The Breslin

Ace Hotel • 20 W 29th St. New York, NY10001(212) 679-1939thebreslin.com

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Because it’s located in the Ace Hotel I have to give it instant points for cool, but the decor of the restaurant itself is truly nothing extraordinary, falling somewhere between an old world pub and a Bennigan’s. Yet somehow it also feels just right for what the place offers, nose-to-tail done gastro pub style (not to be confused with Gangnam Style).  So to that end, I ordered myself a pint of Guinness and the highly acclaimed lamb burger with thrice cooked potatoes (pictured).

Well, apparently someone forgot to serve me the cool aid with it, because while I definitely found the burger to be good, it most certainly wasn’t great. And the fact that I ate it at 12:30am without having ever had dinner (except for the liquid kind), you’d think I would’ve been an extremely easy target. After all, everything tastes incredible when you’re starving and drunk. But to honest, I’ve made better lamb burgers at home, and I’m far from a chef the likes of April Bloomfield. In fact, if I were ever on Chopped, I’m pretty sure I would curl up in the fetal position on the kitchen floor. But giving props where props be due, the fries were actually pretty wonderful.

I’ve also been back a few times since, for work functions and what not, but I can’t say anything else on the menu wowed me either, especially when I compare it to places like Animal, which is my favorite nose to tail in existence. Or Minetta Tavern which is truly a gastro pub for the books. But if you’re staying in the hotel and it’s raining or freezing outside, you could do a lot, lot worse for hotel food.

3 teeth

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The Ultimate Foie Gras (Seared)

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For me, foie gras in the seared form is almost categorically an Ultimate. So fucking good it actually requires profanity. And so much better than terrine I’m not even sure why the pate version exists. It’s like watching an SD channel on your HDTV when you know full well that you have an HD version of the same exact station! Why? Yes, these are the things that keep me up at night.

But as remarkable as seared foie gras is, that blessing is also a curse, because it means chefs have to go above and beyond to stand out from the entry level awesome. Here are two brilliant examples of exactly that.

Animal – West Hollywood, CA

If you are as into foie gras as I am, you’ve probably realized that pairing it with an element of sweetness is a common go to among chefs, so much so that it has become table stakes. So, Animal decided to go one better, forgoing the jams and reductions in favor of a down home Southern preparation, placing the foie gras on a buttermilk biscuit with maple syrup gravy drizzle over the top. It sounds insane, I know. And it is… Insanely good. In fact, it’s so fan-friggin-tastic I think it single handedly overturned California’s ban on foie gras. Sorry geese, but sometimes you have to take one for the team. Oh come on, don’t be offended. Geese are nasty creatures and you know it. They had it coming. (I probably I just lost a follower or two, didn’t I?).

Blue Hill – New York, NY

This is the one and only time I have ever seen foie gras in the form of soup and I can’t speak highly enough about the unrivaled, unbridled joy it elicited. Forget Coke, I’d like to buy the world a foie gras consommé.

Made in a broth of the liver itself, filled with chunks of seared foie gras and earthy mushrooms. Such a treat in the winter and also worthy of an Ultimate Hot Soup distinction.

Cleo

1717 Vine St. Los Angeles, CA 90028(323) 962-1711www.cleorestaurant.com

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I’m not sure why this place is such the scene that it is considering the decor is pretty underwhelming by comparison to the usual LA scene. Rather tame compared to the likes of The Bazaar at SLS for example. That said, if eye candy is what you consider decor, than you are heading to the right place.

On the upside, when it comes to things that you appreciate with your mouth Cleo did much better, the Brussels Sprouts are indeed the shiznit, but if you’ve ever been to Ilili’s in New York, they are a carbon copy in terms of recipe and fall a close second in terms of taste. The artichoke flat bread was also a winner. The octopus was good, but nothing all that inventive. The pumpkin salad proved to be just okay, as was the beef stew thing. Oh, and the bread pudding for dessert was also a bit of a pass, especially compared to the one we just had the night before at Animal (my favorite place in LA, in case I haven’t made that abundantly clear yet).

