Plates

121 Myrtle Blvd. Larchmont, NY 10538(914) 834-1244 platesonthepark.com

26DINEWE1-popup

I know this won’t come as any great epiphany to most of you, but the restaurant industry is inherently a service-based industry, and the reason I feel the need to point this out is not because I worry that you might’ve forgotten it, it’s because I believe some of the restaurants have. My most recent case in point being Plates, where not only did our waiter seem like he didn’t know what he was doing, it also seemed like he wasn’t even entirely sure where he was.

But amateur service aside, the décor is nice, yet a touch simple, with nothing truly unique about it, in a standalone structure that has a slightly homey vibe to it, save the white walls.

The food itself is a bit of a mixed bag with a slight lean toward the positive. The positive-est being the mini-est, the bite-sized short rib tacos. But quite the bite they are. The other big plus of the night was the NY strip entrée, cooked medium rare, of course, and definitely sourced by a pro.

A notch below the highest of the highs, was a very good pork dish, that only missed on the woeful mistake of overcooking it. The preparation, however, was quite toothsome, served with bok choy, prune and vanilla to sweeten the deal and a caraway, garlic spaetzle to make things interesting, in a starchy kinda way.

In the middle of the road I’d put the tuna tartar served in the same old cylinder you’ve seen a thousand times, atop the same old cylinder of avocado that’s been served a billion times over since the 90’s. Along side the tuna I’d also put the amuse bouche of duck croquettes, which also failed to wow. As did the restaurant’s self-proclaimed area of expertise, smoking. Having heard that the bird is in fact the word, I chose the smoked duck legs and I don’t know what people are smoking, but the smoking here is not all that. Head up to Portchester and go to Q if you want to taste what I call smokin’ smoking.

But let’s not end things on a down note, shall we? After all, I did like Plates on the whole and a huge reason as to why is their wine list. Not very extensive mind you, but it’s more of a list of quality, not quantity, which is my preference 99 times out of 100. The only exception being when the small list happens to be so pricey that it backs you into a pricey corner. Not here though. The Chateauneuf du Pape was not only stellar, it was under a C note. And just enough to hand Plates three knives.

3 teeth

The Schoolhouse

34 Cannon Rd. Wilton, CT 06897 • (203) 529-7751 • schoolhouseatcannondale.com

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I love New York City. I love it times infinity. For providing a virtually limitless array of culinary experiences ranging from dives to the exquisite and every nationality or cultural niche you could possibly think of. But the one thing New York can’t do is be a quaint, refurbished schoolhouse like something pulled right out of the show, Little House on the Prairie.

But as unique and charming as the Schoolhouse is, it’s definitely not what I would call dressy, per the classification on Yelp. Unless you consider a fleece and chinos dapper. That said, the place is still a class act from the service to the seasonal menu, which not only rotates based on the harvest, but by party. And what I mean by that is that the menu itself actually has the name of your party printed right on it! Nice touch.

Starting class off with a lesson in awesomeness, the parsnip and apple soup was superb- well, initially it was served a touch tepid, so we asked them to heat it up, but after that, it was sheer perfection. As were the mussels with cauliflower. Such a simple twist on a classic dish that not only made it unique, but brilliant to taste, as the cauliflower served as a blank canvas to soak up the delicious broth.

The only slacker in first period was the salad with squash, goat cheese and pecans. It was bit over-dressed and comparatively, a bit underwhelming.

For the main event, we covered three different options on the menu with the branzini going to the head of the class. Best entrée of the three by far, served over a creamy celery root puree, along with roasted beets that made this dish an A++.

The NY Strip was cooked perfectly, served over mashed potatoes, with caramelized onions and broccolini, but having just had the transcendent beef tenderloin only days before at The Inn at Pound Ridge, I couldn’t help but find myself wanting more from the Schoolhouse strip. I also felt similarly about the duck, not that I had just eaten that at Pound Ridge too, but I did find myself craving more oomph, especially in light of such previous highs such as the soup, mussels and the fish.

