Bistro Bis

15 E St NW Washington, DC 20001(202) 661-2700bistrobis.com

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Located in George Hotel this is a great option for those who want convenience of location without sacrifice on awesome. The décor is very nicely done, as one might expect from the chain. Elegant and classic, yet somehow also modern.

As for the food, I kinda blame out waitress for getting us off on the wrong foot, claiming the steak tartar with quail egg and a porcini mushroom aioli, to be the best she’s ever had. Obviously she’s never been to Manzo in New York or Pastis in Cannes, because both of those destroy Bis’ very lame attempt at an Ultimate. As John Bender from the Breakfast Club would say, “Not even close, Bud!”

Now what she should’ve recommended was the seared foie gras over a hazelnut pain perdu with pickled rhubarb and spiced rhubarb gastrique. It was so friggin’ yum it almost restored my faith in Capital Hill… almost.

The other dish our waitress could’ve gone with was the octopus. My second fave of the night, perfectly charred and dolled up with chorizo, sweet peppers and spring onions placed over a bed of squid ink pasta and drizzled in a white bean emulsion. This is one of those dishes that sounds too complicated for its own good, but they somehow manage to pull it all together.

Another pleaser, not quite at the level of those other two starters was the frisee salad with applewood smoked bacon, duck confit and a poached egg dressed in an aged sherry vinaigrette. It won’t quite rock your world, but if it’s what you’re craving then you’ll definitely be happy.

For entrees, I tried both the sea scallops and the trout and I have to give it to the trout, no contest. Made in a classic prep with a twist they use capers, lemon, crisp ham and parsley brown butter and then accompany the fish with haricots verts and a pommes chateau. It was moist and flavorful and exactly what the doctor ordered. And yes, I have a doctorate in eating.

The sea scallops, however, failed to bring the zazz that one might expect from its preparation. Again, a twist on a common thai black rice dish, made with the additions of coriander roasted carrots, smoked shitake mushrooms and a ginger-port wine reduction.

I like what this chef is made of though, reaching for the stars and catching just enough to make me want dessert. But sadly I had to rush to catch the Acela home so I guess I’ll have to return for seconds, especially for the apple tart (pictured). Damn does that look good!

3 teeth

Quality Italian

57 W 57th St. New York, NY 10019 • (212) 390-1111 •  qualityitalian.com

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The name of this restaurant, and its sibling Quality Meats, might be the least alluring names in the restaurant industry other than maybe Fatburger. It reeks of defensiveness. “Ohhh, so you have to say that you’re high ‘quality,’ which obviously means you’re not.

Well, doubters be silenced, because the name is not defensive. It’s accurate. And it’s also quite nice. Again, nothing you would ever glean from a name that evokes images of neon yellow starbursts, but the décor really is well done. Cool and industrial with its exposed cement ceiling (which does make it a bit noisy) and iron beams, mixed with beautiful lighting fixtures, glass walls of wine and rich mahogany.

And speaking of wine, they have a terrific sommelier who buys exceptional wines in such large quantities that they can offer them at incredible prices. For example, we enjoyed a 2009 Brunello at two-thirds the price of what it should’ve been.

Our server, a poor man’s Galifanakis, was also very good, sporting a touch of that New York bite, while still managing to be very attentive and good with the suggestions.

Delving into the menu, which almost reads like part steakhouse, part Italian, I went with the most hyped up dishes I could, while stealing bites off of other plates at my table.

Of those hyped dishes the one I was the most skeptical about was the sausage and pepper toast. It didn’t even sound all that great on paper, like going to see a movie with a boring trailer. Always scary. Scary delicious that is. Sort of a take on a Chicago style hotdog or bratwurst, loaded with onions and hot peppers. Hard to go wrong there.

Unfortunately it was easier to go wrong elsewhere. Two of the other three starters at the table were sub par. The breaded oysters were disappointingly bland for something so loaded up with caloric goodies.

And the shrimp crudo was also a bit of a snore. Granted it tried to be something more, with the use of an herb infused marinade, but it just didn’t impress. On the plus side, the kale salad did.

The next hyped dish to arrive was the dry aged porterhouse agnolotti, and while it is most certainly good, it was the weakest of the three hyped dishes. Cooked al dente and loaded with wonderful flavors from the meat, it was undercut but dryness. And when I compare it to the likes of Manzo’s meat filled agnolotti, it is merely an apprentice in the presence of a master.

