Le Coq Rico

30 E 20th StNew York, NY 10003 • (212) 267-7426 • lecoqriconyc.com

According to our waiter, the chef gave up his Michelin star to open this place. Which, in the echelons of stupid decisions, ranks right up there with Jordan’s decision to leave the Bulls so that he could play for the White Sox.

Why so harsh? Well, first because I’m ferocious. And second because this place is literally for the birds. It also just might be the first place I’ve come across that’s as overpriced and overhyped as Eleven Madison Park. Not one thing was amazing save the price tags, ringing in at digits you’re more likely to see at The Strip House. But without the gluttonous satisfaction you at least get from a steakhouse meal.

The Plymouth Rock whole Chicken for example, rings in at nearly $100 and is no better than the one you get at Whole Foods for less than the sales tax on this bird. But shame on us for listening to our waiter who always recommended the most expensive thing on the menu and never chose a single winner, including the wine, going 0 for 3.

The blah continued, even with a layup like seared foie gras, which is actually the first time in my life that I didn’t finish this dish because it was so bland. The terrine version is much better, but even that failed to truly impress me. It’s just the better of the two options if you simply must dine on goose liver.

The fries are also just okay, again, grossly over-hyped by comparison to the likes of the Phoenician Fries at Ilili. Even the profiteroles for desert were a big ole ball of meh.

In fact, the only dish of the night I would feel comfortable recommending is the artichoke salad with gizzards. It’s quite good and between that and the décor it’s just barely enough to keep this place from getting one knife… Barely.

The Spotted Pig

314 W 11th St. New York, NY 10014(212) 620-0393 thespottedpig.com

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I have to applaud Yelp for not buying into the hype hook, line and sinker just because James Beard and Michelin apparently have. That said, I still find Yelp’s 3.5 stars to be a bit overstated as well.

Let me explain by starting with the “spotted” service. Not only do they make it painfully annoying to get a table as a result of not taking reservations, they get so crowded that the wait can grow as steep as an hour and 45 minutes by 6:30pm! So right off the bat, you’re basically going into the experience with a this-better-be-fucking-worth-it mindset, which is never good for anyone. I mean, by that point the only way a restaurant is ever going to fair well is if every bite on the menu is on physiological par with an orgasm. But on the plus side, as ridiculous as the wait is, the hosts handle it well. No attitude and they text you when your table is ready so you can go off and drink at another bar until your table is ready. Which also doesn’t bode well for them, because now you’re an angry drunk waiting far longer than is reasonable, only to be seated in an overcrowded dinning room that is so warm you’d swear you were going through menopause, all for food that simply isn’t worth it (more on that later).

As for the actual waiters, they are slow in both senses of the term, getting us the deviled eggs instead of the devils on horseback and then trying to charge us twice for the devils on horseback. But what was especially annoying was the lack of attention to speed of service. After all, wouldn’t one think, “hey, these people just waited nearly two hours for their table, perhaps I should try to make them wait as little as possible from here on out.” But nooooo, not here. It was the longest burger and beer experience of my life, lasting nearly four hours.

Now for the “spotted menu,” which proved to be so disappointing, starting off with the Spotted Pig Bitter, made with bubbles so infinitesimally small that it comes off as flat. But at least it had good flavor to it. Just pales in comparison to Blue Bird Bitter if you’ve ever had it.

As for the infamous Devils on Horseback, they are definitely good, but a bit too moist through and through, if you ask me. I much prefer the contrasty version, where the crisp bacon gives way to the moist, gooey date, like at Boqueria.

The runaway surprise hit of the night was the Apple Salad. It’s just awesome, but bone simple, hence we made a dead ringer of it at home the very next day without even having to look up a recipe online. It’s comprised of Pink Lady apples cut in large chunks, fresh parsley, a bit of arugula, sharp (aged) cheddar or manchego and a dressing made with apple cider vinegar, red chili infused olive oil, Dijon, honey and red pepper flakes to taste.

The most over-hyped dish of the night was easily the burger (pictured). Hidden beneath a tower of shoestring fries in hopes of masking its inadequacies. Sure, the patty is good, but it was so boring without ketchup and mustard, relying way too heavily on the roquefort cheese to carry it to greatness, toward which it falls miserably short. Instead, I highly suggest you head to Minetta Tavern for the Black Label Burger, which actually lives up to its legend. Or the Bash burger at B&B Wine Pub, which has won the best burger in the city five years running. Or even Élan’s Duck Burger, which few know about, but blows the spots off of this pig.

And finally, there’s the Skirt Steak, which not only skirted around our order of medium rare, but came in horrendously chewy, filled with sinew to the point of almost making it off-putting had it not been for the mushrooms and kale on the plate with it.

Unless you have a bizarre foodie fetish and like the masochistic notion of waiting forever for food that isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, I vote that you skip the Pig and just make that apple salad at home. It really is quite something.

2 teeth

Le Moulin de Mougins

1028 ave Notre-Dame de Vie 06250 Mougins, France • 04.93.75.78.24 • moulin-mougins.com

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Moulin just might be the easiest three Michelin Star restaurant to get a reservation at in the world. We’re talking 24 hours notice on a Friday night kinda easy. Suspiciously easy. Like as in “is this place really as good as they say?” cause if it were, shouldn’t it be harder to get a table? Or is it simply the fact that Cannes goers don’t even have it on their radar? Thinking it’s too far or too expensive, neither of which are true.

