La Perla

Old Mutual Building, Beach Rd, Sea Point, Cape Town, 8005, South Africa • +27 21 439 9538 • laperla.co.za

If you should ever find yourself in Cape Town and you are staying at the Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel, affectionately known as “The Nelly” and realistically known as “an old folks home,” do NOT ask them for restaurant recommendations because they will send you to places like this.

La Perla is a tourist trap located near the water, offering little more than friendly service that knows how to cater to visitors like myself and a view of the water. But friendly service in Cape Town is fairly common and sadly they didn’t have the food to back them up.

It starts off promising, however, with a decent bread basket and a capable beef carpaccio that will lull you into thinking you are in for a treat. But then the flavorless caprese salad comes and you realize you’re not in Kansas anymore.

And then everything turns South with a seafood platter that is impressive in size only. To give you an idea of just how big this thing is, it could handily feed 10 people without any other course accompanying it. So don’t let them oversell you on it, because it is a waste of food and money. Not to mention it depletes the ocean’s crustacean population.

Also be wary of anyone who tells you that he linguini with clams is the way to go. Unless you are going to spit out, I suppose. I’ve had a Lean Cuisine version that rivals it.

Shockingly, as a closer, the chocolate cake was actually killer good. Less shocking, however, is that the pineapple coconut dessert was par for the course.

Two Oceans

Table Mountain National Park, Cape Town, 7975, South Africa • +27 21 780 9200 • https://www.two-oceans.co.za

This place is quite literally living on the edge, nestled into the side of a rocky cliff, overlooking the Cape of Good Hope (pictured). As a result, the views are absolutely stunning, and although it’s as touristy as all hell, they somehow manage to pull things off with a modicum of class. I might even go so far as to say it just might be one of the best on site tourist trap restaurants I’ve ever been in.

Our lunch began with our charming waiter, Lovermore taking our order and making strong recommends, for which I couldn’t love Lovemore more (I know it sounds like something out of the movie “Superbad,” but I shit you not that this was his real name, or at least what he goes by and appears on his nametag).

Per Lovemore’s suggestion, we opened with a refreshing bottle of a South African Chenin Blanc and a dozen oysters that were awesome sauce. This was then chased by the giant prawns, which were buttery beyond belief, in a good way (for taste buds, not arteries).

The caprese salad was quite enjoyable as well, although the biscuit they serve with it, while also tasty, was extraordinarily hard to cut. In fact even Durst with a bone saw might find this to be a challenge.

The only out and out miss was the Turkish Delight cheesecake for dessert. I guess I was homesick for my home away from home and paid the price dearly, because it was disgusting. But I’ll gladly take the heat for this one, because I shoulda listened more to Lovemore. God, I love the wordplays with his name.

I also love the fact that this place manages to buck expectations and temptations to phone it in and be just another touristy cafe that has you by the balls since there’s nowhere else to eat. Good on ya, Two Oceans. For that alone I give you two thumbs up.

Le Petit Paris

13 Rue des Belges 06400 Cannes, FR • +33 4 93 38 88 60 • http://www.le-petitparis.fr
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Until this restaurant I had actually never had an out and out bad meal at Cannes. Sure, I’ve had my share snores, but nothing this atrocious. The setting, however, is passable and the waiters were fine, but the food is a total non-starter.

The onion tart app is so oniony it’s off-putting from the very first bite. The caprese salad (pictured) is served with tomatoes that taste like they were imported from Monsanto. And the mozzarella that was with it caused me to question the maternal sincerity of the cow that yielded it.

The lobster pasta entree was fishy and salty in a disturbing sort of way and the burger and fries served as nothing more than sustenance. And that’s at 12:30am, when I was pretty famished, and a bit tipsy, making the level of difficulty to impress handily in La Petit’s favor, and yet they clearly missed the layup.

On the positive, I do have to admit that the raspberry parfait was pretty damn skippy, but I’m most definitely not suggestion you should head here just for that.

Such a miss, I want my money back and I didn’t even pay for it.

