Archive for the 'New York' Category

Bouley and Chef’s Tasting Menus

I was watching the Victor Borge special on PBS and his daughter mentioned that he had a special trick; at the beginning of every performance he would “exhale” a puff of smoke. If the audience laughed, he knew that he could perform his comedic routines to the fullest. If the audience was unresponsive, he knew that this particular audience was more interested in the music and he would adapt his performance accordingly i.e. less comedy and less of what Victor Borge was rightfully famous for and justifiably named a genius.

This reminded me of a “trick” that Chef David Bouley used to “judge” his clientele. (I got this piece of information from Chef Bouley himself). He would serve them as a first course his  “Homemade Silken Tofu, Trout Roe, Soy Gelee, Shiso, Santa Barbara Uni, Yuzu Sorbet, Apple Foam.” If the clients ate every bite, he knew he had adventurous diners and would adjust his chef’s tasting menu accordingly. If, on the other hand, they left the dish barely eaten, he would alter his special chef’s tasting menu to a safer route. Needless to say, we belonged to the former group.

To give you some idea of Bouley’s cuisine, below is a representative sample of some of his dishes from various meals in 2010.

Typical Canapes:

Corn Tuile filled with corn and dusted with nutmeg, Sashimi of yellowtail in a brik cone topped with soy gelee and micro greens, a “taco” filled with avocado, tomato and basil, baby sweet corn cannoli, parmiagiano “sandwich” and a tuile of baby yellowtail tartar.

Malibu sea urchin with sea trout roe, soy milk gelee, soy sauce gelee, shaved shiso, yuzu sorbet and yuzu gelee with apple foam. This is just a great dish – one of the best preparations of uni I have had anywhere. “I wanted to go on eating it forever.”

On a bed of jasmine rice, small pieces of “Japanese Xmas Tree Leaf”, 2 thick slabs of Seared Toro from Spain and topped by a Kumamoto Oyster. This was another spectacular dish with such an extraordinary balance of texture and flavor. The Toro was fatty and unctuous and I hated having finished it.

Skate with tiny diced capers to the side, topped with 24 hour tomatoes, ringed with a bit of truffle oil and a line of yellow powder which was camonile flowers. This had a decidedly Basque feel and again the over-used word perfect.

Young garlic soup with a coconut base, bits of ginger in which were Florida shrimp poached in wine and Sauteed New Zealand Langoustines. An Organic Hen Egg had been dropped in the soup so that the warm soup “cooked” the egg . This was very rich and equally delicious.

Line caught cod fish with tomato/green apple gelee, cucumber sorbet, fresh wasabi, olives and a touch of vanilla dust. This dish was a study in temperature as well as sweet/sour contrast. The cold sorbet with the cod, the bite of the wasabi with the vanilla added up to a visually, textural, hot/cold contrast.

Roasted Sturgeon, Oscetra Caviar, Shallots, Chives on Jasmine Rice served with Grey Goose Vodka sauce. This was an A+ and one of the best dishes I have ever had.  The whimsy of the dish – sturgeon, caviar and vodka  – an ode to Russia. The flavor was mind-blowing and the sturgeon cooked perfectly.

Poached Lobster from Massachusetts with a light Beurre Blanc served with Watermelon Glazed with Ginger, Ox Heart Tomato Sorbet and Organic Avocado Crabmeat Roll and Tomato water. A visually stunning dish that was as delicious as it looked.

Seared Hudson Valley Foie Gras with Muscat Grape, Apple/Rosemary Puree with Mango caviar and Armagnac Sauce. Absolutely superb and the mango caviar is an important and delicious element in the foie gras dish.

The loin and rack of Organic Baby Lamb from Cooperstown and the loin and rack of pork from a small farm near Bouley’s home in Connecticut on top of hand-made fettuchini with serrano ham, a sauce of simple jus, mushrooms and on the side fingerling potato puree.

New Zealand Red Axis Venison crusted in black truffles with baby Brussel sprouts, Fingerling potatoes, White salsify, Red Delicious Apple Puree with Port wine and Asian Celery Puree with Balsamic Vinegar —  A beautiful rectangular approximately 2″ piece of meat that was rare, juicy and tender. The apple puree with port wine was equally delicious.

Moral of the story – be the adventurous diner.


