Archive for May, 2008

Totoraku

I have tried to describe the room as bare bones minimalist and funky, but I think the photos do a better job than just words. Notice the wine bottles on top of the wall that separates the kitchen from the dining area, the tatami screens that shield you from the other diners, the fluorescent lighting, the prints of Hollywood stars from a by-gone era and the exposed pipes.

Ashima, Kaz’s wife, is the only server and she graciously showed us to our regular table right next to the entrance of the kitchen closed off by a canvas curtain. We had brought our own wine as well as wine glasses.

Appetizer Plate – A potato salad on a thin slice of cucumber topped with a deep fried anchovy “wafer”, eel on a tofu cube, asparagus with walnut paste, melon and proscuitto, hard boiled quail egg half with caviar, vegetable gelee “terrine”, tomato with mozzarella cubes and seaweed, yellowtail sashimi, baby octopus and a smoked salmon roll wrapped in daikon with avocado.


Thinly sliced Beef Sashimi from the throat. Since there were 4 of us, this came from 2 cows instead of just one.


Beef Steak Tartar. I am not sure you can tell from the picture, but the beef was cut into thin strips about 1½ inches long and ¼ inch wide, which served to intensify the beef experience. As before, the tartar is mixed by the diner.



Beef Liver Sashimi. I am not a fan of liver and was expecting to not enjoy this. Was I wrong – the taste had no resemblance to liver as I had anticipated. It was luxurious, unctuous and in a word delicious.



Ashima then set the hibachi in the center of the table. At first, it was not hot enough, but with some adjusting from Ashima, all was right with the world. Now, it is beef orgy as platter after platter of beef is presented and the diner does his own cooking – rare being the optimum choice.



Some of the beef dishes are served in its pristine state and some are marinated. Depending on the cut as well as how it is “prepared”, we are instructed which sauce to use with each cut.

Beef Tongue – the only dipping sauce to be used is lemon.



“Regular” Ribeye with onions, mushrooms and peppers

Ashima then presents a marinated tomato salad and a plate of raw vegetables with miso paste (I think) that helps to cut the beef overload.

“Inside” of the Ribeye


Around this time a bowl of rice is presented.

Short ribs


Skirt Steak

 

Ice Cream

I am not an expert on beef and the various cuts, but what is extraordinary about this meal is the marked differences in flavor from one cut to the other. Hopefully, I have identified the cuts properly. The quality of the beef is just extraordinary and does come from an American rancher. I also should mention that I am not a beef person and generally prefer fish and small amuse type dishes in the style of Keller or Kinch, but for some reason I find the experience atTotoraku very satisfying. It is not something that I would want to do on a weekly basis, but it is a spectacular way to fully appreciate beef in all its guises.

Wines for the evening

1.  ’00  Boisson Renard, Puilly fume, Dagueneau…classic Dagueneau flavor, forward and assertive…clean, perfect finish.

2.  ’00 Y. Gangloff, Cotie Rotie, La Barbarine–great, dense, full bodied Rhone.  It doesn’t get any better.

3. ’97 Ridge Mataro, this classic Mudeverde, was very well made and perfectly aged in our cellars.   It was very fullbodied and assertive, great flavors.

All in all, a wonderful evening with great company, food, and wine.

Per Se

 

Time Warner Cente

10 Columbus Circle, 4th Floor
New York, NY 10019
212.823.9335
http://www.perseny.com

Executive Chef/Owner: Thomas Keller
Chef de Cuisine: Johnathan Benno
Sommelier: Paul Roberts
Pastry Chef: Sebastien Rouxel
Private Dining Chef: Joshua Schwartz 

Every table was full Friday night  at Per Se, including the 10 seat private dining room. It appeared that 1/3 of the tables were designated as one seating only and 2/3’s were set aside for 2 turns.  I asked Michael (one of my favorite waiters from FL who is now at Per Se) how many first timers and he said most of the room. We were seated by the window at the table next to the fireplace  on the PDR side.

As always, we never look at a menu and approached Per Se the same way we approach FL with a “we are ready for anything and everything.”

