Posts Tagged ‘Restaurant’
Friday, February 22nd, 2013
At OTTO, the restaurant
at One Fifth Avenue, a 1927 Art Deco apartment house at the corner of 8th Street in Greenwich Village, you’re in for some rustic Italian eats courtesy of the media-meal-man of Food Network fame, Mario Batali. He’s often in residence and easy to spot – there’s no mistaking the signature trademarks of thinning ginger frocks and fulsome girth atop the Crocs of this chef and restauranteur extradordinaire.
Years ago we’d stop for a drink at the bar of One Fifth, the longtime restaurant that was all about clubby 20th century dining style. Now, however, instead of a martini and steak you’re likely to be pairing vino to pasta, pizza and antipasti. It’s a good thing that Mr. Batali aims to please your palate as well as your pocket – you’ll be hard pressed to find another restaurant in NYC, or for that fact, America, where an exceptional bowl of fusilli con escarole and sausage comes in at $10. Ditto for tasty thin-crusted pizzas like a Margherita with buffalo mozzarella ($11) and flavor-packed antipasti plates. At OTTO,Get ready for lots of soddisfacente delizioso-ness at this trattoria that is as much neighborhood hangout as it is destination dine.
About that dine, skip over the dining room – gone are its prewar charms, replaced with a middlebrow hotel sensibility of bad light fixtures and budget-issue furnishings that are all tied together with sensory dulling maroon colored carpeting. Thankfully the front-of-house barroom has a design of its own.
Reminiscent of a train station by way of Italy, stand-at-only counters populate a polished space anchored by a long wide white marble bar. Shelves stocked with wine are a backdrop of the bar packed with regulars and attended by barmen that guard the seats by the kitchen door should Mr. Batali pop-in to hold court. These keepers-of-Mario can be a bit gruff – almost as if they were protective childhood pals – in these otherwise welcoming environs. Even still, they know they’re stuff and are easy to ignore with all the comforts of this bar – the day’s New York Times and Daily News strewn about, the paper-wrapped crusty bread and, of course, the simple yet immensely satisfying arrives-in-no-time-flat you’re-in-Italy fare.
No doubts about it, the bar is the star at OTTO, NYC.
Thursday, December 13th, 2012
if they look like some sort of prehistoric animal’s testicles?
Super healthy and great tasting, you’re crazy not to love Haas avocados. Whether slivered out of their reptilian skin-like shells (cut the avocado in half length wise, use a gentle twist to separate from the pit and then spoon out) for a toss in a salad, a mash into guacamole (use a knife rather than a fork to prevent avocado “mush”) or a slather on toast, there’s a wonderful nutty richness to the avocado’s silken smooth flesh (which is a fruit often, if incorrectly, labeled as a vegetable). That is, of course if you get it ripe – open an avocado too early and it’s hard as a rock and if too late it’s a blackish-brown bomb of mushy fetidness.
Trend of late has been the avocado toast. At one time we went to JEFFREY’S GROCERY in Greenwich Village my pal THE RECIPE GRINDER and we were overjoyed with their toast combination creation. As featured in The EATORIALIST’S post in February 2012 these “toasts” came in two variations: deviled egg salad that had a kick from spicy mayo and arugula and, our favorite, an avocado mash with a deep freshness tinged of lime and cilantro that was topped with an earthy yet sweet roasted tomato confit.
What a difference ten months can make……
Now the toast at Jeffrey’s is, for the most part, just that, toast. As I sat at the bar I was amazed at the revision to that oh so delicious dish. Yes, we’re a fan of simple food but when restauranteur Gabe Stuhlman plates one half an avocado sprinkled with red-pepper flakes this is no feat of culinary brilliance nor Slow Food excellence. It is clear that as he so aptly expands his stable of theme-park-minded restaurants (his latest edition is CHEZ SARDINE, the name a likely portend of portion size) he is weighed down by the bottom line (most evident in the blatant “pour lines” of all his stemware) and a bevy of investors rather than going all out in giving diners an action-packed culinary ride.
With avocado in mind
it might be better to switch venues – a short trip around the corner to WHITEHALL and weekend brunch gives you a toast to remember. With a layer of avocado topped with poached eggs and arugula it is a power palate play that is all yum and very much the memorable meal. For a couple of dollars more load on some crispy bacon and you’ve got it made – now, that’s something to toast about….
