Archive | January, 2011

Azuki Japanese Restaurant

31 Jan

My coworkers and I decided on Sushi for lunch one day, but my go-to sushi place is just a bit too far for a quick bite at lunch.  Someone found Azuki, which was close enough on 8th Ave between 36th and 37th Streets.


The Bento Boxes seemed like a good deal, and I chose the Sashimi version.


It looked beautiful… but it was bland. Bland. Bland. Bland.

Totally not worth it.


The guys got a sushi sampler.  Nothing was outstanding and we all agreed it was perfectly average sushi.


Overall, I can’t recommend this place.  Go the extra few blocks up to Kodama.

Total Nom Points: 5 out of 10

NYC Restaurant Week- Winter 2011: ilili (Take 2)

28 Jan

A request came in for a place to eat lunch during Restaurant Week for my work crew.  We needed some place near Gramercy, so my last experience with Ilili instantly came to mind.  Ilili still ranks as one of the very best Restaurant Week experiences I ever had.  Amazing food selection that all tasted GREAT and in normal person portions.  Could they repeat the awesome performance?

Beyond the food, I think the space is awesome.  Boxes with old fashioned lightbulbs hanging behind panels.  The ceilings are high, so I’m sure this place gets loud, but it’s lovely to look at.

They brought a basket of pita pillows to the table.  I remember these being tasty last time, however, they were a bit bland and stale this time.

Their Restaurant Week menu is almost entirely changed from last time, however, it’s still a phenomenal deal.  They let everyone order TWO items from the apps and then one entree and one dessert.   SO many apps sounded great.  I wound up going with the grape leaves (nothing special, but tasty).

I also ordered the Riz, which is Lebanese rice with toasted vermicelli and mixed nuts.  It also has a lovely hint of cinnamon and herbs.  This was probably the best rice I’ve ever eaten.  I could eat this for days.

Other selections from the group included the lentil soup….

The “mouhamara” which is walnuts with sundried peppers and pomegranate molasses…

The Phoenician Fries with sumac, parsley and garlic whip (Yum!)…

And dandelion greens with pine nuts and caramelized onions (called Hindbeh)…

At this point in the meal, everyone was already saying how much they were enjoying their food. And the entrees were yet to come!

One coworker was VERY well behaved and ordered the shrimp salad.  He said for salad, it was great, but I could tell he had food envy for the rest of the orders.

I was having a tough time deciding between a few options on the menu.  A couple people at the table went with my alternate selection, the Lamb Dip.  It was described as slow roasted leg of lamb on a house made bun with au jus and horseradish sauce.  It was DELISH!

But the whole table shut down when we tried my choice, the braised lamb shank.  One other coworker got it with the peppers.

Mine, obviously, was peppers-less.  And this was a show stopper.  It came with fried eggplant, labne, and mint.  It was OHMYGODINEEDTOHAVETHISAGAINRIGHTNOW amazing.  My mouth is watering just thinking about it.  The lamb was perfectly gamey without being too overpowering, and it was tender in an amazing sauce.  Wow.  I want to flash back and eat this all over again.

Our dessert selections covered most of the dessert menu.

Two coworkers were adventurous and got the Ashta, which is traditional Lebanese clotted cream with orange blossom simple syrup and bananas.  The clotted cream wasn’t bad, but I found the orange blossom syrup WAY too overpowering (like chewing on a plant) and the guys REALLY didn’t like it.  It was definitely an interesting flavor, just not our speed.

One coworker got the Awaimat, which is a Lebanese beignet with orange blossom simple syrup.  It was good, but I’m just not a fan of beignets unless they are from Cafe Du Monde in New Orleans.  Also, the orange blossom syrup in this was MUCH less overpowering, so it was much more enjoyable.

I was obviously on an ordering streak, as my Ilili Candy Bar (with chocolate kataifi crunch, pistachio and gif caramel, and chocolate ganache, which was poured over at the table) was FANTASTIC.

It was small but VERY rich.  The coffee with it was an excellent pair.

