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American Nouveau/ dinner/ travels

Castagna: Playful Fine Dining in Portland

I love Portland. It is a magical land of eats, microcrews, hikes and no sales tax which activates the inner consumer in me. Stuff, for LESS? Yes, count me in.

There are many great deals in Portland, and one of them is at a New American restaurant called Castagna. Not many institutions there where there are of a white-cloth dining experience – it’s certainly more about the hipster casual – so Castagna naturally stands out from the crowd. With an offering of $98 or $155 tasting menus (the price varies based on number of courses you receive), I find it a steal. Hopefully this posts shows you why. **There will be many photos. Be ready to scroll.**

Let’s start off with snacks – which is arguably one of the best ways to ever start a meal. There are many of them that whetted my appetite. These delicious small bites made me sit back and think, “Wow if this is the way it’s beginning, I can only anticipate what will come…”

Beet chip with foie gras cream. Creamy and crunchy. Please sir, can i have some more?

Their house made bread comes with two spreads – smoked pork lard and butter. I enjoyed slathering these different spreads across the warm wheat rolls. As to which one was better? That’s a hard one (and still can’t answer that question).

This is what they described as an “adult version of a fruit roll-up“, which was very good and unfortunately did not note down what was in it. I’m ashamed, mostly because I can’t properly describe how tasty this was.

Oysters so beautifully plated, and tastefully balanced.

Now, we venture into the course section of the night:

Peas, agastache and goat’s butter served in a small porcelain cup and a mother-of-pearl spoon. Was it as delicious as described? Hell yes, and every bit as luxurious as you’d think too.

This egg-looking dish is actually centered around asparagus, reminding you of the spring time.

Okay, I know this isn’t the best photo of what a scallop is, but this is a marinated scallop indeed. A few bites, and wish I had a bit more to be able to evaluate my feelings for the dish; it was fresh and mildly sweet.

Beet with black garlic powder and maltaise (aka hollandaise sauce), which was one of my favorite dishes of the night. Not only did the beet feel meaty, but also melded with the sauces and dust.

Morels with fiddlehead fern, and a few other beautiful things. Earthy and rustic, a small bite of something slightly heavy easing into the next course.

Culotte with oyster leaf was sadly, the only point in the night where I wasn’t satisfied. The meat was chewy, but not in a very pleasant flavorful way, which took away from the other parts of the dish.

Another one of the most impressive dishes of the night was the frozen rhubarb with black olive and vanilla sitting underneath. The combination of these flavors and textures made me come alive, and wonder for the next 30 minutes how this exact dish was formulated…and I’m still wondering.

Toast with strawberries and milk makes the last official course of the night, and what more comforting than those ingredients. The sharp-edged milk shardes poking into the strawberry ice cream and toast crumbs left you feeling like you can sit back and relax in ease, like giving out the last hug of the night.

Chocolates rounded out the night, with hazelnuts and sea salt. Who could say no to that?

Castagna plays around with seasonal ingredients, using different textures and preparation methods to have you think twice about each dish. Each bite makes you ask more – the whys and whats – and that’s what I love to do when I eat. Let curiosity flow, and enjoy your full blown thoughtful dining experience there.

Castagna
1752 SE Hawthorne Blvd
Portland, OR 97214
Reservations

American Nouveau/ dinner/ San Francisco

Aster: It’s Magically Delicious

I generally stay away from anything that reminds me of “fusion”. An image of two foods singed together, unnaturally meshed, and creating a frankenstein dish makes me very uncomfortable. Why? Often times, I’ve actually pay a lot for this type of “cuisine” at restaurants and doesn’t taste good; it’s usually confusing and leaves my tastebuds in a disappointed state.

Aster seems to make the combination of Asian and Western come together seamlessly, like a perfect magic trick. They were awarded one Michelin star this year – which isn’t the end-all-be-all per se – but at the same time, it’s catching the eyes of some critics. With a four course menu at $59, it’s a reasonably affordable meal where you will encounter interesting textures and beautifully made dishes.

We started with house-made sourdough bread with butter. As someone who loves bread, this couldn’t be any better – the butter was creamy enough to stand up to a sourdough. At the same time, the bread wasn’t too sour and finished nicely. YUM.

