Bacaro

136 Division StNew York, NY 10002 • (212) 941-5060 • bacaronyc.com

Bacaro is like Don Juan in restaurant form, dripping with romance and charm (pictured). But sadly, this quaint veneer is all built around one dish, the gnocceti. And if you stick with that and a glass of wine, you will think this place is the cat’s pajamas. But should venture beyond it, you will soon find that the emperor has no clothes.

All three starters were non-starters for me. The asparagus with egg and grana was relatively bland. The caprese was served with mealy tomatoes. And the spicy meatballs, while the best of the trio, weren’t all that spicy- or meaty, for that matter.

The other two entrées I tried were equal parts letdown, the duck ragu was dry and lacking complexity and the pork shank over soft polenta also left me wanting more depth of flavor.

Hell, even the wine was disappointing as was the service, asking us to leave after only 2 hours at our table. Blasphemy!

Flirting with disaster, Bacaro raised the Titanic with a strong Tiramisu to just barely eke out a second knife.

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Herringbone

1755 Ocean Ave. Santa Monica, CA 90401(310) 971-4460herringboneeats.com

Herringbone-Whole-Fish-Ceviche

I struggle a bit to understand this one. The wait to get in is almost as big as the dinning room, which is so cavernous it’s almost to the point of making it feel like a Rain Forest Café, but for seafood. And while it is done far more tastefully (not saying much), with touches like the puffer fish tree at the foyer or the various nautical elements at every starboard turn, it can’t help escape the vibe that it’s a chain. Yet within chain-dom, there are obviously good chains and bad chains and Herringbone definitely falls in the better camp of the two. But to be fair, a chain is still a chain at the end of the day, so leave your expectations at the door, after all, it will have to wait for a table like everyone else.

To start, I opted for the Grow a Pear cocktail made with jalapeno, gin and cucumber. It was refreshing and light enough to go with anything on the menu. And I put that theory to the test, trying it with a host of starters, my favorite being the heirloom tomato salad, which I found to be the best thing of the night (not good for a “seafood” restaurant). Made with perfectly ripened orbs of red, sprinkled with herbs, drizzled with olive oil and complemented by fresh, creamy chunks of mozzarella, caprese style.

The whole fish ceviche (pictured) was also nice, but mostly as a result of its novel prep, in whole fish form. The flavor of it, however was a little par for the course and nothing exceedingly fresh either.

Working our way from good to meh, the Buffalo octopus was just okay for me. Decent Buffalo flavor, but the pus itself was overcooked. Also could’ve been a bit spicier if you ask me.

But the worst by far was the Baja crab, or should I say Baja crap. Don’t let your waiter try a peddle this loser dish on you. It tastes like overcooked rice speckled with shreds of canned crab and a few squirts of Tabasco.

For my entrée, the scallops were passable, but not very well balanced because after three scallops in, I found that I had finished all of the surrounding goodies, leaving me with one scallop abandon on the plate.

Just as the ship appeared to be sinking, however, somehow Herringbone managed to raise the Titanic with their wonderful lemon poppy begniets. Kept light by the lemon. Kept awesome by the contrast of hot and cold with the addition of ice cream. But as great as the bookends were, the laggards in the middle cost this place dearly.

2 teeth

Bern’s Steakhouse

1208 S Howard Ave. Tampa, FL33606 • (813) 251-2421 • bernssteakhouse.com

Berns-Steak-House-11162011-Berns-Wine-Cellar-2

Of all the restaurants I have ever been to in my life, few can measure up to the kind of experience that this place gave me. Not that the food was really anything special. Décor, was actually quite overdone. Service was very good. But none of that is what I am talking about. It is the production that makes this place so truly one of a kind. It is like the restaurant version of the movie “Titanic.” Nothing special at its core, but impressive as the sum of its massive parts. To help you better understand, please pull up a chair, and prepare to hear about the restaurant equivalent to Disney on steroids.

First, let’s start with the dining rooms, of which there are too many to count. Each with a different theme, each the size of a small restaurant, sprawling throughout several floors of this mansion. This even includes a dessert room. Yes, an entire dining room solely dedicated to sweets. We had the bananas foster, which was really quite good. But that’s not important right now…

On to the wine list, or shall I say, an only slightly smaller version of “War and Peace.” Yes, the wine list is the largest thing you will ever see at any restaurant in the world. This is not an exaggeration.  They have bottles ranging from $30 a bottle to $100,000 and a wine cellar double the size of most houses. But that’s only the beginning, because across the street there is a hotel with the top two floors rented out, gutted and also stuffed with wine.

Then comes the kitchen. Now, I’ve been on many a kitchen tour, but to see this is akin to standing before the Grand Canyon, you simply feel small and insignificant.  Towering in the center of this football field-sized kitchen is a cylindrical lobster tank bigger than you might find at most major aquariums. Steel tables stretch out in every direction with an army of plates lined up for departure. Waiters and cooks and chefs are abuzz with their various tasks as you snake back to the meat locker where countless cuts of aged beef are stored.

If you should ever have the opportunity to dine here, please beg for the kitchen tour. You will never forget it. The meal, maybe. But never the tour.

5 teeth