Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Charm of Dressler

There are three Michelin-rated restaurants in Brooklyn, and so far I've only visited one -- Dressler. The others are Peter Luger right across the street (visit pending next month!) and Saul in Cobble Hill. After a recent second visit to Dressler, I'm fairly certain they deserve that Michelin star, even though this puts them at the same level as Anissa (which I think deserves two Michelins stars. Can the tubby tire man just hire me already?).

Dressler is elegant without being pretentious; the iron chandeliers and lightboxes evoke a kind of modern bohemian chic feel. The room, and especially the bar, displays lots of beautiful, intricate metal work that, according to the site, was crafted from Brooklyn Navy Yard sculptors. It reinforces its Brooklyn presence. (Pic taken from their site)

The menu is mostly simple items, prepared thoughtfully with (seemingly?) few ingredients. Diver scallops are drizzed with white truffle oil, ricotta raviolini are served in a light tomato & parmesan broth, artichoke salad is served in a lemon half. Roasted beets & citrus salad are served with Greek yogurt and olive tapenade. Presentation is lovely and the flavors are simple yet unique.

I usually fight the urge to order the beef on a menu, but when I saw they had two kinds of steak in an entree, I did not bother to fight it. The grilled sirloin was cooked perfectly, and the braised short rib accompaniment was as soft as jelly. To kick up the comfort food factor, they serve it with mashed potatoes and a bit of creamed spinach, but the grilled ramps give it a little something extra.

On my last visit, I successfully avoided the steak trap (delicious though it was) and enjoyed the bacon wrapped monkfish with risotto. I think I prefer this monkfish method over the simple medallion slices at Le Bernadin, although this version was WAY saltier. Saltiness aside, the fish was incredibly tender, and you don't even know where the bacon ends and the monkfish begins. Such culinary beauty.

The service here was fantastic on both visits as well. The waitstaff is very friendly, attentive, and they have a sense of humor too. You can't go wrong with the bread the bring out pre-meal, either (parker roll or ciabatta?).

Michelin star deserved.

149 Broadway
(between 6th St & Driggs Ave)
Brooklyn, NY 11211
(718) 384-6343

Thursday, May 7, 2009

A New Jersey Excursion: In Search of Beniotome Sesame Shochu

Last week, Rob and I took a trip across the George Washington bridge into the strange and wonderful land that is Fort Lee and Edgewater, New Jersey. We had two destinations in mind: Hudson Wine Market and Mitsuwa Marketplace.

As I've mentioned before, Rob loves Beniotome sesame shochu. He orders it at nearly every trip to Bozu, EN Japanese Brasserie or other high-end Japanese restaurants, but it seems to be impossible to find for retail sale in the city. Fortunately, he found that Hudson Wine Market carries it, and that it would only be a short drive away.

Shochu is a Japanese distilled drink, and Wikipedia says its made from barley, sweet potatoes or rice and is somewhere between wine and whisky in terms of strength (which I agree with completely). The sesame flavored shochu is a little smoky and makes it taste a little stronger than it might actually be. Let it sit in some ice, though, and you'll find that the flavors are very deep and rounded, and that the sesame flavor sings the longest. I'm sipping it now and can't think of any other way to describe it.

Anyway, we had a little bit of difficulty finding the market, as the directions didn't say we had to turn up into a driveway to access a big parking lot for a mini mall. Hudson's was a huge warehouse boasting of all kinds of drinks, from specialized Japanese shochus to obscure reds and whites. I even found a bottle of the 2004 Flowers Pinot noir that I fell in love with at Le Bernadin. And for the $50 price you can bet I bought one. Rob pretty much wiped out their entire selection of Beniotome sesame shochu. To make the trip worth it, you see.

Hudson Wine Market
1638 Schlosser St
Fort Lee, NJ 07024
(201) 346-0101

After the Hudson Wine Market excursion, we headed south to Mitsuwa Marketplace, using the little battery power I had left on my phone for Google maps to guide us. Luckily it was a pretty easy drive. Mitsuwa is a huge Japanese grocery store & specialty shop with an attached food court. They have everything from fresh produce and pickled vegetables to sashimi grade sushi and pre-sliced sukiyaki. I was starving, so we tried a few pre-made sushi rolls, which were okay. We left with a couple of very nicely priced bags of frozen edamame beans, a few packages of red bean moochi and some daikon radish. It's a pretty fun and unique place to just browse around; definitely recommended if you're planning on hosting a sushi party in the near future.

Mitsuwa Marketplace
595 River Road
Edgewater, NJ 07020
(201) 941-9113

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Mad for... Chicken?

I just found out that within the past week or so, Koreatown's Bonchon Chicken has been renamed... wait for it... Mad for Chicken. This, as I've read, has been done for easier pronounciation. It's a shame, and puzzling for a few reasons. First of all, how hard is it to say "Bonchon"? Bon. Chon. Secondly, wouldn't a more traditional name work better for a true Korean take on chicken, as opposed to an all American family friendly title? And finally, is it just me, or does the name stir visions of meat-related disease pandemics? Between the old forgotten mad cow and the tired swine outbreak, you would think they'd want to steer clear of a name like Mad for Chicken.

Anyway, I had only visited K-town's favorite fried chicken once, back in February, and for some reason never got around to reviewing it. The rebranding reminded me to dig up the pics and share the experience. And since I visited it before the name change, I will refer to it by its original name.

BonChon is hard to find, hidden on the second floor of a poorly labeled building on 5th Ave. You climb a narrow staircase and then suddenly, you're in a tall ceiling'ed, MOMA-ready industrial space. Lots of concrete and odd looking shapes, big modern chairs and mirrors, very minimalist.

We were told they only had wings at the time of our visit, and that they only had two types -- soy garlic and spicy. We decided on an order of both, plus two sides -- "stick vegetables" and rosemary fries. Both came before the chicken, as appetizers, which was a little strange. We also waited forever for the chicken, also strange seeing as how they just said it was all they had on the menu. The rosemary fries were great, but "stick vegetables" turns out to be a very overpriced third grade snack: carrot sticks and celery sticks and dipping sauce.

And then came the chicken. They fry their birds twice for an extra crunchy outside, and both the soy garlic and the spicy wings showed off some amazing flavors. These were without a doubt the best chicken wings I've ever had. The spicy pieces so hot it was almost painful, but I couldn't stop. I savored every extra crispy bite.

If you haven't been here yet, you must. It's a rite of passage for New Yorkers.

Strange name aside. Because, what's in a name, right?

Mad for Chicken
314 5th Ave, 2nd Fl (between 31st St & 32nd St)
New York, NY 10001
(212) 221-2222