House of Haos The Cecil Harlem NYC Menu

The Cecil – Harlem, NYC

The Cecil is a ground-level restaurant in Harlem.  Esquire named it the best new restaurant of 2014, and although I am not informed enough to agree or disagree, the experience is certainly a culinary departure from convention.  There is a distinctly African theme to the menu, one that invokes a broad diaspora of African cooking, from curries, piri piri, and za’atar, to okra, plantains, and guinea hen.  But there’s also a really interesting (and in-your-face) Asian subtext, with wok-fried dishes, dumplings, Japanese eggplant and shiitake mushrooms, sticky rice, and udon.  It’s a bizarro world of inflections and influences, but somehow most of the dishes come together with gusto and zest and creativity and heartiness and no shortage of strong flavors.

The restaurant is also way too cool for me, as I discovered when I walked in the first time, with a backpack and no fedora, no clue what jazz was playing on the sound system, no pedigree in any tertiary education that ends in “studies.”  It’s emblematic of the neighborhood, sure, but it’s also a destination now, so there is a pretty wide spectrum of people.  It’s a testament to the potency of good, interesting food, rooted (conceptually) at least in the history of the neighborhood (I speak in broad strokes because I am not at all an expert in the genealogy of the area), but certainly in the way that it brings people together over a common table, the boisterous dining room a united voice.  Just one way to look at it, anyway.

Crispy fried Portuguese sausage dumplings.House of Haos The Cecil Harlem NYC Fried Dumplings Oxtail dumplings with green apple curry sauce that tasted like a tart, curry-infused butter. House of Haos The Cecil Harlem NYC Oxtail DumplingsCrispy prawns with piri piri sauce. House of Haos The Cecil Harlem NYC Giant Prawns Macaroni & cheese casserole with garganelli, caramelized shallots, fresh scallions (which were  a great, subtle touch), and smoky pepper ham. House of Haos The Cecil Harlem NYC Macaroni Cheese Casserole Afro/Asian/American gumbo, with smoked chicken, fried okra, sausage, and shrimp.  Spicy, with a touch of sweet, and a good amount of texture to balance out the thick, luscious roux.House of Haos The Cecil Harlem NYC Gumbo House of Haos The Cecil Harlem NYC Gumbo on Rice Continue reading

House of Haos Peter Luger Steakhouse Brooklyn NYC Steak 3

Dinner at Peter Luger – Williamsburg, NYC

There’s not much to say about the iconic steakhouse that does some of the best dry-aged butter-drenched porterhouse steaks known to man.  It’s a historic place, dating back in various incarnations to 1887, with a fanatically loyal customer base and a famous secret dry-age technique, a mecca of all things beef.House of Haos Peter Luger Steakhouse Brooklyn NYC Onion rolls.  Everything in Peter Luger smells in a marvelously stinky, savory way.House of Haos Peter Luger Steakhouse Brooklyn NYC Bread Bacon, smoky and charred and meaty.House of Haos Peter Luger Steakhouse Brooklyn NYC Bacon House of Haos Peter Luger Steakhouse Brooklyn NYC Shrimp Cocktail Steak for four, baby.House of Haos Peter Luger Steakhouse Brooklyn NYC Steak There are no words.  Just tender beef goodness, the spectrum of dark burn to pink to ribbon’d fat and back, with a sheen of seasoned grease.  The dry aging is something special, imbuing the rich, succulent steak with a beefy tang, the glorious aftertaste of climate-controlled decay.House of Haos Peter Luger Steakhouse Brooklyn NYC Steak 3 House of Haos Peter Luger Steakhouse Brooklyn NYC Steak 2 A side of German fried potatoes.House of Haos Peter Luger Steakhouse Brooklyn NYC Potatoes And for dessert, the Holy Cow hot fudge sundae, with a mound of whipped schlag (cream), sturdy and sweet.House of Haos Peter Luger Steakhouse Brooklyn NYC Sundae 1 House of Haos Peter Luger Steakhouse Brooklyn NYC Sundae 2 And this amazing slice of cheesecake.  Creamy and dense and more funky and sour than anything you’ll get out of a frozen Sara Lee box.House of Haos Peter Luger Steakhouse Brooklyn NYC Cheesecake As a side note, despite our somewhat brusque (brusque-friendly?) experience with the reservation line (but nothing less than professional), we didn’t have a wait to be seated, which I hear can be hit-or-miss, even if you arrive with full party and on time.  So everything worked out great.  The leftover steak made for fantastic steak and eggs in the morning.  God bless America.

