Parlament

Rathausmarkt 1 – 20095 Hamburg, Germany • +49 40 70383399 • parlament-hamburg.de

Located in one of the coolest, most stunning and historical buildings in Hamburg, Parliament is a wow on the eyes from approach to table (pictured). And that’s about the only nice thing I have to say. The service is atrocious and about as attentive as a sloth in a coma.

 

And speaking of lifeless things, the food is flavorless. Worst schnitzel I’ve ever had. The potato salad that it comes with was slightly better, but it came about 30 minutes later, so to say that it came “with” the schnitzel is being generous. The other it ACTUALLY didn’t come with is the lingonberry jam. I had to ask for it special. And trust me, it needed it. Sad day when Milwaukee bests Germany at Schnitzel.

 

On the plus side, the hefeweizen beer was very tall and very good. Sadly not tall enough or good enough to get me so drunk that I didn’t care about the fact that a calf was tortured for nothing.

The Vault

2112 Bull StSavannah, GA 31401 • (912) 201-1950 • vaultkitchen.com

 

The name doesn’t scream Asian fare, but once you discover that it’s a stunning renovation of a former bank, it all makes total and complete cents. Get it? No seriously, whoever did this renovation deserves a ferocious high five, because they didn’t miss a trick, from the safe deposit box art on the walls, to the bar made up of the same. To the private dining room inside the safe, to teller cut windows and nickeled bathroom floors it is a smile everywhere you look.

Speaking of smiles, the service is delivered with big ones. Regrettably, however, the servers are bit off with the recos and even worse with clearing the plates, leaving us with more of a grimace.

The food, on the other hand, will have those corners spreading ear to ear. In fact, considering my expectations walking in, I couldn’t have left too much happier. My greatest joy coming in the form of an Ultimate Tuna Tartar (pictured) served over a bed of seaweed with a layer of avocado for creaminess, masago for saltiness, spicy mayo for heat, sesame seeds for texture, all topped with crispy crab for fucking awesomeness!

Also worth its weight in gold is the lemon coconut soup with shrimp, mussels, ginger, lemongrass and red curry. It’s perfect on a “cold” day (I use quotes because cold is obviously relative in Savannah) and just perfect in general. Might even be an Ultimate soup, still ruminating on that one.

The embarrassment of riches continued as Vault even served up one of the best stir-fry noodle dishes I’ve ever laid chopsticks on. The Nickel Noodles are a clinic on proportions and balance as the wide rice noodles hold up handsomely to the overloaded goodies within, like beef and shrimp, scallions and onions, bell peppers, egg and basil. Yummity Yum!

And making it rain in the Asian-Mex category were the FICO Fish tacos (see, it’s not just me with the money puns). Jazzed up with mango, cabbage, daikon, chipotle sauce and kimchi dressing.

But then, just like the market, things leveled off. The roasted duck dumplings, while very good, were decidedly more of this earth. As was the grilled calamari. And then, just like the market, things started sliding in the other direction, with a doughy miss, the steamed BBQ tofu buns. Which is crazy when you read what’s in them (spinach, shitakes, Szechuan glaze, Sriracha) – and yet all you taste is bun, bun, bun. Hard to believe the same restaurant made this.

Another pair of misses, per the aforementioned poor recos, are the desserts, which came highly recommended by the waiter compared to the lure of a trip to Leopold’s Ice Cream. Well, learn from our mistake and go to Leo’s. The key lime cake tasted like something you’d get on a plane and the pecan pie was way off balance with a meager dusting of pecans across the top and the rest all goop, whipped cream and crust.

Transgressions aside, The Vault is still a gem, albeit one knife shy of a diamond.

Estadio

1520 14th St NW Washington, DC 20005 • (202) 319-1404 • estadio-dc.com
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Hey Estadio, the Spanish Inquisition called. They want their décor back. I kid Estadio because I actually like the place, but the décor really is a bit much with its giant throne seating and iron studded everything. I’m guessing Medieval Times must’ve had a yard sale or something. Boom!

