New Opening: Root & Bone Manhattan from Chefs Jeffrey McInnis & Janine Booth

21 Jul

Last fall, we went to a pop-up restaurant in Brooklyn in anticipation of Top Chef-testants Jeffrey McInnis and Janine Booth opening up a restaurant in NYC. We had a great meal and a very special evening.  So when we heard that the Manhattan Root & Bone was opening, we called right up to make a reservation.  We couldn’t get one for about a month after opening, but our time finally came due this past Friday.  We went with some of our favorite foodie friends (one of whom was with us at the pop-up).

The first thing we noticed about the space, which is in Alphabet City on 3rd Street between Avenues A and B, is that it is TIGHT.  We had to sneak through a very tight entryway into a tight dining room which led to another tight room.  We had requested to sit at the bar right outside the kitchen (usually reserved for walk-ins but we love to watch the kitchen) and it was, as you guessed it, tight.

But it had all the industrial decorations that I am a sucker for.

IMG_9567

Mike and I started with some lovely cocktails, the Twisted Mustache (Russels 6 year bourbon, Swedish punsch, citrus, and ginger) and the Filthy Manhattan (Wild Turkey 101, port, bitters, filthy amarena cherries, and  rosemary).  The Filthy Manhattan was pretty good, but the kicker was the cherry at the end which was absolutely incredible.  But I really loved the Twisted Mustache and wound up ending my night with that.  It was fresh and ginger-y.  Very nice cocktail.

IMG_9580

Sitting at the bar by the kitchen made it dinner and a show. And the two chefs that were cooking seemed genuinely excited to have 4 food groupies who were thrilled to watch them cook. They showed off their food as they went, including these incredible looking fried chicken and waffle sandwiches.

IMG_9557

And we enjoyed watching this chef make ricotta dumplings (which wound up being plated beautifully).

IMG_9565

We saw both celeb chefs, however, Janine was very hands-on in the kitchen and spent a lot of time next to our seating area.  She immediately recognized us and asked if she knew us, and we told her we had been at the pop up.  Sweet of her to recall and say something.  We talked a lot about my allergy and she was so accommodating about it. She continued to check on us throughout the meal and was overall just about as nice as could be.

We started with the southern style cornbread with clotted cream and house-made preserves.  The corn bread was just the right texture of moist while still being a little crumbly, and the clotted cream and preserves (something I usually have only with scones) was a nice compliment and a good way to start our meal.

IMG_9569

We watched the chefs throw an entire corn of cob into the open fire on the grill and decided it was something we had to try. This was “Grilled Sweet Corn Cob… Husk and All” with cornbread butter, giant hominy, and popped corn.

IMG_9570

This was one of my favorite dishes of the night, if not the #1.  The corn was great and the char on it was awesome, but the corn bread butter… holy shnikeys… awesome.  And the addition of the popped corn and the hominy made for great textures that all held up to the sauce.

photo 1

We also got the basket of waffle fries with cheese sauce, but we had to have the bacon and remoulade on the side since it had peppers (which I cannot have).  These fries were charred.  Why has no one thought of this before?  (Okay… someone, somewhere probably has… but this was my first encounter). I love a good crispy fry that tastes of potato, and this fit the bill and then some.  And the cheese didn’t make them soggy.  Great fries.

IMG_9577

We watched the chefs on the line pile handful after handful of cheese on top of their macaroni and cheese side throughout the evening, so we had to try it. It was described as “big elbow pasta” that came with crunchy cheese toast and fresh thyme crust.  I wanted it SO bad, however, it had some peppers in it.  I had a couple bites and it was delicious and totally worth the itch.

photo 2

As for “bigger plates,” I had to go for the meatloaf after loving the one we had at the pop up, plus… how could you beat the description? “Braised short rib meatloaf with parsnip root mash, tomato ketchup jam, charred spring onions and other roots.”  This was AWESOME. It was like someone made excellent short ribs, then pulled them, then reassembled them into a loaf, then charred them, then put great sauce on it and added the parsnip puree and delicious root vegetables for added flare.  It was like everything I love in one great dish.