The first dish was beets with pomegranate, pistachio, cultured cream and arugula. Beautiful? Yes. As delicious as it is pretty? Oh yes!

Soft-cooked egg with crispy potato, ikura, and bacon vinaigrette, everything melded together – with its various textures and flavors – to create an umami boost of flavor. Not only is it fun to have the ikura pop in your mouth, but the potato made it crunchy, while the egg bounded each ingredient altogether.

 

The pork shoulder was cooked for hours and assembled layer by layer, with a crispy layer of skin, to be surrounded by carrots and satsuma mandarins, and shiitake furikake. It was like a well-done magic trick. In this case I’m not sure how umami, fat, and citrus can be brought into one dish, but it DID happen…and tasted really good too.

Lastly, the pink lady apple with broiche, sunflower seed, and bay laurel was the perfect ending to the meal. It was the just the right amount of sweet (just from the apple), along with the crumble and seeds, you still get nice bite even though the apple is soft.

The menu changes with the seasons, so that just means another visit is necessary. I’m looking forward to seeing more of the “magic” that comes out of that restaurant. Hopefully more solid and interesting dishes to come!

Aster
1001 Guerrero St
San Francisco, CA 94110
Opentable

American Nouveau/ dinner/ drinks/ San Francisco

Lazy Bear: Listen and Learn

TL;DR – Lazy Bear is worth the money and very deserving of its Michelin star. This post captures meal is documented its entirety and in a detailed fashion.

I got schooled at Lazy Bear and I loved it. With notebooks and a pencil in hand – in fact, they give you these tools – all the chefs at Lazy Bear gave us one big tasty lesson. The “syllabus” includes talking about about what produce was in season, how to make the beautiful looking things on the plate (e.g. soak this in beef fat, soude vide that, etc.), and showcasing what is possible with thoughtful preparation. TEACH ME YOUR WAYS SENSEIS!

Naturally, you may ask how much does this “schooling” cost? Similar to a private university, it’s expensive; at anywhere between $145-$175 / person, it excludes tip and drinks. Wine pairings? Add another $85. Some old timers complain; yeah I know it used to cost something significantly less, reservations came easily, blah blah, but here we are today. It’s popular, hip, and oh-so-very delicious.

With my great note-taking skills still intact – it helps that I have occasional nightmares of getting a B in any class, thank you mom – get ready for a thorough journey through my meal.

Snacks

As a preview to the main dinner – or a great way to buy time as the next seating finishes up – they bring you to an upstairs area where you’re able to hang out, enjoy their delicious drinks, AND eat.

This started off the meal, and boy was it a strong start – whipped scramble eggs with Tennessee smoked bacon, maple and house made hot sauce. This is one of the night’s highlights; eaten with a spoon so you mix all the elements thoroughly, the eggs had a completely new texture on top of smoky and spicy taste.

The albacore tuna with a gel sheet of white grape and verjus, fresh crushed peanuts, and black olive was a small bite, refreshing and light.

On the light spectrum, the strawberry meringue is topped with with strawberry jelly, foie gras, and sorel packed a smooth yet flavorful bite.

They also handed over a plum and kuwat soda, fermented in-house with shiso which was awfully delicious, and I easily could have drank two of these.

The potato cannoli was a take on “sour cream and onion chip”; served with creme fraiche, whipped potatoes, caviar and chives it totally hit the mark.

Dinner

We broke bread together, and more specifically, with a spelt and rye dinner roll served with house-made cultured butter. Not only was the dinner roll served warm (plus points)  but the butter was silky and melded into the roll – slightly sour and soft (plus more points).

If you want to win over a crowd, bring in ribeye, avocado and tomatoes; the tomato panzanella with a carpaccio of Miyazaki ribeye covering avocado, padron conserva, and seaweed focaccia was a great bite. The focaccia was soaked in beef fat and olive oil; tomatoes were soaked in red wine vinegar to help with making this dish bright; the ribeye…well, that just speaks for itself.

