Herringbone

1755 Ocean Ave. Santa Monica, CA 90401(310) 971-4460herringboneeats.com

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I struggle a bit to understand this one. The wait to get in is almost as big as the dinning room, which is so cavernous it’s almost to the point of making it feel like a Rain Forest Café, but for seafood. And while it is done far more tastefully (not saying much), with touches like the puffer fish tree at the foyer or the various nautical elements at every starboard turn, it can’t help escape the vibe that it’s a chain. Yet within chain-dom, there are obviously good chains and bad chains and Herringbone definitely falls in the better camp of the two. But to be fair, a chain is still a chain at the end of the day, so leave your expectations at the door, after all, it will have to wait for a table like everyone else.

To start, I opted for the Grow a Pear cocktail made with jalapeno, gin and cucumber. It was refreshing and light enough to go with anything on the menu. And I put that theory to the test, trying it with a host of starters, my favorite being the heirloom tomato salad, which I found to be the best thing of the night (not good for a “seafood” restaurant). Made with perfectly ripened orbs of red, sprinkled with herbs, drizzled with olive oil and complemented by fresh, creamy chunks of mozzarella, caprese style.

The whole fish ceviche (pictured) was also nice, but mostly as a result of its novel prep, in whole fish form. The flavor of it, however was a little par for the course and nothing exceedingly fresh either.

Working our way from good to meh, the Buffalo octopus was just okay for me. Decent Buffalo flavor, but the pus itself was overcooked. Also could’ve been a bit spicier if you ask me.

But the worst by far was the Baja crab, or should I say Baja crap. Don’t let your waiter try a peddle this loser dish on you. It tastes like overcooked rice speckled with shreds of canned crab and a few squirts of Tabasco.

For my entrée, the scallops were passable, but not very well balanced because after three scallops in, I found that I had finished all of the surrounding goodies, leaving me with one scallop abandon on the plate.

Just as the ship appeared to be sinking, however, somehow Herringbone managed to raise the Titanic with their wonderful lemon poppy begniets. Kept light by the lemon. Kept awesome by the contrast of hot and cold with the addition of ice cream. But as great as the bookends were, the laggards in the middle cost this place dearly.

2 teeth

Rintintin

14 Spring St. New York, NY 10012(646) 666-0114rintintinnyc.com

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While the name is likely to evoke imagery of a German Shepherd, there is nothing German, nor Shepard-like about the restaurant. And being that I was a fan of Bon Marche, I was sad to see that it had been replaced. Well, I was sad until I tried the food, which is even better than its predecessor.  I’m guessing the space must’ve left some good juju for this newbie, because the good vibes were abundant from top to bottom.

First off, the decor is much more open. The space is still small and charming, with nice touches like giant palm leaf arrangements and cymbals as lighting fixtures. And the service, while being a one man show from bartender to host, and waiter in between, managed to outdo many who only have a third of the task.

For drinks we did the cucumber gimlet made with arak (anis arabic booze), which was very refreshing almost like the cucumber water you would get in a spa, only with alcohol in it. And the other cocktail was the spicy cucumber margarita. It was also good, but not as impressive as one would hope, granted I’m part dragon when it comes to my tolerance for heat.

For an appetizer we split a burrata special served with a colorful spectrum of heirloom tomatoes, garlic roasted eggplant and proscuitto. If you should be so lucky as to see it offered when you go, I highly recommend. The garlicky eggplant and the salty dried ham make the dish something special. Ask for extra bread as well. It’s a thin focaccia perfect for sopping up the oil and balsamic remnants. But try to show some restraint, because there is much ahead worth saving room for.

The best of which is the burger. An eclectic mix of flavors from its pita bread bun and harissa topping to a queso fresco option (which I recommend), cayenne aioli and ketchup. It was crazy messy and just as crazy good. As were the crinkled potatoes they serve them with.

Another winner was the quinoa salad with avocado and lemon. It’s light and refreshing, but nothing you can’t find at a Le Pain Quotidien.

The only miss we had was the chicken cilantro soup. It was woefully bland both in terms of salt and spice. Even after adding copious amounts of both it was still only just okay.

