Gabriel’s Bar & Restaurant

11 W 60th St. New York, NY 10023 • (212) 956-4600 • gabrielsbarandrest.com

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This cozy, not-so-little Italian joint is located right behind the Time Warner Center tucked away in an unassuming façade amidst the far flashier options surrounding it. Inside, the low key vibe makes you feel right at home, even though the décor walks that line of being a touch dressy. Also, the expansive L-shaped dining room seems awfully large for a place that I’m guessing seldom exceeds 50% capacity, so either the rent is killing them or the Cosa Nostra is saving them.

My suspicions toward the latter only grew stronger after trying the short rib tortellini, which was very basic and not the kind of dish that you’d expect to be paying the rent on such exorbitant real estate. On the plus side, the Cabernet by the glass was very good and the service was friendly. And I’m not just saying that because they didn’t kill me. However, my safety may still be in jeopardy because I am only giving them two knives, so if this is the last entry in my blog you’ll know what happened.

2 teeth

Bâtard

239 West Broadway New York, NY 10013(212) 219-2777batardtribeca.com

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While Batard is French by name, and European by description, the chef is more specifically Austrian and therefore so goes the cuisine, marked by certain dishes such as the off-menu schnitzel and the sizeable number of Austrian wines on the list.

Upon entering, you will be pleasantly surprised by the clean, elegant décor, especially after having seen the rather unassuming façade as you approached. The other surprise you are likely to notice is unfortunately unpleasant. The noise level is quite extreme, which takes a hair away from the romantic setting when you have to shout at your loved one the entire night. #acousticfail

Back on the plus side, the service was very good, without an ounce of pretense from host, to manager, to sommelier to waitress. Now on to the food!

Getting off to a rocky start, I was a bit surprised that there was no amuse bouche at such a high-end restaurant. To be fair, this is not the rocky part, but lumpy for certain. Where it got rocky for me was on the starters. The tete de cochon (pigs head) came as a strong recommendation from our server who made it sound far more interesting than it really was, basically a pork croquette topped with lard and placed over a kohlrabi slaw. The other was the lobster with avocado, fava beans and jicama. It was definitely the better of the two, but nothing I would ever strongly recommend.

Come round two, however, Batard served up a pair of knockouts. The first being the English pea tortellini in a pesto sauce with burrata broken up in such a unique way it almost tasted like ricotta. And the other knockout was the veal tenderloin. So tender you don’t even need teeth to chew it. It just melts in your mouth. And while that alone is noteworthy, the rest of the preparation was equally stupendous. They wrap the veal in a thin, flaky pastry and serve it next to a phenomenal grilled sweetbread and trumpet mushroom, which, upon request, they then douse in a veal jus that’s so sinful you’d have to be an asshole to pass it up. After all, the baby cow’s already dead. Might as well commit.

Come dessert I had my heart set on the caramelized milk bread with brown butter ice cream, having seen a picture (above) of it prior to dining here. But the dessert that stole my heart was the chocolate torte with tiny hazelnut semifreddos- so much better than the milk bread it tasted more like milk toast by comparison to the torte.

So while not entirely flawless, the highs at Batard are such that I can completely understand the hype. And whether or not it wins the James Beard for best new restaurant, it will most certainly be taking home two Ultimates, for veal and chocolate torte.

4 teeth

Perilla

9 Jones St. New York, NY 10014(212) 929-6868perillanyc.com

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Been trying to go here for a while now, not that it’s that hard to get into, which is a HUGE plus in NYC, but plans just kept falling through for various reasons. As a result, perhaps the hype grew a tad too great.

That said, Perilla really does have its sterling moments. After all, it is a Harold Dieterle (Top Chef) restaurant. Unfortunately, inconsistency is its cross to bare and with such steep misses, I find it hard to give this place anything above 3 knives.

Here’s why:

Service is okay. The hostess is virtually non-existent and the waitress adequate. As for decor, it’s nice, but nothing to speak of. Simple, but lacking in vibe or character. However, I’m not docking knives for either.

For the food, let’s start off with the aptly named starters, which got things off on the rightest foot possible. Everything was superb. The tortellini in that broth? Heaven. The scallop carpaccio? Incredibly flavorful and complex for something so thin. And the foie gras/squab terrine? Just awesome. Literally the best FG terrine I think I’ve ever had, and I’m not such a fan. I’m much more partial to the seared variety. But if the terrine always tasted like this, I’d be a changed man.

