Maison Kayser

921 Broadway New York, NY 10010(212) 979-1600 maisonkayserusa.com

Maison-Kayser

I’m not sure what it is about this chain, but I really want to like it more than I do. And I’ve tried. I really have. I’ve eaten there for breakfast once, lunch twice, even from their prepared foods and bakery. But everything falls just short for me.

Worse still is that it’s sort of like a lesser version of it’s fellow Parisian transplant next door neighbor, Le Pain Quotidien, only with white tiles instead of wood, waiters dressed like mimes (without the face paint) and no communal tables, which I’ll file under the plus column. So how they’ve managed to expand as they have is beyond me.

Of all the things I’ve had there, there are only two worth ordering. The nicoise salad holds its own pretty nicely and the pre-prepared Iberico sandwich with manchego, Iberico ham, mission figs and mustard is pretty solid as far as pre-made sammies go. MUCH better than the tragically recommended saucisson (Le Rosette). Not sure what the peeps over at Thrillist were smoking when they wrote up that one, but I can assure it was potent and laced. It’s basically cured sausage and cornichon on a baguette with a little butter. Nothing more. And I mean nothing. It’s almost like something you would throw together in a post-apocalyptic fallout shelter because these ingredients were all you had standing between you and starvation. And the pre-made Israeli couscous and wheat berry salads aren’t much better, lacking more flavor than melba toast. The plain kind. Without anything on it.

In the middle of the road, their truffled egg and asparagus tartine for breaky/brunch is neither here nor there nor anything I would ever order again… and neither is the fig, honey and goat cheese tartine on the lunch menu, because not only was it a big snore, it’s also no longer on the menu. Guess I wasn’t the only one. And that’s my issue with MK as a whole, serving up food you would never even think twice about again in your life, unless you had a cantankerous food blog where you reviewed restaurants and wanted to write a warning to people that the food sounds much better than it is. Wow, that was meta.

2 teeth

Restaurant North

386 Main St. Armonk, NY 10504 • (914) 273-8686restaurantnorth.com

Restaurant North

Having never been THAT impressed with this chef’s former stomping ground Union Square Café, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that I find North to also be considerably over-hyped.

And after having been there twice now, I’ve come to the conclusion that my biggest issue is that they would be much better suited as a bakery or as a casual haunt. But when held to the standards of fine dining, they simply don’t measure up. Blue Hill at Stone Barns and The Inn at Pound Ridge are both much, MUCH better. And for Italian it’s bested by both Fortina (just two blocks away) and The Cookery in Dobbs Ferry.

For me, the misses start the moment you enter the door. First with a decor that is notch or two past minimalist, trending toward unfinished. This is then followed up with a hostess who tried to seat us at the shittiest table by the bar, even though about 75% of the tables in the restaurant were empty. And this is with us having had a reservation for weeks mind you. The excuse, because one of the tables on the other half of the dining room was being reserved for a friend of the chef’s. But what about the other six open tables?!?!

After that, things improved, but never so much that they fell in line with the sterling reputation this place seems to enjoy.  This is not to say that what lies ahead was all bad, by any means, but if your are going to be a top restaurant in one of the wealthiest suburbs on the planet, you’d better be more than just “not bad.”

Not bad, however, was the story from top to bottom. Not one course the first time we went reached what I would call “excellent,” and we each had three. Yet each course lacked that little extra something that takes a dish from good to memorable. And with 6 different dishes and two proprietary cocktails, I’d say they had ample ways to impress, but failed at every one.

The only two dishes from that outing to rise above just a solid good were a pasta dish and the soft shell crabs. Both teetering on great. But sadly, not actually great.

Fortunately, while definitely ferocious, I also try to be fairocious, so I gave them a second chance before writing this review and upon revisiting it, this somewhat only served to solidified my opinions from the first experience.

That said, there were a few shining moments once again, and this time they were shining much brighter. For example, the focaccia they serve as the bread with your meal is phenomenal. It’s also an Ultimate.

Another thing worthy of note is the muffin they give you after the meal to take home. Moist, heavily seeded for a nice contrast in textures, and heavily awesome. So, it would appear that they bookend you well, between incredibly delicious baked goods, but if you just look past the bready smoke and mirrors, mediocrity was once again abound.

For example, the swordfish entree while perfectly cooked was woefully blah. Their hazelnut encrusted variation of a Scotch egg was equally lacking in flavor, begging for some salt to bring out the flavor of the egg. And the “Super Awesome” chocolate chip cookie is “super overrated.” It’s the same typical half baked cookie in a skillet you’d expect to find at Applebee’s with a very mediocre scoop of vanilla on top. You want a truly “super awesome” chocolate chip cookie, head to Sherry B’s in Chappaqua and get the one with walnuts (even if you’re allergic, it’s worth it). Or if you’re in the city, there’s none better than the one at City Bakery.