Okay, I’m getting snarky, but to be fair, I did say “like” and not “love,” which means there is plenty of room for improvement in this mixed bag. For starters, the sangria was just okay, as was roughly half the menu. The jamon crostini, the pork croquettes, the grilled octopus and the short rib over horseradish mashed potatoes all falling into the land of not.

A notch above the ho-hum were the sizzling shrimp floating in a garlic olive oil that was bread-dipping good. Not great mind you.

But with so much meh, how could I still manage to like it, you ask? Because three dishes soared. The salmon crostini was fantastic, making the jamon look like the pig that it was and the foie gras scrambled eggs with black truffle butter served over toast was also a top two boxer, miraculously done in such a way that kept the flavors on the lighter side, so it was nowhere near as heavy as it sounds. Not that I’d recommend going jogging afterward, but it’s not a gut-bomb either. Just the bomb.

But the front-runner of the night was the crispy Brussels sprouts dish with pine nuts and bacon. They were so damn good they were damn near an Ultimate, tasting a lot like the prep you’ll find at All’onda in New York. In fact, they were so indisputable, that they’re probably about the only thing in DC that you could get a Democrat and a Republican to agree on.

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

 

Konsolos

Meşrutiyet Caddesi No:56, 34430 İstanbul (0212) 219 6530 • http://www.konsolosistanbul.com
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Believe it or not, we walked out on a reservation at Mikla, listed as #96 on Pellegrino’s Top 100 list in the world, just to eat at Konsolos (unranked) instead, solely based on vibe/decor. Call me shallow (which is fair), but I’d say it’s more a case of Pellegrino letting those bubbles go to the brain. The crowd is Disney-hotel-depressing, filled with patrons in their 90’s or 9’s, all oohing and ahhing over a glass enclosed view that comes a dime a dozen at almost every major city around the world. So, trying to coast on view alone, the décor feels dated and sad. Especially by comparison to the top of The George Hotel where we had just come from having a drink and Konsolos, which we popped in for a peek just before arriving at Mikla. Sure, the food might be good (although a fellow foodie told us later that we dodged a bullet), but to be in the top 100 in the world, shouldn’t you be firing on all cylinders?

But enough about Mikla, let’s talk about Konsolos, and its striking dining room, which drafts its grandeur off of its former tenant, the American Consulate, set in a dramatic space where visas were once issued, they have since decked the place out to look like a Victorian masterpiece had sex with a black light poster from Spencer Gifts. I know that doesn’t sound all that appealing as I write it, but I can assure you it’s unequivocally stunning. Dare I say one of the most impressive decors I’ve ever laid eyes on and unfortunately even the photo above doesn’t do it justice, but just trust me. Hell, it made us pass up Mikla, didn’t it?

But this looker’s also got skillz, serving up Italian classics with a twist. For example, the rustic Italian bread comes with a tomato sauce for dipping, made special by the addition of mustard seeds, giving it a little heat, a little crunch and a lotta damn that’s good. Skip the other spread though. It’s walnut and soy based and it’s no contest.

The artichoke trio, while also interesting by Italian standards was pretty basic by Turkish ones, done in typical meze style, only instead of being topped with carrots and peas marinated in olive oil, it was topped with arugula and parmesan crisps, which kinda fell short on either side of cuisine expectations.

After that came the pastas and I have to say, mama mia Konsolos has game! Both the parpadelle ragu and the lamb shank fettucini were moist and delicious. Granted I think the parpadelle was actually fettucini and the fettucini was more like short cut spaghetti. Also, the lamb pasta was a bit over salted, but I think that was more due to the salt garnish around the rim of the plate. If you avoid mixing your pasta into it, or sliding your fork through it, you should fair much better than I did on my first two bites before discovering the culprit.

