Rockhouse Restaurant

West End Road, Negril, Jamaica • 1.876.957.4373 • http://www.rockhouse.com/eat
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Nestled on a rocky cliff in Negril sits one of the finest, most beautiful hotels on the island of Jamaica. And within the hotel also lies the best meal I had during three days of breakfast, lunch and dinner. That meal being a lunch in the sun, overlooking the Caribbean Sea whilst sipping on a Humming Bird. No, not the actual bird. That’d be just gross. It’s the name of a cocktail they serve, made with banana, coffee and rum cream. Ya mon!

So skip the rum punch on this one. The bird is the word. And so is the fish, meaning the blackened snapper salad and the jerk calamari. Both have nice kick and great depth of flavor.

Rockhouse is not without its misses, however. I found the akee dip with plantain chips and the fish tacos to be somewhat bland. And while I would also lump the rum cake for dessert in the whatevs bucket too, if you ask them to serve it with vanilla ice cream it rallies strong.

3 teeth

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Musto

Eski Çeşme Mah. Neyzen Tevfik Cad. No: 130 48960 Muğla, TK • +90 252 3133394

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Me gusto Musto. Well, the food at least. Can’t say I’m really a fan of how packed it gets. Or of the cigarette smoke vortex you get caught in on the patio, but fortunately somehow the food pokes through.

Like the octopus starter, for example, which is pretty darn great, with good char and nice accompaniments. The Roka salad, however, was a soggy second. It was overdressed and mushy.

Musto also went one for two on the entrees as well, with the café du Paris delivering in the sauce department, but failing with a tough and chewy cut of beef. Also, they only give you a sprig of frites, so be sure to ask for extra should you still wish to order it regardless of my cautions.

The winner of the entrees, and the entire night, was the seafood linguini, filled with calamari, octopus and shrimp in a red sauce that does a good impression of a fra diavolo with its noticeable kick. The pasta is cooked perfectly and between this and the octopus app, I think Musto earned a healthy three.

3 teeth

Sessanta

60 Thompson St. New York, NY 10012 • (212) 219-8119sessantanyc.com

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Not all that long ago if you saw a restaurant located in a hotel it was like the kiss of death. But that was before the likes of Maialino, NOMAD and Dirty French. So, when I heard all the rave reviews about this new place in the Thompson Hotel I said to myself, “Self, let’s add it to the list.”

Now, it just so happens that it wasn’t on the list for very long though, because I just recently had a business dinner there and got to see whether it was all that or all hype.

The hotel itself is rather quaint, like the street it’s on, but the restaurant is actually rather sizeable winding around corners and bars with its soothing wood, ribbon walls that almost give it a midcentury vibe.

Off on the wrong foot, we embarked with a Brunello that was very strong on the tannins almost to the breaking point, which didn’t do the food any favors, because it really didn’t complement a single dish. And it’s a shame too, because most of the food could’ve benefited from a little help.

Among the starters in need were the tuna crudo, which was what one might expect from a tuna crudo. Nothing more. Nothing less. Well, maybe except for the additions of zucchini and caper berries, neither of which moved the needle in either direction.

But far guiltier of not moving the needle were the beef tongue sliders, which were so surprisingly bland it felt like you were being cheated out of the gluttony you thought you were buying into.

Also on the bland list I would put the highly revered Struncatura Spaghetti (AKA Peasant Pasta). I had heard from friends and blogs alike that it was exploding with flavor. The saltiness of the anchovies, the heat of the chilies, the heat and saltiness of the neonata (a condiment from Calabria made from baby fish). But I guess the chef must’ve imploded under the pressure of serving the Ferocious Foodie, because what I got out of this dish was neo-nada. Go with the lamb ragu. It’s so much better. More on that later.

Moving up a notch from bland was the marinated calamari with puffed black rice and crunchy celery hearts, which proved to be a textural stroke of genius, contrasting greatly with the squid and making what could’ve been yet another snore just passably interesting. But even with that said, I would still opt for the braised octopus with couscous, apricots and turmeric. It was tender, flavorful and apart from the meatballs, the only thing I would ever order again.

Speaking of the meatballs (pictured), they are pretty amazing. Easily the best thing on the menu. But these ain’t your run of the mill balls. They’re made with spicy Italian sausage, red peppers and Sicilian honey, which almost acts like a candied coating, creating a hard outer shell, locking in the juices. But the true magic is when that honey and heat coalesce in your mouth to create a sonata of sumptuousness.

