Restaurant North

386 Main St. Armonk, NY 10504 • (914) 273-8686restaurantnorth.com

Restaurant North

Having never been THAT impressed with this chef’s former stomping ground Union Square Café, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that I find North to also be considerably over-hyped.

And after having been there twice now, I’ve come to the conclusion that my biggest issue is that they would be much better suited as a bakery or as a casual haunt. But when held to the standards of fine dining, they simply don’t measure up. Blue Hill at Stone Barns and The Inn at Pound Ridge are both much, MUCH better. And for Italian it’s bested by both Fortina (just two blocks away) and The Cookery in Dobbs Ferry.

For me, the misses start the moment you enter the door. First with a decor that is notch or two past minimalist, trending toward unfinished. This is then followed up with a hostess who tried to seat us at the shittiest table by the bar, even though about 75% of the tables in the restaurant were empty. And this is with us having had a reservation for weeks mind you. The excuse, because one of the tables on the other half of the dining room was being reserved for a friend of the chef’s. But what about the other six open tables?!?!

After that, things improved, but never so much that they fell in line with the sterling reputation this place seems to enjoy.  This is not to say that what lies ahead was all bad, by any means, but if your are going to be a top restaurant in one of the wealthiest suburbs on the planet, you’d better be more than just “not bad.”

Not bad, however, was the story from top to bottom. Not one course the first time we went reached what I would call “excellent,” and we each had three. Yet each course lacked that little extra something that takes a dish from good to memorable. And with 6 different dishes and two proprietary cocktails, I’d say they had ample ways to impress, but failed at every one.

The only two dishes from that outing to rise above just a solid good were a pasta dish and the soft shell crabs. Both teetering on great. But sadly, not actually great.

Fortunately, while definitely ferocious, I also try to be fairocious, so I gave them a second chance before writing this review and upon revisiting it, this somewhat only served to solidified my opinions from the first experience.

That said, there were a few shining moments once again, and this time they were shining much brighter. For example, the focaccia they serve as the bread with your meal is phenomenal. It’s also an Ultimate.

Another thing worthy of note is the muffin they give you after the meal to take home. Moist, heavily seeded for a nice contrast in textures, and heavily awesome. So, it would appear that they bookend you well, between incredibly delicious baked goods, but if you just look past the bready smoke and mirrors, mediocrity was once again abound.

For example, the swordfish entree while perfectly cooked was woefully blah. Their hazelnut encrusted variation of a Scotch egg was equally lacking in flavor, begging for some salt to bring out the flavor of the egg. And the “Super Awesome” chocolate chip cookie is “super overrated.” It’s the same typical half baked cookie in a skillet you’d expect to find at Applebee’s with a very mediocre scoop of vanilla on top. You want a truly “super awesome” chocolate chip cookie, head to Sherry B’s in Chappaqua and get the one with walnuts (even if you’re allergic, it’s worth it). Or if you’re in the city, there’s none better than the one at City Bakery.

Another inflated dish is the burger. And while it’s definitely more impressive than the aforementioned dishes, with its creamed kale topper, it also falls WAY short of places like Minetta Tavern, Father’s Office and Burger & Barrel, to which I’ve heard it compared. Blasphemy!

Back on the upside, because I like to end things on a positive note (not really, but I will), the mushroom flatbread was surprisingly good, well balanced between the heartiness of the mushrooms, the creaminess of the goat cheese and the fresh pepperiness of the greens.

And finally, the suckling pig. Definitely not the looker of the bunch. In fact, once shredded amongst the bed of spaetzle it looked more like a cat got a hold of a stuffed animal and ripped it to bits. But the taste was excellent. Accented with a nice touch of heat.

But even with the stronger showing my second time around, it’s still WAY too hit and miss to be playing at the level they claim to be. Especially when they pull shit like pawning us off on the busboy to take our dessert order. Classy North. Very classy.

2 teeth

 

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Lucques

8474 Melrose Ave. West Hollywood, CA 90069 (323) 655-6277lucques.com

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I think the legalization of medical marijuana is the only possible explanation as to how this place got 4 stars on Yelp. Either that or people only voted on the decor and service, both of which are great.

But the food!?! Are you kidding me?! What a waste of taste buds. The best thing we had were the olives & almonds (pictured) that come with the bread. Neither of which they actually make. Everything else was lacking. The ricotta dumpling app being the only solid good. The soft shell crab app being “eh.” The scallop entree tasted fishy and the other flavors in the dish simply didn’t work with the mollusks, better on their own. And the short rib entree was equally underwhelming. Cooked well, but simply lacking flavor. The sum of its seemingly delicious sounding parts netting out to be a heavy mush reminiscent of dog food.

So, why did we order dessert you ask? Because, we were hoping for some form of redemption. Unfortunately, it never came. Both the caramel tart and the creme fraiche cake were as equally bland as everything else.

Guess I should’ve known better as I was equally nonplussed by AOC. Oh well, at least I spared the wife from the disappointment.

2 teeth

Son of a Gun

8370 W 3rd St. Los Angeles, CA 90048 • (323) 782-9033 • sonofagunrestaurant.com

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Being the sister restaurant to Animal, my favorite place to eat in LA, Son of a Gun had a lot to live up to. And considering I dragged four coworkers there with me to try it, my neck was on the line. Well, I am happy to report that my neck is doing very nicely, thank you. In fact, one might go so far as to say my neck was lauded upon for such a recommendation.