Making vegetables taste good and somewhat interesting takes great skill, and in this case what a success – the legumes included summer squash (cooked in chicken stock, lemon juice), snap peas, bell pepper, fennel and saffron nage (made from fish, spices, and added chicken stock).

Ever thought about making a dish centered on one vegetable? Oh they did, and chose a vegetable I’ve never heard of – celtuce (used commonly in Chinese cuisine, a mesh between romaine and celery). Its stem was braised in butter and garlic, stalk pureed with almond milk, oil, and butter, and leaves dehydrated to take away bitter notes, along with chicken skin bits, and toasted almond.

Transform an American staple? Check box on that too; they took corn and made fresh corn grits, which were very sweet, and topped it with smoked ham. Yes sir, I’d want some more!

The grilled berkshire pork shoulder (glazed and finished with peach juice) was served with grilled peach, turnip, succulents (e.g. sea lettuce, beans, New Zealand spinach), and stone fruit tare. Sweet, savory, soft, and juicy, what more can you ask for?

This was their take on “beef and tomatoes” – sous vide Miyazaki ribeye cap, seared tomato, black garlic, and pureed eggplant. Nicely marbled and meat juices flowed in your mouth as you chomped down, with the addition of the sweet and tart tomatoes. Heavenly.

Dessert

White sesame “gomatofu”, iced green melon, sake lees, rose geranium was light, and a perfect palate cleanser.

Blue corn ice cream with blueberry whiskey puree, blueberry spongecake, and whiskey pudding was the perfect representation for what was in season at the time; not to mention, it was texturally interesting (spongecake, pudding, and ice cream!) and easy to devour.

Treats

The semifreddo vietnamese cookie was light and sweet, with bits of chocolate and pate de fruits.

Another sweet bite – the caramelized apricot with hazelnut and milk chocolate truffle melted in the mouth and was a delicious treat.

Last of them, the red velvet with red berries was my favorite. Moist, sweet and tart in one whole bite; easily wanted two or three of these after every meal.

I am on the Lazy Bear bandwagon; I absolutely love this place. Everything is well thought-out – from the interior design, the food/drinks and even the chefs (they actually come up and talk to you when you’re waiting for your seating). This is the kind of schooling I’m willing to pay for.

Lazy Bear
3416 19th St.
San Francisco, CA 94110
Tickets

American Nouveau/ dinner/ San Francisco

Lord Stanley: Not My Neighborhood Joint

As someone who is passionate about food (aka one who constantly thinks about their next meal as they are eating their current one), I have been assessing the SF food scene and comparing it to what I know – New York. Friends from the East and West coast want to know where I stand, and I am always so torn. It’s as if I need to choose between Biggie or Tupac, and we all know that is a really tough choice. Then I see this article from Bon Appetit, “San Francisco Is the Best Food City in the Country Right Now” pop up on my Facebook feed. HOLY CRAP, someone answered for me! Thank you Andrew Knowlton!

This is the best gif I could find to represent my excitement…

Luckily, I have friends who are as excited about food as I am (see my foodie definition above) and want to check out these spots. Glancing through the list of restaurants in the article, there are restaurants that I have thoroughly enjoyed listed – Lazy Bear, Mourad, The Progress – alongside ones I’m not familiar with. I figured these unknown restaurants are potential gems, and I will be an early adopter! In under a day that I re-posted this article on my Facebook feed, reservations were made (thank you friends). We are going to Lord Stanley.

I saw this place having a lot of potential. I could become a regular if this was really good since it’s located about 4 blocks away from my apartment. The waitstaff would know me by first name, the host would seat me before people who had reservations, and I could order dishes only OLD-TIMERS would know about; as you can see, my imagination runs wild. Lord Stanley describes itself as serving European influence cuisine in a casual environment. They are so European where they adopted their way of billing – service is included in the final bill. No need to do math after you’ve stuffed yourself silly. Check, check and check!

Excited and hungry, we all ordered the tasting menu while two friends added the wine pairing. It was about six courses for $83. Not horribly expensive but not cheap.

Food Breakdown

Poached oyster, horseradish and buttermilk – Overly garnished with herbs, oysters fell by the wayside.

Chilled squash with ricotta and mint – Delicious house-made ricotta, and the squash had a good bite – refreshing.

