Murray’s Cheese Bar

264 Bleecker StNew York, NY 10014 • (646) 476-8882 • murrayscheesebar.com

Murray’s has been a New York icon for more years than the aged cheddar in their cheese cases. But more recently they decided to take that expertise and run with it, opening up a restaurant just a few doors down where the cheese flows like wine, or rather in tandem with it.

Our story begins with a robust, spicy blend of Grenache and Syrah by the glass. It was perfect for the cheesy tour de force that lied ahead, starting with the grilled artichokes, which wasn’t all that cheesy to be honest, but holy cow was it good, drizzled with an alici aioli (alici is an Italian fish sauce made from anchovies, in case you were thinking of googling it like I just did).

Equally impressive, and much cheesier, were the stuffed zucchini blossoms filled with spiced cream cheese, roasted corn and placed over a light yogurt sauce. Just killer.

But speaking of deadly, the Mac & Cheese was the real showstopper, making my Ultimate list with flying colors… and cheeses. My daughter technically ordered it, but I got all Daniel Day Lewis (circa There Will be Blood) on her and I “drank her milkshake.”

The sliders were also a solid yum, leading me to believe that the burgers are most likely awesome as well. And speaking of the A-word, the charcuterie and cheese plate is all that and then some. Obviously a lot rides on which meats and cheeses you choose, but you can never go wrong with the sweet San Daniele or the milky double cream. Also adding to the awesome are the inspired accouterments like the maple shavings. A stroke of delicousness!

Another worthy get is the grilled cheese, although I must admit I found the sandwich itself to be shockingly boring. What makes up for it in spades, however, is the kickass, sharp-ass tomato soup. Just dip the mediocre sammy in that red fountain of youth and your taste buds will feel like they’re twenty-one again, unless you’re younger than 21, in which case I’m not sure what the math would be?

Lastly, for dessert, while I appreciate the attempt to recreate iconic dishes with cheese, the Ch-mores fall miserably short and lack the contrast of flavors and textures that make S’mores so wonderful. Instead, the Ch’mores wind both looking and tasting like a cheesy blob. It was the biggest miss of the night and the primary reason I am docking a knife. Apart from that, I’d say it is a perfect stop amidst a Bleeker shopping spree, or for an early dinner with kids that doesn’t compromise for the adults.

Valentino

3115 Pico Blvd. Santa Monica, CA 90405(310) 829-4313valentinosantamonica.com

16x9

When you compare to the likes of Capo, Via Veneto or Piccolo its definitely on the stuffier side. And the decor is bit on the dated side, as are many of its patrons, but I have to hand it to Valentino when it comes to the food. Quite impressive. Easily lives up to the hype in culinary arena.

The prosciutto with melon was among the best I’ve ever had. Top notch San Daniele delivering heavenly slices of buttery pork with razor-thin pops of saltiness, paired with the most spot on, perfectly ripe melon. Landing stuck like Mary Lou Retton with pine tar on her feet.

The other dish I will never forget was the risotto with white truffle shavings.  Now I know you could practically put white truffles on balsa wood and it would taste amazing, but I’ve had truffles before and since, and for some reason no other experience has matched this one.

But as good as the food was, sadly I’m not sure I would ever return, partly because some of the other dishes weren’t as special as the two I mentioned and partly due to the overall experience/setting, which wasn’t my bag. That said, if you are 60 or older- or simply feel 60 or older, this place should be perfect for you. And I don’t mean that in condescending ass-y way. I’m being sincere. The second I turn 60 I am heading back there for sure, assuming it’s still open.

3 teeth