As for the other thing you can put in your mouth- no, not that. Get your mind out of the gutter. I speak of  the special cocktails, which are VERY good. My fav being the Clementina which was designated-driver good.

So not quite up to the hype, nor up to it’s namesake, the face that launched a thousand ships, but a worthy outing if you’re curiosity is so peaked it’s about to kill a cat.

P.S. There’s now a Cleo in South Beach Miami too. As well as The Bazaar right across the street.

3 teeth

The Ultimate Calf Brains

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Animal – Los Angeles, CA

Not that I’ve eaten an extensive array of brains, but of the few I’ve had, I have to give it up to Animal. Not only were they so good that I could’ve cared less about the fact that I was eating a calf’s cerebral matter, they were so good that I would happily order them again. I know it sounds like Fear Factor type shit to some, and zombie food to others, but I swear it was so good it’s mental. Okay, puns aside, if Green Eggs and Ham taught you anything, you owe it to yourself to branch out and try these sweet, apricot-glazed morsels of magnificence. You will be a better person because of it.

The Ultimate Sweetbreads

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I’m not sure why, but there is a huge misconception as to what sweetbreads really are. But to clear things up for the misconceived, they are NOT brains. They are glands. Now, I can only imagine that if the thought of them being brains was irksome to you, the whole gland thing didn’t exactly move the ball either, but at least now you know what you’ll be rejecting the next time someone offers them to you.

Animal – Los Angeles, CA

There is virtually no part of the anatomy this place can’t turn into gold. And man do they spin some sweet-ass sweetbreads. The thing I love so much about them is that they don’t overly bread and fry them. So many other restaurants seem like they are trying to hide something as opposed to improve something. Well, Animal gets it. They let just enough of the savory through, and then contrast it with an outer shell of crisp sweetness, so that when you bit into it, the two collide like someone walking along the street with a bar of chocolate and another with a jar of peanut butter (as though anyone has ever done that, ever) and BOOM- Two great tastes in one gland-based dish. Reese’s advertising was so stupid in the 70’s, and yet I still remember it. Scarred for life I suppose.

Dovetail – New York, NY

When dealing with a delicacy that isn’t exactly the foie gras of fine dining, you have to try a little harder to impress. But therein lies the razor’s edge. How much trying can you do before it becomes overdone? Like at The Gander, for example, overdone to the point where they actually miss the point and you taste absolutely nothing of the sweetbreads. Well, I’m not exactly sure what the answer is, but whatever Dovetail is doing is hella right, taking the sauce and batter right up to the very threshold of pomp, without crossing the line. In fact, it’s so good you’ll be all like “foie who?” Assuming you talk like that, which, dare I say, is a bit annoying.

Juvia

1111 Lincoln Rd. Miami Beach, FL 33139 •  (305) 763-8272juviamiami.com

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The setting is an absolute showstopper (pictured). Clean modern lines and glass. Half outdoor, half in. Feels like something Mies Van Der Rohe might design. But here’s the kicker, it’s located on the top floor of a parking garage. To be fair though, it’s the most architecturally stunning parking garage I think I’ve ever laid eyeballs on.

And don’t be fooled by its Lincoln address. I know most of the restaurants on that strip are touristy bile, but Juvia is truly fine dining at its finest, right down to the high-end crowd. Juvia isn’t just a looker though, this beauty has substance, easily living up to the price tag with surprisingly deft, unpretentious service and equally skilled, inventively crafted plates.

Being in a cocktail mood, we both opted for the Juvia lemonade, which was equal parts refreshing and inebriating. Our mood also seemed to be trained on small plates, so we tried quite a few starters, but no entrees.

First up was the only miss for me of the night, the salmon sashimi. Served a touch too cold and thus a touch too chewy. Should’ve been room temp and should’ve been much better than it was.

But wow was the make up sex good. The chocolate unagi was just as unique as it was delicious. And the local buratta was drop dead gorgeous. Quite yummy to boot, albeit a touch lacking in the salt department, but you can always add that yourself.

The short rib gyoza on the other hand, was lacking nothing. Wowza! This Ultimate is so good I almost want to eat the part of my brain that’s thinking about it right now.