Sea bass with bouillabaisse jus – The fish was nicely cooked, though the roasted red pepper felt a bit random. Any chance we could get more jus in there?

Grilled Wagyu beef with Matsutake mushrooms – Beef was cooked medium-rare and juicy, with mushrooms that added a nice earthy and spicy flavor.

Strawberry “Eton Mess” – Crispy and light piece of meringue served with fresh seasonal strawberries made a great combination.

I had the same feeling walking out of this restaurant as I did after watching Avengers: Age of Ultron – continuously disappointed and frustrated. I wanted to like the storyline, the characters, but nothing really made sense. Same goes for Lord Stanley: the food was everywhere, with no central theme or taste that combines it together; the service missed details that were hard to ignore – not explaining what the first wine was, not asking which type of water that’s in your cup before filling it incorrectly, double charging a credit card, etc.; the pace of the meal was confusing, first items coming out quickly and the last parts coming out very slowly where the entire meal ended up being three hours.

Why have you failed me Bon Appetit? I raise my fists to the heavens in rage. Looks like my search for my dream local restaurant ensues (SIGH).

Lord Stanley
2065 Polk St (and Broadway)
San Francisco, CA 94109

American Nouveau/ dinner/ San Francisco

The MINA Test Kitchen: Tasty Experiments, Sign Me Up!

People are big fans of Michael Mina, and I totally get it. He started his culinary empire in San Francisco and has played a major role in building the restaurant scene to where it is today. Think Pablo Escobar, and replace the cocaine with food and power hungry vengeance for zen-like philosophies (Warning: There may be many references in this post to this highly addictive Netflix show – I am obsessed). There is no doubt that his restaurants do insanely well (see here for awards, it will take you a solid 2 minutes to scroll through the page) and his restaurant group extends across the US with 20 restaurants. There’s barely enough room on the website to list them all:

MINATESTKITCHEN_COMOkay so he’s pretty badass. Pablo Escobar level badass. However, the more accolades one chef or restaurant receives, the more side-eye skeptical I get…which doesn’t really make much sense but bear with me here. It becomes a personal mission to figure it out – if the food is actually delicious, and restaurant worth going to – in addition to having the perfect excuse to eat out (“See Mom, there’s a reason bigger than me that requires me to eat out and spend money for it. I need to make sure people know if the restaurant IS really good or not...”)

For my friend’s birthday (Happy Birthday HARRY), we all went to the latest Michael Mina venture – Mina’s Test Kitchen, located in the Marina. He pairs up with chefs to create a pop-up kitchen; essentially, they can cook whatever they want. Successful dishes move on and graduate to his other restaurants. What’s great is that the cuisine is themed (the current one being Eastern Mediterranean) and changes every few months (next one being Italian). You buy tickets to secure your seat and payment of the meal. Easy peasy.

His philosophy to cooking – to focus on achieving balance and harmony – is in-line with what I look for in food, so we are starting on a good foot here. Tip: There were many terms I have to look up looking at the menu, so you might be interested in brushing up on your Mediterranean / Greek, or just have your iPhone handy.

The Greet

We started off with the palette cleanser, a limonata popsicle with basil, sea salt and peach with olive oil drizzled on top. Refreshing and a cute bite to begin the meal.

Laffa

This course was so good, to the point where I could be happy eating a few more and call it a night. What made is particularly tasty was the laffa; it was soft, doughy, warm, and perfectly encased everything else (berbere-spiced ahi tuna, baba ghanoush, crispy spring onions, and pickled hot peppers). It tasted as good as it sounds, trust me.

Salatim

The Saganaki-style helloumi (which sounds Japanese, but in fact is a Greek dish) reminded me of paneer, except this was pan-fried and was saltier. The marinated heirloom tomatoes, toasted sesame seeds, madjool dates, and watercress all played nice, contributing to the simultaneously sweet, tart, and nutty flavors. Taste explosions? YES OH MY.

For all the avocado lovers out there, this dish was made for you. No toast needed to show you what this avocado is all about *insert feisty sideways snap*; served with pickled hot peppers and summer vegetables, fried walnuts, kataifi (those crispy-looking things on top), schug (a chile relish) it made for a very well spiced, crunchy and creamy dish.

