Kabuk

Merkez Mh., Tilkicik Cd., 48990 Bodrum, Turkey • +90 252 385 5431 • kabukrestaurant.com

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Having read a glowing article about Kabuk, we couldn’t resist the opportunity to try something new, away from the scene (and the squawking parrots) that has become the Yalikavak Marina. And I have to say, box checked. The setting is tastefully done, set back from the waterfront, but still overlooking the sea with a beautiful trellis and strung lights overhead.

The attention to detail doesn’t stop there either with their starfish embroidered table linens, solid wine list and inventive cocktails such as their frozen, blended-to-order peach belini and an “interesting” wasabi martini made with Russian Standard and complete with a strip of seaweed floating on the surface.

Come the food, they start by offering up what appears to be an amuse bouche (more on this later) of grilled jumbo shrimp and a basket of bread with a wonderful herbed dipping oil. Not only does it make the bread sing, it makes the shrimp dance as well.

After that came the Kabuk salad made light and refreshing with the addition of fresh chunks of peach. Definitely recommend this as it is the only solace from shellfish on menu, between the bread and dessert.

As for the shellfish options, while extremely pricey, I also thought they were very good for being non-Turkish preparations. The tagliatelle with langoustines was nailed- granted the plural billing of this dish is a bit of an over-promise because there was only half of one langoustine. But at least it was perfectly cooked with a killer kickin’ red sauce.

So Italian done, but what about Spanish? Well, I’ve definitely had better paella’s but I’ve also had worse. And I hate to say it, but Kabuk topped the master himself, Thomas Keller, because the paella at Ad Hoc was pathetic. I also like the presentation, served in a paella pan (of course), but over an open flame with a giant wooden rice spoon.

For the grand finale, the pumpkin sorbet presentation is insane! Served as a flaming sorbet mountain, they carve each portion off of the summit for your amusement. And while all of this pomp and circumstance seems like it might’ve been with the agenda of distraction, the sorbet was actually pretty darn good.

Riding high now on the four knife express, suddenly things went off the rails. The check came. And while we knew the place was pricey (hell, the crab legs on the menu were 780 TL!!! That’s $275 US!!! ), the bill seemed a bit higher than our order, drawing attention back to the “amuse bouche,” which was ringing in at a whopping $9 per shrimp! Now, I’m not exactly one to wince at paying through the nose for food, after all, I’m used to dropping coin at Keller, Barber and Boulud restaurants, but when you present something as if it’s courtesy of the chef, you are misrepresenting things if you then intend to charge for it. Plus, to charge that kind of price for overcooked, under-seasoned shrimp that only tasted worthy with the help of the herbed oil (intended for the bread), then you’ve got some serious balls.

But not only did Kabuk go sleazy on this move, they doubled down on the sleaze when we brought it up to the manager, who made us feel like we were being cheapskates as opposed to taking any ownership in the miscommunication. So much for “the customer is always right.” And so much for four knives, because that definitely cost them one. It will also cost me ever going there again. Or recommending that you should ever go there either. However. to sandbag Kabuk with one or two knives is a bridge too far. I’d be pulling the amateur shit I hate so much about Yelp reviewers, so I refuse go there. I enjoyed the meal. Just not the ending. Sort of like the movie Heat, in restaurant form. So three knives it is… but with a ginormous asterisk.

3 teeth

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Per Se

10 Columbus Circle New York, NY 10019(212) 823-9335 • perseny.com

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If you should manage to get a reservation, congratulations. Now the bad news. While I found the dining room nicer than The French Laundry, the food isn’t quite up to the same astronomical, nor is the price tag .  And I’m not one to shit on Thomas Keller. I’m actually quite the fan. But when you’re playing at the tippy-top of the game, and the only chef in history to have two restaurants open at the same time with three Michelin Stars apiece, I expect nothing less than a life changing experience, and I’m sad to say it was not. Wallet-changing, maybe. But most definitely not life-changing. Thus, I am still the same old cocky, opinionated, know-it-all, blowhard.

Now, to be fair, one must take this review with a huge grain of- no, make that an entire industrial-sized bag of salt, because Per Se is still very, very good. In terms of service alone, it is on a whole other level. Not since Bouley in the early 90’s have I experienced anything like it. Swat team precision meets Russian ballet meets the “Be Our Guest” routine from Beauty and the Beast. I know you might be thinking, “really, how good can service truthfully be?” Well, just pick up a copy of the book “Service Included” and you will understand that Per Se makes a place like Daniel look like amateur hour service-wise.

