Emily

35 Downing StNew York, NY 10014 • (917) 935-6434 • pizzalovesemily.com
 

Having heard this name bouncing around the food scene for a while, amidst a symphony of oohs and ahhs, I felt it important to either validate or debunk the worthiness of such adulation. Located in former digs of the Blue Ribbon Bakery, Emily boasts a casual-cool décor, especially downstairs in the catacombs. Granted, if you like windows, the upstairs is nice well. But don’t think two floors of seating means you’ll be getting a table anytime soon. No, this place packs ‘em in. Fortunately, they keep a certain number of tables open for walk-ins though, and if you’re willing to sit at the bar, you can get to the grub even faster. Which is what we did.

Out of the gate, Emily impressed with an inventive sprout salad, made rich with buttermilk bleu cheese and made special with miso, cashews and pickled red onions. Best dish we had.

For pizza, we went with the namesake, the Emily, and while definitely good, it was in dire need of red pepper to give some heat to cut through the truffle, honey and cheese. Also, I found the crust to be tragically chewy and doughy. Definitely not a contender for Ultimate Pizza.

Same goes for the burger (pictured). I’ve had droves of people telling me this is the best in the city and I’m sorry you people, but you have no business making such wild claims if you aren’t a purest. Because in my book, no thin-patty burger EVER has any business being considered as  a “best burger,” any more than a deep dish pizza should ever be in the running as a “best pizza.” It’s about the MEAT man!!!  Jeez!!! Ranting aside, it’s actually pretty damn good, made with dry aged La Frieda beef, caramelized onions, American cheese and special sauce, all on a killer pretzel roll. But you still have to be smoking crack to call it the best in NYC, because even as good as it is, it doesn’t hold a candle to the Black Label.

Closing strong, Emily’s bread pudding sports a nice textural contrast, being both crispy and gooey at the same time, which equals yummy according to the Pythagorean Theorem. Or, at least that’s how I remember it. Granted I didn’t pay much attention back in high school.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the MOST impressive thing of the night, however- our neighbor at the bar. To say he was a large man is like calling Trump self-confident. Doesn’t quite capture the full depths of the situation. This man, eating alone, polished off an entire pizza- the same size that my wife and I, combined, didn’t even manage to finish and got a quarter of it to go. Then he downed the ENTIRE burger, which a slider it is not. And then, when he looked over and saw us enjoying the bread pudding, he ordered that too. One person. One sitting. One mighty show of human endurance.

Less mighty was Emily’s showing, because I found it to be a tad over-hyped. That said, it was still good, so I’m gonna give it a very strong three or barely a four. But since I’m ferocious about hype, you can probably guess where I leaned…

 

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Beauty & Essex

3708 S Las Vegas Blvd. Las Vegas, NV 89109 • (702) 737-0707 • beautyandessexlv.com

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Okay, so it’s not the real deal and merely a fabricated replica of the one in New York, but it is Vegas, which means pretty much everything is a fabricated replica of something else with the exception of sand. So put aside any delusions of authenticity and you will very likely find yourself as pleased as punch (let’s make that rum punch, after all, it is Vegas).

Located in the chic Cosmopolitan Hotel on the third floor (as opposed to Essex St. in Manhattan), you will find a pawnshop by the same name, which doubles as a speakeasy entrance through a nondescript turquoise door to the left of the counter. Upon entering you will find yourself swept into a time vortex landing you smack dab in the roaring twenties, complete with a brocade decor and twin, blond, 6-foot bombshell- flappers who cavort around the restaurant and bar along with a parade of burlesque hotties.

Surprisingly, this isn’t to distract you form the food, because almost everything was excellent. That said, it might be distracting to the servers, because I found the service to be a bit sloppy.

The excellent menu of which I speak is made up of shareable small plates, along with a decent list of cocktails and wine. And while most everything was good, there were a few dishes I would steer around such as the lobster roll, which was the only bad thing of the night, served on a warm bun, but filled with canned or even fake lobster meat. Not cool.

The other two dishes I would skip are not what I would call bad, but they don’t exactly pass mustard for me either. For example much better yellowtail sashimi in ponzu sauce with chili peppers can be found at Blue Ribbon Sushi in the very same hotel or at Sushi Roku down the strip. And the French Onion Soup Dumplings are nowhere near as good as the ones at Stanton Social in NYC, nor are they comparable to some of the other stars of the night.

But enough of the Debbie Downers and on to the stars, like both tartars- the steak and the tomato tartars are so good I don’t know which one I liked better and obviously very different from one another so it’s kind of hard to even compare them even though they are both “tartars.” They are also served differently, the steak is done more like a tartine and the tomato more like an hors d’oeuvres. Both, however, are worth doubling down on.

The bone marrow is also superb and only bested by one other dish for me, the Spicy Lamb Bolognese. Made with penne and some serious Italian game this pasta just might’ve been the best thing of the night- no, the best thing I had all week in Vegas. Not too shabby for twin, amazon, blond, bombshell, flappers. Can you tell they left an impression?

