Posts Tagged ‘Michelin Star’

Restaurant Daniel without My Daniel

September 16, 2019 I set off on my yearly pilgrimage of culinary pleasure and pain since the loss of my dear Daniel in 2016. I revisit the Michelin-starred restaurants where we celebrated our wedding anniversaries, and I do it alone. In 2013, it was Daniel, which you can read about here. I’m not sure why I do it; it just feels right for my soul at this time. I admit, though, it also feels right for my palette.

As I approached, I recalled the steps of yesteryear, not sure exactly where it was until I saw the name glowing on the marquee. I was looking to recreate that approach, but the marquee was obstructed by a construction awning. Upon swinging through those goIMG_6760lden revolving doors, it felt like an eerie dream state where I had to walk this long corridor alone where four hosts stood behind a desk waiting and watching ever step. I was led into a mostly empty dining room at 5:15 p.m. It appeared the same as I recalled from our last visit.

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Similar to the dating scene, it is only fair to IMG_6771give my top three guys an equal number of dates for proper comparison. Eric (Ripert) and David (Bouley) each took me on three dining dates; whereas I only had given Daniel (Boulud) one chance at 65th Street. So now was the moment for him to be able to pull out all the stops to win me over as his culinary lover. I am convinced that with a concerted effort, it’ always the one freshest in your mind that will seem the best.

Electing for the four-course menu, I begged for recommendations because there were too many choices, working backwards from my third-course immediate choice of Suckling Pig. Since it was brand new on the menu, I decided on the CRABE ROYAL – King Crab

Salad, Honeycrisp Apple, Kohlrabi, Sesame Tuile, Poppy Seed Gelee. But of course first comes the amuse bouche. The server listed too many ingredients in these mini works of art, but I know one involved eggplant and the other beets. I was immediately spared any thoughts of selection regret when out came another first course – complements of tIMG_6765he chef – (oh, he’s trying hard to impress). THE FLAGEOLET was enhanced with tableside pouring of the “soup”. I should have captured the deconstructed pieces before they were covered in the sauce. It was another masterpiece. The Flageolet Beans, Black Garlic, Confit Carrots and Maine Lobster at center with the Lemon-Thyme Cream were standing orderly in the bowl before the Artichoke Veloute was gently poured in.

Bread service came along to complicate matters. The three-seed roll was enough to sample, although I could have tried each kind but spared the space in my stomach.

The second course was grilled swordfish, which looked like a dollhouse of twin beds. The ESPADON was accompanied by summer squash, shallot marmalade, Thai basil with Le Cirque’s “Sauce Sottha Kuhnn” drizzled by the server.

And finally, the base of my other meal selections – the COCHON DE LAIT: Gaspor Farm Suckling Pig with Melilot, Ginger-Carrot Croquettes, Daylilly Buds and Sauce Robert. There was only one cringe moment; the server asked, “Are you enjoying the pig?” There was a drifting moment of guilt. And when the plate, as all the others were, was returned to its dishwasher-clean state, except for the bone, I flashed to a “Curb Your Enthusiasm” episode and hesitated to ask for a “doggy bag” for my dog. She deserved a remnant of that crispy, smoky/sweet tenderness.IMG_6774

Then came the moment that everyone unadmittedly waits for – the fourth and final dessert course. I asked my server to verbally walk me through the desserts and expand upon the written words. His personal favorite was the cashew something something, which turned out to be the NOIX DE CAJOU (now you see why I wanted interpretations). I wanted to defy him and get the FIGUE because simply any dessert with fig has to be the best. He was pretty emphatic about the cashew concoction, so out came this sculpture of Cashew Infused Opalys Chocolate, Salted Caramel and Praline, with Champaka Flower Ice Cream…..why can’t I find this in the supermarket?? And magically, “The Chef must have heard you and sent the Sil-timur Berry Scented Fig Compotee, Mascarpone and Coffee, a recreated version of creme brulee.”

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It instantly dawned on me: This was a murder conspiracy. Death by Desserts! It became especially evident when one employee walking by offered the suggestion of breaking through all the layers at once rather than tasting the fig dessert from the top. This way I would need to consume more of it! If that didn’t do the trick, send over the guyIMG_6782 with a napkin basket of warm madeleines, and after she takes one, leave the whole basket for her on the table to be tempted.

But wait, she’s still sitting strong with her coffee. How about the box trick? It’s like the Russian Tea Dolls with one inside another. And to seal the deal of Dessert Overkill, send her home with a “gift” that she can ingest “later tonight or tomorrow”.