As for decor, Keller likes to keep things “undistracting.” He doesn’t want the ambiance to compete with the plate and thus you won’t find anything the likes of a Jean-Georges restaurant. And while I did find it a touch boring, it still out-shines The Laundry simply due to one stunning trump card- floor to ceiling windows overlooking Central Park.

Now for the food. This is where I think many a Richie Rich, is over-convincing themselves that the cuisine here is spectacular simply because of the price. Which I get. Who wouldn’t want to rationalize spending all that coin? You need to justify it somehow, otherwise you’re libel to throw a conniption when you get the bill and wind up on the front page of The New York Post. But rationale aside, at this price and with this much hype, it should easily be one of the best meals of your life, and I can honestly say it doesn’t even crack my own personal top 100, in New York City alone!

3 teeth

The Ultimate Foie Gras (Terrine)

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As much as I love foie gras in the seared form, that affection is significantly tempered when it comes to terrine. Not that there’s anything wrong with terrine per se, but when you have the seared to compare it with, it’s hard to get excited knowing you are only getting the runner up fruits of a goose’s torturous labor. That said, there are a few exceptions to the rule, because the Ultimates below taste like anything but settling…

The Inn at Pound Ridge – Pound Ridge, NY

As if foie gras wasn’t already enough of a treat as is, Jean-Georges took it upon himself to cross-breed it with crème brulée and thus I give you foie gras brulée. A terrine baked into a crust with a caramelized, candied top. It’s so damn good you’ll never want just plain ole terrine again. The only problem with it I can foresee some people having is deciding whether or not it’s more of a dessert than an appetizer- rich people problems are the worst.

The Bazaar – Los Angeles, CA & Miami, FL

It’s going to take you a minute or two to wrap your head around the presentation of this one, but after one bite of the foie gras cotton candy, you’ll take significantly less time wrapping your head around the fact that you want to place another order of it, stat! To elaborate, they take a tiny brick of terrine and hide it at the core of the cotton candy ball on a stick. The result is a fun, melt-in-your-mouth experience, as the cotton dissolves instantly, enveloping the savory pate in sweetness.

The French Laundry – Yountville, CA

This is the most traditional of The Ultimates, served as a straight up terrine from a local farm that exclusively deals with Thomas Keller, which means the geese are probably fed foie gras before they themselves are turned into it. But it’s actually not the terrine that’s the star here. And while the brioche toast they serve it with is divine, it’s not that either. Interestingly enough, it’s the salt. But not just any salt. A medley of salts sourced from all over the world, including one that dates back over 40 million years! Granted that could easily be a crock of shit that they spin to justify the obscene price tag, but Morton’s or not, I felt quite special scarfing down my foie gras with prehistoric seasoning.

Yankee Pier

San Francisco International Airport, Terminal 3 Gate 72
780 S Airport Blvd. San Francisco, CA94128 • (650) 821-8938yankeepier.com

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It’s in an airport, so you can’t obviously walk in expecting Iron Chef, but then again, it also does hit the spot. And it’s better than the shit they serve on planes these days. But if you want to hold them to task, here would be my nits:

The Greek Omelet while good-ish, was a bit over-buttery, which sort of defeated the purpose of my getting it with egg whites. And the home fries were sad and soggy.

Fortunately the service was quick and very friendly. And décor, well, you’re at an airport, so I’ll give them a pass on that one.

Back on the kudos side, I do actually think it’s better than Boudin bakery’s pre-made breakfast crap, but that’s not saying a ton since it’s located in a food court, even if it does bear the name of a Thomas Keller establishment.

2 teeth

Frasca

1738 Pearl St. Boulder, CO 80302 •  (303) 442-6966 • frascafoodandwine.com
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If you’re visiting Denver or anywhere else within an hour’s drive of Boulder, than I highly suggest you make a reservation at Frasca. The owner is the former Master Sommelier of all the Thomas Keller’s restaurants. And if you’ve ever seen the documentary Somm, you’d know just how impressive that is, because the Master Sommelier exam is one of the hardest to pass on the face of the earth. So hard, only 179 people have managed to pass it in almost 50 years.

So, suffice it to say that the wine pairing here is a moral imperative. And while it’s easily the best pairing I’ve ever had, the food is pretty damn impressive as well. The crudo was tops, only made infinitely better by a wine that was like a Renée Zellweger to its Tom Cruise.