IMG_9582

Our friends also got the “Crispy Free-Range Bucket of Bird: Sweet tea brined, pickled lemon dusted, spiked Tobasco honey.”  While the Chef Booth informed me that they could have made it without the Tobasco honey, turns out they brined it in something with peppers, too. Chef actually sounded upset on my behalf that I couldn’t eat it.

And it turns out, with due reason.  Everyone else at the table said it was one of the best fried chickens they’ve ever had.  I was about to risk it, however, Mike said he could taste the spice so I didn’t do it, since I wanted to be able to enjoy the rest of the meal.

Damn.

I made them all tell me it was truly awful. (LIARS)

IMG_9587

We got to watch the chef put the finishing touches on Mike’s Australian Rack of Lamb, which came with roasted roots, horseradish crusted leek and sweet potato gratin, carrot barbecue sauce, and watercress.

IMG_9593

This was a beautifully cooked and seasoned piece of meat. I really enjoyed the puree and the lamb tasted great.  Of all the things we ate, I think the other items were a bit more original, but when you have a great piece of lamb like this, there really is no need to get very fancy with it.

IMG_9598

They served the roots separately, telling us that the dish photographed better without them on the plate, which made me greatly appreciated the thoughtfulness (and they were delicious).

IMG_9599

We barely had room for dessert after this meal, however, we decided splitting one between the four of us was feasible.  So we went with the Banana Cream with layers of honey graham, vanilla custard, bananas, and pecan praline.

IMG_9602

It was a really nice end to the meal, with big chunks of banana.  I wished there were more pecan praline, but that’s just because I think there is never enough pecan praline in this world.

IMG_9603

And then we received our check… in a bone.

IMG_9608

Overall, I was pretty blown away but all the food we had throughout the evening. Each dish was a little bit special and a little bit unique, and a lot a bit tasty.  The flavors were really thought out and each plate felt very special.  It was obvious that the people who came up with the menu and all those preparing it really cared about the food they put out and went out of their way to make sure it was truly great.  They could not have been nicer or more accommodating, and we really enjoyed watching the chefs cook throughout the evening. A truly great experience.

I heard that they are not accepting reservations any longer, but it sure can’t hurt to check! I am super curious about their brunch, and the menu sounds amazing. I mean come on… they serve that meatloaf with EGGS!  Sold.

The only thing I can fault them for is that they are in Alphabet City, which is already inconvenient from just about everywhere, but will be even more so from our new place in Riverdale.  Maybe that’s a good thing, however, because if they were close, I’d be very, very fat.

Total Nom Points: 8.5 out of 10

nomscale- 08.5

 

New Opening: THE NoMad BAR

21 Jun

We caught the news that The NoMad had opened up a new space called The Nomad Bar, attached through a semi-hidden passageway to their current space, The Library. It seems this came as a surprise to many, as I saw nothing leading up to it prior and it just kind of appeared one day with an entrance in the middle of the block on 28th Street (look for the Nomad logo on the door).  The space has been described as “sexy,” which it undeniably is, even down to a sexy promotional video. (And lots more sexy photos from Eater)

We went in at about 5:45pm on Friday evening and were told it would be about an hour wait for a table (as expected).  We put our names in and saddled right up to the sexy bar.

IMG_8279

We loved the food at The NoMad restaurant, and I actually find myself there nearly once a week now for breakfast meetings since it’s right near my office (and they have the super awesome granola from Eleven Madison Park).  We are huge fans of basically anything from Daniel Humm and Will Guidara after falling in love with EMP, which is our #1 restaurant in Manhattan. And when we heard that Brian Canlis, our gracious host from our fantastic honeymoon dinner at Canlis in Seattle, was lending a helping hand, it was all the more reason to visit at the first opportunity we had.

Mike and I had arrived early and were waiting on another couple friend to join us.  As we waited, we perused the menu and noticed that there were so many delicious sounding cocktails that it was going to be hard to choose.

IMG_8277

They have a section for “Reserve Cocktails” (read: very expensive with very good liquors), but they did mix a less premium version on request.  They also have an entire section of “Cocktail Explosions” for $90 to serve 6-8 people. It’s even labeled as “be careful” on the menu. We saw a few come out and they were like a super sexy scorpion bowl.  Could be great for a party.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Our friends arrived shortly thereafter and as they ordered their drinks, the hostess came up to us and informed us that there was actually a change in another party so our table would be ready shortly.  Great!