1 tooth

 

The Ultimate Guacamole

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When it comes to great guac, I have to admit I’m a bit of a priss. Okay, so I’m prissy in general as a rule, but only as it pertains to good food. As for the complexity or simplicity, I whole-heartedly appreciate both. But when it comes to guac, I have to say I kinda prefer the fuss. No simple old mashed up avocado will do for this cat, oh no, no, no. You gotta earn my lovin’ with a little magic in your mush. Below are three of my favorite magicians.

The Ninth Door – Denver, CO

This is the most inventive guac of the three, and more inventive than any I’ve ever seen before or since. It starts with an avocado cut in half, then they flash fry it with a little panko and fill the divot where the pit use to be with pico de gallo. The end result is so unforgettable you’ll hear Natalie Cole singing in your ears while your mouth and your eyes are still busy recovering from the rapture.

ABC Cocina – NY

Jean Georges always seems to find a way to take the basics and turn them into brilliance. From caprese salad to foie gras terrine to guac he really knows how to make you feel like you’re tasting something again for the first time. The dial here is a simple one, however, simply adding sunflower seeds to the green stuff and serving it up along side a wonderful grapefruit salsa and oversized, fresh-baked chips.

Rosa Mexicano – New York, NY

For the purists, I offer up the remarkably fresh, table-side prepared guac at Rosa. I’ve been to hordes of other places that try to do the same, but somehow it always pales by comparison. I’m not sure how or why, but whatever they’re doing, they manage to pull it off at every location too. Also, one of the things I love most about it is that they customize the heat. You like spicy, they throw in more jalapenos. You like crazy spicy, just ask for habaneros. That’s what I do and it’s guac-a-holy-mole!

Via Veneto

3009 Main St. Santa Monica, CA 90405 • (310) 399-1843 • viaveneto.us
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Caught between Capo and Piccolo, Via Veneto is yet another extremely strong, authentic Italian right on Main Street in Santa Monica. They have a great wine list, very good service and a simple, but nice décor.

For eats, I highly recommend doing a split ravioli order as they have some of the best I’ve ever had. Try the lobster and the asparagus as a dynamic duo. Or if you’re into three-ways, add the sweet potato as well- they’re all good. But believe it or not, the asparagus reigns supreme.

They do many other things well too. From carni to antipasti to salads like the caprese. But none of them can even touch the ravioli. So if you don’t think you’re in the mood for ravioli, don’t go. It’d be like going to Disneyland when you’re not in the mood to be around kids.

4 teeth

i Trulli

122 E 27th St. New York, NY 10016 • (212) 481-7372itrulli.com

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I have no idea how many Italian restaurants there are in New York City, but by my count there are about 500 too many. Too many places coasting by on the New York Italian reputation. Getting by with pasta and sauce on a plate and calling it authentic because they serve it up with an Italian accent. But last I checked, speaking Italian and cooking Italian are not the same thing.

And it’s places like these- places like I Trulli that really piss me off. I mean why does this restaurant continue to survive while a MUCH better spot like Ciano (RIP), closes down just a few blocks away? It’s criminal! And it’s our fault. All of us. For giving them business. For perpetuating the lie and buying into the expectations of what we think we are about to eat as opposed to the actual food we are chewing in our mouths.

Just start by ordering their mini calzones and you’ll see what I mean. In a blind taste test I guarantee you’d be hard pressed to tell them apart from the frozen supermarket variety.

The fawned over short rib on Yelp also fell short. And I can only explain the hype by referencing another critter with four legs, sheep. People who hear short rib and then assume that it automatically must be incredible. Well it’s not. It’s overcooked and underwhelming. The caprese salad, while not bad, was not exactly memorable either. And the octopus was so blah I nearly forgot to mention it (went back and just added it).

Even the best dish of the night, the duck ragu was nothing even close to the epic swooning that you’ll read online. It’s certainly good, but the only reason it stands out is because everything else is so mediocre around it.

The surprise of the night (primarily because of lowered expectations) was actually the lasagna of all things. Good sauce. Good balance. Nice contrast of textures with the ever-so slight char on top, the way mama used to make. Well, not my mama, but if I had an Italian mother, this is the way I’d imagine she’d make it.

And of the various desserts we tried, the highly recommend beignets were highly unworthy. Instead, go for the apple crumble. Not very Italian, but it was easily the best thing on the dessert menu.

