Sunday, September 30, 2012

Gramercy Tavern

Although located super close to NYUMC and one of the restaurants that I've wanted to try through-out most of med school, it's taken over 5 years for me to finally make it into Gramercy Tavern.

We decided to go all-out and have the seasonal tasting menu, but unfortunately the tasting menu didn't include the one dish that Yu was most excited to try - the duck confit. Simple solution: we added it as an additional entree to our tasting menu, for a total of 7 items

Gramercy Tavern's amuse bouche of the night was a raw scallop with cherry tomato (not visualized in the picture because it's resting below the scallop): I thought it was delicious - especially since I actually enjoy raw scallops more than seared

For a first appetizer, we had the fluke sashimi: with sunchoke, Shiitake mushroom, and smoked jalapeno (one of my favorite dishes of the night)

Next came the lobster dish - prepared on a bed of corn, sucrine lettuce, and pickled green tomato: lobster in general is not as sweet as crab, so the sweetness of the corn was a nice pairing in this course

The first entree of the night was a halibut dish - pan seared and served with a zucchini, black olive, and lobster sauce. While there was no single particular thing I could criticize about it, somehow this dish was not particularly stand-out to me

Entree #2 was squab on a bed of potato puree served with artichoke hearts and tomato (Jenn was a fan of this course, since squab is a popular bird used in Asian cooking - especially for events like weddings or other celebrations. My guess is that it probably reminded her of home)

Our third entree was our requested addition to the tasting menu: duck confit. At this point we were all starting to get pretty full, but the duck was very well prepared and delicious - another of my favorites that night

The final entree was roasted and braised beef with peppers, black garlic, farro, and topped with a fried onion ring

We had a dessert amuse bouche as well: raspberries and cream with a butter biscuit

Dessert itself was a chocolate gelato with strawberries

Unlike most fine-dining restaurants of it's caliber, Gramercy Tavern was pleasantly casual (don't let the "dress code" fool you). The decor and atmosphere were not at all stuffy, and service there had just the right amount of attentiveness.

At one point in the middle of dinner when Dave had to visit the men's room, the next course was served before he returned and the staff brought a silver cover for his food to preserve the heat:

 To close out the evening, Dave and Jenn elected to have a cappuchino, whereas I was so deep in food-coma that I can barely remember how I got back home: I call that a gigantic win

Overall rating: 9/10

42 East 20th Street
New York, NY 10003

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Lady M Cake Boutique in the Plaza Hotel

About 2 years ago the Plaza Hotel opened up a European-inspired "food hall" in collaboration with chef Todd English. I had never gotten a chance to visit prior to my move away from NYC - and in fact I didn't even know it existed until Jenn suggested a field trip there.

 We dropped in right after our lunch at Marea, so obviously none of us were hungry, but as we were browsing the shops, we noticed the Lady M Cake Boutique and their crepe cake.

I've been aching to try a crepe cake for a pretty long time, but have yet to find any bakeries in my area that offer it (let's face it - the food scene in Boston may be adequate, but it can't compare to NYC). The three of us shared a slice, and yes - it's as yummy as it's reputation would have you believe. Made of many, many layers of thin crepes and whipped cream, it was incredibly light and almost melt-in-your-mouth. I could probably eat an entire cake on my own

This was definitely one of the best cakes I've ever had - and for those of you who have already checked out and loved Eataly (Mario Batali's brain-child that is also inspired by the European-style food halls), the Plaza's other shops are worth a visit too

Jenn wanted this Plaza Hotel teddy bear, but as I reminded her: she's no longer 5...

Overall rating: 9.5/10

1 West 59th Street
New York, NY 10019

Friday, September 28, 2012


Marea - known for it's delicious Italian-seafood dishes - is normally one of those restaurants that a surgical resident's salary can't support on a regular basis.

Luckily, they offer a "business lunch" that's a pretty decent deal: $45 for an appetizer and entree - similar to a prix fix but minus the dessert.

Jenn, Dave, and I headed over to Central Park South on day 2 of our NYC vacation, prior to their planned romp in the park.

