|This man may not LOOK like an a#%hole, but just watch him dine!|
Just want to be upfront about that.
So while we were in NYC, we enjoyed two meals (as foreshadowed here) at the flagship restaurants of big name chefs you've seen on TV: Masaharu Morimoto of Iron Chef fame (both the U.S. and Japan versions, which makes him the most legit Iron Chef in my book), and Eric Ripert of Top Chef and every Anthony Bourdain show fame. Both are big into seafood, and both are pricey. Though we hit up Morimoto for lunch, and saved a bundle.
Morimoto, in the Chelsea Market
Japanese minimalist decor, with a feature wall of backlit plastic bottles
Tasty cocktails, one a cucumber martini, and one a yuzu sake concoction (I preferred the yuzu, though I confess that I ordered the cucumber... one of the many great things about marriage)
Mark's sushi assortment (chef's choice... nothing too challenging... especially excellent yellowtail)
My wagyu beef bento box, with sushi and vegetable tempura accompanying (the wagyu -- lower right -- was pretty awesome, grilled with a teriyaki-style sauce)
Our compris dessert of lychee-blueberry panna cotta... an interesting and tasty mix of East and West
Overall, Morimoto was a really nice lunch. Not at all busy during the lunch hour, and truthfully not crazy expensive (though quite steep for lunch, of course). All of my posturing about price was really to prepare myself to talk about our dinner at...
Eric Ripert's (pronounced "ri-PAIR") Le Bernardin
It's totally silly that I'm still embarrassed about taking pictures at nice restaurants, considering how much we're spending when we're there, but some part of me just really doesn't want my behavior to scream "TOURIST!" at the world's classier establishments. But, I did make huge progress and manage to photograph every single course, even if I didn't snap a single shot of the dining room.
Also, here's my advice when you go for a multi-course meal, or really any special occasion meal that you wish to remember: ask your waiter for a copy of the menu to take home. Unless you have the world's best memory, and especially if you have the wine pairing, chances are good that you won't remember every single course, or every flavor in every course, or every wine you had with every course. (Flipping through menus of your special meals together is also a nice way to reminisce with a special someone.) Luckily I have our chef's tasting menu and wine pairing rundown right here, so here we go...
We were welcomed while awaiting our table with cheese straws... flaky and delicious, with lots of umami (beware... I am turning on the full foodie speak now!)
Smoked yellowfin tuna "prosciutto"; Japenese pickled vegetables and crispy kombu; served with Domaine Savary "Vielles Vignes" Chablis 2007
(This course overall had a fairly smoky profile, which is generally not my favorite, but the effect was delicate enough so as not to overpower the crisp little veggies and awesome arctic char roe... those little orange balls. I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed popping those in my mouth, and savoring the resulting salty surge. Plus, can you say gorgeous presentation?)
Poached pastured egg; Osetra caviar; mariniere broth and English muffin; served with Krug Grande Cuvee Champagne NV
(I'm a big sucker for egg and caviar, so this course was an easy slam dunk. Salty, savory, umami... and perfectly executed. I think the broth was actually my favorite part, which the unseen "English muffin" helped me mop up every last drop of. Love love love.)
Seared langoustine; mache and wild mushroom salad, shaved foie gras, white balsamic vinaigrette; served with Schloss Johannisberg Rheingau Riesling Kabinett 2008
(This was my died-and-gone-to-Heaven course. I possibly love langoustine more than lobster, and pairing it with foie gras is truly an immaculate conception all its own. And yes, that's a healthy slice of white truffle right on top. As if it needed anything else. The wine was also the cat's pajamas, if you're into the off-dry stuff.)
Pan roasted monkfish; hon shimeji mushrooms, turnip-ginger emulsion sake broth; served with J.M. Boillot Les Charrons Meursault 2007
(I found the monkfish itself a bit bland, but I'll admit that I haven't had much monkfish and maybe just didn't appreciate the subtlety. The broth, on the other hand, was A-MAY-ZING. The waiter actually poured it from three separate vessels, so that the three broths -- turnip, ginger and sake -- all mixed together on the plate. So, so imaginative. And so, so good.)
Baked lobster; pickled golden beet, fennel and citrus "a la Nage"; served with Neumeister Klausen Sauvignon Blanc 2008 (Austria)
(A solid lobster course. Not my favorite of all time, but totally worth repeating. Perfectly cooked lobster with not a hint of toughness or rubberyness... I've been surprised that even the "best" restaurants can mess it up sometimes... with a nice light, fresh flavor in all the accompaniments. Citrus and fennel goes so well with lobster.)
Crispy black bass; lup cheong and beansprout "risotto," mini steamed buns, hoisin-plum jus; served with Ada Nada Valeirano Barbaresco 2005
(As close as we got to red meat, and therefore the only course to be served with red wine. This was nice, though we really wanted the skin to be a little crispier. Like the monkfish, I found this dish a smidge bland.)
First dessert course:
Apricot sphere, fig, sour cherry pearl, candied Angelica; served with Jorge Ordonez Malaga Seleccion Especial No. 1 2007
(This dessert rocked. That apricot sphere was like a little jelly ball that oozed very slowly when you bit into it, with the most perfect apricot flavor. And all of those other things on the plate were wonderful on their own too. I was most stoked during this course to discover Malaga, which I would characterize as Spain's answer to Sauternes. I can't wait to buy some Malagas to drink at home, to mix up my white dessert wine selection.)
From the full cart, we selected Cinderella log, Casatica, Robiola Bosina, Quadrello di Bufala and Blue De Moncenisio
(My memory on each of these is slightly foggy, as we were by now seven glasses of wine in, but I remember that they were scrumptious as a whole.)
Second dessert course:
Gianduja mousse, hazelnuts, honey, banana, brown butter ice cream; served with Ron Zacapa 23 year rum, though I got a nice 2001 Sauternes instead, since I am averse to the brown liquors
(I have a pet peeve about people messing up perfectly lovely desserts with bananas, but I'm slowly learning to forgive this transgression, and still found this dessert quite nice. With the chocolate mousse, hazelnuts and brown butter ice cream, it's hard not to forgive a little thing like a couple of banana slices. Plus, I was totally charmed that they brought me not just some random white dessert wine when I asked not to have the rum, but a really top-notch Sauternes from my favorite year.)
And after that last dessert course, we went out for cheeseburgers. Just kidding! Though in truth, we weren't nearly as stuffed as we've been after some multi-course French meals. Not that that's a bad thing.
To counter all of this high-priced dining, let's end today's recap on a more egalitarian foodie establishment, one that you've also heard of: Magnolia Bakery.
Our first night in NYC, we went to the original Magnolia in Greenwich Village, ground zero of the current cupcake trend, to see what all the fuss was about.
Several non-cupcake items on display, as well as a constantly-restocked self-serve cupcake selection
There were only a few cupcake flavors offered, comprised mainly of chocolate, vanilla and red velvet, with different frosting-cake combinations, and we got a vanilla and a chocolate
All of the New Yorkers we talked to have strong opinions about where to get the best cupcakes, and I didn't hear much love for the Magnolia cupcake itself. Whether people like the frosting or not seems to hinge on whether you're a fan of buttercream or not, which their frosting is an especially rich version of. While I wouldn't eat buttercream every day, I'm generally a fan, and so I found their frosting divine. But I have to agree that the cake itself is pretty dry, and generally meh. But now we've tried Magnolia for ourselves and can cross that off the list.
Still to come this week... recaps of our most carnivorous meals, as well as a most civilized high tea. Stay tuned!
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