4 teeth

Minami

1118 Mainland Street Vancouver, BC CAN V6B 2T9 (604) 685-8080 minamirestaurant.com

Having heard people rave about the sushi in Vancouver I felt the need to see and taste for myself. Better than New York they said. Superior to LA and San Francisco they implored. They even went so far as to compare it to the likes of Nobu… Which turned out to be a big NoNo.

And thing is I knew it the moment I set foot in the door. Something about the vibe screamed amateur hour. And I’m not just saying that because the bar is slower than a turtle stuck in a tar pit filmed in hyper slow motion with a Phantom camera. In other words, we ordered our drinks well before any food and didn’t get them until after we were already three dishes into the meal.

Of the meal itself, I can only speak highly of one dish, which wasn’t even on anyone’s “must try” list, the yellowtail, spicy tuna roll. It had really good flavor and just the perfect amount of heat. I know it sounds relatively standard, but I’m trying here people. I’m trying so hard to see it, but all I kept seeing was a place that’s no better than virtually any neighborhood sushi joint in Manhattan.

The foie gras, black truffle gyoza, while amazing on paper tasted no different than your garden variety chicken potsticker. The salmon oshe (pictured) was way too overpowered by the brick of rice beneath it and it’s nothing by comparison to the pseudo equivalent, hanabe, of LA fame. Oh, and the ebi version of the oshe isn’t any better.

The tuna tataki with black pepper was a snore and sushi and sashimi platters were all decent, but again, nothing you would ever even dare think to compare to the likes of New York or LA. In fact, the only fish in the lot that sparked a twinkle in my eye was the albacore sashimi. But let’s forget New York and LA for just a second and get really real up in this bitch. I’ve had far better sushi in Harstdale, NY at Azuma. In Breckenridge, CO at Sushi Breck. At that’s in a friggin’ land-locked state for Christ’s sake! Even at Blue Ribbon in Vegas, which is in a godforsaken dessert!

So I don’t know what everyone else is smoking out there, but please pass it my way, because I just don’t taste what you are tasting.

2 teeth

Blue Ribbon Sushi

The Cosmopolitan Hotel • 3708 Las Vegas Blvd S. Las Vegas, NV 89109 • (702) 698-7000 · blueribbonrestaurants.com
 
Blue Ribbon Izakaya

The fact that it’s located in the Cosmopolitan Hotel is definitely a plus. It’s the most tastefully done Casino in Vegas. Granted the competition isn’t exactly what one would call steep, but it does make your journey both to and from the restaurant much more seamless by comparison to something like Aureole, where you are in a beautiful setting inside the restaurant, but then the moment you set foot outside, you feel like you just stepped into the middle of a pissing match between Walt Disney and Donald Trump.

So, now that I’ve drifted way off topic and evoked a bodily fluid, I’m sure most of you are no longer reading this. But for those who still are, Blue Ribbon is awesome! Better than the one in New York on a number of metrics. The first being décor. I know, shocking that Vegas could outdo anywhere on aesthetics, much less New York, but it outdone it was.

And the outdoing kept doing from start to finish. The first thing being the open-faced Wagyu sliders. Perfectly cooked and a great way to offset your Vegas drinking bender. Another solid starter was the duck potsicker app. Also nice and substantive compared to the sushi side of the equation.

And last but not least, the grilled octopus started, which was also good, but definitely the weakest of the three.

Then came the main event. The Blue Ribbon as they called it. No, not the Blue Ribbon maki, which is lobster and caviar, the Blue Ribbon chef’s tasting- aka plank of awesome. Apparently inventive naming things isn’t their strong suit, but let me tell you, most of what was on that platter was. Covered with inventive maki, artfully brined sushi pieces and blissfully fresh (yes, in a dessert) sashimi.

Even the service was better than the Blue Ribbon Sushi in New York, which got me thinking, maybe they should move the Vegas one to New York and the New York one to Vegas. Thoughts?

4 teeth

 

Blue Ribbon Bakery & Cafe

35 Downing St. New York, NY 10014(212) 337-0404 • blueribbonrestaurants.com
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Having been to two of the Blue Ribbon restaurants now I can honestly say that I am done with the franchise. Not because they were bad by any stretch, but because they are consistently over-hyped. I ate at the Bakery and I found it very reminiscent of my Blue Ribbon Sushi experience a few years prior- good, but certainly not great.

And I was certain to have some of the more touted dishes, from the Bone Marrow to the Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding (pictured). Neither were anything above three knives. Nor was my wife’s Filet Mignon, another dish that got raves.

Either New Yorkers are getting very generous with their stars, or I’m getting to be a crotchety old foodie. Either way, I say skip it. There are much better places in the city to spend your money, but if you’re dead set, enjoy the mediocrity with a side of “I told ya so.”

2 teeth