Peter Luger (website) – cash only
178 Broadway, Brooklyn, NY 11211
Google maps

Peter Luger Steak House on Urbanspoon

House of Haos Betony Midtown NYC Grilled Short Rib Scallions Potato Puree

Dinner at Betony – NYC

We celebrated an anniversary at Betony, a posh midtown restaurant headed by Chef Bryce Shuman and GM Eamon Rockey, alums of Eleven Madison Park.  The dining room exudes luxury, in whatever way that soaring ceilings of relief sculptures and plush, comfortable oval-backed chairs exude luxury.  But there’s also something cool, something about the towering exposed brick walls and the elegant tableware, through a kind of plush, dark, rich, velvety, rarefied air of midtown Manhattan.

And the food.  Indulgent, irreverent, rich, but also creative and sometimes restrained.

Crisps.House of Haos Betony Midtown NYC CrispsFoie gras bon-bons, with black pepper.  The oily nuttiness of crushed cashews and the creamy burst of foie are the epitome of savory candy.House of Haos Betony Midtown NYC Foie Gras Bonbons Cashew Black Pepper Crisps with scallops.House of Haos Betony Midtown NYC Marinated Scallops And this beautiful beast: pan-seared foie gras (the way I prefer it), stuffed with ham, in a wonderfully salt ham hock consommé, topped with a crisped kale leaf.House of Haos Betony Midtown NYC Hot Foie Gras Ham Hock Consomme Continue reading

House of Haos All'onda Union Square NYC Bucatini Uni

Dinner at All’onda – Union Square, NYC

The menu at All’onda traverses this culinary New World that spans the seemingly wide gap between Italian and Japanese cuisines, stretching some rather sensical themes that pull closer the other-side-of-the-world ideas of Venice and Tokyo.  The restaurant is tucked away on a small street near the rush of Union Square, its two floors a hideaway from the noise and commotion.  Still, the decor belies the refinement and portioning of the dishes, as well as the minimalism of the menu, which conjure the ethos of fine dining.

The dishes we ordered were carefully composed (particularly with crudo, and even the pasta) – I can only imagine the neatness of the mise-en-place.  Maybe here a whisper of a sushi master’s touch, or there a breath of the kaiseki sensibility, but more than anything the food suggested Chef Chris Jaeckle’s fine dining days at Michael White’s Ai Fiori.  There are plenty of ingredients and flavors that nod towards the Land of the Rising Sun, especially the soy underneath the hamachi (and the kuri squash alongside), the miso alongside the razor clams and sopressata, the beautiful uni adorning the bucatini.

The crudo and the mains were all great, albeit a bit wanting in size – again, the unspoken sense of fine dining.

Razor clams with sopressata, fine herbs, in a miso gelée.

House of Haos All'onda Union Square NYC Razor Clams The hamachi in particular was revelatory, the blend of olive oil and soy sauce.House of Haos All'onda Union Square NYC HamachiSardines, atop pine nuts, pickled pearl onions, and fennel. House of Haos All'onda Union Square NYC Sardines The pastas were also damn delicious.   Continue reading

House of Haos Bar Pitti Greenwich Village NYC Pappardelle Rabbit Ragu

Lunch at Bar Pitti – West Village

On a leafy corner of the West Village sits Bar Pitti, an easy-going curiosity of people-watching and Italian rustic goodness.  There is a hand-scribbled chalkboard menu of specials, and cramped, haphazard tables of comfortably worn wood, but also wide, generous plates and service with a wry smile.House of Haos Bar Pitti Greenwich Village NYC Bread Olive Oil A salad of chopped puntarelles, in season, with a bit of anchovy paste.House of Haos Bar Pitti Greenwich Village NYC Insalata Salad Sautéed mushrooms, a hodgepodge of juicy, meaty stems and charred edges, the poignant aroma of garlic and white wine and salt.House of Haos Bar Pitti Greenwich Village NYC Funghi Mushrooms  Continue reading

House of Haos Eleven Madison Park Flatiron NYC Tasting Menu Poached Lobster Razor Clam Sea Urchin Uni Kale 2

The Tasting Menu at Eleven Madison Park – NYC

Eleven Madison Park is a gorgeous, gorgeous restaurant.  Pristine, clean lines, a flood of soft natural light.  I’d read a little about Eleven Madison Park’s history, steeped in the Danny Meyer tradition of enlightened hospitality, and its rise into the upper echelon of global fine dining.