Another inflated dish is the burger. And while it’s definitely more impressive than the aforementioned dishes, with its creamed kale topper, it also falls WAY short of places like Minetta Tavern, Father’s Office and Burger & Barrel, to which I’ve heard it compared. Blasphemy!

Back on the upside, because I like to end things on a positive note (not really, but I will), the mushroom flatbread was surprisingly good, well balanced between the heartiness of the mushrooms, the creaminess of the goat cheese and the fresh pepperiness of the greens.

And finally, the suckling pig. Definitely not the looker of the bunch. In fact, once shredded amongst the bed of spaetzle it looked more like a cat got a hold of a stuffed animal and ripped it to bits. But the taste was excellent. Accented with a nice touch of heat.

But even with the stronger showing my second time around, it’s still WAY too hit and miss to be playing at the level they claim to be. Especially when they pull shit like pawning us off on the busboy to take our dessert order. Classy North. Very classy.

2 teeth

 

Pizzology

608 Massachusetts Ave. Indianapolis, IN 46204(317) 685-2550 • pizzologyindy.com

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Having just been to Libertine and lovin’ it, we decided to double down on the sibling – sadly, like something out of the movie Twins, Pizzology is the Danny Devito to Libertine’s Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Not aesthetically speaking, however, the décor was spot on with an industrial, clean vibe that didn’t try too hard to be cool. It just was.

And service was actually far superior to Libertine, surprisingly enough, although you’ll have to read my Libertine review to understand why.

But as for the food, this is where Pizzology needs to spend a little more time in the lab, because there was really only one dish that managed to impress me, the roasted kale salad. Topped with fried chickpeas, grilled zucchini and goat cheese. Simple you say? Simply awesome!

Sadly, things were all downhill from here. The grilled octopus starter, while also good, was extremely garlicky, so if you think this review stinks, it’s probably that.

The other starter we shared was the warm spinach salad, which proved to be relatively pedestrian compared to others I’ve had. Same bacon. Same poached egg. Bacon was a touch over-cooked and salad under-yummy.

And then came the pies of which we did four. The best for me was the tallegio, fig and prosciutto. Now you know, I get weak in the knees at the mere mention of tallegio, so if you’re not a fan, buyer beware. I do recommend it with a healthy dose of red pepper flakes though, so as to play off of the sweetness of the figs, which in turn play off of the saltiness of the prosciutto. It’s a very playful pie.

Next up for me would be the Romano, topped with cremini mushrooms. It was nothing revolutionary, but sometimes you need a fastball down the middle.

Then there’s the brussell sprout pie, which sounds SO much more interesting than it actually tastes. Not sure what got lost in translation, but flavor was among them.

And bringing up the rear was the fennel sausage pie, assumingly influenced by Batali’s pizza joint, Mozza in LA. The difference is that Mozza makes it 10 times better. One of the best pies, if not THE best pie in the joint. Here, not so much.

2 teeth

 

Westchester Burger Co.

106 Westchester Ave. White Plains, NY 10601 •  (914) 358-9398westchesterburger.com
353 N Bedford Rd. Mount Kisco, NY 10549 •  (914) 218-3200

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Please don’t take these three knives lightly. I mean these guys custom season every burger to match its accoutrements. And as a result, there are burgers on the menu that easily make their way into the four knife realm. The problem, is that there are a lot of two knife burgers as well. And the sweet potato fries that everybody raves about are just “eh.” If you really want sweet potato fries to rock your world, go to Blue Smoke in Manhattan. Also, the shakes, while good, get by more on the guilty add-ins as opposed to the ice cream base.

But back to some of those four knife burgers… Numero uno would be the Napa Burger- WOW! Almost every time I don’t get this, I regret it. Fortunately it’s too big for my wife to finish, so I usually get a few bites anyways. So what makes this burger so good it guaranteed a return visit all on its own? Well, first, they marinate the patty in a Zinfandel sauce and top it with goat cheese and watercress- all aboard a sweet brioche bun. It’s somethin’ special.

Another high would be the Ba Da Bing, made with spicy Italian sausage, as opposed to ground beef, broccoli rabe, provolone, balsamic glaze all atop a focaccia bun. It’s quite inventive and quite good.

And coming in third for me would be the lamb burger served with squash and zucchini, a yogurt sauce and once again, focaccia. They can go a little crazy with the sauce on this one, so I’d recommend asking them to go light or to put it on the side.