Same goes for the poblano spiced wagyu, but the menu is constantly in flux, so rather than listen to what you can no longer eat, start trying to get your tush at a table.

5 teeth

Daniel

60 E 65th St. New York, NY 10065  (212) 288-0033danielnyc.com

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There are so many NYC restaurants that become so hyped that it is virtually impossible to live up to the expectations you have when you walk in the door. Fortunately for me, my expectations were kept in check by a few nay-sayers, which Daniel seems to have its share of.

That said, my experience lived up in spades. First, I actually found the decor to be quite a step up form many of its peers. The dining area is MUCH nicer than Per Se, Jean-Georges & Bouley. And the table we had was amazing, looking out over the entire room.

The canapes were just okay but four out of the six courses were excellent. From the unbelievable short ribs to the duck terrine to the Dover sole and lastly, to the finale, a chocolate, caramel, peanut volcano– Just incredible. Now, I know a lot of people expect that everything should be excellent at a place like this and for prices like these it probably should be, but that’s seldom been my experience and 4 of 6 is pretty damn good.

We also had the wine pairings which I highly recommend. The only one that seemed a touch off was the Dover sole, but so many were spot on and only made the meal that much more special.

And last but not least, the service. This might be my only major nit and I’ve seen other people say it too- The staff really comes off as if they are trying SO hard to be perfect- But they most certainly are not. Reaching across the table, dropping things, taking your plate before you’re done- They need to hire the guy who trains servers at Thomas Keller restaurants.

But apart from that- a must for high-end foodies. Easily one of the top ten meals in NYC.

5 teeth

The Ultimate Pizza

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I have been dreading this post for a while because there are SO many great pizza places out there it’s hard for me to narrow down. I mean the list of honorable mentions is easily in the double digits. The other reason I was dreading it is because everyone thinks they know the best pizza place and are extremely passionate about it. So I can only imagine I will get comments to the contrary below. But, I say bring it on! I’m always happy to try new places and revise a post.

La Pizza Fresca – New York, NY

Believe it or not, this is the ONLY pizza joint in the United States that is recognized by the Official Commission of Pizza in Italy. And believe it or not, I’m not making that up. The reason for their approval is that apparently La Pizza Fresca is the only place in the country that makes pizza according to the authentic Italian tradition. Now, if you’re normal, you probably don’t even care about this. All that matters is how the pies taste. Well, Mama Mia! The primavera is easily the best veggie pie I’ve ever had and the Quattro Frommagi is easily the best cheese pie. The veggies are fire roasted and so fresh they pop off the pie and dance in your mouth. And the Quattro? For the first time ever, I could literally taste each individual cheese shining through like a quartet of cheesy complexity. The only rub is the wait. Not that the place is ever really that packed, strangely enough. But I suppose it’s because the “authentic traditional” method is painfully slow.

Roberta’s Pizza – Brooklyn, NY

Consider me stung, because I loves me the Bee Sting. Granted I’m an easy target for a spicy and sweet combo, but this pie is on point all around. Get it? Pizzas are round. While you’re busy groaning, let me explain what makes it such. First, it’s the spicy soppressata, with its slight crispy char. Then, they drizzle honey over the top and that’s when the magic happens, blending with the sauce and the cheese and the oils of the meat. All sitting on their killer dough. It’s morta bene.

Grimaldi’s – Brooklyn, NY

There’s nothing fancy going on here. This is just straight up New York pie at its absolute best. Don’t get too cute with too many toppings. Just stick to your basics like pepperoni and mushroom and be prepared to bow like Wayne’s World at the knees of a pizza god.

Oenotri – Napa, CA

I’m a borderline mushroom groupie. Seriously. If there were AA for mushroom-eating I might be sitting in a 12 step somewhere right now, “Hi, my name is Ferocious Foodie and I’m a mushroom-a-holic.” So, it was probably a foregone conclusion that a mushroom pizza would be on this list. But not just any mushroom pie, this is gourmet all the way. From the impeccable choice of fresh cremini mushrooms to their almost bone marrow-like saute, making for a wonderfully creamy, tender top, aboard a perfectly contrasted crunchy crust. No wonder Thomas Keller loves this place.

Mas Farmhouse

39 Downing St. New York, NY 10014(212) 255-1790masfarmhouse.com

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Mas is the new Blue Hill. Granted it’s not so new anymore, but by comparison it’s new-ish. But what I mean by the comparison is that it is farm to table done flawlessly. The decor is cozy, yet stylish and contemporary. The two dining areas are both small and quaint – in a way that makes you feel special. As does the service, which can only be compared to the likes of a Thomas Keller restaurant, yet warmer and more human.  Plus, they are incredibly accommodating without even a whiff of pretense.

