Saturday, April 21, 2007

Dinner at Olea, Brooklyn, NY

Restaurants are popping up all over Alexis' old neighborhood of Fort Greene. Olea was a great suggestion from a friend who lives there now. Everything we had was great. The atmosphere was homey and the service friendly. And, on a Saturday night with no reservation, we only had to wait about 15 minutes to be seated. They had an interesting array of tapas, mains, raw bar and a great, not-too-sweet sangria.

Fried Chickpeas $3
Surprising, hot, tasty finger food. And cheap too.

Seafood Platter "Royale" $40
Expensive, but it contained a whole lobster, lots of shrimp and several oysters. The chunky homemade cocktail sauce was also a pleasant surprise.

Fried Haloumi with Spinach Puree $8
You can never go wrong with fried cheese.

Baby Octopus $7
So incredibly tender and laden with garlic and herbs.

Spicy Meatballs
Tender, falvorful meatballs in an incredible spicy tomato sauce spiked with cheese.

Food: 2
Decor: 1
Service: 1

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Lunch at Per Se, New York, NY

Per Se has been on our list for a while now. It's Thomas Keller's (of French Laundry fame) NY place which is, oddly, located on the 4th floor of a mall at Columbus Circle. The decor was both interesting and classic, the waitstaff friendly, if not entirely invisible, and the view of central park was very nice. The meal was $250 per person, including service.

Puff Pastries Stuffed with Gruyere
The perfect, tiny, first bite.

Marinated Salmon on a Black Sesame Tuile Cone Stuffed with Creme Fraiche
This was absolutely delicious. Maybe the best bite of the meal.

Cauliflower Panna Cotta with Caviar
The texture was a bit too firm, but you can't go wrong with caviar.

Butter produced on a small farm from only 6 cows.

More butter, this one unsalted.

Salad of Hearts of Palm, Beets, Granny Smith Apples, Young Lettuce and Horseradish Fritters
Artfully plated and pretty good. The fritters were the stars though, not the hearts of palm, for which the dish was named.

Torchon on Moulard Duck Foie Gras with Green Almonds, Ramps, and Peach Gelee
The gelee didn't do much for the dish, and we never understand why a place would serve torchon rather than seared, but it was still good.

Brioche (served with the foie)
The funniest service experience we had during this meal what when the waiter silently replaced Giao's barely touched brioche with a fresh, hot plate of it.

Tuna Tartare with Avocado, Mango, Cilantro and Amarillo Spiced Potatos on a Yuzu Aioli
This would have been much better without the potatos. They were unnecessary and added an unpleasantly gritty texture to the dish.

Grilled Cobia with Carrots, Compressed Cucumber and Sorrell
The fish was fine (with beautiful grill marks) and we've learned from Thomas Keller that compression is a great technique, as we saw in the compressed apples at Ad Hoc. The compression makes the texture crunchier and somehow intensifies the flavor.

Langoustines with Potatos, First of Season Asparagus, Morels and Langoustine Foam
The foam deflated unpn serving, but these langoustines were so tender it didn't matter.

Pork Belly with Pickled Blackberries and Carmelized Salsify
The pork belly could have been a bit more tender and the blackberries didn't taste very pickled, but it was a solid dish nonetheless.

Pan Fried Veal Brains with Quail Egg and Polenta
These brains were like custard, so insanely smooth.

Lamb with Artichokes, Tomato Confit and Olives
The lamb was so tender and so NOT gamey that the rest of the ingredients were almost beside the point. We could have cut this lamb with a butter knife.

Fleur de Maquis Sheep's Milk Cheese with Onion Marmalade, Onion Rings and Maple-Bourbon Reduction
This was the weirdest texture we had ever tasted in a cheese. You had to eat it with a spoon and it had odd chunky bits in it. But the flavor was mild in its intensity, if that makes any sense.

Coconut Sorbet with Hibiscus Foam and Black Sesame Nougatine
The sorbet was very creamy and the nougatine was strangely like crushed oreo, although it didn't taste like chocolate.

Milk Chocolate Cremeux and Hazelnut Struesel with Condensed Milk Sorbet and Sweetened Salty Hazelnuts
The cremeux was creamy and perfectly chocolately and the nuts added a nice texture contrast. There wasn't much going on flavorwise, other than sweet, with the sorbet.