Friday, August 17th, 2012
In Amsterdam’s city centre, turn off the tourist thoroughfare that is the Leidsestraat to take your time in the “Nines”. You’re in for a game of engagement with the board-of-sorts formed by the 9 streets connecting the Prinsengracht, Keizerstraat, Herengracht and Singel canals. Tic-tac toe? Well, not really but with “DE 9 STRAATJES” (“The Nine Streets”), think waterways with charmed bridges, boats, bicycles, and an alarmingly beautiful concentration of storybook gabled houses.
It’s Amsterdam and photo-ops abound everywhere. With the canals and colorful centuries old homes there’s an enchanted feeling to these Dutch Renaissance rich streets. From the simpler buildings lining the 17th century Prinsengracht canal eastward to the Keizersgraht and Herengracht canals you see the growth of affluence with the progression to stately mansions – the larger the windows facing the canal, the wealthier were its occupants. The street facing residents of the Nines may not as well-to-do but what they lack in water views they more than make up with quaint charms.
Venture a block or so beyond the Nines and you’ve got the ANNE FRANK HOUSE, the home where the young diarist hid with her family during the Nazi occupation of Holland and who later perished in a concentration camp. Nearby is Amsterdam’s WESTERKERK church, its Westertoren, the Habsburg crown-embellished spire, prominent in the Amsterdam skyline as it has been since the 16oos. If this church moment leaves you feeling pious then off to the BIJBELS MUSEUM where the bible gets central cultural billing- definitely not the arts powerhouse that is a tram ride away at the RIJKSMUSEUM and VAN GOGH MUSEUM.
While there’s not much commerce on the canals not so for the Nines. Don’t expect a splash of Abercombie anytime soon (strict controls aim to preserve the “Dutch-ness” of this historic port city and UNESCO world heritage site) though brand-minded boutiques are taking over many of the old quirky shops. Welcome to the 21st Century. Even still, there’s good dose of vintage, accessories and book shops to engage you along a retail stroll. FIFTIES SIXTIES is a standout retro shop where the display of lamps, accessories, furnishings, tchotchkes and clothing is as much art installation as it is a resource for cool vintage finds. Don’t be fooled by the t-shirts hanging in front of BOEKIE WOEKIE (“Books by Artists”) – this old school shop is a gem even if not as glossy as the posh coffee table offerings at MENDO across the street. To this mix add games, candles, flowers (you are in Holland!), antiques, socks and a shop that sells tooth brushes and everything oral-hygiene (DE WITTE TANDENWINKEL, Runstraat 5, Tel. 020-6233443, Closed Sundays & Mondays).
When you think of Amsterdam you’re not likely to think
of haute cuisine – this is not necessarily a bad thing. While it’s no culinary cauldron of inventiveness, factor in the flavors from Holland’s days as a colonial power and trader on the seas via the Dutch East and West India Companies and simplicity takes on a uniquely seasoned and spicy edge.
No visit to Amsterdam would be complete without a visit to a cheese shop and as far as we’re concerned DE KAASKAMER is tops. Likewise with a visit to a pancake house but most of these are sub par tourist traps. Not so in the Nines with the aptly named PANCAKES! but be prepared to wait as this small restaurant fills up fast. For exceptionally good brodjes make your way to the match-box sized mom and pop sandwich shop t KUYLTGE. Ham and cheese sandwich without a doubt but what about a strawberry sandwich? Who knew – this fruit-meets-bread combo is a big hit. And about bread, for the whole grain organics of it all make a stop at BAKKERIJ PAUL ANNEE where simplicity pays off in unadorned loaves and where cakes and cookies often have a spiced edge – ginger, pepper, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and nutmeg factors prominently in Dutch baking. France is not far from Holland, so no wonder that you can up the sweets ante at PATISSERIE POMPADOUR, a classic, if a bit precious, tea house.