As for the food, well, I gave it five knives didn’t I? It’s fantastic. I can tell you all about it, but unfortunately all that would do is make you jealous since the Chef’s tasting menu is in constant flux on a day to day basis, depending on what looked good at the market that morning.

I highly recommend it though. Just put yourself in the hands of the chef and let him work his magic. Naturally they will ask if you have any allergies or things you flat out don’t like – or love, as the case may be- and they will do the rest.

Also, a shout out to the sommelier. I got the wine pairing along with the tasting, and it was truly a work of art. Every sip in perfect harmony with the dish – like culinary soul mates.

Verdict: Top 10 in the city.

5 teeth

Spice Market

403 W 13th St. New York, NY 10014(212) 675-2322 • spicemarketnewyork.com

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If it’s one thing Jean-Georges knows it’s decor. I’ve been to ABC Kitchen, Jean-Georges, The Inn at Pound Ridge and Spice Market and each and every one of them is stunning in its own way. Guess he and Thomas Keller don’t see eye to eye on decor’s place in a culinary experience. I’m partial to Jean’s side.

That said, there does come a point when looks can only take a place so far, and thus you are left with a great looker, but little substance. Sort of like with Megan Fox. Granted if I had the chance to go on a date with Megan Fox even just once, I obviously would have, because I’m just as shallow as the next guy. But, I firmly believe that the cracks would quickly show as we tried to carry out a conversation. That’s Spice Market.

The moment you step in, you are transported. Smacked upside your head by a decor so thematically well done, you forgive it for being a “theme.” And while your neck and eyes will hurt from looking around you to see all of the rich details and the beautiful servers as well as guests, your nirvana will soon come crashing back to Earth as you take a bite of their samosas, spring rolls and various other Asian small plates and realize that it’s nothing better than Baluchi’s or Pongsri or Mee Noodle. So, my advice to you, have lowered expectations along with a few drinks and happiness will in fact be the truth. And you and Megan will live happily ever after.

3 teeth

Ad Hoc

6476 Washington St. Yountville, CA 94599 • (707) 944-2487 • adhocrestaurant.com

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Much to my chagrin, it would appear that Napa and Thomas Keller aren’t perfect. In fact, my chagrin was downright disappointed, to be quite frank. I mean I get that it’s supposed to be a more casual Keller experience than The Laundry or Per Se, but that doesn’t mean we have to throw the badass with the bathwater. I’ve been to hordes of casual restaurants that crush Ad Hoc, so save the excuses, because unfortunately I can’t eat them.

The mediocrity hits you pretty quick when you enter. The décor feels very much like a casual dining food chain. The drinks at the bar, while good, are all classics with no inventive twists, save the fact that they make some of the ingredients themselves. For example they make their own Pims and their own ginger ale, which made for a pretty tasty Pim’s cup.

The menu, however, also proved to be woefully uninventive and considering it’s fixed, there was no escaping the oncoming train of blah. It started with a basket of bread that tasted no better (or worse) than the stuff you might get at an A&P. And the butter they serve with it is the unsalted crap you use to prime a skillet.

The arugula salad with peaches was simple, but good. And it went very well the wine we had chosen. But, Ad Hoc didn’t make the wine, and the salad is nothing you can’t make at home. Next…

The “paella” was quite the looker, hemorrhaging with shellfish. Unfortunately it wasn’t hemorrhaging with flavor. From the over-cooked mushy rice to the relatively bland mollusks, there was little to like about the dish apart from the chicken, which managed to be pretty moist. But relying on chicken to save a paella is like relying on the parsley garnish to save a rib eye.

Following that came the cheese plate and while neither were bad, neither were amazing either. In fact, the piave we had at a vineyard earlier that day put these to shame. And so did the accouterments. The mustard and the pickled veggies were both better than the cheeses themselves.

And bringing up the rear was a blueberry cake of sorts that only served as the final nail in the coffin. Which is a triumph in defeat, because I am an extremely easy target when it comes to blueberries and yet they whiffed it.

Such a let down. I almost want to give it one knife due to the hype factor, but to be fair, nothing was bad. It just wasn’t good either. And in Napa, restaurants should be held to a higher standard.

2 teeth