We were treated to the same type of menu as we get at FL -2 preparations at each course. We have developed the over/under method — my husband and I eat half of each course, he passes under, I pass over, for a tasting of the second half.

The most significant difference between Yountville and New York is that Per Se is a designed space with elegant detailing while home base in Yountville is country simple. The room “works” because everyone has been trained to make it work. There is no noise, no fumbling, no bumbling. The sound level is hushed, though not a temple, because there is more than ample space between tables.

This is refined food in a superb space, but it is not formal, fussy or pretentious. It is Thomas Keller’s food done perfectly and served perfectly.

The biggest difference for us between FL and Per Se is that there is no garden to visit on breaks…down in the elevator, up on the escalator…watching careening taxis is not as much fun as sitting in the garden and peeking in the kitchen windows. I wanted to have a terrace installed cantilevered out from the dining room so I could just wander out over Columbus Circle.

No Photo

Gougeres



Cornets of Atlantic Salmon Tartar with red onion creme fraiche

SOUP

Parsnip Apple soup with cinnamon toast croutons

A bowl containing just the small bits of apple and the tiny croutons are presented to the diner. The actual soup is poured tableside.

Butternut Squash soup with diced Perigord truffles

The presentation is similar to the parsnip soup. Tiny bits of pungent truffles covered the bottom of the bowl and then a silky, rich “bursting with fall” butternut squash soup poured on top.

CAVIAR

Oysters and Pearls


Cauliflower Panna Cotta and Itanian Oscetra Caviar

Benno has these preparations nailed. There is absolutely no difference between the FL and Per Se re the signature dishes.
FISH CANAPE

Sable Fish with Crème Fraiche, Smoked salmon and mache

Little bits of the smoked salmon was mixed with the sable fish and sat atop the creme fraiche sauce. The smoked salmon was an important component as it moved the dish from bland to sparkling.
Hamachi Sashimi with Daikon

My thought was who needs to go to Masa, also in Time Warner when you can have such perfect sashimi at Per Se.
TRUFFLES

Coddled Hen Egg with Truffle Beurre Noisette and Brioche “soldiers”

The soft runny yolk with the truffle beurre nosiette is a match made in heaven. Again, sharing is sometimes very hard.
White Truffle Custard with a ragout of Perigord Truffles with Veal Stock served in an egg shell
Another FL classic, again perfectly executed.
MEAT CANAPE

Confit of Four Story Hills Farm Veal Tongue, Heirloom Tomato Relish and Young Cilantro Shoots

This was off the charts perfect. The Veal Tongue melted in your mouth – it was an extraordinary taste, which was highlighted by the tomato relish.
Pork and Beans

I know there is a lot of controversy re Keller’s theory of small portions leaving you wanting more. But the tongue dish and this pork dish was a lesson in a chef’s restraint and a diner’s longing for three more portions.
SALAD

Heirloom beets, Pickled baby carrots, Pearl Onions, Braised Radishes and Truffle Vinaigrette

These vegetables were singing – I have sometimes been disappointed by the salad course, but not this one.
Hawaiian Hearts of Palm with a Confit of Ruby Red Grapefruit, Garden Mache and Black truffle Coulis

The grapefruit was essential to this dish as well as the coulis.
WHITE TRUFFLES
 

Carnaroli Risotto Biologico with White Truffles from Alba

 

This was just sinful, toothsome risotto with enough white truffles, shaved tableside from their special humidor to feed at least 3 people.