Mary’s Fish Camp – Manhattan

I am a fried clam with the bellies nutcase. Growing up in Boston, I took this treat for granted as I could get them whenever I wanted. Worst case scenario was clam strips at Howard Johnson’s, a 5 cent MTA ride away. Living on the West Coast, fried clams with the bellies is just not a possibility unless I make them myself.

So every trip back East must include a restaurant serving fried clams. On our last trip to New York, we, of course, went to Mary’s Fish Camp. They open at noon and we were there at 11:55, ready and waiting.


A Dozen Malpeque Oysters with Blush Mignonette – good, but at Neptune Oyster in Boston you get a choice of at least 9 different types of oysters from both the East and West Coast


Fish Camp Oyster Po Boy – John liked this but thought Casamento’s in New Orleans was much better.



Fried Clam Roll with Celery Root Remoulade – good, but I actually prefer the fried clams at Neptune Oyster in Boston 


1/2 order of Neptune’s clams – we always order the clams as a split so the second split is as hot as the first split.

Corton- Manhattan

“What does the determined restaurateur do when he wants to give a well-known, long-lived property a new identity? Change the name, radically reinvent the décor, and hire a buzzy new chef. Drew Nieporent has done all of the above to Montrachet, the restaurant he opened in 1985, when Tribeca was a backwater and opening chef David Bouley was unknown. Corton, like Montrachet, refers to a Côte de Beaune grand cru, and its wine list retains its predecessor’s Burgundian focus. The food will still be modern French, too, as interpreted by Paul Liebrandt, a chef who garnered a cult following (and a sometimes culinarily controversial rep) at Atlas and Gilt. His $76 three-course prix fixe offers dishes like crispy amadai with garlic, Serrano ham, and young coconut juice, and desserts by Robert Truitt, late of Room 4 Dessert and El Bulli. At once intimate and modern, the new design incorporates a narrow window providing a glimpse of the action in the reinvigorated kitchen.” — Rob Patronite and Robin Raisfeld

We were lucky to go to Corton with Cathy, Drew Nieporent’s assistant. Drew is not missing in action at Corton; he is there every night, being the consummate host.

Elizabeth Harcourt did an excellent job as sommelier


I must say my notes are fair at best and sometime has passed since this meal. I hope I don’t do a complete injustice to this meal.


Gougeres and Green Olive Sponge


Sensational seaweed butter


Salted Cod Soup with Beausoleil Oyster and Broccoli Cream – excellent and well-balanced


Uni, Konbu Gelee, Cauliflower Cream – absolutely stupendous. The Konbu gelee with the uni was superb and a few drops of jalapeno oil added just enough heat to excite the palate



Kampachi, Foie Gras Chantilly, Cucumber Melon, Miso, Toasted brioche, red ribbon sorrel, balsamic – perfectly cooked fish with well-balanced flavors


 Amadai, Black Garlic, Serrano Ham, Citrus-Coconut Broth – this was actually two dishes in one. The fish dish had a beautiful clove of black garlic on the rim of the plate – “Black garlic is tender like roast garlic with undertones of malt and molasses, and an overall sweet garlicky flavor and none of the acrid bite of raw garlic.” (from Ideas in Food) Also on the plate was a citrus, coconut jus parsley puree and lime leaf for an aromatic component.

In a side dish was light as air potato gnocchi, baby bok choy and Serrano ham



Elysian Fields Lamb Loin, Braised Neck, Ras el Hanout, Chocolate Mint Jus, Lamb belly rillete – The lamb was cooked perfectly and was accompanied by date with lemon confit, baby eggplant, minced eggplant and a chocolate mint jus (Chocolate mint refers to an herb, specifically a hybrid mint plant, that tastes and especially smells like a combination of mint and chocolate.)


The side dish of lamb rilette sat on a bed of spiced yogurt.


“Cheese and Crackers” – Selles-Sur-Cher (goat cheese), Sour Cherry Pate de fruit, Chickpea Cracker, Celery root puree, Vanilla bourbon reduction


White Sesame Crème, Lemon, Huckleberry, Salted Toffee


Gianduja Palette, Yuzu, Coconut



Generally I felt ther dessert part of the menu was the weakest portion of the meal. There just didn’t seem to be the same finesse or layering of flavor. It was almost as if there was a disconnect between the savory and sweet portion of the menu.