For dessert, while the profiteroles get full marks for inventiveness, they get very few marks for awesomeness. which was kind of a shame because we were both sorta hoping for a more faithful representation. Nonetheless, what you do get is a presentation not to be forgotten. The waiter actually pours liquid nitrogen (aka dry ice) over the ice cream at the table to create a crumbled “astronaut ice cream” effect next to the four different cream filled pastries. The pistachio cream was the best of the lot, followed by lemon and chocolate, with strawberry in the rear. But the pastries were too bready and the cream was too sweet. And the ice cream, well, it’s novel. I can say that. What I can’t say is that the meal lives up to the décor quite yet, but give this newcomer some time and I firmly believe greatness awaits, especially once winter hits and it becomes more en vogue to dine indoors.

3 teeth

Lure Fishbar

142 Mercer St. New York, NY 10012(212) 431-7676 lurefishbar.com

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I was debating whether or not to lead with a photo of their food or of their decor, but in truth there really is no contest as to which is more impressive, hence the photo above. It’s almost as if they built a restaurant using parts from the boat in the movie “On Golden Pond.” Just gorgeous. But sadly that’s close to about it in terms of plusses- well, that and it’s location, right in the heart of prime Soho shopping.

And while the Yelpers may swoon, I have to scratch my head, because the food simply doesn’t hold up to the adulation. For example, the lobster roll is an eye roll, paling in comparison to places like Pearl, Luke’s, Mermaid Inn and Red Hook. And the other dishes weren’t much better, or perhaps even worse, because they were so unmemorable as I can’t even recall what else we had- only that it was more of blah, and enough blah to form a solid opinion that we would rather eat at any of the other dozen or so places in Soho that we love. Guess the name should’ve been a dead giveaway, lure’s are inherently shiny, attractive objects, but when you bite into them, well, you get screwed.

P.S. The sister restaurant Burger & Barrel is much, MUCH better.

2 teeth

L’Affable

5 rue Lafontaine 06400 Cannes, FR • 04 93 68 02 09 • http://www.restaurant-laffable.fr

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I have been a HUGE fan of this chef (Jean-Paul Battaglia) for over 25 years dating back to his place Feu Follet in Mougins, which is no longer (R.I.P.). Well, thank God I found him again. Only two blocks from my hotel no less!

And just like his last restaurant, the décor is beautiful. However, this time, rather than quaint and old world French, it’s much more modern, in a tasteful way that balances warmth with minimalist lines. The service was also the best we had during our stay in Cannes. Warm and friendly. Which is rare in these parts.

But the food- Simply perfection. I mean nobody does risotto like this chef. Maybe Fraîche in LA (R.I.P.), but apart from that, he’s in a class by himself. I think one of his tricks must be in the beef stock. It makes the risotto so rich and savory, my mouth is literally soaking my keyboard in fond memories right now. And the thing is, he even uses it even on a veggie risotto, giving vegetables the gravitas of a buttery steak.

For my other course, I had seared foie gras- obviously eating healthy that night. Now, here would be my one nit, and it’s a small one, because while it was still great… it was only just “great.” Not phenomenal. Which is the level I’ve come to expect from Jean-Paul (yes, we’re on a first name basis). So what was missing? Well, it didn’t have an inventive preparation, which runs rampant on this menu. Not even the presentation of it rose to the level of everything else, and presentation is this guy’s forte. Like the Steve Jobs of plating. But it is still foie gras, after all, so I can only complain so much.

And last but not least a Grand Marnier soufflé so light and airy I felt like I was flying. Well, it was that or the wine. But whatever it was, it was manifique!

Definitely my new favorite place in Cannes.

5 teeth

The Musket Room

265 Elizabeth St. New York, NY 10012(212) 219-0764 musketroom.com

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On our way to dinner at Pearl & Ash, we stumbled upon this seemingly new place and made a mental note for the future. We were immediately impressed by the décor as well as the menu. But looks can be deceiving, right?

Wrong! Well, sometimes right, but in this case wrong. Musket Room lives up to its looks and might even exceed them. Although that’s quite a statement, because every detail in this place is thoughtfully considered. The water glasses are sleek and unusually beautiful. As is the silverware and the table they all rest on. The exposed brick and natural, old world elements almost make you feel as if you have stepped back into time, that or into a contemporary Nordic haunt, for a bite to eat.