For dessert, you’re bound to be swayed by the chocolate candy bars floating to the tables surrounding you, and sure it’s crazy rich, but it’s not as crazy amazing as it looks. In my not-so humble opinion, the tres leche is tres times better. In fact, it’s an Ultimate. Up there with the likes of Animal in LA.

Well done Juvia. You’re the best thing to happen to a parking garage since Seinfeld.

4 teeth

Son of a Gun

8370 W 3rd St. Los Angeles, CA 90048 • (323) 782-9033 • sonofagunrestaurant.com

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Being the sister restaurant to Animal, my favorite place to eat in LA, Son of a Gun had a lot to live up to. And considering I dragged four coworkers there with me to try it, my neck was on the line. Well, I am happy to report that my neck is doing very nicely, thank you. In fact, one might go so far as to say my neck was lauded upon for such a recommendation.

Walking in, the place is nothing like its starker, minimalist sibling. Son of a Gun is enjoys a fisherman’s haute décor with all sorts of nautical paraphernalia hanging on the walls, including deer antlers?

As a result, it is very casual and down to earth. The food, however, is out of this world. We must’ve ordered a dozen dishes and not one of them was bad. Only two were just okay. And everything else fell somewhere between great and excellent.

Among the long list of winners was a salmon crudo with jerk spice, kiwi and habanero. Sounds spicier than it is. And one of the most flavorful raw seafood dishes I’ve ever devoured. Another huge hit was the soft shell crab tempura with pork belly and cinnamon. It was cinnaful.

The octopus salad with fennel, chickpeas radishes and chili was another star(fish). Much spicier than it let on by the looks of it, appearing more like an innocent salad. But one bite and complexity popped you one right in the kisser. As Jimmy Walker would say, it was “dynomite!”

From the crustacean food group, we went with Dungeness crab served in little rolls drizzled with apple yuzu and each garnished with an beautiful, edible purple flower. They were so creamy, yet bright, you would swear they crossbred the crabs with dairy cows. Such a simple, wonderful display of balance and proportion.

Even the chicken sandwich (pictured) was awesome, which was a tad out of place on the menu, assumingly there for those who don’t dig on fish. But this bird is no afterthought. Might be the best chicken sandwich I’ve ever had. Tough to share though, but we somehow managed to power through it.

Other solid, but slightly more mortal dishes were the two-bite lobster rolls and the skate wing. Both are very good, but you’re probably getting adjective fatigue at this point, so I’ll try save the gushiness for where the gushiness is due.

The only true miss of the night was the only waitress reco, the smoked mahi. And the only eh of the night (I’ll take the blame as I did all of the ordering) was the shishito peppers. They were good, just nothing special.

And finally, dessert. On this SOG went an impressive 3 for 3. The deconstructed key lime was light and refreshing. The banana bread was superb. But the closer was the raspberry and peach pie with crème anglaise – stomach pumping good.

This is one fish tale that lives up to the legend.

5 teeth

The Ultimate Slider

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The Little Owl – New York, NY

These little meatball sliders lure you in with their petite, cute appearance. Almost so small you could pop one in your mouth with a single bite. But it is after that first single bite that you realize you don’t want it to ever end. In fact, you’ll want to eat these sliders so slow you’ll feel like you’re in a highlight reel on Sportscenter.

To break ‘em down, I believe they are a classic mix of pork, veal and beef, placed upon a mini brioche with some kind of wonderful “special sauce” that punches so far above its weight these things probably put out more flavor per gram than anything anyone ever placed on top of a bun.

Animal – West Hollywood, CA

If I could marry a restaurant, it would probably be Animal. They have SO many of my Ultimates it’s crazy. Like their Pork Belly slider, dripping with BBQ sauce and a wonderfully creamy coleslaw that make this thing shine like the messy-ass glob of godliness that it is.

What also helps is that they always manage to keep the belly VERY moist. I can’t tell you how many times, even at great restaurants, that they serve it dry. I’m sorry, but what’s the point of hard, chewy belly? Anyways, Animal gets it. And they get how to make a rockin’ slider, which is all that really matters in the end.