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…

 

Autograph Brasserie

503 W Lancaster Ave. Wayne, PA 19087 • (610) 964-2588autographbrasserie.com

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If you should ever find yourself in or near Wayne, Pennsylvania, perhaps visiting your child at Villanova, you will be delighted to know that I have you covered, because believe it or not, there’s actually a pretty rock solid place for lunch right there on the main drag.

Relatively a newcomer, this remodeled space is a wonderful homage to celeb photography that sprawls through the various interesting rooms. They also have a nice outdoor patio in the summer, but that comes without the photo gallery.

To drink I recommend the special Arnold Palmer and to eat I can’t say there is a miss to be had. Everything is either good or better, starting with the burrata salad appetizer which is a variation on a caprese.

Also nicely done for a place north of the Mason-Dixon are the shrimp and grits. And for all you pus fans out there- no, not Billy Bush and Donald Trump, I’m referring to the one “S,” tentacled variety. The octopus starter is one of the best things I’ve had here, only bested by the mushrooms with faro, which for a vegetarian dish is surprisingly hearty, so don’t order unless you’re borderline ravenous.

Sadly I have yet to partake in the dessert menu here, but my hope is that the third time will in fact be a charm.

3 teeth

251 Lex

251 Lexington Ave. Mount Kisco, NY 10549 • (914) 218-8156 •  251lex.com

251Lex-54

I was excited to try this relative newcomer, which seemed to have promise from the outside looking in. Unfortunately, the promise only seems to be on the outside. In fact, the only nice thing I can say about the inside is that the people are nice. Oh, and the prices were pretty great, granted it was restaurant week, but only twelve dollars for a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc is worthy of a star in and of itself.

Beyond the wine and the warm pita with olive oil, the restaurant falls short on virtually every other metric possible, coming off like a child’s doll house dressed up to play a game of restaurant. The kids, a.k.a. waiters, inside trying so hard to please that it’s almost charming, but when they keep spilling water everywhere and forgetting silverware, the charm wears thin.

In terms of grub, nothing was god awful, but if tepid is the response you’re looking for, then you’ve come to the right place. Starting with the oysters, they were probably the best thing of the night, clean and fresh, served with a beet mignonette that overpowers them, so I would skip it. And while we’re on the subject of skipping things, the kale Caesar salad was cream based, a major no-no, and blah based, also a no-no.

For entrees, the salmon with cracked bulgur struggled to even register a pulse, as did the signature octopus dish, served with Israeli couscous in a skillet that’s so friggin piping hot you could probably still use it as a kiln to bake ceramics after it cools down a touch.

With the writing already firmly on the wall, there was little dessert could do to sway my already solidified opinion and as one would expect, dessert did little to even try. The Greek yogurt and honey panna cotta with fig mostrada, while interesting in theory, proved par for the course in terms of taste. That said, I’m not the biggest panna cotta fan, so the fact that I didn’t hate it is a major coup for 251. And finally the gelati was also semi-decent in the most average sense possible, falling short of supermarket gems like Talenti and Steve’s.

And falling short was theme throughout. Short of expectations and hopes. Really not sure what people see in this place or why it has the crowd or reviews that it does, but I suppose I’ll chalk it up to the fact that people are easily fooled. Case in point, Trump will be the Republican nominee for president. Mic drop.

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