We got our drinks and were led up the stairs to the second level, which is like a U shaped balcony with tables all around, looking down on the bar.

IMG_8280

They even light their stemware in a sexy cabinet with sexy lighting.

IMG_8281

What was a little less than sexy? The fact that they serve their “Forbidden Dance” in this slightly ridiculous, slightly awesome tiki glass.  I quite proudly carried this around a few hours later (more on that soon), but it was certainly a talking point (more on that later soon, too)

I have to say though, every single drink was amazing.  Perfectly balanced, perfectly constructed.  Really stand-out. This is truly a craft cocktail bar first and foremost.

IMG_8285

After ordering, our table was set with this cool box of silverware.

And then Brian Canlis stopped by and we said hello and told him that we were at his restaurant almost exactly 1 year ago to the day on our honeymoon.  He was so friendly and so warm.  He seemed genuinely happy to have us there and talk to us.  Brian Canlis knows hospitality and knows how to make guests feel special.

He also asked our opinion about the giant tiki glass sitting on our table.  Our dining companion informed him that she was a bit embarrassed by it and he told us that management is discussing whether it’s awesome or awful.  I think we all agreed that it’s a little of both.

IMG_8287

We started with the flat bread, which came with spring onions and fingerling potatoes.  We all enjoyed this but agreed that a little dipping sauce would have been good with it, perhaps a rosemary olive oil or olive tapenade.

IMG_8288

We also tried the Scotch Olives with lamb’s sausage and sheep’s milk cheese.

IMG_8293

 

It was like a scotch egg but with an olive.  I really enjoyed this.  Fun flavors and combination of textures and meat with salt and fry.

IMG_8328

Our final appetizer was the Swiss Cheese with beer mustard, pretzel chips, and pickles.  The cheese was absolutely phenomenal. I don’t know where they are sourcing this cheese, but it was some of the best swiss I’ve ever had.  I’m not a mustard fan, however, the two boys at the table sang its praises.

IMG_8296

Onto the entrees!

Two burgers on the table, and thank goodness.  This was a fantastic burger.

IMG_8303

The meat was cooked perfectly and the brioche bun was hearty without distracting from the main meat event. It was listed as dry aged with cheddar, red onions, and pickles.  So simple, yet so good.  One of my favorite burgers I’ve ever had.

IMG_8304

 

We got fries for the table and these were fan-freakin-tastic fries.  They were crispy and had lovely herbs on them (rosemary and parsley).  I gobbled up every little piece.

IMG_8308

We also tried the pork schnitzel on foccacia with tomato and pickles.  Of all the entrees, this was probably our least favorite. It was good but it didn’t sing with flavor like the other dishes.  It got a bit too muddled.

IMG_8306

I got the duck sausage with pickled ramps and cherries.  I was a bit concerned that this was the same mustard as the cheese, but it was more of an aioli, I think?

IMG_8310

The sausage itself was great.  Really nice combination of flavors and a nice snap to the outside.  Very enjoyable.

IMG_8312

With The NoMad restaurant serving one of my favorite desserts of all time (Milk and Honey), we were glad to have room for dessert.

We started with the Cookies & Cream, which was yummy vanilla ice cream rolled in cookie crumbs.  I loved that you could eat these with your hands and the texture was just right.  Delicious nibble.

IMG_8314

The banana pudding with rum & brioche was not how we expected it to look, but I really enjoyed this dessert.  I also enjoy how this picture wound up looking like that famous photo of Queen from Bohemian Rap City.

IMG_8329

 

And we had to try the candy bar, which was labeled on the menu as “literally, with dark chocolate and caramel.”

Literally indeed.

IMG_8313

Unwrapping it felt like Willy Wonka.

IMG_8323

And it was an awesome balance of the bitter dark chocolate with the sweet, dense caramel center.  A fantastic end to the meal.

IMG_8327

 

We had a few drinks throughout the evening, and all were great.  We decided we would end our night in The Library Bar for a night cap.