It is one of New York City’s 3-Michelin-starred restaurants, now helmed by chef Daniel Humm and general manager Will Guidara, who bought out Danny Meyer some years ago and who have combined to somehow even further elevate the restaurant’s reputation.  Everybody I knew who had gone spoke in hushed, gushing tones about the immaculate service, almost more so than the food.  Their other restaurant at the NoMad is one of my favorites, with one mean roast bird.  If their more casual spot is churning out brioche-and-truffle-stuffed roast chicken, I had high hopes for what the flagship could show me.

House of Haos Eleven Madison Park Flatiron NYC Tasting Menu Dining RoomThe meal started with a mysterious choice among four flavors.  Ignore the photo below.  I chose maple, which would appear at various points throughout the meal.

House of Haos Eleven Madison Park Flatiron NYC Tasting Menu Flavor Choice The other theme to the tasting menu was an ode to New York’s culinary history.  A savory black-and-white cookie to start, with a cheddar filling.House of Haos Eleven Madison Park Flatiron NYC Tasting Menu Savory Black and White Cookie AppleAnd then the decadence began.  An oyster with the creamy smoothness of savory vichysoisse, speckled with caviar.

House of Haos Eleven Madison Park Flatiron NYC Tasting Menu Oyster Vichysoisse Caviar Scallops, with a shower of apple snow.House of Haos Eleven Madison Park Flatiron NYC Tasting Menu Scallop Apple Pine Water Chestnut 3 House of Haos Eleven Madison Park Flatiron NYC Tasting Menu Scallop Apple Pine Water Chestnut 2 House of Haos Eleven Madison Park Flatiron NYC Tasting Menu Scallop Apple Pine Water ChestnutA duo of beef: first, a beef tartare dotted with caviar and packed on both sides with a luxurious spread of smoked bone marrow, tucked into a neatly cleaned segment of bone.

House of Haos Eleven Madison Park Flatiron NYC Tasting Menu Beef Tartare with Caviar Smoked Bone Marrow House of Haos Eleven Madison Park Flatiron NYC Tasting Menu Beef Tartare with Caviar Smoked Bone Marrow 2Then, a prominent ode to the New York deli: wonderfully marbled pastrami with pickles, rye, mustard, and a syrupy maple soda.

House of Haos Eleven Madison Park Flatiron NYC Tasting Menu Pastrami House of Haos Eleven Madison Park Flatiron NYC Tasting Menu Pastrami Sandwich House of Haos Eleven Madison Park Flatiron NYC Tasting Menu Pastrami Pickles Rye Mustard House of Haos Eleven Madison Park Flatiron NYC Tasting Menu Pastrami Pickles Rye Mustard 2 House of Haos Eleven Madison Park Flatiron NYC Tasting Menu Maple SodaThe the next course: seared foie gras with sunchokes, hazelnuts, and Solera vinegar.  I liked the plating and the combination of sharp vinegar, crunchy toasted hazelnuts, and buttery sunchoke puree.  An elegant two or three bites, enough for a rich splash, a vignette.  And on the heels of several rich courses, it was perfectly proportioned.

House of Haos Eleven Madison Park Flatiron NYC Tasting Menu Seared Foie Gras Sunchokes Hazelnuts Solera Vinegar House of Haos Eleven Madison Park Flatiron NYC Tasting Menu Seared Foie GrasAt some point, I think it was here, that we took a guided break to step back into the kitchen. Continue reading

Lunch at Barbuto – Meatpacking District, NYC

On a bright February afternoon, my friend and I met up in the Meatpacking District at Barbuto, in this garage space that had long ago been converted into one of New York’s seminal restaurants of the last ten years.

The restaurant is expansive and airy.  During warmer days the walls along the street can be drawn up (garage doors) to make the whole place an al fresco experience, and even with the window-doors down, the place is exceptionally bright.

I’ve read about the jw roasted chicken, and liked the easy-going Californian spirit, but I mostly knew of the restaurant as a kitchen where some of people whose cooking I really like had previously cooked there – namely Justin Smillie and Ignacio Mattos.  Chef-owner Jonathan Waxman is a bit of a godfather figure, having been on the ground floor of Californian cuisine and then bringing that aesthetic to New York.

There’s not much else, just relaxed but thoughtful dishes, highlighted by that ridiculous, baller roast chicken.

