Match Burger & Lobster

580 Riverside Ave. Westport, CT 06880 • (203) 557-8800 • matchburgerlobster.com

Fortunately, there is no affiliation to the Burger & Lobster in New York city, because I’m not a fan. As for this one, I am in love. What gives? “Match’s” which is written in teeny, tiny letters on the logo, but it makes a world of difference, let me tell you.

So, what does the “Match” mean, well, if you’ve been to Match in South Norwalk, this is a sister restaurant, and if you ask me, she’s the much hotter of the two. And while I was extremely sad to see Fleisher’s Kitchen go, RIP, I- wait, what was I saying? Huh. I already forgot, because Burger and Lobster is amnesia-inducing good, boasting both the best burger and the best lobster roll in town. Can’t decide which one to get, fuggetabouit! You can get both with the Mini Combo- a slider version of the bigger Match Burger anda mini version of the lobster roll as well.

Now let me break it down for you. The burger meat is sourced from the amazeballs butcher Fleisher’s, next door, then smothered with sweet and sour onions, bacon and cheddar dip. It’s not for the faint of heart. Granted, if you’re really bold, you can go for broke with their top-of-the-line burger also topped with lobster and truffles (pictured).

As for the lobster roll, it’s Connecticut style, duh, served buttery and warm, with a slight zag, served on a round bun in the larger full-entrée form, yet in a mini hot dog roll for the combo, paying more faithful homage to tradition.

The steamers are also strong. Fries and onion rings are decent, but everything is served with potato chips so you really don’t need ’em. Plus, I personally wouldn’t waste your time or caloric intake on any of them, because they crush it on the desserts. Both the Key lime pie and the warm chocolate brownie a la mode will have you cramming your face into the metal tray like dog to his bowl. Game. Set. Match.

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Alta

64 W 10th StNew York, NY 10011 • (212) 505-7777 • altarestaurant.com
Finally, a newbie with rave reviews that actually lives up to them! Yes, Alta is Al that (and a bucket of chicken). Set in a somewhat odd location for a tapas joint, an old Amish home (pictured). But, hey, if it works, don’t knock it.

In terms of the tapas itself, the hit ratio was most admirable. Going 10 of 12 with not one thing being bad and only two mehs. So let’s do role call, from best to mehs:

Top of the list has to go to the ridiculous parker house rolls with dill butter. So good you’ll wanna open a vein. Also muy delicioso are the bacon wrapped dates and olives (granted you could wrap garbage in bacon and I’d probably eat it), the scallops are money, the Brussels sprouts with green apple are inventive and much lighter than so many other sprout dishes getting love these days, and two different desserts, the sundae and the lemon tart also rounded out the best of the best. But there is an MVP from the meal that I feel compelled to give a shout-out to, the wine. The Morgon Beaujolais is phenom. This is now the second time I’ve had it (first at Scarpetta) and it is right up there with Prisoner, for those who are fans.

Now back to the food. A notch down toward very good, I would list the buratta with black truffles, the short rib with beet parpadelle and horseradish slaw and lastly, the warm chocolate cake.

Bringing up the rear would be the fried goat cheese with lavender honey. It’s clearly trying to do the Italian ricotta and honey thing, but misses significantly. The other non-starter, get it? Is the agnolotti with yam, shroom and cheese. As I caveated above, it wasn’t bad, but with so many other hits, it was surrounded by tough competition.

Speaking of, Alta is, or should be, some major competition next time you are planning to go out, because chances are, the place you’re thinking of going to isn’t as good. The name says it all. Alta is tops.

The Blanchard

1935 N Lincoln Park W. Chicago, IL 60614(872) 829-3971theblanchardchicago.com

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The chef comes from very good pedigree having worked at some of New York’s finest such as The Four Season (RIP), Le Bernadin and the Gotham Bar & Grill. But now he’s making a name for himself in Chi-town, serving up French cuisine with a twist. And some truffles. And foie gras. And sweetbreads.

Starting with the foie gras, this guy obvious loves it (either that or he hates geese), serving so many dishes with it he ran out of names for them and just starting using numbers. For example “Seared Foie Gras #1” and “Seared Foie Gras #2,” of which I had the latter, crusted with black truffles, candied lavender and in a Madiera sauce. And while it sounds transcendent, it was really nothing memorable, especially when compared to the much less sexy sounding foie gras hot dog, which is doggone delectable. Topped with foie gras mustard, coz why not? Onion confit and served on a brioche roll.