Madagascar Vanilla Creme Brulee
This was the only thing that wasn't that good in the whole meal. The texture was not creamy enough and the sugar to custard ratio was off.

Fruits of the Forest-Yogurt Pot de Creme
Very good. Not too sweet, a little tangy. A beautiful play on fruit-at-the-bottom yogurt containers. Alexis could eat this every day for breakfast.

House-made Chocolate Truffles
Very interestig flavors. We had grapefruit, ginger caramel, fennel (which was intensely anise-y) and bourbon.

Chocolate Covered Almonds
Not sweet at all, Giao really liked these.

Chocolate Lemon Candies (the texture of a soft caramel, but tasting intensely of lemon and chocolate), Nougat (standard) and even more truffles (the caramel one was particularly tasty).

Food: 3
Decor: 2
Service: 3

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La Mia Pizza, New York, NY

Twice in one day! Gotta love a pizza place open at 3am. Yum... We rationalized that since we weren't going to get another good slice of pizza till we were next in NY, we weren't being TOO gluttonous.

Plain Slice $1.75

Garlic Knots 4 for $1

Pepperoni Slice $2

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Friday, April 20, 2007

Dinner at Esperanto, New York, NY

We headed to Esperanto on Avenue C for some Cuban food. We had never had Cuban food before, save for Cuban sandwiches, and we were pleasantly surprised. Almost everything we had was very tasty and the mojitos were out of this world.

Plantain Crusted Goat Cheese $9
Innovative and delicious.

Empanadas $8
One each of meat, chicken and veggie empanadas. Flaky crust and tender filling.

Shrimp and Mango Salad $10
The shrimp were well cooked and the salad itself had a very flavorful dressing.

Crab Cooked in Banana Leaf $12
Served with homemade plantain chips, this was almost soupy, but in a good way.

Whole Fish $18
A bit overcooked and not that flavorful.

Crab Coconut Soup $9
Almost curry-esque and even though it was thin, it was very flavorful.

Coonut Rice
This came with the fish and was the best rice we've ever had. We usually don't even eat rice, but this was light, fluffy, coconutty and buttery all at once.

Chocolate Volcano $8
A very good rendition of the standard molten chocolate cake.

Food: 2
Service: 1
Decor: 2

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Snack at La Mia Pizza, New York, NY

Pepperoni Slice $2
Ahh, pizza, real pizza. It was so nice to be back in New York where no matter where you go you can get good pizza. But La Mia is a standby, and it is open until about 4am.

Food: 2
Decor: 0
Service: 1

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Lunch at Veselka, New York, NY

Our first food stop in NYC was one of Alexis' favorite brunch spots, Veselka. It was just as good as she remembered.

Meat Combo Platter $13
Kielbasa, Stuffed Cabbage in Mushroom Cream Sauce and perogies. Everything was good and meaty. This meal was also served with the soup and salad shown below.

Red Pepper and Spinach Soup
Sounded better than it actually was.

Side Salad with Dill Dressing
A very satisfying little side salad.

Beets and Saurkraut
Served with the meat platter.

Hunter's Stew $12
This hearty stew of sourkraut, pork and kielbasa was very filling, especially since it came with everything you see below.

Potato Pancake
Very dense and served with applesauce and sour cream. Yum.

Roasted Vegetables
These were a bit lackluster, but it was nice that they were roasted instead of simply steamed.

Food: 1
Decor: 1
Service: 1

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

Dinner at Le Charm, San Francisco, CA

We headed to Le Charm, a dependable French bistro near home where you can almost always get a table without a reservation. The service was excellent and they were able to accomodate our time constraints (we had to catch a plane).

Alexis had the 3 course prix fixe for $30, consisting of the following 3 dishes:

Escargot and Wild Mushroom Fricasee
Very good. Garlicky, herby, tender and delicious.

Steak with Gorgonzola Sauce
A tasty sauce, although the steak could have been a little bit more tender. The fries were nice and crispy as well.

Chocolate Mousse
The texture was a bit off, but there was a nice flavor of orange in the mousse.

Lobster Bisque $8
The flavor was good, but the texture was a bit gritty. Also, oddly, the bisque seemed to contain no actual lobster and seemingly no cream.

Filet Mignon with Foie Gras $25
The meat was very tender, the sauce was tasty and the foie was plentiful.

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