Tag Archives: french onion soup

Chez Jef at the Bowery Diner

5 May

I love using the Eater Heatmap to find new places to try with friends and family.  I’m a big fan of the curated restaurant review lists, and Eater never disappoints (even if they hate my blog name… but I can take it). We were looking for a place to go with my cousins and stumbled upon their recommendation for Chez Jef, which is a pop-up in the Bowery Diner space from Chef Mathieu Palombino.

I was amused as we came upon the address to see that the “Jef” was a clever way of changing the old “DINER” sign.


Inside, it is certainly French Bistro.


(It was a bit dark inside, so please excuse the not so great photos.)

The bread came out and it was a fine crusty bread but with a very cold and hard slab of salted butter.


We did enjoy the wine selection very much.


We started with some raw oysters, which were a hit for all.



The menu has an incredibly well priced 3-course prix fixe for $35, but we were so curious about many things on the menu that we all ordered a la carte (which was still very well valued).

The french onion soup was fantastic, which a great blend of gruyere cheese and sweet onions.  I always prefer more crispy cheese on the outside of my bowl, but it was still damn good.


I chose to start with the steamed artichoke vinaigrette, because steamed artichokes are one of my favorite foods of all time.


This was displayed very well, and with a really, really good dipping sauce.  The artichoke itself was well cooked but it suffered from the artichoke curse of some being great, and some being just average.  It’s a temperamental vegetable. Sadly.


Mike went with the salade verte with vinaigrette, which, despite this awful picture, was quite tasty with an awesome dressing.


For my main, I chose the lamb “navarin” with spring vegetables.  The waiter explained it as being like a stew, so I was all over it.  The plate that came out was a bit weird though.  A white salad plate with a small (but filling) serving. Had it been served in a bowl, it would have looked much better, but I absolutely couldn’t fault the flavor. It was absolutely delicious with tender, flavorful lamb pieces, a nice, not to heavy sauce, and well cooked simple vegetables, including some fantastic pearl onions.


One person at the table got the mussels mariniére with frites.  She really enjoyed them.


Mike went with the steak grillé and frites with béarnaise.  The steak was well cooked and had great flavor and it was excellent with the béarnaise.  But those frites… wow!  I could not stop eating them right off of Mike’s plate. They were perfect.  Crispy on the outside while still potato-y.


Then for dessert, we had to try the Crème Brûlée.  It was exceptional.  Smooth, vanilla-y custard with a perfectly sweet, but not too sweet, crispy brulee on top.  Super duper.


Overall, our meal at Chez Jef was really spectacular.  Everything had great flavor and it reminded me of being in Paris. The entire meal came to less than $50 per person, which seemed like an excellent value for sharing a bottle of wine, shared oysters, an app each, an entree each, and then splitting a dessert between 4 of us.

Not sure how long this pop-up is going to be around, however, the $35 prix fixe sure seams like a steal if you’re in the mood for some good French food!

Total Nom Points: 7.5 out of 10

Total Nom Points: 7.5 out of 10


Green Bay, WI: Wally’s Spot Supper Club

12 Nov

I went to Green Bay (via the Milwaukee Airport and a 2 hour drive each way) for a business trip. We were in Wisconsin for just about 24 hours, but in that time, we had to make a stop for dinner.  I was with someone that spent time in Wisconsin and she recommended going to a Supper Club, which is popular in WI.  She found Wally’s Spot Supper Club and we plugged it into the GPS.

After miles and miles on a highway without much of anything, we drove into Green Bay by a bunch of strip malls. And then the GPS told us we had arrived and I looked beside us to see a building that really can only be described as resembling a strip club. It had a neon sign rotating on a giant round marquis.  (Check out their site if you want a taste of the classiness)

But hell… we were in Green Bay. So I was up for an adventure.

We went in and it was immediately evident that this was a local’s joint. Everyone knew everyone and I had to remind myself that we were not in New York City anymore as we were juggled around and finally seated by the bar tender in the dining room, which resembled a catering hall with a lovely drop ceiling.