Sounding pretty damn good right about now, right? Well, the chef shoulda pulled a Costanza and said “I’m outta here!” Going out on top. But noooo… We just had to order main courses. Of the lot, only the monkfish was on par with the apps. Both the pork chop and the lamb-two-ways fell firmly in the mediocre camp, which is especially annoying when you drop 40 bucks a plate on a dish!!! I’m sorry, but if you are going to break the $4o stratosphere for an entree, you had better stick the landing. That alone is an offense punishable by one knife in my book.

As for the sides, both the brussel sprouts and the cauliflower were excellent. So, it would seem perhaps this place would be better suited to do small plates.

That said, dessert is most certainly something they are not suited for. Not one thing they served was worth the calories. The dark chocolate souffle, while a respectable good, paled in comparison to dozens of restaurant souffles before it. And the lemon cake, that was intended to be a refreshing tit for our chocolatey tat, proved to be dry and terrible. Even the little chocolate salted caramels that came with the check were dry and off balance. So, you guessed it- down goes Frazier (along with another knife).

All in all, I’m still glad I went, but I can’t say I’ll rush back unless someone else is paying.

3 teeth

Marc Forgione

 134 Reade St. New York, NY 10013 • (212) 941-9401 • marcforgione.com

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Umm… I’m gonna go with WOW! That pretty much sums it up. I loved just about every last drop of this restaurant and ate most of those drops as well.

To start, the décor is great. Just teetering on the edge of casual and beautiful. With an energy about it that hits you the moment you enter. Some may find it a bit loud, which it is, but that’s part of the fun- having you yell at each other about how good your food is.

As for service, our waitress was tremendous. Not in size, but in personality and attentiveness, without ego or plastic undertones. But not flawless either. For example, our cocktails came quite a bit late to the table, mid-way through our starters, but this was do to the bar losing the ticket. Now, normally you’d think this would be cause for docking a knife, and normally it would be. But is it the rarity of flawlessness that matters or is it how they handle the occasional hiccup? In this case, both the waitress and bartender came over to personally apologize for the mix up and delivered the drinks within a minute after. And yes, they were worth the wait. Especially the Summer Sangria with a richness almost as if there was Bourbon in there as opposed to wine.

But by now you’re probably getting pissed because I haven’t gotten to the food yet, so let’s get to it.

First up would be the amuse bouche, which is comprised of two dishes. A basic ceviche that is nothing to write home about, and a wonderfully explosive cream cheese puff pastry, that is worth flying home about.

Next came the buttery brioche-like bread which was so buttery and delcious, the fact that it came with butter was like gilding the lily. But as good as the bread is, I strongly recommend that you skip it in favor of the Texas Toast that comes with the Spicy Lobster which was so incredible it was as if my taste buds had died and gone to taste bud heaven. The lobster meat and bread in that sauce- OMFWow!

But not to be outdone, the tortellini is also very impressive, packing it’s own heat and a complexity to its sauce that unfolds in your mouth like a story.

Wait, I probably should’ve saved that description for the Halibut entrée, because that sauce was also quite the tour de force, minus the heat. But so rich and layered it was more like a meat dish.

Now here comes my one nit. And I blame myself for it. I had gone there fully prepared to get the highly acclaimed chicken, but our served talked me out of it and I went with a lamb special instead. Now, the lamb was far from bad, but at 48 bucks a plate, not bad IS bad. At that price I should’ve lept out of my chair and danced a jig after every bite.

The dancing, however, was not far behind, because the S’more dessert had me giddier than Kevin Bacon in Footloose. Just the presentation alone- well, of everything really, but with the “charred” marshmallow on a stick and the salted “chocolate bar”- if my tongue had hands it would applaud.

The other dessert was no slouch either. A deconstructed key lime, which had it been the only dessert on the table would be receiving all the adulation right now.

Such a treat. Finally an Iron Chef restaurant that lives up to its metal. A tribute to the fact that he is still the one actually in the kitchen. Saw him with my own eyes the last time I went.

Which brings me to another evening of incredibleness. The amuse bouche this second time was a touch less impressive. An homage to the NYC bagel and smoked fish. Good, but not grand. The graganelli with short ribs and black truffles, however, was mood-altering-good.

Also, this time I had the heavily revered under brick chicken and I have to say, while good for a roasted chicken, it’s still just a roasted chicken. I’ve had MANY a chicken dish that bests it. From One in Irvington, NY (RIP) to ABC Kitchen to Son of a Gun in LA. Don’t get wooed by the hype. There are so many better options on the menu.

And once again, come dessert, Marc knocked it out of the park. The best “pumpkin pie” I’ve ever had. Made in souffle form, served with a very complex and equally delicious sorbet made from bourbon, squash and three other things I can’t remember. If an afterlife exists, and they serve food, this must be what it tastes like.

5 teeth