The grilled stone fruit fattoush, shaved cauliflower, radish persian cucumber, crunchy pita, chilies, and mint oil was a crunch-fest, and delicious to boot. Easy to eat, light, and just a solid tasting dish. Let those vegetables and fruit shine!

Hummus

Want some more oomph? Oh yes, there’s more. Hummus made of spicy lamb ragu, toasted pine nuts, pomegranate, crispy zucchini, and espelette pepper served with WARM was delightful. Yes, the pita was warm. They had a small heat device underneath the basket to ensure it arrives warm to you. Now if every place can serve warm pitas, the world would be a happier place.

Mains and Veggies

If you can’t tell, this harissa-marinated roasted chicken was tendy, juicy, and flavorful. It came with smashed and fried fingerling potatoes, soaking up any oils from the chicken and the fryer. YUM-MY.

Sides included swiss chard with oil-cured black olives, toasted garlic, red grapes and a slow-cooked brisket with yemenite-spiced basmati, chick peas, and lentils (supplement of $10). The brisket was good but, I would venture to say, okay missing out on and saving yourself the extra moo-lah.

Anything with corn will win me over and this is no exception. Moroccan street corn with chemoula yogurt, feta, cayenne pepper, orange zest, mint, and green onions reminded me of New York Cafe Havana’s grilled corn (but just a tad fit “fancier), as it has similar and basic elements: corn, cheese, spice.

Sweets

Rounding out the meal was the watermelon granita that sat above rose water cream, toasted pistachio, and basil. After a full meal of spice and intense flavors, this was refreshing and slightly sweet, closing the night perfectly.

The restaurant is well thought-out; the waitstaff is attentive, food is tasty down to the smallest components, and runs like a well oiled machine…just like Pablo Escobar’s crack business. Whatever Michael Mina and his team are putting into their dishes, I definitely want and need some more; it is THAT good.

The MINA Test Kitchen
2120 Greenwich St.
San Francisco, CA 94123
minatestkitchen.com

American Nouveau/ dinner/ San Francisco

Trestle: Affordable and Simplistic SF Dining

In the day and age of many choices, there’s beauty in simplicity. Trestle, which offers a three course menu for $35, creates an easy dining experience for its customers. They have an ever-changing menu that highlights and transforms traditional comfort foods with California’s fresh ingredients.

My recommendation is to go with a friend so you can try each dish from each course.

We had the Falafel Salad with crispy lavash, tsatziki, and mint (above) and the English Pea ‘Chowder’ with smoked salmon, melted leeks, mint, and potato (below) to start us offa. Both dishes were good, for different reasons: the falafels were nicely fried, and all the sauces and textures made it tasty and interesting to eat. The chowder was silky smooth, not heavy, and the smoked salmon melded nicely with the subtle flavor of leek – slightly sweet – with a hint of mint and onion.

They give you a choice for one addition to the menu – a pasta course – so we chose Ricotta Gnudi. The dish came with mushroom puree, pecorino, and breadcrumbs. The gnudi was soft, light, and evened out the flavors from the intense mushroom flavor and sharp pecorino.

The main courses were Crispy Skin Branzino and Sausage-Stuffed Roast Chicken. The branzino came with roasted cauliflower, charred spring onions, and salsa verde; the dish was light overall, with some cauliflower and onions to provide some sweetness and salsa verde to highlight fresh ingredients. As for the roast chicken with wild ‘dirty’ rice, braised greens, and chicken jus, the chicken was cooked perfectly – tender and juicy.

Lastly, dessert. Their Warm Chocolate Brownie was comfortingly delicious, and the Blackberry Hand Pie seemed like it was an after-thought. The brownie came with vanilla ice cream, salted caramel, and candied walnuts, which is an easy thumbs up (after all, who can say no to brownie a la mode?) The hand pies with lime sugar glaze, and black pepper cream seemed haphazardly placed together; I couldn’t taste black pepper in the cream, and was placed far away from the pie itself. It made me think, “are these two foods supposed to go together?” Whether the answer was yes or no, the hand pies didn’t seem to need the cream altogether.