And now for the closer… The churros are churrmendous! Both in size and execution. Crispy on the outside, soft and nummy, nummy on the inside. Served with a caramel dipping sauce and vanilla ice cream, both of which need to be used in tandem in order to achieve the maximum effect. And by maximum effect I mean on your belt holes, because by the time you leave here you will be on the very last one.

4 teeth

Iron Horse

20 Wheeler Ave. Pleasantville, NY10570 • (914) 741-0717ironhorsepleasantville.com

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It would appear that for a nice lunch on a Monday in Westchester, the options are quite thin. 40% of the places are closed because it’s a Monday. Another 40% are closed because they don’t open for lunch. And another 10% full into the chain/fast/not-so “nice” bucket. So with our pickings being slim, we went to one of the only places that was open, Iron Horse. Fortunately I had been wanting to try it for a while, so things worked out swimmingly.

That said, upon entering the restaurant it quickly became apparent why our options were so meek, we were the only table in the joint. From the time we entered to the time we left not a single other patron so much as set foot inside for consideration. So, for financial reasons alone, I can understand why most restaurants choose to forego the lunch offering.

Suffice it to say, however, that the service was excellent, we were treated like we were the only customers there…because, well, we were. And while the dining room is a touch dated, that’s also kind of its charm.

As for food, we shared the burrata caprese starter which was very good. Served with a heaping dollop of creamy goodness placed over a bed of peppery greens, drizzled with a balsamic, basil dressing and flanked with a rainbow of heirloom tomatoes. Very strong start and a well chosen recommendation by our server.

Her other two recos weren’t quite as stellar, unfortunately. The crab cakes were good, made with a ton of crab and very little filler, which I like, but I missed the heat. Nothing came from the remoulade and nothing in the cake itself.

And the burger, apart from being over-cooked, was much better sounding on paper. The caramelized onions are really the only things that break through, netting it out to be a very average burger experience. The fries, however proved very strong.

Then, finally for dessert, which we initially tried to pass up because we were stuffed , we were served a medley of cookies with the check. Chocolate, ginger, shortbread and almond. All were good, mainly because they were free cookies, but the latter two were my favs.

As for the knife count I’m afraid this is a rare one where I’m going to have to agree with the Yelping consensus… Three knives. But a very solid three.

3 teeth

Brushstroke

30 Hudson St. New York, NY 10013(212) 791-3771 • davidbouley.com/brushstroke-main

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Once upon a time David Bouley was at the pinnacle of the culinary game. I ate at his flagship back in 1995 and it was as if I had never truly understood the purpose of having a mouth until that day.

Well, since then I have eaten at Danube (RIP) and now Brushstroke and while both restaurants were/are definitely good, neither are even close to what Bouley once was.

Located on the gravesite of Danube, a striking Klimt museum with food, this new swipe at glory comes from the Far East, backed by Japan’s finest culinary school, boasting more Michelin stars than the next ten schools combine. But unfortunately none of that really matters. Because at the end of the day, all one ever cares about is whether or not it gives you a foodgasm.

Well, ecstasy was regrettably not in the cards, although many a dish in our tasting menu was indeed tasty. My favorite was the soup with foie gras. The smoked duck with sweet potato was a close second and the pork belly with peach and walnuts a close third. The custard and lobster soup was also pretty great, but the custard got to be a little much after the lobster ran out. The sashimi would be next for me with the best of it being the sweet shrimp. And then I’d go with the langoustines served with heirloom tomatoes or the skate and rice soup. Granted the latter was a bit too salty to be fair.

After that it was pretty average, mixed with a few flat-out misses for such a price point. The biggest misses being the rock fish entrée, which was so bland they tried to zazz it up with shrimp and mussels and even those couldn’t save it. The other fish option, the drum fish, had its zazz built in and was much, much better.

But the biggest misses of the night were the desserts. We had three and of the lot we didn’t finish a single one. The best was the soy ice cream with pecan, but that’s not saying much, because both green tea desserts weren’t even worthy of star-shaped sticker from one of my daughter’s sticker books, much less one from Michelin.

Service was good, but not flawless. A couple of mistakes here and there, like trying to clear a dish before it was finished. And décor, while nice, simply can’t compare to Danube.

