Sunday, February 13, 2011

Restaurant Week at Bondst

I'm not a very big fan of Restaurant Week. In fact, Restaurant Week really irritates me. Places that I'm used to walking right into have longer waits for a table. The separate menu is usually very limited. The portions are much smaller than they should be. And then you're left wondering, is this even sort of a deal at all? (Kefi, here's looking at you... even though I absolutely adore both the items and the prices of your normal-time menu).

That being said, every once in awhile I'll find a spot that might actually have a good deal on Restaurant Week. This year's place was Bondst. It's one of those super trendy, come-hang-out-in-the-downstairs-lounge-so-people-can-see-you, high-end Noho Japanese places. Not really my scene. So I took Restaurant Week as an excuse to go, and I was actually pretty impressed with how much you get for the $35 prix fixe.

To start, you get either a miso soup or a mixed greens salad. And then a complimentary bowl of edamame. And then I had a sweet saketini because it had been that kind of week.

For the entree, you get an entire bento box of stuff. The flavors may or may not match each other. You might have been happier receiving them as separate, fresh courses. But its Restaurant Week, and you make sacrifices.

The bento box comes with crispy shrimp, age dashi tofu and a steamed chicken dumpling. For the sushi portion, you can either get a sashimi sampler or spicy tuna/salmon avocado rolls. And then either the Chilean sea bass or New York strip. My dining companion and I ordered complete opposites so we could try everything. The sashimi was a little too cold for my liking. The bass was well-cooked but the glaze was a little too sweet.

Dessert was either a lychee panna cotta, which was sour in a poorly flavored yogurt kinda way, or a ricotta cup, which was the sweet and creamy highlight of the meal.

This place is more about beautiful people than good food, so I won't be back. But it was nice to vary it up a bit. And to spend some quality time with my first NYC friend!


6 Bond St.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Wintry Dinner at Convivio

On Saturday, I headed up to Tudor City for a nice early V-day dinner with Rob. I hadn't been up to my favorite elevated midtown oasis in months, so the walk up the steps and past the park was an extra enjoyable little trek. It's so hushed and quiet and dark and snowy, a hazy view of Brooklyn beyond the East River. And then into loud Convivio, lots of old men in suits, cramped tables, low lighting and beautiful Southern Italian food.

Even if we weren't being treated with the best Christmas present ever (thanks, Greg & 80!), we probably still would have gone with the $64 four course prix fixe. It gets you an antipasti, a primi (pasta), a segundi (pesci or carni) and a dessert. It was the perfect amount of food, plus it gave us a little room to explore the wine list (I had a Prosecco di Conegliano and later, a dessert wine from Cyprus.)

Everything we tried was stellar and expertly cooked. The only complaint I have is that most accompaniments were plain and (I thought) the dishes would be much better off without. Like the duck sausage antipasti with grilled endive. Scrap the endive, and give me 18 more duck sausages! It was so delicate and flavorful and perfect. The endive was just kinda... there.

Rob had the amazingly beautiful yellowtail crudo with blood oranges and olives. The fish melted in your mouth, and the orange/olives gave it a nice sweet/salty balance. This is maybe the one exception where the accompaniments really helped the dish shine.

Rob's primi was the gnochetti with crab and sea urchin I had this spring (it's still amazing), but my tuna belly raviolios blew it out of the water. There's something special about homemade ravioli when its eggy and tender, even before its stuffed with perfectly moistened bits of tuna. The sauce was used so sparingly I have no idea what it could be, but it was so rich and lemony and flavorful. I bet it would make a good soup. I even loved the capers in this dish.

We shared the next course evenly... although I was tempted not to share my second lamb chop! So meaty and fatty with a fantastic salsa verde and breadcrumb topping. It sounds heavy, but it was really super light and delicate. An expertly crafted dish, though I could have done without the tomato and cannelli beans (zzz). The scallops were really well cooked and surprisingly a lot denser than the lamb. This could have used a sauce in place of the oily pepper strips, though.

Dessert was amazing. Rob had the meyer lemon tartaletta with huckleberry compote and coconut gelato. Very heavy on the lemon with nice accents of tropical fruit. I absolutely loved my zuppa di cioccolato, a very dense mint bergamot semifreddo with a hot chocolate soup poured tableside. It was like a subtly flavored mint chocolate chip sundae that started extra frozen and got even better as it got meltier.

This was my favorite meal in a long time. I already can't wait to go back and try the arancini, the fusilli with pork shoulder, the oxtail ragu. Maybe my next four-course meal at Convivio? I'll be very happy finishing with the semifreddo zuppa again.

45 Tudor City Place

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Grasshopper Token from Momofuku Milk

Last week, Rob went to Momofuku Milk Bar without me!

He's lucky he brought home a mint cheesecake with brownie filling and marshmallows to appease me :)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Cafes in Quito

Ecuador has great coffee, beautiful rainforests and some really sweet, friendly people. One thing Ecuador does not seem to have is good restaurants (at least not anywhere we went in Quito). I'm not one to post pictures of mediocre food, but can you BELIEVE this is what you get when you order a blue cheese burger?

I ordered a filet mignon another night that I have to say, although it was not neon in color, was definitely not prime beef.

However, we did find one cute little mom and pop cafe that was fairly decent. Doesn't Cafeto have the cutest little sign? Every hotel, museum, yarn shop and cafe in Quito had the exact same style. It gave the city a nice feeling of continuity. I loved it.

This place served up some pretty serious Ecuadorian coffee, rich sopas, good tamales and decent sandwiches. They also had some good looking sweets in the counter (cheesecakes!) but we tried to play it safe and smart this trip.

I'm already itchin' to go back to warm South America...

El Cafeto
Chile 930 & Flores Old Town 
Quito, Ecuador