Service was exceptional. This was an excellent meal and I only hope that the economy doesn’t tank too much further and that diners are willing to support Corton. 


Jean Georges – Manhattan

JG has always been one of my most favorite places for lunch in New York. I love the room, the sun streaming in the windows and the quiet luxurious sense of the room. I just don’t understand what has happened to the food – it is as if the chef de cuisine is not tasting his sauces. Where Le Bernardin excelled at every single sauce, JG barely managed to get one right.


Salmon sashimi with citrus mignonette – way too much citrus

Crimini beignet with cheddar – bland

Warm spiced pear cider with foam – the best of the three


Sea Trout Sashimi draped in trout eggs, crispy trout skin, lemon foam, dill puree, horseradish – John’s comment was that this was way too citrusy


Yellow Fin Tuna Ribbons, Avocado Puree, Spicy radish, Chili Oil, Ginger marinade – the saucing was added tableside and I found that the tuna was drowned out by the saucing which added a very unpleasant acidic note.


Santa Barbara Uni, Yuzu Vinaigrette on Black bread – again there was an off balance of flavor as there was an overabundance of yuzu vinaigrette that provided too much of a citrus component


Young garlic soup with thyme and frogs legs – John thought this was excellent


Foie Gras Brulee, spiced fig jam and toasted brioche – normally the sweet component is somewhat muted – not this time


Parmesan crusted confit leg of chicken, white asparagus, basil and lemon butter – again the lemon was way too dominant



I just don’t understand what has happened to Jean Georges. For some reason, the flavor balance is off – either way too much citrus or too much acidity.

Le Bernardin

Le Bernardin absolutely delivered a 3 star meal. This is not bells and whistles cuisine, but every single dish delivered delicious, bright flavors that was executed perfectly. Many of the sauces were added table side and you could see the care and attention given to every detail. This is not cuisine of a 100 ingredients with the hope that something works. This is precise edited cuisine that shows an intelligent understanding of what constitutes a great tasting menu.

The wine pairings by sommelier, Aldo Sohm was also spot on.

I wrote down one of Aldo’s sayings “A dead fish floats with the river.” What he meant was that he wants to go against the tide and do the unexpected. This was his way of explaining why he chose the wines for the pairings. 

The service was equally 3 star, not hovering, but just always “there” when we needed something. 

Basically, I am going to let the photos tell the story.

Amuse – Tuna Tartare


Thinly pounded smoked salmon carpaccio; toasted brioche brushed with creme fraiche and caviar

Wine pairing: Shizuku – Divine Droplets, Junmai Daigginjo Sake


Kindai Maguro – (First sustainably raised Japanese Blue Fin Tuna in the world) Seared Blue Fin; Parmesan Crisp and Sun-Dried Tomato; Nicoise puree, black olive oil, micro basil

Nicoise puree being added

Final dish

Wine pairing: Godello – Vina Godeval, Valdeorras 2006


Ultra Rare Charred Scallops a la plancha; Braised Morels and Chanterelles, Mushroom Jus Hollandaise style, capers, cornichons

Mushroom jus being added

Final dish

Wine pairing: Chablis 1er Cru vaillons, Daniel – Etienne Defaix 2000


Baked Lobster; Asparagus, Sauce Gribiche with Tarragon

Sauce Gribiche added table side

Wine pairing: Blaufrankisch “Brandkraften” Wenzel, Neusiedlersee-Hugelland, Austria 2002


Escolar- White tuna poached in extra virgin olive oil; sea beans and potato crisps; light red wine bearnaise

Red Wine Bearnaise added

Wine pairing: Nuits saint-georges, Vieilles Vignes,m Daniel Rion 2003

Crispy Black Bass; braised celery; Iberico Ham, Green Peppercorn sauce

Green peppercorn sauce added

Wine pairing: Rioja, Reserve ‘Vina Ardanza’, La Rioja Alta 2000


Fourme d’Ambert, Crispy bacon soy caramel, Gingershap tuile, Curry sauce, Lemongrass (not pictured)

Wine pairing: L’Etoile, Savagnin, Domaine de Montbourgeau, Jura 2000


Dark Amedei Chocolate ganache, Toasted baguette, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Maldon sea salt

Wine pairing: Muskat Ottonel Trockenbeerenauselese No 4 – Aloise Kracher, Austria 2002


An excellent meal in every way.