The service was also excellent. Solid recommendations, attentive, knowledgeable and best of all, friendly. Not a snooty bone in the place. Even though they have every right to be, because this isn’t a casual nibble. This is fine dining in every sense of the word. From the chef’s tastings to the platings to the choreographed delivery of courses.

But let’s get to the food since that’s all you really care about. To start with, the bread is marvelous. Fresh baked rolls with a hard, buttery, golden brown exterior and soft fluffy insides that spring to life with their REAL homemade, green salted butter. Such a rare treat in the States to have real butter. Most everything else outside of France tastes like nothing.

For appetizers the salmon with mandarin oranges was very good, but the real gem was the waiter’s recommendation, the cold-smoked scallops. Brought to the table under a metal dome, it is revealed in a magical puff of frost. A beautiful crescent of scallops, pickled cucumbers, black garlic, sea beans and pear. Such a wonderful mix of flavors between the smokiness of the scallops and the refreshing sweetness of the pear and cukes. Best thing of the night.

For entrees, here was the only misstep. Both were just okay. The cod being the weaker of the two. A touch bland and not particularly memorable.

The steak entrée, on the other hand, while good, was nothing compared to the apps the preceded it. Nowhere near as inventive and the “cheese pie” just didn’t translate from ear to mouth very well.

But redemption soon followed with two winners for dessert. The chocolate torte was rich and dreamy and while I could go on more about it, I actually thought it was quite handily upstaged by the strawberry and Camembert mousse with pineapple sorbet, rhubarb and granola. Friggin’ yum!

So, welcome Musket Room. You’ve done New Zealand proud. Not to mention Soho.

4 teeth

The Heath

542 W 27th St. New York, NY 10001(212) 564-1662theheathnyc.com

Theater-Eating at Sleep No More

I can understand why some people might want to give this place five stars. First, because it has one of the coolest vibes going in the city, deriving it’s roaring twenties haunt decor via osmosis from “Sleep No More” next door.

So, if you’re a sucker for looks, then this place is easily five stars- er knives. They also have great live music- played in character, of course.

Then, there’s the fact that the majority of clientele they must get probably come to them after Sleep No More, so they are drunk and excited to have just seen breasts and penises. So that might also have a factor in creating such glowing reviews.

But, if one truly takes a moment to focus on the food, the place is more miss than hit. The only things that truly rose to 5 knife caliber were the quail and bone marrow apps. No entree and no other app was anywhere markedly above “eh.”

With perhaps one other exception, the cockles and crab, but even that was a bit of a let down in terms of the bread that came with.

Service was fine however, and if I were to ever be in the area again, craving a late night nosh, this will most certainly be high on my list.

3 teeth

Maca

Hidalgo s/nBetween Boulevard Marina & Emiliano Zapata, Cabo San Lucas 23456, Mexico • 52 624 1434143
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The place was woefully empty when we went, which had us very nervous at first. But, being the only table in the place ensured that we had excellent service. Every waiter and even the owner tended to our every need.

But that is only a fraction of why the score is so high. The décor is also beautifully and thoughtfully done. Tasteful, clean, contemporary meets rustic. The wood doors alone are worth mention. So are the bathrooms. Every detail was thought through on this place. Which only made it even more upsetting that they were empty.

So now you have to be thinking, “okay, so the food had to suck.” But that’s what’s so crazy. It was EXCELLENTE! The Tapas was fantastic. From the shrimp to the octopus to the Manchego and Serrano Ham.

And as for entrees, the duck with cranberry relish was phenomenal. The only miss of the night was the paella. Very bland.

Even both desserts were perfection. One was a chocolate mousse. The other was a cinnamon dusted cream tart-like thing with ice cream. Not sure exactly what it was, but I devoured it before ever learning to pronounce it.

I HIGHLY recommend this place. My favorite meal in Mexico. Please give them business, as it would be a crime for this place to disappear with so many other lack luster places in town, that are packed with tourists eating the same old Mexican slop that you find at 98% of the restaurants there.

5 teeth