” Those two being the sweet pea pot pie and the Kale Caesar Salad. That’s it.

The amuse bouche was amuse blah. Basically some radishes with olive oil and herbs. The tomato and avocado squash salad was inventive, but unfortunately that didn’t translate into a yum.

The grilled cheese and pickles was okay, but nothing you couldn’t make at home in 5 minutes- so I’m not sure why you’d ever order it out at a restaurant. Also not sure why people raved about it. It’s just whatevs. The Vodka Lemonade was also just eh.

And the cookie plate was a joke. They could’ve just put a bag of Oreo Cookies on the table and it would’ve been better.

I did like the decor however. Very cool inside. Service was also good. But the neighborhood leaves something to be desired, making it definitely not worth the trip, out of your way, with so many other great places in more desirable areas of the city.

2 teeth

Del Posto

85 10th AveNew York, NY 10011(212) 497-8090 delposto.com

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Having been to a gaggle of Batali restaurants I have to say he is all over the map for me, his record being 5-2. Del Posto just barely making it among the 5, as opposed to the 2. The 2 are Osteria Mozza in LA and Babbo in NYC. I found both to be highly inflated and mediocre at best, especially in light of the money you’ll be throwing down. The other 4 wins, all more handily than Del Posto, are Eataly, Lupa, Pizzeria Mozza and Tarry Lodge.

But I digress. Back to Del Posto. I find the décor to be very stuffy, particularly when you consider the neighborhood it’s in. It feels like it belongs in midtown or on Wall St., not the trendy Meat Packing District. But it is far from bad. Just out of place, if you ask me.

Now for the food. I was certain to do a little Yelping research before I arrived, and we did in fact do the lunch prix fixe adding one extra course and wine parings. So, we “did it right.”

The first thing to come was the amuse bouche, which definitely got things off on the right foot. It was in three parts, a gazpacho that was quite good, a fritter of sorts, that was excellent, and a crab puff pastry, that was a little salty, but I liked it.

For my anitpasti I started with the lobster, based upon a few Yelp recos and I have to say it was just eh.

For my primi, I also went with the Yelpster hype and chose the garganelle, which was definitely good, but not 5 star good.

For my secondi, I had the duck and shared some lamb both based, once again, on Yelp acclaim. The duck was just okay. But the lamb was fantastic.

And finally, for my dolci, I had the chocolate tortino- and yes, I Yelped that too. And that also, was just okay (further confirming why I left Yelp). HOWEVER, it was all of the other little desserts they brought that were incredible. There were these mini ice cream bar things that were a wonderful surprise as they exploded in your mouth. White chocolate oat clusters that made me wish I had just ordered a vat of those, and macadamia nuts rolled in chocolate and other goodness that I can’t seem to recall either, but keep in mind I was pretty tipsy by that point from all of the wine, which was well paired and quite good.

So, the final tally for me on Del Posto is that I liked it. Would I rush to go back? No. But I’m glad I went. I had a great time with great people. And the service was excellent.

3 teeth

Gordon Ramsay

The London West Hollywood • 1020 N San Vicente Blvd. West Hollywood, CA 90069(310) 358-7788 • thelondonwesthollywood.com/dining-en.html
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Let’s just say Gordon should spend a little time yelling at himself after this performance.

We had a tasting menu and about the only thing I can say was excellent was the amuse bouche: An espresso cup filled with chestnut soup and milk froth. After that, it was a complete nosedive.

The first course was the most tasteless salad I have ever had in my life. Seriously. This is not an overstatement. I’ve had airplane salads with more flavor than that. Absolutely pathetic. Everyone at the table was dumbfounded that they could actually serve something so bland and uncreative at that price.

Then came the oxtail jam ravioli, which sounded promising, but the sum of the parts didn’t equal much. Capo and Via Veneto both destroy this meek attempt at an Italian staple.

After that I split mains with a friend. I had the salmon, again, just eh. He had the filet mignon and it was good, but not great.

And last but not least was the hazelnut dessert- which was also good, but not jaw-dropping. In fact, the only thing, apart from the soup that was a standout was the wine. So kudos to sommelier and shame on Gordon.

So why not one knife you ask? Well, for dinner it most certainly deserves the snub, but if you happen to be doing breakfast, it’s actually pretty damn good. In fact, the eggs benny with proscuitto is quite stellar. As is the raisin walnut bread. Perhaps the best bread I’ve ever had. Bought an entire loaf on the spot to take back with me to New York. That said, Gordon doesn’t bake it. He buys it. And his waffles suck hard.

Additionally, for lunch, his fish tacos are also excellent. But his sweet tomato salad is just sad. So it would appear that Gordon  can’t seem to make a salad to save his soul.

2 teeth

 

The Muses

Gialos, Behind the bridge, 85600 Symi, Greece • +30 6958734503
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While the location is rather unfortunate, across the street from a playground full of screaming kids, the setting is quite lovely with it’s basket lights and lattice work overhead. I just recommend eating at 9:30pm or later, once the screaming has abated.

That said, you might start screaming with delight as the watermelon amuse bouche explodes in your mouth. Not to be outdone by its cheese puff chaser. Right away you know you are in gourmet hands as every single presentation from these two Argentinian brothers is like something you’d expect to see on the plates of Manhattan’s finest. Granted they tend to go a little crazy with the foams, but I’ll forgive them because at least everything was good.

For starters we had a yogurt dish that was so thick and creamy it was almost like cheese, loaded with dried figs, apricots and an assortment of nuts. The other was a tuna sashimi with wasabi, peaches and of course, foam.

For entrees we went with the octopus in a, you guessed it, ouzo foam, placed over a bed of leeks and an orange puree. And while it was good, the real winner was the sea bass with mushrooms, spinach puree and a citric acid- yup, foam. The combination of flavors was perfection.

As for dessert, the chocolate 5 ways was a bit of a let down for me as I was only partial to one of the five ways. Luckily the other dessert was truly something special. Asparagus ice cream with jellied fruit and citrus. So inventive. So unique. So not having anything to do with foam. And such a high note to end on.

4 teeth