On our way down the stairs, we ran into Brian Canlis again.  We told him that we really enjoyed our meal and he asked us if we had ever been to the roof.  Why no… we had not.  He told us to hold tight and we told him we were going to head to The Library Bar.  That is when he informed us that the deal was that The Library Bar was now for hotel guests only. Apparently, the bar had become so popular that guests could never get in, so The NoMad Bar was opened up for the public now, in trade for The Library Bar being exclusive (in the late evenings anyway).  Interesting! So we grabbed our drinks at the sexy bar and waited for Brian.

We ordered a few things, including a repeat of a drink I had and enjoyed earlier in the evening, which was “The Shaman” (Pisco Acholado, Salers, Pineapple, Lemon, Cinnamon, and Angostura Bitters). Unfortunately (or maybe fortuitously) the bar tender heard incorrectly and thought I ordered “The Forbidden Dance.” And that is how I accidentally wound up carrying a huge Tiki Cup through The NoMad dining room, up the elevator, and to the roof with Brian Canlis.

But that’s okay… we named him Ted. (and he was delicious… and the bar tender took it off the bill… which was very, very nice of him).

IMG_8333

The roof of The NoMad was beautiful.  There is a special room up there in a circular turret-like construction where you can have a private meal, and I think all of our ears perked up at the thought of having a special meal up there.  They used to do a tasting menu up there, but with the weather and the financial opportunity of private parties, it is now a permanently tented space that is truly stunning with indoor and outdoor areas and a view of the Empire State Building and a world of beautiful buildings you would never know existed from the ground.  (If you have a lot of money, and a small guest list, this would be a dream wedding venue).

Overall, I really enjoyed our time at The NoMad Bar.  It is a well executed “more casual” version of The NoMad restaurant.  All the food was very good, if not great, and the cocktails were some of the best I’ve ever had.  We drank quite a few over the course of the night, so our tab was a bit hard to see, but for the caliber, it didn’t feel too nuts for NYC.  It is definitely as sexy as it has been billed, and if you are looking to impress a date, this is the place to go.  Looking forward to going back.

Total Nom Points: 7.5 out of 10

Total Nom Points: 7.5 out of 10

 

Per Se: First Anniversary Celebration

16 Jun

It has been an incredible year.  1 year ago on June 15, I married the incredible Mr. Nom Nom with an incredible wedding in Maine, and then went on an incredible honeymoon that even made it into a magazine.  On our honeymoon, we went to The French Laundry, where we had an incredible, memorable meal (though slightly below expectation). It was still great enough, and epic enough, that we decided that for our first anniversary, there was only restaurant we could go… Per Se.

DSCF3366

Per Se is described as the “urban interpretation of The French Laundry” on their site, and is helmed by the same chef, Thomas Keller. Keller opened Per Se in 2004, about 10 years after The French Laundry, and it has long been on our grubbit-list.

We decided to save up and cap anniversary gifts at $20 to have a meal at the place that everyone said was the most famous in NYC.

So yesterday at noon, we sat down on the 4th floor of the Time Warner Center, looked out over Columbus Circle (and Columbus himself) and got ready to dine.

DSCF3261

The room is very reminiscent of The French Laundry with some similar touches, but it still a restaurant unto itself with very high ceilings and a bit more modern touches.

DSCF3262

Our waitress was nice enough to capture a shot of us at our table.

DSCF3263

And the restaurant, as perfect as French Laundry, even printed special menus wishing us a Happy 1st Anniversary.

DSCF3264

The format is similar, with a “Tasting of Vegetables” on one side…

DSCF3267

 

And the “Chef’s Tasting Menu” on the other side.  The 9 course full menu is $310, and this lunch menu has some additional options of a 7 course for $245 or a 5 course for $205.  We had been saving our pennies so we went for it and did the full menu.  There are also some supplements you can opt into, but we chose to stick to the regular menu. (For a fun infographic, check how how much you CAN spend at Per Se in case it’s not ridiculous enough…)

DSCF3266

Rather than go with a wine pairing, which would have broken the already decimated bank, we went for starter cocktails and then had a few glasses of wine throughout the meal. These were possibly the most expensive cocktails I’ve ever had ($25 a pop) but they were flipping fantastic.

