The Clocktower

5 Madison Ave. New York, NY 10010(212) 413-4300 • theclocktowernyc.com

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The Clocktower is so damn good, time stands still. From the moment you walk through the door, you are hit by a bar so insanely hip that you almost don’t want to head up the equally stylish spiral staircase. But please do, because b-b-b-b-b-baby you just ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Upstairs, the décor is simply magnificent. Like a grand, ritzy social club with high ceilings, huge rooms and stunning walls covered in a smattering of incredible black and white photography. And while the setting alone goes a long way in making you feel richer than you actually are, so does the staff, from waiters to hosts, you feel catered to like a Russian oligarch.

And that’s not just the booze talking, because I hadn’t even had a drink yet. But once I did, Whoa Nilly! I only tried two of the cocktails but both were excellent. The first going by the name The Cereal Killer, served in an old-fashioned mini milk bottle, complete with a red striped straw. It’s made with bourbon and Cheerios milk. Need I say more?

On the flip side from rich, the other end of the cocktail spectrum is nailed with comparable skill in the refreshingly light, Dill or no Dill. It’s comprised of gin, cucumber, lemon and dill, of course. Speaking of which, I love the touch they add to the glass with a teeny, tiny clothespin on the rim holding a sprig of fresh dill to the brim.

While we’re on the topic of hooch, the wine list is quite impressive as well, although the majority of the options are a bit steep ($200+), but luckily there are some solid affordable options on the list, even if they’re the minority. Like the Prisoner Cabernet blend (Syrah and Zin both play supporting roles) which I only just discovered days earlier. Great wine and an even better deal.

Firing on all cylinders, the food proves to be every bit as exquisite as its surroundings, plated with an architect’s eye, the presentations keep wowing one after the other, as do the bites. The first being the bread and butter, which might very well be an Ultimate, served warm, right out of the oven with a soft churned, salted butter that melts into every nook and cranny, making it a moral imperative to “get it while it’s hot.”

Going four for four on starters is also great way to get into my good graces, as all of them were shades of fabulous. In fact it was like Sophie’s Choice trying to decide which one was the best. The risotto with chanterelles, crispy veal sweetbreads and lemon confit was an Ultimate, so I tend to lean there, but that should take nothing away from the steak tartar au poirve with horseradish cream and charred onions which was superb. As were the pan seared scallops done up with cauliflower, pickled raisins and burnt butter. The native lobster might’ve been the least amazing of the bunch the more I think about it, but only in terms of flavor, because the presentation stole the show, served over ice, still in the tail, then mixed into an apple, mussel and fennel salad.

In terms of entrees, however, the winner was much more cut and dry. The lamb was the runaway champion, slow cooked and served with spiced eggplant and roasted salsify. Such a mastery of flavors on the fork, you have to stand in awe at the artistry. Following the lamb as a distant second would be the halibut with pink peppercorn sauce, seaweed and a carrot puree. And bringing up the rear was the filet mignon, which is a complete missed opportunity in my opinion (although the fries were good). Skip the steaks. There are so many inventive preparations on the menu that truly showcase the chef’s skill, so why would you ever go for something you could just as easily get at a Smith & Wollensky or Morton’s?

Closing strong, the dessert course also delivered yet another Ultimate, the best tart tatin I’ve had since La Goulue closed down (RIP). It’s made with pink lady apples and topped with Madagascar vanilla ice cream and if I could have children with a dessert it would most likely be this one. The other two desserts didn’t fare as well for me, however. I thought the pistachio soufflé with chocolate ice cream sounded amazing, but somehow fell short in execution, tasting less nutty and more chalky than one would hope. And the grapefruit sorbet with hazelnut streusel and fennel marmalade also proved to be better in theory than in practice.

But no place is without its misses and The Clocktower had very few. Surmounting its hype and outshining its next door neighbor Eleven Madison Park. Sure, them’s fightin’ words, but bring it on. I’d be happy to go toe to toe with any dissenting foodies out there who say otherwise. And I’m not just saying that because Clocktower is my new restaurant crush… Okay, that’s exactly why I’m saying it. But so what?

5 teeth

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Manny’s Steakhouse

825 Marquette Ave. Minneapolis, MN 55402(612) 339-9900 mannyssteakhouse.com

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So, apparently the Morton’s Steakhouse in Minneapolis closed down, and that’s not even the bad news. The really bad news is that Manny’s is the consolation prize. A poor man’s Morton’s if ever there were one, not that Morton’s is the end all be all of steakness either, but it’s still better than Manny’s.

Manny’s isn’t exactly bad, however, there’s just nothing amazing about it. It’s your run-of-the-mill steakhouse food you’ve eaten at least a hundred times over, with nothing impressionable enough to make a memory. You’ve got your Caesar salad, crab cakes, shrimp cocktail and seafood towers. Your New York Strip, Rib Eye, Porterhouse and Filets. The same old sides like mac and cheese, creamed spinach and baked potato.

But, if an old school steakhouse is what you’re craving in the twin cities, then I recommend The Strip Club in St. Paul. If that’s still not an option for you, however, then best of luck with Manny’s. It’s nothing spectacular and nothing terrible, just smack dab in the middle of steakhouse mediocrity. Good for large parties and testing out the elasticity of your stomach’s lining.

2 teeth

The Oceanaire

50 S 6th St. Minneapolis, MN 55403(612) 333-2277theoceanaire.com

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Coming from the East Coast, it’s a bit hard to accept that a place so far from any ocean would position itself as such a seafood Mecca. And as no surprise, Oceanaire falls horribly short of the high end seafood restaurants you might find near any coast.

But, within the confines of the Minneapolis comparative, it isn’t too bad. Lots of options. Great for large parties, especially of the business variety. Just don’t fool yourself into thinking that its average Yelp star count of 4 is equal to the same star count in the coastal equivalents. Because adjusted by comparison, this place is exactly what I rated it. Particularly if you factor in the hefty price tag.

On the plus side, the service has always been excellent, they have some choice wine options and if you stick to the stuff that holds up to being frozen, for example shrimp cocktail or fattier fishes like salmon, you’ll never see its cracks. Order the swordfish, however, and the mercury in it will be the least of your concerns. Served so overcooked and dry it rendered the dish a complete waste of money. Like if you went to Morton’s and order a filet medium rare and it came back as a charcoal briquette.

Oh and as for the “nice” decor that I keep seeing props for, it’s located in an indoor walkway/mall for Christ sake! I’m not exactly sure what passes for nice these days in Minneapolis, but Oceanaire squeaks by as passable if you ask moi.

2 teeth

Mastro’s Steakhouse

246 N Canon Dr. Beverly Hills, CA 90210(310) 888-8782 • mastrosrestaurants.com

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Let the gluttony begin! …Sorry, let the posh gluttony begin!

If you’re looking for a nicer, hipper version of Morton’s and Ruth’s Chris, this is the spot. Very cool décor. Great seafood and steak. Sides that stick to your, well, sides. Awesome wine least. Top notch service- and even top notcher prices. Definitely not for the penny pincher- but a great place for big business dinners or a bachelor party, etc… I had a lot of fun both times I ate here.

Some specific highlights are the seafood tower starter, the wagyu beef and the lobster mashed potatoes, because why even get out of bed if your mashed potatoes don’t have lobster in them? Creamed corn was also rib-sticking good. And, as previously stated, the “awesome” wine list is one you can get lost (and poor) in.

4 teeth