CAFE NIELSEN is the spot for Dutch diner-like fare where locals gather for great comfort plates. If a fine dine is on your mind then reserve ahead at the super polished and high culinary achiever that is the Italian BUSSIA. Speaking about culinary achievers, there’s reason to head to the inventive ENVY with its cool industrial style and creative cooking. Thinking of that fine dine, you might want to stop at the charming Restaurant Keizersgracht 238 at the Hotel Pulitzer but better yet, it’s worth the short walk along the canal to the superbly chic Hotel Dylan and its Michelin starred RESTAURANT VINKELES.
Great to have all these meal moments but what if all you want is a cup of joe? After all, this is Amsterdam and it’s easy to stray into a mind altering state at their renowned coffee houses. But if it’s caffeine rather than sensimilla that you’re after then it’s time for a brew from SCREAMING BEANS. For a canal view with that cappuccino take a seat at the FELIX MERITIS, a storied building with a cafe in great unadorned meeting house style.
Amsterdam to the Nines? That may not be fancy but that’s just fine.
Monday, August 6th, 2012
Oxford Street, the old one that is, packs in Olympic shoppers even on non-Olympic summer days. This year on this high street of high streets that stretches from the Marble Arch to Tottenham Court Road, the very black-clad burqa gals from steamy-hot Middle Eastern lands stroll the cool outdoor mall of Oxford Street immersed in a flurry of colorful London 2012 crowds.
Need a reprieve? Lucky for you there’s MARYLEBONE.
Slip off of Oxford Street onto Marybone Lane – once your a few blocks along you’ll traverse some charmed London architecture and the destination-worthy WALLACE COLLECTION at Manchester Square (just east on Hinde Street). You’re here because four generations of the Marquesses of Hertford House filled this onetime private residence with artwork and furnishings spanning the 15th-19th centuries. Once you’ve had your fill of the arts, time for you to hit Marylebone High Street and from there you can enjoys the greens of Regent’s Park.
Take the turn of off Oxford Street to Marylebone Lane and kiss-kiss the big retailers goodbye. There’s nothing much to the first segment of your journey but cross over Wigmore Street and Marylebone’s charms shine through. It’s old school at DAVID PENTON AND SON, aka PENTON’S hardware shop where locals have been coming sInce 1841. Next up, THE BUTTON QUEEN a quirky shop where buttons, vintage and up-t0-date, are the rule of the day. To the barber add a delicatessen, sausage shop and oh, a smattering of small boutiques to prep you for the niche branded retailers along Marylebone High Street.
Lots of polish to the forward thinking and sustainable-organic minded plates of ONE08. If the up-to-date contemporary style that looks out-of-date isn’t part of your taste level then onward Eater to the charms of CALDESI, an Italian restaurant paired with a cooking school and its add day CAFFE CALDESI. A stop in London wouldn’t be complete with out a bit of fish and chips and THE GOLDEN HIND (73 Marylebone Lane, tel. 020 7403 0123, no website) has been frying up haddock, plaice and cod excellence for decades. Go from surf to turf across the lane where it’s a straight menu of steak frites at LE RELAIS DE VENISE. This may be a chain but we’re always game for this well primed meat stop. For a light bite or just an eye site, make your way to BIGGLES, an oddly adorable sausage shop and the old school British delicatessen PAUL ROTHE & SON (35 Marylebone Lane, tel. 020 7935 6783, no website).
Pheww, still hungry? Then time to hit Marylebone High Street. There’s a good chance you’ll be underwhelmed by the slew of restaurants that try to beckon you and your dining dollars indoors for not necessarily bad but not exceptional food.
Play it safe at PAUL or LE PAIN QUOTIDIEN - they may be all over London but heck, you can’t go wrong with their satisfying rustic-edged eats. Sidle to Moxon Street for a stop at THE GINGER PIG butchers for a sausage roll to go or LA FROMAGERIE where the food shop is elevated to art installation. From its acclaimed cheese selection to produce and vegetables, you’ll pay a bit of premium but justly so to satisfy your finely honed sustainable, organic and artisanal grocery list. If
there’s a seat, by all means take the time for a plate of these cherry-picked eats.
Reserve a table at THE PROVIDORES restaurant or roll into it’s all day TAPA ROOM where breakfast, lunch and dinner make for inventive and satisfying dines. On your way up the street pass by ORRERY EPICERIE which falls flat but do make a stopover at the second floor ORRERY restaurant, a Terrance Conran production that is a Marylebone fine dine and, if the weather is in your favor an ideal terraced London lunchtime.