Similarly to their sister restaurant Stones Throw (which is one of my favorite restaurants in SF), Trestle is a restaurant that reinvents comfort food whilst elevating California’s ingredients, all for a reasonable price. Definitely worthwhile to check out!

Trestle
531 Jackson St
San Francisco, CA 94111
(415) 772-0922
trestlesf.com

American Nouveau/ dinner/ San Francisco

Stones Throw: Let’s Keep Talking

Stones Throw is not a restaurant that has an identity crisis. They know exactly who they are, head-to-toe: from each table to each dish to each guest. Stones Throw is a thoughtful, playful and comfortable restaurant; it’s like kind of boyfriend you wish you can be around with all the time.

This is a place where they notice the small things. Diners are not overlooked. Each staff member understands their role and how it plays into making a great dining experience for you. Baby, it’s all about you – they let you take your drink back if you don’t like it; they write you a message if you’re celebrating a special occasion; they even let you provide ideas for dessert and invite you back if they make it. These are the little twists define Stones Throw as an establishment that goes above and beyond.

They make the meal a dialogue, starting with them, and what they want you to understand about California and its great produce.

They started with a big “HEY” – their puffed potatoes were amazing. Every bite came with a pleasant surprise of an egg so the yolk oozed out when I pierced it with my fork. OOZED. The cauliflower mousse, chives and crispy chicken skin added textural elements that created one holistic delicious bite. It had me wanting more so there’s a good chance I would go have a seat at their bar JUST to have this dish.

The Five Peas in a Pod felt as though it was springtime on a plate, as you can see from above, it looked as if greens were growing out of the piece of brioche. Personally, I had a hard time eating the dish. Aside from munching through fibrous vegetable, the drops of preserved lemon and ricotta couldn’t helped subdue the leafy greens and strong mint flavor.

You’ve heard me be particular about my pastas, and this one sits in the upper-middle range of what I like; each component of the Squid Ink Conchiglie (seashell) pasta was cooked well. It was served with spicy capers, clams, calamari, shrimp and tender greens.

Pork belly, pig’s ears, rilettes – it was all in one dish, and served with charred onion and sunflower seeds. Every main component was pork, but they were able to make the dish interesting. It showcased all the different textures that can come from the same animal – crunchy, soft, and smooth. My favorite of them all? The crispy pig ears.

Utter comfort is now I would describe this sweet corn soup. Alongside many other corn soups that I have had – it was warm, not creamy and silky. What is there not to love about a soup like this?

In a similar vein of the pork dish, the duo of beef ribeye and braised short rib was a great juxtaposition of the same meat cooked in two different ways. The short rib meat fell off the bone – I love it when that happens. However it was the fava croquettes to me stood out for me. They were lightly fried, creamy, and had a mellow flavor which merged nicely together with the beef.

Liberty Farms duck breast tasted as good as it looked, and to me was my favorite main entree. It was tender, juicy, and had just the right amount of fat. Hidden in that pile of delicious corn is a tamale filled with duck confit meat. The cherries gave the dish a nice touch of sweet tartness to every bite I took of the meat.

The conversation wasn’t one-way; Stones Throw invites you to “talk” back, or in this case write, about where you want to be taken back to with this question. MMM…indeed. As I thought through this prompt, I looked more carefully at the dessert menu. Now this gets even more interesting. Dessert was a mini history lesson where there weren’t descriptions on the menu; rather they provided a brief history lesson (i.e. “In 1901 the Boston Cooking School Magazine first referenced peanut butter paired with jelly on bread”).

I went on to notice how each dessert listed was a childhood staple such as Funfetti or key lime pie. My mind was intrigued – how can you remake these to being just as good or better? Reinvention of these items that we place so closely to our hearts requires distilling what make these desserts great, and reinterpret it in a different way so that it’s both new and old.

Their key lime pie dessert was delicious, and not just because of the pie. First off, the pie itself was not too sweet nor tart, and a great pie to crust ratio. Secondly, the sorbet brought in a cold element without being overbearing on being able to taste the lime from the pie. Let’s not forget the meringue which provided that touch of cream (without the flavor of anything else but light cream), and was what you looked for to round out a fulfilling slice of key lime pie.