Walking in, the place is nothing like its starker, minimalist sibling. Son of a Gun is enjoys a fisherman’s haute décor with all sorts of nautical paraphernalia hanging on the walls, including deer antlers?

As a result, it is very casual and down to earth. The food, however, is out of this world. We must’ve ordered a dozen dishes and not one of them was bad. Only two were just okay. And everything else fell somewhere between great and excellent.

Among the long list of winners was a salmon crudo with jerk spice, kiwi and habanero. Sounds spicier than it is. And one of the most flavorful raw seafood dishes I’ve ever devoured. Another huge hit was the soft shell crab tempura with pork belly and cinnamon. It was cinnaful.

The octopus salad with fennel, chickpeas radishes and chili was another star(fish). Much spicier than it let on by the looks of it, appearing more like an innocent salad. But one bite and complexity popped you one right in the kisser. As Jimmy Walker would say, it was “dynomite!”

From the crustacean food group, we went with Dungeness crab served in little rolls drizzled with apple yuzu and each garnished with an beautiful, edible purple flower. They were so creamy, yet bright, you would swear they crossbred the crabs with dairy cows. Such a simple, wonderful display of balance and proportion.

Even the chicken sandwich (pictured) was awesome, which was a tad out of place on the menu, assumingly there for those who don’t dig on fish. But this bird is no afterthought. Might be the best chicken sandwich I’ve ever had. Tough to share though, but we somehow managed to power through it.

Other solid, but slightly more mortal dishes were the two-bite lobster rolls and the skate wing. Both are very good, but you’re probably getting adjective fatigue at this point, so I’ll try save the gushiness for where the gushiness is due.

The only true miss of the night was the only waitress reco, the smoked mahi. And the only eh of the night (I’ll take the blame as I did all of the ordering) was the shishito peppers. They were good, just nothing special.

And finally, dessert. On this SOG went an impressive 3 for 3. The deconstructed key lime was light and refreshing. The banana bread was superb. But the closer was the raspberry and peach pie with crème anglaise – stomach pumping good.

This is one fish tale that lives up to the legend.

5 teeth

Maysville

17 W 26th St. New York, NY 10010(646) 490-8240maysvillenyc.com

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I would say it’s the best kept secret in the Flatiron, but considering it’s always full , I guess it’s not that much of a secret. Granted no one I work with has even heard of the place. Well, that changed as soon as I returned from lunch as I ran through the office like a culinary Paul Revere, shouting the news to the world, “Maysville Rocks!”

First, the Bourbon Bonnet– a cocktail made from habanero infused bourbon, pineapple, cherry and something else that I was too buzzed to remember. Maybe cucumber, as it was actually light and refreshing, while also being spicy at the same time. Incredible drink. Too incredible.

Did I say incredible, perhaps I should’ve reserved that for the two starters. Both were… um… (I hate this word, but since incredible is already taken) AMAZEBALLS! I highly recommend the crunchy grits. Flash fried into cubes to create a crunchy outer shell, as the name implies, while remaining deliciously moist and cheesy inside. This is then topped with country ham, and the whole thing sits atop a drizzle of bourbon aioli. Very healthy. But so good even your arteries will agree. Oh, and if you are starting to wonder what’s with all the bourbon, whiskey is kinda the theme here. But don’t think that means it looks like a pub or anything. The décor is actually quite nice. Modern meets rustic.

Okay, back to the food. The other starter is the roasted oysters. Not quite as decadent as the grits, but equally strong in its own right. And also packing heat.

Next came the sandwiches which we split. One was the fish, the other a pulled pork sandwich. Both were very, very good. Maybe half a notch below the awesome apps. And the only pulled pork sandwich I like better would be at The Dutch.

So, after such a crazy good run, I had to push it. I had to see if they could pull off the trifecta, so we ordered dessert. A bourbon (shocker) soaked bread pudding. It came highly recommended by our server as the way to end the meal- granted the lemon bar also sounded pretty great, but we went on trust. Now, it wasn’t bad mind you, it was good. But good is a failure compared to everything that proceeded it, so unfortunately I can’t go a full five knives.

Also, the service was a tad on the slow side, I have to say. But when all was said and done, I think this place earns every last one of its four stars in spades. Especially when there are so many other bloated 4 star restaurants on Yelp that shouldn’t be over 2 stars. Thank you Maysville for being the real deal. Can’t wait to return.

***Okay, so I returned for dinner with Wifey and I stand by my word and my knives. I also stand by three other amazing dishes. First, the charred flatbread with a fried egg on top, pickled red onion, mesclun, pork belly and of course, cheese. So good. Another was the soft shell crab served over a bed of black-eyed peas in a vinegar sauce that lighted the dish up and made it one of the best soft shell crab dishes I’ve ever had. And last but not least, the strawberry shortcake with basil ice cream for dessert. Light, refreshing and the use of basil is just a stoke of simple genius.

On the miss side of things, the ramp and asparagus pasta was just okay. A bit too precious with its faint hint of lemon. And the other dish that I can shout from the rooftops about would be the beef tartar with quail egg. It’s good. But just two blocks away resides the best beef tartar the world has ever known at Manzo in Eataly, so it was hard for me not to compare.

Also, one last thing I forgot to mention the last time, the cornbread is always money. Moist and rich with the flavor of actual corn, as opposed to so many other cornbreads that slink by using crutches like jalapenos and cheese.

4 teeth