Overall, I think I can safely say this is the #1 recommendation I would give for Restaurant Week.  What’s even cooler, they have a lunch menu prix fixe all year long that includes a lunch salad or sandwich with a side for $20.  That WOULD be a good deal, but when you can get the above for $24, I have to say… RUN… don’t walk… to Ilili for Restaurant Week.  And the secret isn’t out yet, so you can still snag a reservation for next week.
Total Nom Points: 8.5 out of 10 (this is a bump up from last time, because it was, dare I say it?  EVEN BETTER with that slow cooked lamb sandwich)

NYC Restaurant Week- Winter 2011: The Modern Bar Room

28 Jan

Still wondering where to go for Restaurant Week this time around (thru February 6th, as of now)?  This year there is a slight change:  No more Saturdays, and Sundays are optional (I’m sure a lot of restaurants are happy about that).  There are still plenty of reservations available on Open Table (though some places aren’t on there, so you have to call.)

Every year, one of the hardest Restaurant Week reservations to get is at The Modern.  I was browsing who had some openings, and was shocked to see a spot for 2 at The Modern Bar Room (in MoMA, the Museum of Modern Art) on the first day of Restaurant Week for 6pm.  I jumped on it, and invited That Lori (of Stuff I Ate) to join me.  She was more than happy to oblige.

I was slightly obsessed with the floral design in the entry-way.

Beautiful purple lilies (I think) of some sort.   It looked like a dark purple calla lily.  Simply lovely.

Right behind that was a bar, that had thoroughly stocked glass shelves.

A view of “The Bar Room.”  It was simple, tasteful, and (shocker) modern.

The menu was quite lengthy for Restaurant Week.

I had trouble choosing because so much sounded great!

It was as we were browsing this menu that we started running into the problem of the evening… our waitress was MIA.  And continued to be MIA for at least 30 minutes before taking our order, which she rushed through.  We noticed she gave everyone else a shpiel about restaurant week and how you could pick one thing from each category, however, the entrees were half portion and you could pick a full-sized portion of anything on the menu for $17 additional.

I was famished, so I scarfed through both pieces of bread quickly.  The butter was obviously homemade and delicious, but lacking in salt.  And there was none on the table… and no one to ask…

Lori decided to begin with a dish she had tried in the past, but was so enamored by it that she just had to get it again.  It was roasted Long Island duck breast with peppercorn-crusted apples and toasted pistachio-truffle dipping sauce.

The peppercorn-crusted apples were very good, and Lori LOVED them, however, I’m not a huge pepper fan.  The duck was perfectly ducky.  But the sauce… HOLY CRAP.  Now THAT was good sauce.  What could possibly be bad about pistachios and truffles?
I decided to go with the artichoke soup, since I can’t get enough archies.  The combination of the artichokes with pearl barley, toasted almonds, and ricotta was very nice, and didn’t overpower the artichoke flavor.  The biscuits had rosemary in them and were deliciously buttery.
I’m glad I had a hearty portion of soup… we proceeded to watch someone sit down, give their order, and receive BOTH apps and entrees before our entrees even came out.  The manager came over to apologize… our waitress did not.  She didn’t seem to have any problems with her other tables, however, we were the forgotten children all night.  Literally the red-headed step-children.  And SHE was a red head! (Perhaps she’s a self-hater!)
Lori chose the squab for her entree.  When it came out, it was VERY tiny, even for squab (as was mine… though I have to say, both of us left completely satisfied and perfectly full without being too full… I wish portion control was always that easy).  The squab was spice-dusted and I LOVED the cinnamony tang it had.  It also came with braised romaine, haricots verts and bacon salad.  (Did somebody say bacon salad?)  Delightful little squab.
I went with the pork belly that came with rutabaga choucroute and ginger jus.  It was a decadent few bites of porky goodness.
For dessert, I chose the dark chocolate tart that came with chocolate ice cream.  It had a delicious, crackly top like creme brulee (though made out of chocolate, not sugar).  It was scrumptious!  I even liked the chocolate ice cream, which is rare for me.
Lori chose the coffee caramel dome with vanilla ice cream and amaretto gelee.  It hinted a bit towards Star Wars…
The layers were awfully tasty, however, I forgot to take a pic.  D’oh!  I’ll link to Lori’s pictures once she posts.
I wish the light was better, but the gelee made for a very artful decoration.
Overall, besides the AWFUL waitress, the food was sensational and this ranked very high on the Restaurant Week experiences list.  The selection is fantastic and while the portions are small, they are packed with flavor, very satisfying, and in no way did I leave wanting.  If you can secure yourself a RW reservation at The Modern, DO IT!  (In fact… they have been extending Restaurant Week during the final week lately, so go ahead and snag a reservation for the week following while you can and see if they extend… you can always cancel!)
Total Nom Points: 8 out of 10