Truth be told, I would have sampled every dessert on that menu if that were humanly possible, but I didn’t want to leave uncomfortable. And in fact, half of each of them did come home with me. I was onto their little murderous plan, and I figured a way out!

Well Daniel Boulud, you’ve done it. You knocked out David and Eric with a single evening’s punch and are now my Chef Guy, and I am your Patron Girl. What really became a deciding factor was the keepsake at the end – a printed personal menu of all that I had personally eaten. Wow! So until my next visit to the other guys, you’re the man Daniel.

Batard: A Lone Shining Star, the Sequel

 

IMG_4609Not to start this out on a discordant note, but this is the sequel to my first and only visit to Batard two years ago. It was my last anniversary dinner with my husband. I felt a need to revisit the experience – alone. As I walked down North Moore street looking for the restaurant again, I had a vivid recollection of last time when we walked by the entrance two or three times. It’s a somewhat dark section of West Broadway. At 6:45, the restaurant only had two other occupied tables, and I was led through the empty room to the same table we had occupied, but this time, a chair was removed. I sat on the bench seat along the wall. I requested that table in my reservation, sillily thinking it would stir up some remnant particles of previous presence. Instead it was just a sad reminder of the absence.

But the server greeted me with a smile that I forced myself to comply with. At least I knew Michelin-starred (1 still) dishes would be on their way to me soon enough to forget about those things for a while. And then, it returned: the algebraic dilemma – two or three or four courses and the added complexity of which combination of courses would best add up to the number selected. I settled on appetizer, first course and entrée after I saw the complimentary bite-sized dessert being given to the table next to me at the end of their meal.

First came two selections of bread, both of which were placed on my bread plate: a slice of grain sourdough and a brioche topped with sea salt. Bread is my starter dessert, and when the woman asked if I’d like more bread, the left side of my brain said, “Don’t; you’ll get too full.” The right side said, “It’s too good to pass up; you have plenty of room in that empty stomaIMG_4607ch.” Out came: “Yes please”. Right side wins, and I unexpectedly was given one of each again.

Then came out my beautifully presented first choice: Madai Crudo, blood orange, cucumber and red pepper vinaigrette. The colors exploded in front of me like a bag of Sunkist candies. It’s still summer for sure! I see the French sauce spoon and am embarrassed to say that I wasn’t quite sure of its proper use. Should I break the fish with it? It’s somewhat flat, so I don’t see it being useful in scooping up that delicious vinaigrette that the snapper was bathed in. I faked it using the fork to break apart and eat the fish, alongIMG_4608 with the crispy curls of fish skin and then the ‘spoon’ for whatever less-solid remained. I cleaned up well.

The room began to fill up, and I didn’t feel so alone any more. It was a later-night dining crowd. The next course arrived. Tortellini,  tomato conserva, sweet corn, andouille, pickled chiles. It had just enough heat from the chiles and sausage to warm the tongue but not too much to burn the tummy. The little packages of pasta had the IMG_4610proper chewiness and the yin and yang of the gentle sweetness of the corn and slight sharpness pepper blended into a harmonious dish that left me wanting more….partially because of the smaller-sized portion.

Even though the waiter tried tempting me with the special pork schnitzel entrée, I told him I would reserve that for my German restaurant and go with the striped bass with goldbar squash puree, halved baby red potatoes, thai basil, roasted fennel bulb and some type of cabbage greens with the golden-browned fish draped over.

Surprisingly, probably because I went with fish versus meat, I wasn’t weighted-down full.

The two-bite-sized complementary pistachio mini muffin (but fluffier) with roasted pinapple laid in the top was enough to satisfy the need to end with a “dessert”. I’m doing it an injustice by calling it a muffin. In four bites, the two were politely completed.

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My first visit I questioned why it wasn’t two-star rated. After revisiting LB last September, I recognize where Batard has some room to grow. I didn’t feel like the Queen I was crowned at the 3-star. I wasn’t asked how everything was! I want the chance to give positive feedback after each course. I will likely not return soon, as the memories are still raw, but under regular circumstances, I would want to return for the food!

Chef’s Table is True to Its Name

Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare is true to its moniker; It is not the guests’ table. This is Chef Ramirez’s house and his rules (that seem reminiscent of an undisclosed Seinfeld episode).