They broke down the elements of an Oreo – chocolate cookie and cream – that included strawberry, white chocolate, and even fruit roll-up. I gasped, knowing that all of these components were “homemade” in a way – at least not made by Nabisco. Everything on that plate was delicious, apart and together, and similar to the key lime pie, was sweet but not overly so. Reinvention success here? YES.

I was sad to end this meal, this conversation that I was having with them, but then I realized that I could always come back. I can have more! Just like that great boyfriend who shares who they are, what inspires them, and wants to know know you more, Stones Throw fills those shoes and will happily have you back.

Stones Throw
1896 Hyde St
San Francisco, CA 94109
(415) 796-2901
Reservations

American Nouveau/ dinner

Piora: A Restaurant of Unexpected Flavors

Piora is truly representative of what New American cuisine is; with an Italian-American chef and a Korean-American owner, you see the influences of each in the food that is produced here.

Their culinary backgrounds – chef from Tenpenny and owner from Jean-Georges – definitely put this place on the West Village map. Also reading article after article about Piora’s monkey bread, two foodies – ChubbyChineseGirl and Vonatron from Socially Superlative, and I gathered together, ready to eat to see if the hype was worth it.

Monkey bread served with seaweed butter and whipped lardo was served warm (which is my most favorite way to serve bread) and nicely salted. I really enjoyed this, and would definitely come back for more.

Scallop served with sweet corn, chanterelle and crispy chicken skin is pictured above. The scallops were cooked nicely. As for the other elements, I had a hard time finding how they came together.

This dish – duck confit served with early grey, plum and cucumber – was unexpected namely because it came out like a cake, and I don’t remember tasting the plum altogether. I’m not sure if I would order it again but it was at least interesting to see the interpretation of these flavors.

Their sunchokes were really good, served with saba and hazelnut. It was well seasoned and definitely tasty.

The bucatini with black garlic, dungeness crab, maitake and chili topped with scallion was a bit salty for me. I didn’t really taste too much of the crab but at least the pasta was cooked well.

Their suckling pig served with radish, burdock and apple was good. The meat falls apart, which is always a good sign, and the sauce served with it was well paired.

We ended the meal with the cotton cheesecake served with strawberry and basil. It was light, and a pretty straightforward dessert.

Even though I didn’t find all the things at Piora especially tasty, it’s still a good place to go to on a date (definitely has a nice dining area) and try their dishes that comprise of various interesting ingredient combinations. If anything, I would go back for their monkey bread – it’s definitely worth ordering that on a cold winter night.

Piora
430 Hudson Street (near Morton St.)
New York, NY 10014
(212) 960-3801
http://www.pioranyc.com/

American Nouveau/ dinner/ Molecular Gastronomy/ nyc

wd~50: New Menu, New Tastes

For my birthday I was lucky enough to be taken to wd~50, a restaurant that has been on my to-eat list.  We all know about Wylie Dufresne and how he’s changed the food scene with molecular gastronomy earning himself Best Chef in NY for six years (James Beard Award).  Being that they recently changed their menu, I was lucky to taste their new dishes!

Sesame “bread” was provided for the table.  Surprisingly, this provided a great savory palette cleanser in between each course.

The Mackerel Nigiri with salsify, seaweed, and sesame started us off.  The mackerel was very fresh and smooth.  The rice was kind of warm when served, which caught me a bit off guard, but I enjoyed it as a first course.  Light and fresh.

Lobster roe served with charred lemon, green grape, and coriander-brown butter was enjoyable and all the flavors worked together.  The grape provided a nice sweetness to the dish, and charred lemon added a nice bit of texture.

This was one of the best dishes of the night – pho gras with foie gras, noodles, and mint leaves.  The fois gras melted into the broth, which was light and nicely salted.  The noodles seemed like it was cooked for slightly too long, but I really enjoyed the interpretation of pho.

Covered in carrots and “peas” (which is actually something else covered in pea powder) is amaro yolk with chicken confit.  The presentation was interesting but I personally was hoping the yolk would be runny and it wasn’t.