Trying to leave my judgements beside, I couldn’t help but feel like we were a sore thumb as we pulled out or iPhones and snapped pictures, but hell, why not.

Most entrees come with a salad bar, which wasn’t too big but had all the right things to put together a good salad. (And it kind of reminded me of a Charlie Brown’s Steakhouse, a place I have no embarrassment admitting to loving)

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The bread came out and it was quite tasty, though I can only assume that the shiny stuff on top was butter?

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Our meals also came with soup, for which an option was French Onion. The waitress then asked if we wanted melted mozzarella on top for an additional $1. I was quite taken aback that French Onion soup could possibly be served without cheese, but we sprung the extra $1 and got it. We were in Wisconsin, afterall.  This was just okay. The cheese obviously being an afterthought meant that there were no burnt on bits (which is the best part of the soup, in my opinion) and the soup tasted similar to the canned variety to me.  I think French Onion Soup is typically also served with a more flavorful cheese, like provolone, so it was not what I was hoping for.

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I got the surf and turf and went with a prime rib and scallops. The scallops were some of the most boring, tasteless scallops I’ve ever had (serves me right for ordering in a very land locked state) but the prime rib was quite flavorful and the jus with it was nice and meaty.

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It was served with “hash browns” which was a plate of very thin, grated potatoes that were not quite crispy and had just about zero flavor. Shame. This could have been an awesome version of a latke.  Miss.

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My coworker got the New York strip steak. I just had to laugh when I saw it was served with two pats of butter right on top. I mean, sure, steak with butter is great, but this was just two pats… right on top.  She seemed to enjoy her steak though.photo 1

Even though we were stuffed, they mentioned that one of their waitresses is the baker and makes everything from scratch. So along with the orange sherbet that came with the meal (on the right in the picture below… egregiously colored but nicely flavored), we got the banana cream cheese and the chocolate mousse cakes.

The banana cake was very nice, which a great moist banana bread flavor.  Though the icing was a bit under-flavored, the cake made up for it.

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I really liked the chocolate mousse cake.  Not too sweet, not too bitter, all the right textures.

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And did I mention that the pieces were HUGE?

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Overall, Wally’s Spot was just too easy to make fun of as being a midwest “hot spot” with mediocre food.  Some things were very good, some were very bland.  I see why this place is liked by locals, however, I was happy to return to Manhattan.

Total Nom Points: 5.5 out of 10

Total Nom Points: 5.5 out of 10



Colicchio and Sons- Tap Room

5 Apr

I have had a number of great meals in the more formal dining room at Colicchio & Sons.  Including what had ranked as the #2 meal of ALL TIME and gave us our #1 bite of all time.

They also have the “Tap Room” up front which is a bit more casual.  The menu is smaller, but has a lot of the same items.  One thing that isn’t available in the Tap Room, however, is the bread I so fell in love with. Thankfully, the impeccable service provided us a full tray on request when I ate there last time with coworkers.


I started with the french onion soup, which was perfectly salty with great cheese on top.  The soup and cheese itself was fantastic, but it was missing the key element of french onion soup that I love more than anything… the cheese that burns and crisps to the side.


Then I went with the roasted skate with brown butter, capers, and cauliflower.  This was fantastic.  Packed with flavor and perfectly cooked.


And then… there was dessert.

We tried the zeppoles with ice cream and compote.  Throw all preconceived notions of state fair zeppoles out the window… these were crisp on the outside, fluffy on the inside, and everything donuts should be.


We also got some sort of mousse thing that was good, but disappointing.   You can’t be 100%, 100% of the time!


I just love this place. It never fails to impress and I really enjoy bringing people here. It is probably my #1 recommendation when people ask where they should go for a nice dinner in Manhattan. The tap room was great, but if you can swing it, get the Chef Tasting Menu in the main dining room.

Total Nom Points: 8 out of 10