And now for my biggest issue of the meal, the tasting menu itself. It is littered with additions to various courses, but for a hefty fee, and by “hefty” I mean roughly the cost of an entire meal at most other restaurants ($45-75 depending on the addition). So, you wind up feeling like a cheapskate for not adding them, when you are already throwing down some serious coin as is. And of course those dishes are the best sounding options on the menu. But if you opted in for each of them, you would more than double the cost of your dinner. So, make up your mind Brushstoke, either up the cost of your tasting menu and make it better, create a separate more expensive tasting menu that has these options already on it, or lose them altogether.

Back on the plus side, the cucumber and roasted almond gin cocktail is incredible. Refreshing, with a nice twist of dusted almonds on the rim. And the gin they use was so smooth I think it lifted a twenty out of my wallet without me even noticing. No wonder it’s been on the top ten list of Manhattan cocktails three years running. If only everything that followed was at the same level, then we’d be talking five knives instead of three.

3 teeth

 

BOA Steakhouse

101 Santa Monica Blvd. Santa Monica, CA 90401 • (310) 899-4466 • innovativedining.com/restaurants/boa

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If you heard that it’s a great place for star spotting, I’m afraid that’s the other one. This one is just for a good steak. Although the last time I was there, we did see Jon Favreau so go figure. And while it’s no Mastro’s, if you’re craving a steakhouse experience on the West side, I would look no further. That said, I wasn’t actually THAT impressed with the steak itself to be honest. The blackened sea bass was a bit of an eh as well, granted as gargantuan as that hunk of fish was, I found it impressively well cooked.

The goat cheese baklava, however… Thank you Yelpers! Would’ve never thought to order it without your reco. But my god is that thing good! Best dish of the night. Both times I’ve been here. So flaky and creamy and nummy nummy.

As for the Caesar salad, it’s good. But, it’s just a Caesar salad at the end of the day. And the heirloom tomatoes don’t exactly wow either. The blue crab cocktail on the other hand is quite money (belated Jon Favreau sub-reference). Second best thing of the meal.

In terms of sides, the chipotle lime corn is definitely the clear winner, followed by the truffle cauliflower. The creamed spinach, was just okay as was the squash medley. And while the truffle cheese fries aren’t terrible, they are terribly gut-busting, which isn’t ideal when you’re trying to make room for a 50+ dollar steak.

For desserts, skip the crumble. The maple, bacon Bonut (get it? BOA’s branded version of the Cronut) was a table-pleaser, although WAY too bready to truly be compared to its namesake. The cookies and ice cream were another table fav. Followed by the S’mores.

As for service, while friendly, it’s a tad on the slow/spotty side. The view is stellar, overlooking the ocean. And the decor is clean and modern. So all in all a solid good. But definitely shy of great.

3 teeth

 

The Ultimate Caprese Salad

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Jeans Georges – New York, NY

I know a lot of people find this place very hit and miss, but for us it was more of a grand slam. So many great dishes. And among those was one very simple classic, done with such an inventive culinary twist it left an enduring impression. Obviously in such a basic dish ingredients are key, so let’s just assume they were impeccable. But what one shouldn’t assume is that it was just tomato, basil and mozz, because you’d only be 33% right. It starts with a gigantic beefsteak tomato. Gigantic in both size and flavor. But then, it is topped with a layer of finely crumbled feta. And on top of that, raspberries? Now, of course there was also a wonderful oil and balsamic. And, there might’ve even been finely chopped basil to brighten the berries. But whatever it was, the one thing it wasn’t was forgettable.

Piccolo – Venice, CA

On a presentation level alone I have to tip my hat to Piccolo, because they break the mold and throw out the plate when it comes to their caprese. Served upright as a parfait, this tower of Summer bliss leaves nothing to be desired. And what may at first seem like a gimmick quickly translates to sheer oral pandemonium as its flavors ping pong around your mouth like the gold medal round of Olympic table tennis.

Capo – Santa Monica, CA

This is the most traditional of the lot, but even Capo takes a slight detour from the norm, opting for a ridiculously creamy burrata in lieu of your standard mozz. The tomatoes are also something special. A medley of heirloom in a host of flavors, shapes and colors ranging from sweet to meaty to “no, I’m not sharing.”