Another highlight of the meal was the veal briskey with za’atar, plum, and mustard.  The thinly sliced veal was nicely flavored with the sauce.  The plum slices added a nice texture to the veal and all the flavors blended well together.

Crab toast with saffron, kaffir-yogurt, and arare was pleasant and had a good amount of crab meat on it.

The turbot with black licorice-pil pil, fried green tomato, and fennel was nicely cooked though I mainly enjoyed the fried tomato. The turbot definitely had the texture on the raw side, but nothing wrong with that!

Lamb sweetbreads served with nasturtium-buttermilk, zucchini, and pistachio. For some, sweetbreads could be hard to stomach but this dish made it a lot easier.  I felt like the texture of the zucchini definitely helped and the sweetbread was flavored nicely.

Their root beer ribs with rye spaetzle and apricot was nicely cooked – tender and juicy paired with the apricot sauce helped make these ribs sweet.

I really enjoyed the palette cleanser – Jasmine, cucumber, honeydew, and chartreuse.  It totally did its job after going through all the savory dishes; it gave my senses a blast of refreshment!

The first dessert was yuzu milk ice with hazelnut, rhubarb, and basil.  What is milk ice?  I think it’s basically puffed up ice cream as you can see from the white sponge-like blob in the middle of the picture.  It didn’t have a sponge-like texture once I ate it, but it was more like it “melted” in my mouth.

This was one of the most impressive dishes of the night for me.  Their version of the s’mores with bitter cocoa, meringue, and black currant was delicious.  The “marshmallow” on top is actually marshmallow ice cream that’s in the shape of marshmallow!  GENIUS.  It was perfectly bitter and sweet, plus the marshmallow helped cut any intense chocolate-y goodness.

FINALLY, the last bite is the white chocolate covered with freeze-dried raspberries and gjetost in the center.  Delicious!

WD~50 was a great adventure into the world of molecular gastronomy.  Dishes were familiar enough for you to feel comfortable, but at the same time, each dish was innovative in the changing the familiar forms of the ingredients within the dish.  I really enjoyed my time there since the waitstaff were informative and casual, food was good and interesting, and I got a tour around the kitchen!

WD~50
50 Clinton Street, New York, NY
(212) 477-2900 ‎

American Nouveau/ dinner/ nyc

Degustation Wine & Tasting Bar: Delicious and Datey

I have been asked by my guy friends lately, “where should I take a date?” There are many options in this city, but I want to focus on one of them – Degustation Wine & Tasting Bar. I was not only blown away by the food, small bites indicative of the restaurant name, but also the intimate setting whilst sitting in front of the open kitchen. With a reasonably priced prix fix menu, 5-course for $55 and 10-course for $80, this place is definitely worth scoring a reservation.

Note: This post will be full of pictures, so make sure to scroll down!

We started with an amuse bouche, which were small bites of goodness. One of these bites was a small pocket of cheese that oozed in the mouth.

Crudo of Hamachi, light, tender, and fresh. Definitely ate this in one bite.

This was their sea urchin and sunchoke panna cotta. The soft texture of the panna cotta with sea urchin melded so well together where I wish I had another one.

I can’t remember what this is but hey, this was very good.

The combination of textures in this dish made it outstanding.

Bite sized but well-fried.

Soft cooked egg…and it’s as good as it sounds and looks. I definitely ate this in 30 seconds.

Foie gras terrine with spring onion and citrus marmalade. The layers of meat with nicely toasted bread was well matched with the citrus.

Oxtail and potato cannelloni, crisp salad, and herb salad and was light and al dente. Oh yes I want more.

Red wine braised short ribs with baby carrots and bruleed cippolini. Seared so nicely and was very tender.

The first dessert portion…

Caramelized torija with grapefruit. Delicious in all the right ways: pudding-esque and not too sweet.

It was definitely a great experience provided the great food, wine, and company (happy birthday Joanne)! Degustation Wine & Tasting Bar is definitely operating top of their game, making it a perfect restaurant to bring someone you care about.

Degustation Wine & Tasting Bar
239 E 5th St
(between 2nd Ave & Cooper Sq)
(212) 979-1012