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.

Minetta Tavern

113 Macdougal St. New York, NY 10012(212) 475-3850minettatavernny.com

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If it weren’t for the reputation, most people would walk right past this place. Even upon entering, there is honestly nothing worth mentioning that you might not find at 100 other places that look and feel just like it in the city. It’s a gastro pub.

Also, not a fan of the reservation process. First of all, they block out 6pm to 9pm for people who have VIP status. So, unless you know someone, which I fortunately did, you can’t get a table at a reasonable time. That said, you can always walk in and eat at the bar. But even that can be a 30-45 min wait, and the bar area is my  definition of cramped hell. Not a place I would ever want to eat, with people leaning over you to get the bartender’s attention, placing their dirty glasses next to your plate, etc…

On the plus, the bar has some great cocktails. We each had the Rhubarb Sophie and it was VERY good. DUI good. If I wasn’t driving I probably would’ve had two more.

Another plus is the service. I know a lot of people have said that they are NY rude, but I guess I didn’t notice it. From hostess to bartender to waiter, every one was good.

Now for the main event, the food. Getting off to a bumpy start, I found the bread to be very disappointing. As was the special pork belly appetizer.

But then, the entrees came and holy burger heaven- the Black Label is everything they say it is. The meat is so moist and flavorful it’s as if they ground up baby angels to make it. The marinated onions and the bun- so good. Didn’t put a thing on it. No ketchup or mustard. Used them for the fries, which are just eh. If you want the best fries in the city (if not the country), try Ilili’s Phoenician Fries. But anyway- back to the burger. Patty for patty, probably the best burger meat I’ve ever had.

The Za Za pasta was also a solid good. Basically a slight variation on a carbonara. Compared to the burger though, you’d have to be crazy to order it- so I suppose I just insulted the wife. #doghouse

And last but not least, dessert. We went with the Grand Marnier souffle. Probably the best one I’ve ever had. Spot on perfect. And they don’t go light on the hooch.

So, between the burger and dessert it’s hard not to go 4 knives. But with the decor and opening misses, it’s also far from perfect.

4 teeth

The Ultimate French Fries

Phoenician_Fries_-_Evan_Sung

Ilili – New York, NY

How random is it that a Lebanese restaurant should happen to have the best fries on the planet? My tongue literally did a double take when I had them the first time, but my friend who was with me was just as floored, so I knew my mouth wasn’t crazy.

Sure, fries in general are pretty hard to screw up. In fact, the only place I know that manages to do so is In-and-Out Burger, but the fact remains, the French have nothing on these Phoenician fries.

So what makes these Phoenician fries so special that they reign supreme over all the others? Well, consistency is key, that’s for sure. But there are many a good fry out there if consistency was the only metric. However, since we’re on the subject, to me, the perfect fry is one that has a slightly crispy exterior, but a soft, fluffy interior, which these do.

What these also have, mind you, is a consummate dusting of herbs and spices that will make your tongue so happy it’ll whirl like a dervish. And the harissa aioli they serve with it is pretty tasty too, but personally, I find these fries so incredible I down them naked. Not me. The fries.