Inside the décor is lovely with exposed parts of an antique mill poking through the walls here and there. However, the garden is truly the place to be, set on multiple levels with beautiful flowers triangulating every table. My one gripe would be on the lighting system, a lamp at the table’s center with the cord cutting across the top, dangling over one side. Can’t a brother get a candle up in this bitch? Or drill a hole in the center of the table and run the cord through? Or what about cordless lighting? Or overhead? I know I seem really distracted right now by something so seemingly trivial, but drawing even more attention to this problem was the fact that the lamp was attracting a horde of flies, which doesn’t exactly make for the most aesthetically pleasing centerpiece in the world. But dropping the subject since I can tell you’re annoyed, let’s get on with the review…

At the onset, things definitely started off cold, both figuratively and literally. The cold soup amuse bouche was so unimpressive I didn’t even bother to finish it, which had me nervous for a spell, but then a second amuse bouche hit the table and this one was very good. A spinach, bacon and cheese dip that when combine with their fresh baked fig bread was like a ballet of savory and sweet.

After that the hits were fast and furious with all three appetizers killing it! The seared foie gras with cherry compote and marinated slivers of cherry was excellent. As was the spider fish stuffed zucchini blossom and the asparagus risotto.

The two entrees I tried both rocked it as well. The duck, while served in an inventive, tubular presentation, was regrettably a touch on the dry side, but because it came with the dreamiest Ultimate mashed sweet potatoes, whipped into silk, this sidekick swooped in like Robin to its Batman, handily saving the day (and the dish).

Opposite the duck, the other main course was a moist, citrusy sea bass packed with favor and a touch of sweetness, also made special by it’s companion, an earthy black rice, that when placed together on the same fork was like a happy marriage between land and sea. Which, in a lesser-known ruling that the Supreme Court also legalized last week along with same-sex marriage.

Sadly desserts had the weakest showing of the night (other than the cold soup). The lemon tart was flat out terrible. The macaroon was okay and the chocolate, espresso tart was an imperceptible notch above the macaroon.

But all in all, one of the best means to be had in Cannesland. It’ll make you happier than winning a Grand Prix. Well, almost.

4 teeth

Per Se

10 Columbus Circle New York, NY 10019(212) 823-9335 • perseny.com

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If you should manage to get a reservation, congratulations. Now the bad news. While I found the dining room nicer than The French Laundry, the food isn’t quite up to the same astronomical, nor is the price tag .  And I’m not one to shit on Thomas Keller. I’m actually quite the fan. But when you’re playing at the tippy-top of the game, and the only chef in history to have two restaurants open at the same time with three Michelin Stars apiece, I expect nothing less than a life changing experience, and I’m sad to say it was not. Wallet-changing, maybe. But most definitely not life-changing. Thus, I am still the same old cocky, opinionated, know-it-all, blowhard.

Now, to be fair, one must take this review with a huge grain of- no, make that an entire industrial-sized bag of salt, because Per Se is still very, very good. In terms of service alone, it is on a whole other level. Not since Bouley in the early 90’s have I experienced anything like it. Swat team precision meets Russian ballet meets the “Be Our Guest” routine from Beauty and the Beast. I know you might be thinking, “really, how good can service truthfully be?” Well, just pick up a copy of the book “Service Included” and you will understand that Per Se makes a place like Daniel look like amateur hour service-wise.

As for decor, Keller likes to keep things “undistracting.” He doesn’t want the ambiance to compete with the plate and thus you won’t find anything the likes of a Jean-Georges restaurant. And while I did find it a touch boring, it still out-shines The Laundry simply due to one stunning trump card- floor to ceiling windows overlooking Central Park.

Now for the food. This is where I think many a Richie Rich, is over-convincing themselves that the cuisine here is spectacular simply because of the price. Which I get. Who wouldn’t want to rationalize spending all that coin? You need to justify it somehow, otherwise you’re libel to throw a conniption when you get the bill and wind up on the front page of The New York Post. But rationale aside, at this price and with this much hype, it should easily be one of the best meals of your life, and I can honestly say it doesn’t even crack my own personal top 100, in New York City alone!

3 teeth

Momoya

185 7th Ave. New York, NY 10011(212) 989-4466momoyanyc.com

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Sushi restaurants are so aplenty in Manhattan it’s hard to stand out from the sea of options between your local neighborhood joint and the cream of the crop, Michelin star destinations like Nobu and Masa.

But somewhere in the middle lies a vast expanse of Japanese eateries that range from cool to campy. Ones that are better than the average bear (to be read like Yogi), but not quite at the top of the game either.

These are the waters in which you will find the likes of Momoya. A very strong middle-of-the-road sushi restaurant that would easily be tops if it were located in Des Moines.

Fresh fish. Beautiful presentations and a sleek, clean décor. And while I found the pieces to be good, I also found them to be a bit miniscule, which only served to throw off the balance with some of their brines, because with such little fish, the brines easily overpowered most of my bites.

Also, while it was a plus that they carried my favorite Japanese dessert, mochi (ice cream dumplings wrapped in rice paper), the flavors were a touch subtle for my tastes.

So a runaway success it was not, but in Chelsea the options for great sushi are slim. Almost as slim as those tiny pieces of sushi, so if you’re not up for a trek over to Ootoya, I’d say pop a squat and enjoy. But definitely don’t go out of your way.

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