The other high point of the meal was the Tagghiarini (lamb ragu) pasta, made unique with crunchy bits of baked ricotta salata. The flavors of the ragu were bursting, the cheese was crunching- So then why isn’t it something I would order again, you ask? Because after a few bites the crunchy gimmick passes novelty and starts to become distracting and dare I say off-putting. Like crunchy bugs or burnt bits of lamb floating in your sauce. It’s great as a shared dish, but to commit to an entire bowl yourself is a bit overkill on the crunch.

Dessert also proved to be a tale of two Sessantas with the peach cake coming out dry and worthless. Whereas the cream filled puffs, an Italian take on profiteroles, were a far superior way to end your meal.

So, in all fairness, Sessanta is probably a three knifer, but because of all the hype, being lauded as one of the best new openings in New York according to Thrillist, it is teetering precarious on the edge of two, because apparently they have already started to slide. C’est la vie, as they say not in Italy.

3 teeth

Midyeci Sehmus Usta

Şehit Uğur Öztop Cad. Gündoğan, TK 48965 • +90 535 9492313sehmususta.com

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This is not just a restaurant, this is a movie in the making about a kid who comes from nothing and manages to build an empire… out of stuffing mussels with rice. Okay, so maybe it wouldn’t be a great movie, but it is truly inspiring to see what this man, Sehmus, has managed to achieve since 1981, when he first started selling midye dolma (stuffed mussels) out of a street cart. A head-scratching concept to say the least, because shellfish from a barrel on wheels sounds like the recipe for E.coli if ever I heard one. In fact, back when my wife and I first visited Bodrum together nearly 15 years ago, she tried to get me to try the mussels from one of the street carts and I looked at her like she had seven heads. Granted they were all very pretty heads, but seven nonetheless. That said, after trying a small sampling of three, I immediately ordered another dozen. And every year the number has grown exponentially to 24, 30, 40- even 50 pieces in a single order. Praise be Sehmus! I have seen the light!

And I’m not the only one. Somehow this mussel man (see what I did there?) managed to assemble a family owned and operated network of street carts stretching from Izmir all the way to Bodrum and everything in between. A veritable army of street vendors all carrying a product so consistently great they could give Penn Tennis Balls a run for their money. Too obtuse? Penn used to have a long running ad campaign about how “amazingly consistent” they were. But I digress.

Which brings me to today. Finally, the man, the myth, the legend, has decided to settle down, planting roots with his first brick and mortar restaurant, located in Gundogan, serving up mussels in every way shape and form. In fact, the menu almost reads like that scene in Forrest Gump where he goes on and on about all the ways you can cook shrimp.

But fret not, because the dolma are still the best on Earth. And if you’re not close to Gundogan, that’s okay too, because the army of street vendors is still on the march.

One caveat, however. The rest of the menu doesn’t quite hold up to the dolma. The midye casserole is just okay- be sure to ask for it aci (spicy) and without cheese (one of those rare dishes that’s better sans). Another zag from expectations is that I much preferred the fried calamari over the grilled variety, which is rare for me. And last but not least, the seafood with rice was also a big snoozer. But hot damn are those dolma good! So go for those, some raki or Efes, and eat so many you turn yourself into a dolma. Sage advice if ever it existed.

3 teeth

Trattoria Stefano

522 S 8th St. Sheboygan, WI 53081 • (920) 452-8455trattoriastefano.com

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I went here for dinner during a business trip and I have to be frank, it may be good by Sheboygan standards, but compared to the rest of the country it’s bush-league, and I had a number of dishes. Of the starters I tried the bruschetta, the calamari and the rustica salad and of the three, the salad was the clear winner, which should tell you something right there. As for the other two apps, not only would I not recommend them, I wouldn’t recommend them to you even if I didn’t like you.

For my entree, I had their signature dish, the Osso Bucco and it was passable. Not worth a scathing barrage of negative adjectives, but not exactly orgasm-inducing either. The risotto that accompanied it, however, was very sub-par. Like as in so bad I wouldn’t wipe my ass with it, not that I am normally in the habit of using food as bathroom tissue, but you get my point. I’m not sure why so many other people raved about it, but I can only assume it’s because they’ve never had truly good risotto to compare it with, so they think it’s supposed to be mushy.

Dessert, however, was quite good, saving Stefano from a onesie with a chocolate cake thing that was pretty awesome, as was the white chocolate, almond cheesecake. Those two desserts coupled with an excellent waiter who chose a top notch wine for us, was just enough for Stefano to eke out two knives. Sorry Stefano. I had high hopes after seeing 4.5 stars on Yelp, but I don’t grade on a curve or show mercy based on geography.

2 teeth