So now you know what to get if you go. But please, please, please don’t go. I don’t care if it’s too hard to get into the truly great Italian spots. That’s because they’re worth it. Pick another genre of cuisine and try back another night. But let’s bring some Darwinism up in this bitch and truly weed out the weak ones. Sure accessibility and affordability are nice things to have… in Wichita. In New York we live and eat by a higher standard. But if we continue to compromise, we will turn this city into a giant outdoor mall filled with Starbucks and Gap on every corner… Oh no! It’s already starting to happen!!!

2 teeth

L’Ondine

La Croisette, 06400 Cannes, FR • 0493942315 • ondineplage.com
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When mussel season hits, this place is a must. Located right on the beach with the gold and white awnings, just down from the Carlton. There are several other things here that are good as well, such as the caprese and artichoke salads. But one word of caution, the portions are humungous. I’m guessing they have Americanized them for all the tourists. Or Italianized them for family style? Well, whatever they did, they awesomized the Moules Frites. The best I’ve ever had. Each mollusk carrying with it a faint memory of the sea, along with a white wine broth so good you’ll want to sop it up with a bushel of baguettes.

3 teeth

Obica

928 Broadway New York, NY 10010(212) 777-2754 • obica.com

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From the moment you set foot inside you realize you’re not in Stuzziccini anymore. Such an upgrade from the last tenant. Cool vibe. Contemporary, yet warm décor. Love the mozzarella bar idea. Service is surprisingly on point for such a newbie as well. Usually things are a bit more herky-jerky during the waking moments, but Obica manages to stick the landing.

And stick it they did, on a great wine list with terrific options south of a C-note. Rare in NYC. The other massive hit was the parpadelle with duck ragu and orange zest. Absolutely remarkable. Cooking perfectly al dente and the zest somehow managed to brighten the duck to a level where a normally heavy dish actually felt quite light. You need this. Trust me.

But Obica is not a runaway success either. I expected more from a place with it’s own, self-proclaimed Mozz Bar, but tragically the two biggest misses for me both involved mozzarella of all things.

The first miss being the caprese salad (pictured). I found the cheese to be a bit hard and flavorless. You can get much better, MUCH creamier mozz at Eataly up the street. And the tomatoes were in dire need of salt to bring them to life.

The second miss was the pizza, and while full of flavor, it was ruined by placing ice cold burata on a piping hot pie, creating a hot-cold oral quandary.

The pineapple carpaccio closer was also somewhat unimpressive, which is more our fault for ordering it I suppose, but we were full and wanted something light, so it checked the box. Just wish the lemon sorbet was creamier as opposed to icy. A theme brewing perhaps? Guess I’ll have to investigate further on my return visit.

3 teeth

Jean-Georges

1 Central Park W. New York, NY 10023(212) 299-3900jean-georges.com

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I know a lot of people say this restaurant is hit or miss, but for us, it was a HUGE hit. I mean every course was excellent on two different tasting menus. A feat for any restaurant with just one tasting menu, much less two. In fact, I have yet to experience the same success rate anywhere else in the world with the exception of Bouley, but even that was only one menu, not two.

But it wasn’t just the food, the service was impeccable. The decor, nice. And the wine list extensive. Sure it’s pricey, but it’s a meal I will remember for the rest of my life. Partly because it was such a simple tasting menu for a French restaurant. Nothing complicated or elaborate, nothing drowning in sauces. Just really fresh ingredients that shined on their own- complemented only by other ingredients that raised the dish to a sum greater than its parts. I would share the details more thoroughly, but the menu constantly changes, and what we had is long gone, sad to say. But trust me when I do say this, it is twice as good as its competitor across the street, Per Se. I’ve been there too, and it pales by comparison.

Okay, okay… So I’ll give you one dish as an example. The Caprese Salad. Nothing more than a gigantic beefsteak tomato with the circumference of a softball, topped with crumbed feta and garden fresh raspberries. This is all then drizzled with one of the best olive oils and an aged balsamic that turn what is seemingly banal into simply bang on.

And to cap the night, they offered dessert flights. A series of five mini berry desserts all on one plate . Or chocolate, etc… We were so torn, they brought out all three for us to enjoy at no extra charge for my wife’s birthday. And a happy one it was. Primarily because we were still able to fit out the door.

5 teeth