Before class was dismissed, we stayed for extra credit, ordering the chocolate soufflé for dessert. And while very good, it is served with a completely unnecessary chocolate dipping sauce, because the soufflé itself is plenty ooey-gooey and chocolaty all by its lonesome. Also, I found the homemade vanilla ice cream served with it just okay.

All in, when you take into account the novel experience, culinary craft and the fact that even the misses were still pretty solid, it’s hard to give The Schoolhouse anything less than four knives, but to be fair, I am grading on a curve.

4 teeth

Red O

1541 Ocean Ave. Santa Monica, CA 90401(310) 458-1600 redorestaurant.com

Screen Shot 2015-11-21 at 9.47.50 AM

I know Rick Bayless is a name in the industry, but after that performance his name should be Please Cookless, because nada was bueno. Well, in terms of the food, anyway. The décor and energy (code for noisy) of the place is actually great. And they sport a nice range of tequilas should you want to go that way. They also have a pretty long list of cocktails as well, which I can only assume is designed to get you all liquored up so you’re awareness is impaired about the mediocrity you are about to eat.

Unfortunately the booze wasn’t enough to distract me from the piss poor service. Friendly for sure, but sloppy and slow. She completely forgot our guacamole order and missed on every recommendation, granted the fact that there’s nothing truly great on the menu makes it awfully hard to win in that scenario.

Amid the sea of asi asi (translation: so so) are the goat cheese tamales, which are okay on taste, but very mushy on texture. The duck taquitos, which were dry and tasteless, needing the addition of one of the salsas from the chips to give it moisture and make it worth half its salt. Oh, which reminds me… it needed more salt.

For the entrees, the shrimp and rice was “pretty standard” (to be read like Dr. Evil), the fennel lobster tails were a big ho hum and the NY strip with chimichurri, while the best of the three, is certainly no reason to come here.

Hell, they even managed to fuck up the churros, which are a foodie lay up, if you ask me. Way too hard and dry. And the chocolate and caramel dip wasn’t even close to being rich or flavorful enough to save them. But perhaps I’m to blame for not heeding the warning on the door. After all, “Zero” is right in the name. And that’s what this place is, a flaming red zero.

1 tooth

Manny’s Steakhouse

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

from-sake-bombs-to-stunning-27th-floor-views-this-is-thrillist-s-skyway-bar-crawl

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

Winston

130 E Main St. Mount Kisco, NY 10549 • (914) 244-9780winstonrestaurant.com

o

Well that was a pleasant surprise. We had no idea what to expect when we set foot inside, but the décor is really quite fetching with its dramatic skylight, exposed brick and divided light windows. Unfortunately they undercut its beauty a tad by over-lighting the place.

The other surprise came from how young our server was, borderline an embryo, I’m not sure he was even old enough to serve. Which brings me to the cocktails. Having read online about how great they are, we were very excited to partake. I went with the Gentleman’s Fig and wifey chose the blood orange margarita. Sadly, I can’t say we shared the same enthusiasm for the booze. For starters, the Gentleman’s Fig is so sickly sweet I’m not exactly sure what gentleman would ever order it? Granted I did, so… selfie slam! And as for the blood orange margarita, it was marginally passable. The one at Truck and ABC Cocina rock its world.

Things picked up from there, however, with two great appetizers, the salmon tartar and the beef carpaccio. Both served with an inventive twist and both worthy of a FF stamp of approval. FF being short for Ferocious Foodie. Should I not go there? Thoughts?

For mains the striped bass was well cooked and prepared with really nice flavors like pear relish, sautéed spinach and herbed potato dumplings. It was definitely the better of the two. The other being a NY Strip grilled in a cumin-mustard rub and served over smashed baby potatoes with kale in a port wine reduction. And while all of that other stuff was indeed as awesome as it sounds, the steak itself was tough and flavorless, even though it was cooked to spec, medium rare.

