Archive for Dining Out

Cafe Sabarsky

I would like to come here more often, probably by myself during the not-so-busy days on campus.  It’s pretty close to Columbia (on 86th and 5th ave.), has the best chocolate cake ever, and has what must be the most beautiful piece of cheesecake in the world (both pictured above).  Cafe Sabarsky is also famous for its authentic, truly very delicious coffee (and its interior design & live music @ night).  The entrees I’ve had however are just okay…perhaps it’s just not my type?  It’s very Austrian/German.  It’s kinda pricey but considering that it’s housed inside a gallery, it’s not that bad…  Great for tourists and for people watching!

Cafe Sabarsky
1048 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10028 40.781449 -73.960498
nr. 86th St.

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A Return to Old Favorites

Hello!  So it doesn’t look like I’ll be cooking particularly frequently this summer.  It’s hot…cooking just adds to the heat.  But I’m more than happy to go dine in air conditioned restaurants, and over the past couple of weeks, I’ve revisited a few places I loved the first couple of times around.

1 – Otto: I took my family here post-graduation ceremony (during which I was drenched and from which I caught a cold…), convinced that Michelle would love it here.  Sadly, everything was over salted, poorly presented, and just not nearly as good as I remembered it…  I also found it funny how the waitress immediately removed the wine glasses from me and my sister…

Otto
One Fifth Ave.

2 – Peasant: My first time at Peasant, I loved the rabbit gnocchi but hated the pretentious Italian-only menu that needed to be translated by the waitress.   The second time around … I was super excited to come again as I had become a huge fan of Jonathan Waxman (owner) while following this season’s Top Chef Masters.  I liked Dan’s smokey pork dish a lot but my rabbit gnocchi didn’t live up to my memories.  But on the plus side, we got a nice view of the wood burning oven, and they finally decided to provide translations on the menu.

Peasant
194 Elizabeth St.

3 – Spice Market: Of the three, this restaurant fared best in my book.  Rather than order apps and two entrees, we decided to order a bunch of appetizers and one entree for my bday.  I loved the coconut tea and appetizers (minus the lobster roll) but I found the short rib entree to be “meh…Alex can make better at home”.  The chicken samosas though were particularly outstanding as were the beef skewers and the wings!  I’ll definitely be back…maybe next year during Malaysian Restaurant Week (apparently, yes there is such a thing – June 14-20 2010).

Spice Market
403 W. 13th St.

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Recette, a quick review

I had been very excited to try Recette for a long time.  I interviewed the executive chef two years ago when I was working for the now defunct dining website, Gobbl, and was impressed by his kindness and clear passion for cooking.  Back then, Recette was a private dining company run by the executive chef Jesse Schenker and the pastry chef Christina Lee (who, if I recall correctly, is a Columbia grad) housed in a bakery by day, swanky dining room by night.

Today, it’s a full fledged restaurant on the corner of 12th and Greenwich with TWO stars from the NYTimes.  It’s amazing that these two chefs and their partners have been able to realize their dreams of owning their own restaurant.  I liked the interior and the staff a lot; there are more servers and waiters than you would expect for a relatively small restaurant (think Little Owl size) and so the service ends up being very prompt and attentive.  The cocktail and wine selections were great as was the food.  I think if I had to come up with one word to sum of the meal, it was balance.  Every dish we tried (from the diner menu) was carefully thought out and clearly balanced.  The saltiness of the caviar and mussel vinagrette atop the tuna crudo was carefully and perfectly balanced out by the caramelized, refreshing oranges on top of each piece of tuna.  The sweetness of the berkshire pork belly (it was glazed with sherry caramel) was undercut by the salty and spicy side of romesco.

I would definitely go back to Recette but perhaps when I have a fuller wallet.  Dinner there was pricey…especially when you take into consideration the portions…which are very very small.  It’s meant to be more of a tapas sharing type situation I think…  I was treating Alex to a b-day dinner that day…which also happened to be Mother’s Day and they had a Mother’s Day tasting menu for around $50; I think that actually would have been a better bet (and similar in cost).  Their tasting menus feature 4 courses with larger portions…

Recette
328 West 12th St.
New York, NY 10014

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Sweet Melissa Baking Book on Sale @ Bk Culture

My favorite baking book of all time is on sale at book culture!!  The chef, Melissa, owns a patisserie (two actually) in Brooklyn and has recipes for all her best-selling creations, including THE most divine clover-honey madeleines ever.  I’ve made a few of the recipes including the madeleines, a truly great cherry double chocolate chip cookie recipe, and the most amazing pie ever–a cherry and pistachio pie.  Her recipes require a little more prep and attention but they’re all worth it!

I wanted to link to m y interview with her for Gobbl but Gobbl has disappeared from the internets, how sad!!!  She was one of the most pleasant and generous people I interviewed that summer.  I visited the patisserie in Carrol Gardens and can’t wait to go back when the weather is warm; it’s complete with a really beautiful backyard type area where people can read and just chill.