Now that you’ve eaten, perhaps a short stop at the St. Marylebone Parish Church Gardens and then, tallyho, to the greens of REGENT’S PARK you’ll go.
Friday, July 27th, 2012
Ah, the athletics of it all in getting to the Olympic games: the airports, the buses snarled thorough London’s narrow medieval streets and the Underground, a web of subways burrowed underneath the city that, even on a non-Olympic summer day swells to capacity with locals and tourists. Phewww, am I working up an appetite! The games are starting and it’s time to find some Olympic eats!
Ahead of competing in the trials of the Eatathon that is going to engulf the crowds in the Olympic food court, make your way to Shoreditch, London’s hipster East End hood, not much more than a long jump from Olympic Park.
Hit the indoor extravaganza that is SPITALFIELDS for a branded mall meets flea market moment and then it’s off for the cooler and varied BRICK LANE where cafes, vintage and retro shops are the retail mainstay. On weekends you’ll feel the squeeze, especially on Sundays in buildings from the old TRUMAN BREWERY packed with vendors selling bric-a-brac, collectables and clothing, not to mention the food-of-nations display that makes for one serious street eats fest. Factor in the produce vendors and junk stalls and it’s a super engaging retail-free-for-all.
Once you’ve hit Bethnal Green, take a ride on the BOXPARK for a pop-up shop bonanza of niche brands selling their goods in former shipping containers put to a new use. Take a stroll to REDCHURCH STREET where retailers selling cool housewares, vintage furniture and clothing have begun to set up shop.
London’s East End’s tough industrial streetscapes of factories, warehouses and downtrodden 19th century houses have lost much of their gritty, this-could-be-dangerous edge in Shoreditch, where close to a decade of gentrification has layered accessible cool into a very urban fabric. The TRUMAN BREWERY forms the anchor of Brick Lane, its aged smokestack prominent on the neighborhood’s skyline. To the largely gray streetscapes the 1714 English Baroque CHRIST CHURCH SPITALFIELDS from architect Nicholas Hawksmoor’s is an elegant sight, it’s clock tower and steeple in sharp contrast to the surrounding buildings.
bagel (or beigel in London town) with salt beef or cream cheese and lox? You’re in luck at BEIGEL BAKE (159 Brick Lane open 24/7), an East End institutioin where lines have been forming for decades one of London’s last purveyors of Jewish deli, English style. If the traditional is more your speed then by all means you’re in the right place for a nose-to-tail dine at ST. JOHN BREAD & WINE (94 Commercial Street, Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner, tel. 020.7251.0848, reservations suggested). Here, it’s everything British in great public-eating house style along with a bakery counter of artisanal breads, Eccles cake and, worth-the-wait baked-to-order madeleines.
Is it fish & chips that you fancy? If so, POPPIES (6-8 Hanbury Street, no reservations) is the new kid on the block that, while a bit faux kitsch with it’s Johnny Rockets style, has really great fish and chips. All this English food has me thinking of pies. Umm, no doubts about it, PIEMINISTER (Unit 60, top level, Boxpark) makes some of Britain’s best. If the pie you’re craving is the Italian kind then make your way to PIZZA EAST (56 Shoreditch High Street, tel. 020.7729.1888 eservations suggested) where traditional ingredients merge together with a modern edge to create exceptional pies.
Cross over Bethnal Green and up the culinary chic quotient with a stop at the ALBION(2-4 Boundary Street, Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner, no reservations) where a grocery shop and an exceptional selection of bakes front a rustic-hip English eatery from restauranteur Terence Conran, As expected, Sir Terence delivers on great food and the eats experience. Same holds for the BOUNDARY RESTAURANT (2-4 Boundary Street, 020.7729.1051, reservations where suggested) with its British seasonal-centric menu on the lower level of the Boundary Hotel. Oh, and if the rain gives way to a bit of sunshine the Boundary’s rooftop will do just fine for a drink or a glass of wine – the perfect way to take the edge off re-entry into the din of the Olympic Games.
A portion of this article appeared on thedailymeal.com, Friday July 20, 2012.