I had been looking fChef's Tableorward for months to this celebratory dinner and am ashamed to admit that I was not more educated about the restaurant when it was suggested. When I read what little description I could find about the potential dishes,  the princess awaited her chariot to set out for an evening of exquisite, perhaps unknown foods that the mouth could discover for the first time. With only 18 seats, no menu, and Chef Ramirez preparing each of the 20 or so plates in front of the patrons’ eyes, I was prepared to be part of an elite group. But something felt a little cold when we entered the small room: The shared “table”/counter is stainless steel; the stools are metal; the cooking apparatus was steel; and there was a cluster of copper pots over the cooking stage area. The glass door was locked behind us when the final eight were seated. My eyeballs rolled around rapidly without moving my head like a painting in a horror flick. I immediately understood there was a certain decorum that needed to be followed that was more stringent than anywhere I’ve eaten. It was a bit unsettling; I had never set foot in such a restricting environment and a fleeting second of prison whizzed by until the aromas corrected my train of thought. The following second, images of an operating room flew through my head and were reinforced by the surgical tweezers the professionals held daintily to decorate the presentations and precisely garnish with microgreens and edible flowers. One millimeter misplacement seemed it would cause trouble.

The Chef and his assistants were already delivering plate number six to the first group of 10 guests, so it offered us a sneak preview of dishes to come our way. It was not the workings of a typical commercial kitchen – it was a silent ballet with art being sculpted atop each white canvas. There was no speaking, just coordinated movement among the team. Chef Ramirez, with his shaved head and glasses blended into the environment – he looked cold, yet I observed him admirably, knowing that familiar intense facial expression of concentration geared for perfection.

I had been forewarned by a friend who had dined here recently that no photos are allowed. I asked disappointingly, “You mean no flash?” No – no photos, period. My dining experiences generally don’t end when I leave a restaurant (unless I want to forget); I like to recall what I ate and at least re-live the meal visually. How were so many courses going to remain in my memory when I relay the details of the evening to others? My friend had the idea of texting himself minimal details of each one when the woman in the moat between us and the “kitchen” placed down and described the dishes. Every ingredient was obviously not divulged; that was for our palettes to decipher. By the 9th course, the server leaned in and said, “I’m sorry; we have a rule of no note-taking.” While it sounded absurd, of course he abided  and put the phone away. Now, there would be minimal recall. I leaned back and forward hoping, twisting to see Marilu Henner with her H-SAM memory. It would be the perfect way to avoid this regulation.

At least 10 minutes later, Chef Ramirez creepily appeared behind and between me and my friend: “How are you?” directed at both of us. “Very good; thank you,” I replied. He faced my friend and sternly said, “Stop taking notes!” Words followed, but it was all a blurred mumble as I regressed to grammar school being reprimanded by a teacher. It was extremely rare. From that point on, the dining experience changed. In order for one to be ‘scolded’ for breaking a rule, that person needs to be made aware of the rule. It would have been a good idea at the beginning of the meal or at the time of reservation for the cruel rules to be provided. It was slightly embarrassing because the woman next to us asked what that was all about. She made the side-lips, nose-scrunched face I felt was my expression also.

Somehow the food gradually cleansed the growing irritation that moment brought upon us. Maybe it was the foam in many of the plates that soothed the beast. The tastings shot off with cucumber sorbet with cucumber foam resting atop to awake our tongues and let us know the epicurean journey was beginning. Next, served in an egg-shaped holder set on a magnetized, angled plate was raw island oyster with a granny smith apple custard and puffed rice pieces. My belly was just getting tantalized. I wondered if all these raw bites would satiate my hunger, as good as they were. Following was blue nose, a coldwater (fits the theme) fish from New Zealand with jicama and cilantro. The king salmon with trout roe was then claimed as my favorite thus far. The anticipation was growing. The star butter fish with pickled daikon and fresh wasabi would’ve normally been impressive but fell back a slot after the last dish. Then came two superb winners one after another: knife jaw fish with cucumber and cucumber blossom, and golden eye snapper with crispy kelp and shiso. My new bff (best food favorite) changed every few minutes. The new one was red sea perch with black vinegar dressing. My least favorite , and I had been avoiding sea urchin crawling into my life until this moment, but it was still good: Hokkaido uni with black truffle and…..the disciplinary moment hits.

I remember some cooked items being turbot, scallops with ramps and chewy abalone, and the homerun poached lobster with langostine ravioli. The desserts fell a little short for me starting with a three-cheese selection, followed by a plate of air, which was frozen melted chocolate, and a chocolate ganache with cherry sauce. Overall, the taste and presentation deserve an A+ for artistry. My tummy was comforably full with no buttons needing to be undone, but Chef Ramirez failed to make us feel welcome in his house. He walked out of there and hailed a cab – not a word to any of the diners who are filling his pockets.