Hand-cut Tagliatelle with an equally obscene amount of white truffles shaved Tableside
Beurre Noisette was added to both tableside.
FISH (BOTH)


Striped Bass Shank with Apple “Melon balls with Brussel Sprouts and Apple Mignonette
The apples were a brillant addition. The Bass was cooked to perfection. The Bass was first presented whole and then a small piece of the fish was served. I asked what happened to the rest of the bass and was told only the choicest piece is served – the rest is used in stock.
FISH 2
Scottish Prawns (Langoustines) “cuit sous vide” with Braised Dill, Fennel and a Confit of Grapefruit
This was heads and shoulders above any langoustine I have had in the States. Per Se and ADNY are using the same Scottish purveyor for their langoustines and game birds and the quality of both is extraordinary. I wish I could convey how extraordinary the taste of these langoustines were – one of the finest langoustine dishes I have had anywhere.
Butter Poached Nova Scotia Lobster with Chestnut Puree, Celery Root Fondant and Cutting Celery Salad

At this point in the meal a break was desperately needed. This is when I missed FL the most. I went down the far elevator to take a much needed break. I decided to quickly find the closest bathroom. My husband stayed outside and I went on a search. Yippee – a door right by the 3rd floor elevator. Under no circumstances should anyone do this. For some reason, I ended up in the inner bowels of Time Warner. Electrical equipment everywhere and there was no way to get out – every door to civilization was locked. I had visions of being found 2 months later – a skeleton whose last meal was at least a good one. Finally and frantically running through corridor after corridor, I found a door that worked. There was a guard, with gun in hand, asking me how I got there. I said I didn’t have a clue, but all I wanted to do was finish my meal at Per Se. I must have looked desperate enough for I was shown to the mall.
FOIE GRAS (BOTH)

Whole Foie Gras cooked sous vide in Sauterne (’86 Ramonet) and Vanilla served with heirloom radish

This was the only miss of the night. When you cut into the foie, it was raw with bloody strings – veins. I asked a chef I trust and admire what happened. He felt from my description that the foie was not prepped properly. The next night, Brad, the sommelier at Bouley, mentioned that they are having trouble with their foie. He said that the geese/ducks were being force-fed too much, too quickly and as a result the foie didn’t stay intact.
MEAT

Breast of Wild Scottish Grouse “rotie a la broche” – Pommes Sarladaises (cooked in duck fat) and Slow Baked Heirloom beets

OH MY! An A+ dish. I am ready to marry this Scottish purveyor. The grouse was perfect – like nothing I have ever tasted.
Snake River Farms Calotte de Boeuf Grille with Braised Oxtail en Crepinette and Cipollini Onion Stuffed with Bone Marrow Farci.

CHEESE

Tomme Du Berger (sheep cheese) served with Prune Bread Pudding and Sicilian Pistachio Vinaigrette

OK, but nothing to write home about.
Fondue of Boerenkaase Gouda with a tasting of Heirloom Apples

A definite Keller type of whimsical dish. Tiny cubes of apple are presented on toothpicks. You then dip the apple in the gouda fondue – orginal and tasty.
SORBET

Almond Milk Foam, Banana Sorbet, Cilantro Shoots with Carolina-Puffed Rice Crispies
Muscovado Sorbet, Root Beer Foam, “Genoise au Caramel”

DESSERT

Coffee & Donuts, sans Coffee

CHOCOLATE DESSERT

2 chocolate desserts – I had stopped writing at this point and don’t have a clue what they were. Delicious, but we were completed stuffed like balloons.
Conclusion: There is no doubt in my mind that this was a four star meal. The service was extraordinary, the pacing perfect and all but the foie dish was excellent. After the meal, I saw Chef Benno in the kitchen. My one comment to him was, “You are kicking a….!”

Urasawa

At 6:45, John, a friend and I were seated directly in front of Hiro, completely ready for our adventure. I am hoping that I have identified most of the sushi correctly, but by the sushi portion of the meal, I had already had enough wine so please forgive me if I misidentify an item.The front of the house problems have been solved as Hiro’s sister, Yoshie, is now handling everything; she is wonderful. Hiro’s Korean sous chef has left and is now working at The French Laundry (Corey Lee spirited him away!) Hiro has enlisted his brother-in-law as his sous so Urasawa is truly a family affair.

Hiro-san was as friendly as ever – down-to-earth, warm and willing to explain each and every dish. (As I said earlier, any mistakes in descriptions are my fault entirely.)

April Flower Arrangement

1. Okinawan Spring Seaweed with tiny, little shrimp and topped with Gold Flakes. This was to be consumed in one gulp – spring in a bowl!