As for the non-hyped dishes, the bucatini with clams is very good and I highly recommend. Also served perfectly al dente, but done in a nice red sauce with some kick. The other was a filet cooked perfectly medium rare with a nice char on it, sidled next to a crispy bone marrow presentation that definitely made every bite of the meat sing.

But ohhh the sides. To even call them “sides” is actually a slight, because they are anything but supporting roles, they are Ultimates. And nobody puts baby in a corner, so move them away from the edges of the table- both the corn créme brulée and the Tuscan fries belong center stage. The corn, just as the name implies, is the love child between cream of corn and créme brulée, playing it faithful right down to the hard caramel top. So good you’ll want to shoot it into your veins. And as for the fries, they’re thick cut, with a nice dusting of herbs, salt and pepper. Crispy on the outside and warm and fluffy everywhere else.

Ending strong, our waiter braved the potential comparison to Marc Forgione recommending the s’mores dessert, and while Marc’s still reigns supreme, Quality Italian does a quality job. Served two ways, first as a chocolate tart with graham cracker crust and marshmallow topping, and second as an ice cream. Both are good, but I recommend eating them as separates, not together.

Not without its misses. Not without its hits. But the hits won the day, even in the face of surmounting hype, which brings us to the finally tally of…

4 teeth

 

Manzo

200 5th Ave. New York, NY 10010 • (212) 229-2180 • eatalyny.com

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Having eaten at literally every other restaurant in Eataly, it was time to bite the bullet. And by bullet I mean absurd amounts of meat.

To start, just a quick nod to the excellent service. As for decor, it’s Eataly. So, unless you are prepared to sit amongst the chaos, you will not find this particularly nice or romantic. That said, it is offset in its own little corner, so it’s not quite as chaotic as the rest of the restaurants there.

Okay, now for the food… First, the the wine by the glass, the Montepulciano was excellent and went perfect with our meal. Gotta give a huge thumbs up to Eataly as a whole for offering solid “by the glass” options. So few places do. Also, the bread and olive oil were excellent. And the best part, you can go buy both in the market right after your meal.

Now for the main event: The Carne Crudo is a very solid good. So buttery and creamy. But I actually found that the crostinis competed with its flavor and that it went much better with the house bread, which allowed the quality of the dish to shine even brighter.

Next we had the Agnolotti and I practically melted in my seat along with the pasta as it exploded with beefy goodness in my mouth.

And for entrees, we split the pork belly and the NY strip. And while the strip was perfectly cooked with wonderful compliments, the pork belly was sheer artistry.

And last but not least, for dessert we had the bambolinos (beignets) and the chocolato. Both are great, but I’m a sucker for beignets, so they won as far as I’m concerned.

The only downside was that I was so full after lunch I didn’t eat again for the rest of the day. Or maybe that’s a good thing, because I’m not sure my arteries could’ve handle much more.

5 teeth

Maysville

17 W 26th St. New York, NY 10010(646) 490-8240maysvillenyc.com

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I would say it’s the best kept secret in the Flatiron, but considering it’s always full , I guess it’s not that much of a secret. Granted no one I work with has even heard of the place. Well, that changed as soon as I returned from lunch as I ran through the office like a culinary Paul Revere, shouting the news to the world, “Maysville Rocks!”

First, the Bourbon Bonnet– a cocktail made from habanero infused bourbon, pineapple, cherry and something else that I was too buzzed to remember. Maybe cucumber, as it was actually light and refreshing, while also being spicy at the same time. Incredible drink. Too incredible.

Did I say incredible, perhaps I should’ve reserved that for the two starters. Both were… um… (I hate this word, but since incredible is already taken) AMAZEBALLS! I highly recommend the crunchy grits. Flash fried into cubes to create a crunchy outer shell, as the name implies, while remaining deliciously moist and cheesy inside. This is then topped with country ham, and the whole thing sits atop a drizzle of bourbon aioli. Very healthy. But so good even your arteries will agree. Oh, and if you are starting to wonder what’s with all the bourbon, whiskey is kinda the theme here. But don’t think that means it looks like a pub or anything. The décor is actually quite nice. Modern meets rustic.

Okay, back to the food. The other starter is the roasted oysters. Not quite as decadent as the grits, but equally strong in its own right. And also packing heat.