Of the rest of the starters the only other one I would recommend would be the scallops, so don’t fall for your waiter’s swooning praise of the Oueff Outhier. The presentation is certainly nice, basically scrambled eggs put back in the shell with vodka infused crème fraiche and caviar on top. It’s good, but the scrambled eggs at Gato in New York and Bar LaGrassa in Minneapolis both trounce the shell out of this dish.

But the most disappointing of all the starters was the sweetbreads with chicken mousse, artichoke puree and bacon fat. Surprisingly bland for something so artery clogging.

The entrée course faired much better with all three being good. Granted I found the filet of sole to be insanely overpriced. It’s sole people. Not soul. But the dish worthy of the most adoration was the rack of lamb, served with a ratatouille tatin, roasted tomato and eggplant caviar all nestled in a natural reduction. So good Shaun the Sheep would wolf it down.

But as the evening went on, things just kept getting better and better, either that or I was getting drunker and drunker. Or perhaps it was something in between. Well, whatever the reason, dessert was the icing on the cake, delivering three winners in the form of a pineapple galette with passion fruit pastry cream, frangipane (almond paste) and a crème fraiche gelato. This was followed by a crepe gateau with Grand Marnier cream and hot fudge. And the cherry on top was an Ultimate crème brulee, of which I am normally not even a huge fan. But I scarfed that thing down like it was the only thing I had eaten in weeks.

Service is very good, other then the oversell on the eggs. And the décor is very nice. Striking that balance between warm and contemporary quite skillfully. And thus rounding things out for a fantastic four.

4 teeth

Aureole

Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino • 3950 S Las Vegas Blvd. Las Vegas, NV 89119(702) 632-7401charliepalmer.com

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About 10 years ago the wife and I ate at the original in New York and while it was good, I still recall that it didn’t live up to the hype. Well, 2000 miles away and 3650 days later, it still doesn’t.

Sure, it has its moments- well, two really. The first being the wine. No, not the gigantic 40 foot wine tower in the center of the restaurant, complete with wine angels soaring into the sky on ropes to fetch your bottle- because in Vegas, why simply just step into a wine cellar to fetch it? But that’s not what I was getting at. We were an extremely large party and the Cabernet they served us was excellent. So kudos for not giving us the crap stuff, which so often happens at large functions.

The other major win was the French Onion Soup. Made with foie gras, truffles and gruyere. I mean, if a restaurant can’t stick the landing with that line up, it might as well close its doors. You want this. Trust me.

The filet mignon with bleu cheese, however was just okay. Slightly over medium rare and a bit salty. Yet, somehow still better than the salmon entrée, which, while cooked perfectly was very lacking in wow.

To finish, Aureole really let things slide on the molten chocolate cake which was far from molten. Basically just chocolate cake. They should hop a flight to LA and eat at Sushi Roku to learn how it’s done.

The other dessert, however, was pretty good for what it was, a piña colada brulee. Which is a nice way of saying pudding. Made with pineapple and shaved, dried coconut. A solid good, but apart from bread pudding, I’m not the biggest pudding guy. Apologies to Bill Cosby.

3 teeth

Lincoln

Lincoln Center 142 W 65th St. New York, NY 10023(212) 359-6500 •  lincolnristorante.com

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Apparently someone resurrected Frank Lloyd Wright and made him design a restaurant in Lincoln Center. The lines in the place are truly THAT stunning (as you can see from the photo above).

And the food doesn’t disappoint either. First, the wine list. A solid array of Italian. And one of the larger and fairer priced Amarone selections I’ve seen. Usually restaurants like these jack them up over two hundy to start.

Next, the bread. LOVE the wonderfully salty focaccia, but be careful. You’ll want to save room. I know, I sound like your mother…

For apps, the burrata starter is just killer. So creamy you’ll almost want to order another portion on the spot.

The Parpadelle with truffles, however, was a bit of let down I have to say. Mostly because the portion is SO small and SO expensive. And while good, it’s not as incredible as the price tag. The veal app is also a bit on the blah side. So I recommend sticking with the burrata. Or, upon my second visit I discovered a foie gras terrine that brings its own creamy game to the party.

