Oko Kitchen

6 Wilton RdWestport, CT 06880 • (203) 557-8404 • okokitchen.com

If you love The Cottage than you will, um, really struggle to like this place as much. As The Whelk is to Kawa Ni, they are sister restaurants, linked by the same chef, who, definitely upped the sushi game in Westport without a doubt. But if you’re going in with expectations that it is The Cottage in Japanese form, you will be disappointed.

Appropriately starting with the starters, I found the attempt at inventive edamame to be noble, yet messy and nowhere near as good as the ones at Koku in Armonk. Jazzed up with garlic, soy butter, gomashio (sesame salt) and shio kombu (a form of dashi). But net, net it’s a lot of pomp and circumstance without a lot of flavor.

Same goes for the shishito peppers, although the slightly better of the two, made novel with chickpea miso, guanciale and shoyu-koji (soy sauce).

For small plates, Oko didn’t wow much either. The deviled eggs with pork belly being the least wowiest and a far cry from two other versions in Westport alone- both Rothbard and The Whelk making far superior versions.

The sticky ribs fared much better, sauced with smoked maple, gochujang and sesame crunch. But the real winner of the smalls is the miso black cod, or as they call it “Torched Black Cod.” It’s cedar grilled and done in a madieira shoyu glaze with shitake and scallion and it…is…killer! As good as the one at Matsuisha in LA, the place that invented the dish.

But what about the friggin’ sushi? Okay, I get it. After all, it is a sushi joint, right? So, long story longer, it’s very good. The fish is fresh and the preparations are inventive without being gimmicky, for the most part- the one exception being the foie gras, which shockingly I would forego and just follow the omakase. Oh, and great news, this is more like it is in fine sushi restaurants in Japan, where you don’t even use or need soy sauce or wasabi, because the preparation is so wonderful on its own.

Speaking of wonderful, come dessert, you have to try the- okay, bare with me on this one… The soft serve. I know! What am I, like five years old?! But I’m not joking here. They take Dairy Queen’s invention to another level. Especially with the friggin’ Oko crunch!!! I mean, other than the miso cod it might’ve been the best thing we had. And that’s not just the killer gin cocktail talking (yes, they also have a killer gin cocktail).

It’s no Cottage, but Oko is definitely a strong three knives and the best Japanese in town. Give it a few more weeks to iron out the kinks and I’d imagine it will be a four or five.

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Tredwell’s

4A Upper Stret Martin’s Lane London WC2H 9NY United Kingdom Covent Garden • +44 20 3764 0840 • tredwells.com

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I so love the vibe here. The moment you walk in you’re hit with the palpable energy of a live pianist striking the ivories beneath a huge clock made out of knives, hanging two stories up on an exposed brick wall. Apparently Marcus Wareing knows how to make an entrance!

He also knows how to make a mean steak, the hangar easily being the best thing we had, cooked like a pro and made even bestier by the braised shallots and a crack-like peppercorn sauce.

The other dish worthy of adulation is the duck. An off-menu prep that sings like a choir boy on Ecstasy, trying out for The Voice while getting simultaneous purple nurples on both pecs. In other words, it was good.

Beyond that though, I found most of the other dishes to be a bit of a let down, from the buratta with romesco and pardon peppers to the pumkin ravioli in hazelnut sauce to the truffled mac and cheese. Okay, so that last one was pretty decent, but nothing you wouldn’t expect to find at a dozen million other places far less schamncy than this. So no points there.

No points for the chocolate cake or the lemon square either. But hells yeah! on the salted caramel soft serve parfait thingy. I just about got my face stuck in the glass.

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Momofuku Milk Bar

72 Wooster St. New York, NY 10012(347) 577-9504milkbarstore.com

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Momofuku Milk Bar is what happens when you let a mad scientist (David Chang), who is very in touch with his inner five year old, into the kitchen. Yes, this tiny dessert café (a.k.a. bakery) sports a menu that reads like something out of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, minus the snozberries.

Starting with the cookies, the Compost Cookie (pictured) is most definitely the one to be getting, made from a menagerie of ingredients including (are you sitting down?) pretzels, potato chips, coffee, oats, butterscotch, chocolate chips and about 40 other things. No exaggeration. It’s salty meets sweet meets the kitchen sink. In fact, this cookie is so complex, it’s likely to give the other cookies a complex. And it does, because after the Compost, the other cookies range from good (the blueberry & cream) to good riddance, like the corn cookie.

The Cereal Milk in all of its various forms from milkshake to soft serve to, well, plain old milk (about which there is truly nothing plain), tastes like the leftover milk from a bowl of Fruit Loops. Genius in theory, but in practice there’s actually something a bit unsettling about this one, because you can’t help but wonder who, and how hygienic was the person who ate the bowl of cereal from the milk you are now drinking? Granted this is obviously not how it’s made, or at least I pray it’s not, but for some reason it still triggers this visceral off-putting reaction.

Another infamous treat at the Milk Bar is the Crack Pie. Basically a variation on a chess pie with toasted oats and hints of butter cake. The net, net is supposed to yield something so addictive it’s like that other addictive thing bearing the name “crack.” Well, having never tried the cocaine version, I can only speak from my experience of the pie, and addicted I am not. Primarily because it is way too sickly sweet. And that’s kinda the problem with Milk Bar in general, much of the stuff is so crazy sweet that it becomes polarizing.

But polarizing means there are two extremes, and while the Cereal Milk and Crack Pie fall at the low end, the Compost Cookie and the Birthday Cake Truffles fall at the peak. Now I know some people dismiss these as birthday cake pops without the stick, but I would say that is a drastic oversimplification. It’d be like calling quantum physics similar to algebra because they are both math. Yes, there’s way more going on in these balls than meets the mouth.

So ,while it’s not exactly a smashing success like Ko, the Milk Bar still has its moments. You just have to navigate your way through the sugar bombs.

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Zero Zero

826 Folsom St. San Francisco, CA 94107(415) 348-8800 zerozerosf.com

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This may be the only place on earth that serves both a great fried chicken AND a solid pizza. Sure, I know what you’re going to say, what about places that have great chicken parm? To which I would retort, “chicken parm is not great fried chicken.”

But apart from the great fried chicken app, the others, arancini and the charcuterie, were just “eh.”

The pizza, however, was quite the surprise being that I’m from The Land of Za (aka NYC). And we tried several, most of which were very good. The best being the Castro pizza. After that a tie between the Broadway and the Geary, which is a clam pizza of all things. Yes, as in the mollusk. It was pretty damn good. The Fillmore was the only let down, comparatively speaking. Not bad mind you, just the weakest of the lot. Oh, and in case you haven’t guessed yet, they name their pies after the streets in San Francisco so if you want to know what’s exactly on each pie, check the link above for the menu.

And as for dessert, this was mostly a miss for me. The bread pudding simply isn’t worth the calories and if you know me by now, you’d also know that it takes a LOT for me to say that about bread pudding, which typically gets a free ride from me as a confectionary species. The soft serve is also a big whatevs, nothing you can’t get at a bagillion other places all across the country including Dairy Queen (gratuitous plug of a former client), and the best of the sweets, the ricotta beignets, while a passable solid good, still weren’t good enough that I would order them again if I went back. After all, I have my girlish figure to look out for… and by girlish I mean Travolta in Hairspray.

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