Next came the sandwiches which we split. One was the fish, the other a pulled pork sandwich. Both were very, very good. Maybe half a notch below the awesome apps. And the only pulled pork sandwich I like better would be at The Dutch.

So, after such a crazy good run, I had to push it. I had to see if they could pull off the trifecta, so we ordered dessert. A bourbon (shocker) soaked bread pudding. It came highly recommended by our server as the way to end the meal- granted the lemon bar also sounded pretty great, but we went on trust. Now, it wasn’t bad mind you, it was good. But good is a failure compared to everything that proceeded it, so unfortunately I can’t go a full five knives.

Also, the service was a tad on the slow side, I have to say. But when all was said and done, I think this place earns every last one of its four stars in spades. Especially when there are so many other bloated 4 star restaurants on Yelp that shouldn’t be over 2 stars. Thank you Maysville for being the real deal. Can’t wait to return.

***Okay, so I returned for dinner with Wifey and I stand by my word and my knives. I also stand by three other amazing dishes. First, the charred flatbread with a fried egg on top, pickled red onion, mesclun, pork belly and of course, cheese. So good. Another was the soft shell crab served over a bed of black-eyed peas in a vinegar sauce that lighted the dish up and made it one of the best soft shell crab dishes I’ve ever had. And last but not least, the strawberry shortcake with basil ice cream for dessert. Light, refreshing and the use of basil is just a stoke of simple genius.

On the miss side of things, the ramp and asparagus pasta was just okay. A bit too precious with its faint hint of lemon. And the other dish that I can shout from the rooftops about would be the beef tartar with quail egg. It’s good. But just two blocks away resides the best beef tartar the world has ever known at Manzo in Eataly, so it was hard for me not to compare.

Also, one last thing I forgot to mention the last time, the cornbread is always money. Moist and rich with the flavor of actual corn, as opposed to so many other cornbreads that slink by using crutches like jalapenos and cheese.

4 teeth

Eataly

200 5th Ave. New York, NY 10010(212) 229-2560 • eataly.com

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I see a lot of people struggling with their expectations for this place, hence the lower than normal reviews on Yelp for a Batali restaurant. That said, this isn’t a restaurant. It is more of a “market,” or as I like to call it, an Italian gourmet food bazaar. And personally, I think it’s the best thing Batali has ever done. By a wide margin. And I’ve eaten at 6 of his restaurants prior to this (Babbo, Del Posto, Lupa, Tarry Lodge, Mozza & Mozza Pizzeria).

Sure, the place is chaotic and noisy. But if you leave your preconceived notions back at your apartment and go with an open mind, you will see that chefs can be creative in other ways besides what’s on your plate.

That said, the food is excellent, and I have fully completed the rounds, eating at all seven (La Pizza, La Pasta, Verdure, Pesce, Manzo, La Piazza & Birreria) of the restaurants within Eataly, plus the sandwich counters, the fresh pasta counter, cheese case, patisserie, gelato shop and bakery. And this place never ceases to amaze. I mean just think about how difficult it must be to serve this kind of quality at that kind of scale- it’s a feat unlike any other and they pull it off day in and day out. I literally defy anyone to name a place that compares on both scale and quality. It just doesn’t happen. Because normally big means bad. So hats off to Eataly for being a delicious anomaly.

But most of all, I applaud Eataly for not making this place feel like a gimmick or theme restaurant. Granted, the name is quite tragic, but nobody’s perfect.

P.S. A few tips: 1) If you don’t know which olive oil to pick in the section toward the left rear corner, just lean over the aisle and ask someone coming out of  Manzo’s kitchen (their top of the line meat restaurant) which oil they are currently using. They are always kind to point it out, and it’s WAY better than what you’d get at O & CO, but for half the price. 2) Pawlet in the cheese case is incredible. As are many of their cheeses, including the taleggio, fresh ricotta, fresh mozzarella and grana. If you get the ricotta, I highly recommend the almond honey (antipasta case right side of main hall) and a loaf of rustica from the bakery. 3) At the stand up restaurant in the center, do NOT get the fish sandwich written up in New York Magazine. I have no idea what that critic was thinking, but it is literally the ONLY thing I have ever hated at Eataly and Ive easily eaten here over 50 times.

5 teeth