Mike had the Charlie Hustle which was Basil Hayden Bourbon, Aperol & Vanilla-Infused Carpano Sweet Vermouth. It was perfectly balanced with all the right amounts of everything to create a manly, but not mannish, drink.

And I had the Long Weekend, which was made with Plantation “20th Anniversary” Rum & Strawberries. It exploded with delicious strawberry flavor.  It reminded me of a fresh strawberry popsicle from childhood.

DSCF3269

We began with an amuse bouche of miniature cheese stuffed puffs.  These were similar, if not the same as at French Laundry.  But they were much more memorable. The cheese was so creamy and it really popped.

DSCF3273

The salmon coronette was exactly was I remembered it from French Laundry.

DSCF3277

A mouthful of salty, crunchy, fishy deliciousness. Great balance of all textures and flavors.

DSCF3279

And then this spoon hit the table…

DSCF3280

… and I could feel my heart filling with anticipation as I knew what was coming next.

DSCF3281

The oysters and pearls. (Menu description: “Sabayon” of Pearl Tapioca with Island Creek Oysters and Sterling White Sturgeon Caviar).

DSCF3282

This masterpiece bowl of awesome heaven defies all explanation.  How this can be so fulfilling and so flavorful and so exciting blows my mind.  Right now I am actually saddened by the fact that I do not know if I will ever be at either of these two restaurants ever again to have this dish again.  There are few dishes that sing like this sings.  It is obvious why this is so famous.

DSCF3284

But as quickly as it began, it was over.

But a parker house roll with two house butters were there to try their damnedest to fill the void.

DSCF3287

The first butter was salted and very similar (if not the same) as the French Laundry version.  The second butter was unsalted but it was an insanely buttery tasting butter.   Both very good and fun to taste the dichotomy of both versions.

DSCF3288

The next dish was the Salad of French Laundry Garden Radishes (menu description: Hawaiian hearts of peach palm, hass avocado, bing cherries, and green almonds).  This dish was so beautiful and so fresh.

DSCF3289

I do not love radishes, but this could have made me love them.  The sauces were so smooth and so flavorful, without taking away from the delicate tastes of the radishes.

DSCF3291

Breads were offered throughout the evening, and we enjoyed sampling each of them.  My favorite of the great batch was the pretzel. This is what pretzels should taste like. Why people make imitations that taste anything less than this is a crime against pretzels.

DSCF3293

DSCF3294 DSCF3295 DSCF3296

Our next dish was “Confit” of Dover Sole (menu description: Sweet carrots, morel mushroom “tempura,” wild asparagus and melted green garlic).  The sauce was a great foil for the fish, which was slightly sweet.

DSCF3301

I really enjoyed the mushroom “tempura”  which added a hearty and earthy quality to the dish.

DSCF3299

Next up was the Jade Tiger Abalone (menu description: Grilled corn shoots, Hakurei turnips, Surinam Cherries, and Piedmont hazelnuts).  I have never had abalone to my recollection, but this sea snail didn’t tickle me as much as I was hoping.  It was good, but I just would much rather a scallop.

DSCF3303

That said, this was executed incredibly well, with a bit of crisp sear on the top and a lovely, earthy sauce.

DSCF3305

Our next dish went into the meat world and was a Degustation of Four Story Hill Farm’s Suckling Pig (menu description: Marinated tomatoes, Lamborn pea tendrils, haricot verts, and “Sauce Gribiche”).

DSCF3309

I cannot remember the details of how each was prepared, but all bites were packed with flavor and had all the right balances or acids, greens, sauces, and earthiness.  And the tomatoes on the plate were somehow the sweetest tomatoes I’ve ever had.  I have been sorely disappointed by pretty much every tomato I’ve had in recent years, but these were incredible.

DSCF3311

Our last meat was Elysian Field Farm’s “Carré D’Agneau” (menu description: “Petit Salé,” English peas, romaine lettuce, spring onions, and “Paloise Gastrique”)

DSCF3315

The plate was beautifully arranged and the peas, onions, and sauce were so bright and so spring.  With the lamb I was wondering if flowers were going to start sprouting from our table.