As for entrees, there is a spicy pasta that I stole a taste of, which was very good, but unfortunately I can’t recall the name because I was too enraptured by my own main, the lamb shank. The lamb is fall off the bone moist, served over creamy polenta- need I say more? Plus, with the wine = cielo (heaven).

Also, as a side, we shared the eggplant parm– and as good as some of the other things were, this might have been the best thing of the night. Masterfully prepared on every level. A contrast of textures from the soft, gooey middle to the crispy caramelized skin. So thin. So good. So you better get it.

And yes, we still had room for dessert. And also yes, I could stand to show a little more self restraint. But the way I see it, if you’re gonna eat at a place like this, go big or go home.

So, back to dessert… the clear winner (we tried 3) was the pear tarte. Trust me, it’s all you need to know. It’s the perfecting ending to a great meal.

Oh, and last but not least, a shout out to the cocktails. Love the giant bowling ball of ice that came with my Michters. A class act top to bottom, Lincoln is. But what else would you expect from Lincoln Center than a show-stopping performance?

4 teeth

Piccolo

5 Dudley Ave. Venice, CA 90291(310) 314-3222 • piccolovenice.com

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Move over Capo, Valentino’s and Georgio’s. There’s, well, technically not a “new” game, but “new to me” game in town.

Decor is clean and simple. Basically dark wood and white.  The service, and particularly our waiter, was very authentic and very passionate about the restaurant’s offerings. So passionate that I think it took nearly 30 minutes for him to explain the burrata caprese alone. That said, the burrata caprese is phenomenal. So inventive. Easily the best I’ve ever had.

Another incredible dish is the tagliatelle with venison ragu. Seasoned with cinnamon and clove. Such incredible flavors layered in every bite. It was truly masterful and like nothing I’ve ever had, before or since.

Some other solid dishes were the carbonara with quail egg and the seared scallops with truffles. But while very good, they just weren’t at the same level as the first two.

And then came dessert. A make or break for 5 stars. And with me not typically being a fan of Italian desserts, save the cannoli, an improbable task to say the least. But Piccolo delivered. Two different desserts rocked my world. The dark chocolate gold leaf cake was insane. So intensely rich, but not overdone. Handled with complete elegance on the palate. And the crowd favorite, the chocolate cream filled pastry balls. Sort of a variation on a profiterole. Like a bomb of chocolaty, creamy goodness exploding in your mouth.

I think I’m in amore.

5 teeth

La Tulipe Desserts

455 Lexington Ave. Mount Kisco, NY 10549(914) 242-4555latulipedesserts.com

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I find it shocking that people can give this place 1 star on Yelp based on a myopic sampling of macaroons (hence why I left Yelp). I defy anyone to find any bakery on the planet that does EVERYTHING with perfection.

That said, La Tulipe does a lot VERY well. So let’s start with what rocks… First, they have the best almond croissant I’ve ever had in my life. And yes, I’ve been to Paris. Even their plain croissant is in my top 3. The chocolate croissant ain’t too shabby either. In fact, let’s just say they’ve got the entire croissant family covered.

But croissants are just the tip of this delicious iceberg. Most of their cakes are excellent too. For example, their chocolate bomb cake IS the bomb. Beautiful inside and out. Probably the best I’ve ever had as well.

Their gelato is excellent- I recommend pistachio and chocolate and skipping every other game in town if you want truly serious ice cream.

Most of their muffins are VERY good.

And as for their macaroons, I’ve had about 6 different flavors from them and I have to say only about 2 were great. The rest just “eh.” But 1 star? Seriously? I mean it’s not like Bouchon is batting 100o either. But as long as we are pointing out the nits, there are a couple of others. Skip the carrot cake- granted they don’t usually make it, but if you commission one for a party, think twice. It will look pretty, but the taste is just okay. Also, the staff is a bit hit and miss. Not particularly warm and not particularly good at remembering your order, unfortunately. Although, the chef himself is very nice.

So, to set the record straight, let’s just recalibrate La Tulipe in terms of their competition… They blow Lulu’s in Scarsdale out of the water and the only other bakery in Westchester that has anything as transcendent as their croissants would be Sherri B’s in Chappaqua, with brownies so good you’d swear they were laced with something other than butter.

5 teeth