Maison Premiere

298 Bedford AveBrooklyn, NY 11249 • (347) 335-0446 • maisonpremiere.com

 

More like Maison Meh. And to think this place was actually considered for a James Beard! It’s not even worthy of a James Buchanan. Sure, the setting is nice in the back garden and the oysters are money, especially with that marvelous mignonette, but just because the serve absinthe doesn’t make them 4 stars (unless you got really drunk on the absinthe and meant to actually click 2 stars). This over inflation of culinary prowess makes Brooklynites look desperate, trying to keep claiming that all the really good restaurants are now in Brooklyn and not Manhattan. They aren’t. I’m sorry to break it to you. Okay, so you’ve got Vinegar Hill House, Blanca, Red Hook Lobster Pound, Peter Pan Donuts, Peter Luger– Okay, fuck it. So you have a lot of good restaurants. That still doesn’t change the fact that Maison isn’t one of them.

The crudos are crapo. The cod brandade is blandade. The sardines and olive starters are passable at best. And even the octopus is a rubbery mess. And I wish I could say things got better but apart from the Atlantic Cod served over Tarbais beans and the pork porterhouse with mashed potatoes and shrooms, they got so much worse. The lobster roll would be considered a crime in the state of Maine. And the duck au poivre is so inedible it could almost start a war again with France.

But the atrocities against our mouths weren’t quite done yet as the monster rose back up from the dead for one final blow, in the form of empty calories. Both the cheesecake and the absinthe pana cotta were bunk, sealing the fate of MP with a firm two knives.

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.

Cosme

35 E 21st St. New York, NY 10010(212) 913-9659 cosmenyc.com

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Zagat’s? You don’t need no stinking Zagat’s. Cause I got the skinny right here. And while it’s true, the hype definitely runs high on this place, Cosme still manages to put the “can” in gourmand-worthy Mexican cuisine.

The setting is more trendy than dressy, but tastefully done in a timeless way. My only gripe is that the barstools are so high you practically have to do a Fosbury Flop to get on top of them. Service was pretty darn bueno as well, although you can tell they have a tinge of New York tude at the host stand. Granted after one or two El Ninjas, their gin and mezcal cocktail, you hardly notice and are mostly worried about falling from the dizzying heights of your barstool.

At the table, things are more or less tapas-style with a twist, the first of which was the uni tostada with bone marrow. And yes it’s as good as it sounds. In fact, if God was a tostada, he would probably be this one.

Another excellent starter is the crispy octopus served over a bed of hazelnut mole and accented with pickled potatoes and watercress. It’s not quite an Ultimate, but just about as close as you can get.

Our vegetarian option of the night, the mushroom and squash barbacoa, was also good, but not quite at the same level as everything else, tasting more or less like a solid market veggie taco when all was said and done.

And as the main event, we had to go with the storied Duck Carnitas (pictured), which as the name implies is done like a giant pork roast with moisty goodness seeping out of every corner. Then, they top it with onions and radishes and serve it up with soft tacos and salsa verde. Sadly, as good as it was, I’m not sure it’s quite worth its steep price tag, though. And while I can appreciate the inventive twist of treating duck like pork, I’ve actually seen it a lot lately and done even better at places like Cask & Larder in Orlando. Whereas this one was in dire need of the hot sauce before giving it my stamp of approval.

For dessert we forwent the other “must get” meringue and opted for the manchego cheesecake served crumbled up in a bowl over a pineapple drizzle, topped with popcorn. Not the exclamation point I was hoping for, I gotta say. And that’s true about Cosme on the whole. As hard as this place is to get into, and as hyped as it has been, I have to concur with Yelp on this one and say that 3.5 stars is pretty spot on. But since I don’t do halves, as we know, it comes down to which way am I rounding… up or down? Well, they don’t call me ferocious for the nothin’…

3 teeth

Kahwet Fairuz

Karakol bostan sokak No:13, 34367 İstanbul • (0212) 219 6530
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I loved this place walking in and hated it walking out. Reason primarily being my own fault I suppose. I clearly had baklava on the brain and when we stopped here for teatime, we should’ve just walked back out when we saw they didn’t carry any regionally authentic desserts. But nooooo, me and my stubborn ass just had to see if a Lebanese place could actually pull off a decent cheesecake. Well, I think we all knew the answer before the plate ever hit the table, but the depths to which this cheesecake sank are only rivaled by the core of the Earth.