DSCF3316

The char and the salt on the meat brought out all the flavors.

DSCF3317

This was the most tenderly flavored lamb I’ve ever tasted.  It was distinctly lamby without being at all gamey.

DSCF3319

As a segue into dessert, the cheese course was Consider Bardwell Farm’s “Pawlet” (menu description: Black truffle shortbread, granny smith apples, celery branch and Belgian endive).

This cheese was so good that I actually looked up the farm and where to get it (Murray’s Cheese!)

The short bread was so perfectly textured and the cheese with the apple… gosh… it was just so good.

DSCF3323

Onto the desserts!

This is where the menu gets low on the details. It just says “Assortment of Desserts” with the description of Fruit, Ice Cream, Chocolate, and Candies. So apologies on the lack of details in my memory.

This was a rhubarb and strawberry something or other with some short bread pieces. It was fresh and creamy and lovingly balanced with textures and flavors with a hint of tart.

DSCF3327

Then we had an almond ice cream with hazelnut and pistachio.  Again… a simply perfect balance of texture and flavor.  Refreshing and nutty.

DSCF3330

Last “dessert on a plate” (great description from the waitress that made me laugh) as their take on an “After Eight.” I love mint and chocolate, and especially After Eights, so I really enjoyed this rich, but balanced dessert.  Mike, who doesn’t like chocolate with mint at all, even gobbled it all up.

DSCF3336

We then received a very sweet anniversary special treat.  This stunning piece of art was entirely edible.

DSCF3337

And it was as delicately delicious as it was delicately beautiful. What a treat!

DSCF3341

But the gifts just kept on coming.

Next up was a box of homemade candies.  He described each one and then made us choose. I chose a bourbon pecan milk chocolate while Mike went with an “Arnold Palmer” (ice team and lemonade) white chocolate.  (I was very upset to not try the burnt honey one, especially after re-reading my French Laundry review and realizing that their burnt honey ice cream one of my favorite parts of the meal).  But they were both really fantastic.  I was really impressed at how much the Arnold Palmer tasted like tea and lemon.

DSCF3342 DSCF3346 DSCF3348

We then received a “tower” that we assumed was to end the meal.

DSCF3353

Lovely truffles on the bottom (one of the flavors was with beer)

 

DSCF3350

Tender macarons in the middle (I think one was Earl Grey flavored)

DSCF3351

And then caramels and nougat on top.

DSCF3352

But oh no… we were not done…

Similar to how we ended our meal at French Laundry, we ended with fresh, warm donut holes and a “cappuccino semifredo” which looked like cappuccino but was made from a mousse with foam on top.

DSCF3356

Served with fresh cherries.

DSCF3357

We were so stuffed so I was thrilled when our waitress said she could pack up the rest of the tower to go (we had it for dinner!)

Then we were given a take-home of shortbread chocolate sandwiches.  It is now the day after and I just had one.  Sheesh. Bang. Zoom.  How are cookies that good? The filling is soft and like a chocolate cloud with perfectly soft yet firm short bread.  Awesome.  A great flashback to every great flavor from yesterday.

DSCF3363

What a meal!  This was very reminiscent of our meal at French Laundry but it was actually just a little bit better. Each dish was similar in format and composition, with a similar order of the full meal (including the farm salad followed by a fish followed by a seafood followed by a pork followed by a lamb dish), but each component of Per Se sang just a little bit better. It felt more in tune. Maybe this is the final nail in the coffin about my preference for the East Coast over the West Coast, but I’m curious how others who have had the incredibly pleasure of eating at both would compare the two.

Overall, our meal was just so phenomenal. As perfect as French Laundry and just a hair more delicious.

Worth it? Absolutely not if you have any practicality in your body whatsoever. But I do not when it comes to food.  Especially celebratory food.  I don’t have fancy cars or fancy clothes. I don’t go to concerts or fly in first class.  I eat like this. And I love it.

Total Nom Points: 9 out of 10 (really more like a 9.2 to give it a bit of an edge over our meal at The French Laundry)

nomscale- 09.0