2. Kinuta Maki – this was a very labor intensive preparation. Red Snapper and Shrimp is laid on nori with shiso and then very thinly sliced daikon encases the fish to resemble a traditional maki roll. It is topped with finely grated yuzu and a slice of pickeled ginger.

3. Goma tofu, Kyoto-style. Tofu made from sesame seeds, stuffed with sweet Uni (urchin “roe”), topped with freshly grated wasabi and gold leaf, served in a light dashi seasoned with shoyu and mirin. I love this dish.

4. Toro Tataki- Ohtoro, from Spain, lightly seared topped with Shiso no Hana flowers, Shiso buds, Radish and Gold Leaf

5. Uni Nikogori – absolutely unbelievable.  Fresh Uni, Small Shrimp, Red snapper, Fish eggs served atop Yama no Imo (Japanese Mountain Yam), topped with Pure Gold Flakes.

 

Hiro working on a sashimi

 

Incredible Ohtoro.

 

His brother-in-law working on the uni

6. Sashimi served in a hand carved ice bowl. The Sashimi consisted of Ohtoro, Red Snapper and Santa Barbara Uni placed in a manila clam shell. The wasabi is freshly grated, Hiro’s soy sauce is made by him and the gorgeous Iris flower again defined the beautiful seasonality of this dish.

7. Asami Age, a tempura “sandwich” of Fresh Bamboo, Shrimp Paste and more Fresh Bamboo. Many tempura dishes can be greasy – never at Urasawa.

 

8. The next dish was absolutely amazing. Thinly sliced Hokkaido Beef was topped with Matsutake mushrroms, uni and shiso. Then Hiro rolled up the beef in a roll. We were then presented with a bowl to which Hiro added water so that steam immediately erupted. The beef was being steamed in front of us. The beef sat on a grate and obviously the stones had been heated to piping hot. It was served with a “radish” mixture and Hiro insisted that we use a generous amount of radish.

 

 

The bowl steaming

Inside the bowl

Bowl with sauce on the side for dipping

Empty bowl

9. Hoba Yaki – On a giant Hoba Leaf was fresh shrimp, scallop and Hokkaido beef and miso sauce. The dish was being lightly roasted in the Hoba leaf for a couple of minutes over the coals. Yoshie removed the Hoba leaf from the coals to prevent overcooking. Unbelievable.

 

10. Shabu Shabu with Sweet Shrimp (the shrimp were alive and kicking minutes before), Boston scallop, Hokkaido Beef and Foie Gras. Our waiter did the cooking for us – the scallop took only a second with the foe taking the longest. We were given a soup spoon after the foie had been consumed and then had the Shabu Shabu broth as a soup course.

Sushi next. Hiro was very specific that he wanted us to eat the sushi within 10 seconds of plating. This became quite a challenge for John as he was snapping the photos and I was trying my best to keep up with the proper descriptions. Hiro also explained that he uses less rice than Masa, about 175 grains of rice per piece of sushi. (Again, if I have mislabeled the fish, I apologize.)

 

Toro

I wrote beef, but it sure doesn’t look like that.

 

Kanpachi

 

Tai with Sudachi

 

Spanish Mackerel

 

Squid

 

Uni

 

Razor Clam

 

Mushroom

 

Kohada

 

Abalone

 

Giant Clam

 

Scallop

 

Spanish Mackerel Tataki

 

Hokkaido Beef

 

Baby Shrimp

 

Eel

 

Tamago

 

My notes are a mess on this first dessert – all I wrote was Japanese Plum and Jelly

 

Sesame Ice Cream with Azuki (Red Bean) and Gold Flakes

 

Musha – Finely Powdered Green tea

 

It was an extraordinary evening– certainly not inexpensive, but an experience unlike any other.

Wines:

1990   Champagne Krug

1998   Corton Charlemagne Delarche 1.5L
2002   Richbourg, Domaine Gros
1988  Sauternes, Ch.  Giraud

 


Categories


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 45 other followers