For appetizers, Dave got a mix from the raw bar:
Tonno: bigeye tuna, oyster crema, and crispy artichoke garnish

Dentice: pacific snapper, mandarin orange, pistachio, and carrot vinaigrette

Seppia: cuttlefish tagliatelle, soffrito crudo (minced raw vegetables), bottarga di muggine (roe pouch of tuna or grey mullet = also known at poor man's cavaiar)

Jenn ordered the Sgombro: Pacific jack mackerel, wild mushroom vinaigrette, and parsley

My appetizer was the bigeye tuna tartare with watercress and potato crisp. Not the best tartare I've ever had - a bit too salty - and the potato crisp had an odd bitter after-taste

For entree Jenn opted for the Fusilli: durum wheat pasta, red wine braised octopus, and bone marrow. The pasta literally had large cubes of delicious bone marrow mixed in with the octopus, and by far she had the most decadent dish

Dave ordered the Spaghetti: with crab, Santa Barbara sea urchin, and garnished with basil

I made the choice of Garganelli: squid ink pasta quills, seppia ragu, butternut squash, and pecorino. Although mildly grotesque-looking, my dish was actually pretty good. As compared to what the others ordered, my pasta was quite light and mild in flavor

In the end Dave and Jenn enjoyed their lunch more than I did - probably because they made better selections from the menu, but I could also appreciate that the pasta was well prepared and with high-quality ingredients. Definitely worth another visit

Overall rating: 7.5/10

240 Central Park South
New York, NY 10019

Russell House Tavern: Revisit

During my friends' visits to Boston, we decided to have dinner at Russell House Tavern near Harvard square - my second time dining there but a first experience for Jenn, Dave, and my co-resident pal Christina.

Below is photographic tribute to what we ended up eating:

Roasted local squash plate: salad of arugula, fennel, buttermilk dressing, and toasted pepitas

Braised beef tongue meatballs (highly recommended by our server):

Ali's Ideal Pizza: honey and chili roasted Brussels sprouts, house-cured pancetta, and mascarpone

Hickory smoked lamb's belly toast: with walnuts, apricots, and Harissa-ginger aoli

Grilled prime rib knuckles: with roasted pumpkin romesco, pickled apple, and Hazen blue cheese

Honey and chili roasted Brussels sprouts

Overall rating: Unchanged

14 JFK Street
Cambridge, MA 02138

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Neptune Oyster Bar

This restaurant was shot #2 at finding my pal Dave some delicious New England clam chowder. Neptune Oyster Bar has a pretty strong following and mostly positive reviews here in Boston, so we decided to pay a lunch visit in the late afternoon on the day following our dinner to Island Creek

For starters Jenn and Dave ordered the fried Ipswich clams with tartar sauce. While the fried clams were decent, my buddies were especially impressed with the tartar sauce, which they said had a stronger Dill flavor than most

For his main course, Dave of course chose the clam chowder, which he liked much better than what he had received at Island Creek Oyster Bar. Although -as I pointed out- the chowder at Neptune was thinner in consistency, there was a higher clam-to-soup ratio, and there was no funny cheddar flavor

Dave also ordered the steamed Wellfleet littleneck clams:

For my entree I ordered the Neptune burger: cheddar cheeseburger with fried oysters and garlic mayo as well as relish. While I enjoyed the addition of the fried oysters, I was disappointed by the preparation of my beef patty. I had requested it to be done medium-rare (as per my usual), but it was definitely closer to well-done when it arrived

Jenn wisely decided on the Maine lobster roll: served hot with butter (the other option was to have it cold with mayo, but Jenn clearly made the superior choice)

Overall rating: 7/10 (I subtracted a few points for the fact that they totally mis-prepared my burger)

63 Salem Street
Boston, MA 02110

Island Creek Oyster Bar

About a week and a half ago my childhood friend Jenn and her boyfriend Dave decided to pay a visit to Boston, and while here, Dave was on a quest to find some delicious clam chowder.

On one of their first nights in Bean-town, we decided on Island Creek Oyster Bar for dinner - located in the Kenmore-Fenway area.

Dave and I both ordered the clam chowder (prepared with buttermilk biscuits and smoked bacon) to start. I detected the taste of cheese in the soup, which was a new experience for me with a clam chowder. While I thought it was an interesting twist, neither Dave nor Jenn were impressed

Jenn and Dave also ordered the crispy oyster sliders (on mini brioche rolls with lime chile aoli) as an appetizer, and these were reportedly delicious

For an entree I opted for something lighter: the heirloom tomato and roasted eggplant salad topped with Parmesan cheese and pesto. I personally love heirloom tomatoes and Parmesan, so this dish was guaranteed to be a winner

Jenn decided on the lobster roe pasta - topped with braised short rib, grilled lobster, and Miatake mushrooms

Dessert was a molten chocolate lava cake topped with vanilla ice cream and with additional Chantilly cream. After seeing the words "Chantilly cream" I insisted that we order it. Jenn tried to burst my bubble and dampen my love of Chantilly by pointing out that "it's the same thing as whipped cream *duh*."  

But it's not! Chantilly cream is whipped cream with the addition of vanilla extract - makes a world of difference to flavor and I love it!

Oh yeah - and the chocolate cake was pretty darn good too...

Overall rating: 7/10

500 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, MA 02215

Sunday, September 16, 2012