In the middle of the road would be their namesake, the TWC – their classic with a twist, or as I like to call it, a high end Whopper. Good, but nothing I would ever order again.

Same goes for the Graziella, The Balboa and The Firehouse. Just nothing about any of them makes a big enough impression to make it worth ordering again. Especially the Firehouse. I mean with a name like that, you’re expecting some heat. C’mon, break out the habaneros or jalapenos or chili peppers- hell, break out something other than just chili.

Service was friendly and fast and they are always great with the kids. Decor is nothing THAT special, however. Not sure why so many people rave about how cool it is. Guess they don’t spend much time in the city… or at Chipotle. It’s not bad, don’t get me wrong, but it’s pretty normal by my standards. Like a Chipotle.

3 teeth

Sweetgreen

1164 Broadway New York, NY 10001(646) 449-8884 • sweetgreen.com

Healthy-fast-casual_sweetgreen

While I find the line to get into this place both absurd and unworthy, I do have to say that the food is actually pretty good. Fresh, healthy- Just not worth waiting in that line for. And we’re not talking like Chop’t, whose line actually moves quickly. We’re talking DMV. I mean, c’mon people, it’s salad, not a cronut!

Of the things I’ve had, 3 salads and 3 juices, I can say that all of the salads have been good. Juices, however, are much better at Terri and Juice Press (also in the hood). But of the salads, my favorite is the “wild rice bowl,” with no modifications. It’s so different from anything else in the “fast salad category,” if that subset even exists. Served warm with chicken and apple and goat cheese. It’s better than it sounds. Anyways, all of the salads leave you feeling full and guilt free. If only the experience were aggravation free between the long line and the fact that you have to remember to get your own napkins and utensils.

There is a way to make the line marginally less painful if you order ahead. Then the wait is only annoyingly long as opposed to ridiculously-wanna-punch-someone-in-the-crotch-stupid-long.

3 teeth

Beaudevin

Charlotte-Douglas International Airport 5501 R C Josh Birmingham Pkwy Charlotte, NC28208(704) 359-4318

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For an airport restaurant I would say you would be hard-pressed to find better. The wine by the glass was surprisingly good (Pinot Noir). And the tapas style small plates kept wowing one after another. From the prosciutto & melon to the cheese plate to the caprese skewers, to the bread plate and olives. The only average ones were the shrimp cocktail and the humus. Not bad mind you, just not up to par with their small plate siblings.

And as for the salad mains, I did the grilled artichoke. A solid good. The creamy whipped goat made for a nice complement to the peppery arugula.

Oh, and our server was awesome. Quick, friendly and without writing anything down she didn’t forget a single order from the 6 people in our party.

4 teeth

Ox Wine & Burger Bar

Kumbahce Mah., Cumhuriyet Cad. No:155 Bodrum, Turkey • +90 532 356 7652 • www.oxburgerbar.com
ox-wine-burger-bar

The BaconChevre is the bok (shit). Rivals most burgers back in the states. Decked out with goat cheese as the name implies. Pancetta, sort of like the name implies. And caramelized onions. The bun is soft and a touch sweet almost like a brioche or potato bread and together with an ice cold Efes (Turkish Beer) and you’d be hard-pressed to keep your fast going through Ramadan.

Other burgers there also range from okay to great depending. The Cheddarburger being on the higher end of that range and the Truffle burger being at the okay-er end. Yes, the most expensive burger on the menu is a big pass if you ask lil’ ole me. There are much better, much cheaper options.

They also have ox, chicken and veggie burgers, none of which I’ve tried. Fries and pickles make for passable sides. But one condiment you don’t want to miss is the spicy Turkish brown mustard. Gulden’s shmuldens.

Also, between my first and second visits they have opened tables on the beach, which at sunset offer a beautiful view as the sun dips behind the castle.

Service is also very friendly and accommodating and English speaking, which is a plus for semi-Turks such as myself.

4 teeth

Cocoon

18 Rue Bivouac Napoleon, 06400 Cannes, France • 624 16 33 97
sensational-salad

Behind this charming little purple awning lies a tour de force of healthy, fresh salad making like the world has never seen. I mean we’re talking salads as good as desserts here people! I know I sound like a mad man, but Cocoon is the crazy one. Crazy good that is. Per the picture above, they have this one salad made with goat cheese wrapped in a pastry, served warm over a bed of caramelized apples all resting on garden fresh greens and tomatoes so flavorful it’s enough to make an American (like me) weep their GMO’s off!

And the best part is that it’s quite reasonable as meals go in Cannes. Plus the service is very friendly and accommodating (meaning they speak English), which is nice for those of us who were lazy and never learned a second language.

5 teeth