Friday, February 12, 2010

New York City Food - the last post

As I said in the first post, there were so many places that I wanted to visit.
An insane list of restaurants: where the best dim sum was, the best prix fixe menu, must see restaurants, little holes in the wall for drinks, best beef jerky, best cupcake...

I got to a few. And you know what? Ottawa does not need to envy New York that much. And you know what else? After this, I gave myself a solid pat on the back and it gave me enough confidence to think that I am a decent cook.

First, my highest expectation, and a bit of deception.
This was my birthday dinner, we had planned to go there, had read reviews, saw it in more than one magazine...

The Little Owl

The place was full when we arrived but we waited only a few minutes to get a table (on a Sunday). It was such a nice restaurant, very tiny, a lot of wood, so cozy. The service was good and quite friendly.

I have to admit that I was jealous of Simon's food choices for both services. Mine looked great on the menu, but left me wanting more - not more of the dish itself, but more care, more complexity. I did not note the exact dishes, sorry about that...

Simon had hand shaped pasta (there was no mention of pasta on the menu though, it simply said ricotta with pancetta, tomatoes...) and I had grilled calamari in a basil broth, tiny tomatoes, caramelized onion crouton.

Not a great picture I know. Iphones are not good in the dark.
Simon was expecting a small plate of little bites with homemade ricotta - had he known it would be with pasta, he would not have ordered, it was too big a plate. But very good still.
My calamari was chewy and not grilled, so sad. The broth was good and the croutons fantastic. They had large pieces of onion on them, delicious.

For the mains:
Simon had the beef.

A nice cut of striploin, with balsamic and radicchio. It did not include veggies, which is a bit of a turn off for the price ($34) so he had to order ($8 for any veggie side).

I ordered the whole fish of the day (I cannot remember the name, I had never heard it), it was grilled and stuffed with thyme, garlic and lemon. That was accompanied by sauteed greens and parsnip purée.

Simon's was really good apparently (although he said I do it better, thank you my darling), mine was a bit of a deception. The fish skin was not crispy, although the flesh was cooked just right. I would have wanted more lemon (one slice inside the fish) and more garlic (3 cloves). The greens were gritty and not seasoned at all - no garlic, no lemon, no nothing. The same for the parsnip purée - straight up babyfood, not even butter.

Oh well. I find it so odd that 'chefs' don't take more pride, don't taste.
I found this restaurant to be a bit too pricey for the care that was put in the plate. I know that ingredients can taste best when served very simple (like tomatoes in summer!), but this needed a little kick.

Cafe Habana

This is a spot we wished we had here. It had such a nice vibrant feel to it, packed on both times that we went.

Maybe it was memories of Mexico. My longing to eat corn with Ignacio and Esqueleto...

We opted for the beer that we preferred in Mexico, you can buy it at LCBO too, Negra Modelo.

The first time we went, we share some little bites as an afternoon snack:

Black Bean and Sundried Tomato Tortillas

Grilled Corn!!!

We went back a second evening to eat before a concert, again, we craved the corn. And with that we had Chicken Diablo Burritos. They were soooo huge, but so warm and comforting.

This place is a must.

Another must is Café Asean.

After a crazy day of visiting two large museums, this was heaven. I had read about it a few times and it was mentionned in many 'Top" lists.

It was so cheap. Portions huge. Simon managed to finish his app+main, I simply could not manage it.

Simon had a hot and sour soup.

Not like the ones in Chinatown, but rather the Thai variety with pineapple and tomato. It was delicious.

I had the grilled stuffed tofu with a peanut, chili and lime sauce. It was to die for and I am doing it quite soon for friends ;)

We couldn't resist noodle dishes for our mains. Simon opted for a Maylasian egg noodles

and I went for Wok fried glass noodles with seafood.

Both were delicious, cooked to perfection (baby squid and glass noodles are hard to do!)

Our total bill with wine and beer was the price of a main in certain restaurants.

Red Cat Restaurant

This was a total surprise. We wanted to eat in one of my top picks that evening but just couldn't muster up the energy to walk 45 minuted to get there, so we looked into our hotel guide for recommendations in the neighbourhood. What a find. I would go back right now.

Again, this is a restaurant that will inspire me to recreate some of the dishes.
And everything was perfect. Service was stellar. Wine list was great. Prices reasonable. Music was just at the right volume.

I started with a saute of zucchini, toasted almonds and pecorino. I will redo this at home and post it - they gave us the recipe. Simon had homemade sausage, so tasty.

The presentation for my appie was beautiful, the pecorino was one large slice on top, slowly melting.

Then I had pan roasted salmon (with crunchy skin! yay!), brussel sprout salad and a carrot ginger purée. Everything fit so well together, a pleasure to eat.

Simon had a grilled pork tenderloin with blue cheese and tomato gratin, wilted spinach and caramelized onion. The dish was so well balanced, it amazed me.

What I really noticed was how well everything was seasoned - It saddens me how some chefs do not taste. Under seasoning really turns me off. Bravo Red Cat, I will recommend and come back - This was a highlight.

And to end... our first stop. The simple kitchen, a very cute café a few streets from our hotel.
We had been up since 4am, had a very disgusting breakfast in a truck stop (how bad can a grilled cheese be? Turns out it can be very gross)

This place was charming. Some food to take home (pretty much like Delish in Hull), a few seats, some daily specials.

Simon had a bison burger with local cheddar-type cheese, home fries.

After the disgusting bacon grilled cheese, I needed to redeem myself and have some greens. They were absolutely delicious and just like we eat them at home: garlic, chili peppers, lemon, salt. I chose to have them with brown rice, it was crunchy and well seasoned - absolutely perfect!

So many spots I wanted to spend more time in..

Chinatown, you make me happy. (oh, why not? One last dorky picture!)

Mary's Fish Camp - I will make a date with you during proper hours.
Momofuku, I will meet you.
Doughnut Plant. I will be back. And Back. And back.


Larissa Beznaczuk-Smyrnew said...

Pictures to match what you told me! Very nice.

Rachelle said...

grilled stuffed tofu with a peanut, chili and lime sauce!! oh my.... I hope I am drooling for a reason...

pinkghost said...

did jp tell you about cafe asean?! it was right around the corner from his apt. and i'm so glad you liked cafe habana!!

Marysol said...

Jp hadn't told us about it... I found it in a guide and the NYtimes food blog. There were so many places that you recommended that we wanted to see!!! We walked by the fatty crab a few times and it just never was the right time. I want to go now!!

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