And while it may seem unfair to throw a place under the bus from such a minute sampling, if you clearly ask the server to suggest the single best thing on the menu and he says “the cheesecake,” it doesn’t bode well for the rest of the food if their best is the worst.

On the plus side, however, I must give props to the decorator. The place is simply impeccable when it comes to detail and charm. Not a inch of this place went without thought from the fez lighting to the upside down hand mirrors to the bright colors and hookah centerpieces. Which brings me to an observation… I think the restaurateurs of Istanbul have handily cracked the code on how to make a place look cool. Now they just need to get their acts together and hire chefs worth their salt, because in four days we didn’t eat a single meal north of three knives.

2 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

EXKi

76 Madison Ave. New York, NY 10016 • (212) 447-1874exkinyc.com

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Having walked past this place about a hundred times, I finally mustered up the cojones to venture in. Inside, it sort of feels like a healthier, Europeaner version of Pret (granted Pret is from England, so go figure). Everything is pre-prepared from sandwiches and salads to soups and quiches, as well as desserts.

So, after a thorough perusal of the offerings I decided to go with the spinach quiche and the mini Greek salad cup. Of the two, the salad was the more impressive, mostly due to its inventiveness, made with a chive emulsion and Israeli couscous. Unfortunately, all it was for naught, because it was just okay- as was the quiche.

On the plus side, the free sample I got of the Belgian cheesecake was incredible. Might be an Ultimate, but I’d have to go back for another sampling to be certain.

The only flat out miss was the lemonade. It was spoiled. Shocking too, because the expiration date on it was two weeks out. Maybe it spent too much time under the quiche’s heat lamps?

Well, whatever the case, I can’t really say this place is worth walking past a Pret to get to, but if you’re only going for the cheesecake, I have only one thing to say, can you get some for me too?

2 teeth

Strip House

15 W 44th St. New York, NY 10036(212) 336-5454 • striphouse.com

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Apparently the one in Union Square has better décor, but the charm of the one in midtown is its old school, dated, meat-joint-of-yore vibe. The other thing the décor has going for it is its play on words. The “Strip” house also happens to be decorated with hundreds of black and white photographs of strippers from back in the day when it was still sexy to get naked for a living, not tragic.

For service, we were taken care of very well by a gigantic Romanian gentlemen I’ll refer to us Lurch. Now, I’m not just saying that the service was good because I’m worried about him crushing my skull like the Spaniard in Game of Thrones the other night. He was actually quite good. And good-natured, because trust me, we’re not an easy bunch (no news there). And after a bottle or two of Amarone? Dare I say assholes?

Now…. Let the gluttony BEGIN! First, the onion bread alone is worth a bow, far outshining its pretzel bread cousin. But even the onion bread wouldn’t hold the spotlight long as the sweet corn chowder amuse bouche took center stage and let’s just say my bouche was very amused.

After that, things trickled back towards Earth as the shrimp cocktail, the bacon and the spicy tuna tartar all fell squarely in the land of “good but not great.”

But the rollercoaster was far from over as we surged upward for one of the best bone-in rib-eye’s I’ve had. And a bone in filet that wasn’t half bad either. But the true star of the table was the creamed spinach. Only one or two others have ever dared to compare.

On the downturn, the mac and cheese is a big pass. And the goose fat potatoes, while saliva-inducing in name are just “eh” in execution.

In the solid good realm, I would put the creamed corn and garlic string beans.

And for dessert, skip the red velvet (it’s dry) and the cheesecake (it’s no Junior’s). But very much do the shit out of the chocolate brownie. It’s hella-good. Especially when you down it with some 40-year Quinta port.

So now comes the 20 million dollar question, how’d I feel after all of that food? Well, I think this will answer it best: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rXH_12QWWg8

3 teeth