And the ending only weakened from there, running out of the only dessert we were interested in, the warm apple tart. But apart from walking away empty handed desert-wise, the rest of the meal was still strong enough to carry things to a solid three. Let’s see if they can impress further come round two…

3 teeth

Old Homestead

56 9th Ave. New York, NY 10011(212) 242-9040 theoldhomesteadsteakhouse.com

 old1_500w-320x320

This old school NY Steakhouse is so old, you’ll to feel like you hit a wormhole when you entered through the door. Suddenly it’s as though you’re back in the 1800’s from the decor, to the staff to portion control. And once you see the size of those portions, it’s kinda hard to focus on anything else- or perhaps see around your food to look at anything else. Yes, it’s THAT big. Guess no one told them gluttony is a sin.

I had a NY Strip that was about the size of my forearm, no exaggeration. A baked potato that was about the size of a newborn baby, slight exaggeration. But thing is, it wasn’t half bad. To be honest I found the food to be much better than Smith and Wollensky’s and The Palm, but that’s not saying much. And while Homestead isn’t what I would call “great,” portions withstanding, it’s definitely worth a visit for novelty sake. After all, it’s not often that a steakhouse serves portions only slightly smaller than the animal from whence they came. Almost reminds me of the Steakhouse version of an old NYC favorite of mine from long ago, the Royal Canadian Pancake House (RIP)- also insanely massive portions – pancakes the size of manhole covers, no exaggeration- but I digress.

3 teeth

Aria

100 N Tryon St. Charlotte, NC 28202(704) 376-8880 • ariacharlotte.com

 15174_1371521906

Depending on how you enter you might have two entirely different impressions of the décor. From the street it’s very nice. Heavily influenced by Craft in New York City I’m guessing. But if you cut through the Bank of America building, the entrance from that side is very unfortunate as you enter through a rather unappealing indoor mall, with an even lesser appealing entrance to the restaurant.

But either way, once you sit down, you are in for a treat. The menu really has some wowsers on it. At the top of those wowsers would be the lamb shank with tallegio polenta. Three of my favorite things one plate, served moist and stanky. I regrettably offered to share so I only had about half of it, but at least it afforded me the opportunity to sample a number of other dishes.

A very close second to the lamb was the fettuccine carbonara with pancetta. Perfectly done and as good as any place I’ve ever had it. Highly recommend it as a shared dish, because it’s as rich as the bankers on the floors above.

And speaking of rich, the peanut butter and chocolate dessert was another crowd-pleaser. And I don’t usually dig on peanut butter desserts, but this one was undeniable.

Other highs would be the scallop crudo. Very fresh, with a nice touch of heat to complement the sweetness of the mollusk. The salmon entrée. And the Crostada, which was basically a blackberry crumble.

From there the drop off to goodsville was steady, marked by a rib eye special which was a touch too fatty to be great, the NY strip, which was too hyped and too overcooked to live up to the hype and a kale salad that was, well, a kale salad.

And while there were a few misses, none of them were severe. For example, the gnocci with pear and prosciutto was great if you had a bite with all three ingredients at once. The problem is that it’s served with only enough of everything to do that for about five or six bites and then you’re left stranded with a bunch of boring potato dumplings.

Another hyped miss was the eggplant parmesan. It was honestly nothing better than you’d get at an Olive Garden for half the price. And same goes for the Tiramisu.

But after so many highs, it’s hard to complain too much about the food. Service, on the other hand, is definitely worth picking on. They simply aren’t up to the caliber of food they are serving. They are too slow and disorganized for such a seemingly high-end experience that boasts touches like a table in the kitchen and a wine list with bottles north of $500. All they need to do is weld the back entrance shut and hire new waiters and Aria would easily reach a full four knives, but as of now, I’m going with a strong 3.5.

3 teeth

Manzo

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

Manzo_RestaurantRotator01_840x398

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