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Outside Eats

I always forget to bring the camera with me to the restaurants I try.  Hence this post is rife w/ images lifted from else where.  Over the past 2 weeks, I tried 4 places that I really liked — 2 on the pricey side and 2 on the cheap.

The Pricey:
1. Cafe Sabarsky: on the upper east side, would be a great place to stop and lunch (or grab dessert) in between museum hopping.  It’s a giltzy place with live piano music, a warm ambiance, and a menu famous for their austrian foods/desserts.   Their Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte (chocolate cake with cream & cherries)was the best thing I ever had.  Prices range +12 for entrees and +8 for desserts.

2. Bar Modern: also situated near a museum (the MoMA), very nice modern background.  Very pleasant service, went specifically for the beignets (pictured above) which were amaziiiiing and come w/ maple ice cream, mango dip, and caramel sauce!  Also had the steak tartar which was good but slightly too dijon mustardy and overpriced.  Prices +10 for dessert; +11 for wines; +15 for appetizers; +20 for entrees.  Picture via nyc nosh.

The Cheap:

1. Land: a Thai restaurant with a $8 appetizer plus entree deal for lunch.  Yes, it’s farther than Thai Market but the appetizers are a little bit more generous and the entrees are different (and a little spicier)!  I had the drunken noodles here which were far better than the ones at both Thai Market and at Lime Leaf.

2. Recipe: from the owners of Land, this is a very American style restaurant.  They also have an appetizer + entree deal: $9.95 for an app + sandwich or $11.95 for an app + an entree.  So very much recommended; the apps are well portioned (like 2 or 3 big bites) and very well executed and the entree portions are fairly generous as well as tasty.  We had the lamb rillettes and braised beef appetizers plus the pulled pork sandwiches for the entrees; very satisfying and yummy.  Service was pretty good and the interior is nice and clean.  Image via Eating in Translation Flickr.

*Land and Recipe are right next to each other and are on 82nd&Amsterdam.

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Dear the 3 People who Read this Blog,

I thought it was very important for you to know that today, March 20th, is Macaron Day!  Organized by the famous Francois Payard, March 20, 2010 is designed to promote the macaron in NYC bakeries (although given fears of macaron mass production in France, this does not seem like a giant need).  THE IMPORTANT part is that at participating bakeries you get a FREE macaron if you tell them “macaron day”.  Click here for a list of participating bakeries.  It looks like Silver Moon bakery on 105th and Broadway is the closest to Columbia but a trip to Columbus Circle to get them at Bouchon Bakery would be equally nice!

Picture via Macaron Day NYC 2010

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Dear Vareli on 112th,

I guess it’s because it’s been midterms week or perhaps it is my laziness (which a poli sci self-help book describes as a serious psychological issue…) but I ate out a lot more this week than I’m used to.  I tried Vareli – finally a decent restaurant aside from Community in the Columbia neighborhood.  Is it just me or Community’s dinner wayyy too sugary?  Regardless, Vareli’s small dishes were pretty good if a little pricey.  We opted not to try the big plates as they seemed pretty mundane – burgers, roast chicken, strip steaks, and braised short ribs.  How are any of these, except maybe the lamb burger, Mediterranean or remotely interesting?  Anyways, we tried:

the crispy pork belly and polenta – which didn’t taste porky but was still good.  the polenta however tasted like those polenta cakes you buy from the supermarket.  that did not of course prevent me from garfing down all of it.  the grilled octopus – the best of the dishes with a very subtle spiciness and savory sauce.  the mussels – standard but still good.  the tuna tartar – also standard but a solid delivery.  and some very good beets.  the ingredients all tasted pretty fresh (according to the internet, Vareli uses ingredients from Westside).

We didn’t get any dessert though because the selection isn’t extensive, and one of the most appealing desserts was yogurt.  We thought about getting it then we realized Pinkberry is a stone’s throw away.  I think the problem with the dessert menu is a reflection of Vareli’s general weakness: a lack of imagination.  While the dishes are good and satisfying, they don’t really offer any new or interesting twists; it’s all pretty standard and safe.

The interior does however compensate a little for this weakness.  The interior is quite nice, spacious (the restaurant is two floors), and warm, and while the food may not be cutting edge, it does feel like you’ve escaped the Columbia bubble for a few brief moments.  The tiny tables however I did not love.  Despite the fact that Vareli is marketed as a “tapas place” that encourages sharing, we had trouble squeezing our “small plates” onto the tables; cutlery kept falling to the ground, and the girl behind me dropped her water what seems to have been wine, splashing it all over the floor and my leather jacket… (thankfully it only stained on the inside stained only a little on the outside).  Overall, the service is pretty good/attentive, and I would definitely give Vareli a try, especially as when we went (this Monday), they were giving customers 20% off their check in celebration of their opening.

Menupages for Vareli
Bwog Write-up
Image via varelinyc.com

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