Shaved brussel sprouts with hazelnuts.  Refreshing, with the crunch of leafy greens and toasted hazelnuts.  Could eat this all day.House of Haos Barbuto West Village NYC New York City Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad Roasted chicken with salsa verde (“pollo al forno”), in a shallow pool of oil.  Crispy, flavorful skin, with tender meat.House of Haos Barbuto West Village NYC New York City JW Roast Chicken The sausage (chorizo?) pizza with greens (broccoli rabe?  kale?).  Flavorful, but not particularly memorable. House of Haos Barbuto West Village NYC New York City Sausage PizzaBarbuto (menu)
775 Washington St, New York, NY 10014
(map)

Barbuto on Urbanspoon

Yakitori Tori Shin – New York

Funnily enough, on the night where the otherwise fantastic folks at Tanoshi bungled my reservation, we took a brisk walk some blocks down to another well-regarded Japanese restaurant in the Upper East Side: Yakitori Tori Shin.  Michelin-starred yakitori is a strange concept in New York, if only because it’s hard to place among the endless European and New American restaurants that otherwise populate the list.  High-end sushi, sure, but yakitori?  Drinking food?  But this is carefully-sourced drinking food, with Himalayan rock salt at the bar and stuff flown in from Japan.  So, hell yes.

Despite (or perhaps due to) its placement in a nondescript block of the mid-sixties, Tori Shin is a cozy haven of sake-lubricated Japanese suits and my Asian-food-aficionado brethren luxuriating in their charcoal-haze element, slurping and glass-clinking and opining and laughing their way to a good night.

Tori Shin’s goods were simple, straightforward, well-made, crisped and burnt when they should have been, equally so for the tender and buttery.

A bowl of daikon and cucumbers. House of Haos Yakitori Tori Shin Upper East Side NYC New York City Pickles Quail eggs, lightly crisped.House of Haos Yakitori Tori Shin Upper East Side NYC New York City Quail Eggs Shishito peppers, with a healthy char.House of Haos Yakitori Tori Shin Upper East Side NYC New York City Shishito Peppers These spicy fried chicken wings weren’t from the grill, but I’m not complaining. House of Haos Yakitori Tori Shin Upper East Side NYC New York City Chicken Wings Grilled chicken skins.  One of my favorite yakitori dishes, that wonderful chicken proxy to bacon, glorious compressed sheets of cracklin’.House of Haos Yakitori Tori Shin Upper East Side NYC New York City Chicken Skin Continue reading

House of Haos Tanoshi Sushi Upper East Side NYC New York City Santa Barbara Uni Quail Egg

Tanoshi Sushi Sake Bar – Upper East Side, NYC

I’m a big fan of Tanoshi Sushi Sake Bar.  I’m a big fan in spite of its rating downgrade (to a B), because the violations it was cited for aren’t serious violations (in my view anyway – you can search for ‘Tanoshi’ here), and because (a) good sushi is damn expensive in New York, a city with no Sugarfish, and (b) I’ve had two amazing rounds of omakase at this tiny Upper East Side chef’s counter at a pretty reasonable price point.House of Haos Tanoshi Sushi Upper East Side NYC New York City StreetThe reservation process used to be really confusing, done only by phone and notebook and handled by Chef Toshio’s wife.  Since then, they’ve migrated to online reservations (much better, much easier).   There are three seatings per night, at 6pm, 7:30pm, and 9pm.   When we arrived, we found our places around the cozy bar (you sit by the order your group arrives prior to the seating).

The rules of the house are posted:

House of Haos Tanoshi Sushi Upper East Side NYC New York City RulesA plate of salmon in vinegar to start, with a dab of wasabi.House of Haos Tanoshi Sushi Upper East Side NYC New York City Salmon TatakiA dish of scallop sashimi.  Gloriously sweet. House of Haos Tanoshi Sushi Upper East Side NYC New York City Scallop Sashimi After this, the omakase portion started.  The first piece was fluke cured with kelp, with a fleeting green brininess.  Chef Toshio’s rice skews a bit toward vinegar, but only lightly.House of Haos Tanoshi Sushi Upper East Side NYC New York City Fluke Cured with Kelp Next up, winter Spanish mackerel with a bit of ginger and scallion.  Mackerel’s never been my favorite fish (especially cooked), but the curing process takes a bit of that funky fishiness out and the ginger provides ample balance.House of Haos Tanoshi Sushi Upper East Side NYC New York City Winter Spanish MackerelMarinated tuna, superbly tender for akami. House of Haos Tanoshi Sushi Upper East Side NYC New York City Marinated Tuna AkamiShrimp, creamy and sweet.House of Haos Tanoshi Sushi Upper East Side NYC New York City Shrimp EbiSalmon, with a thin sheet of kelp (?). House of Haos Tanoshi Sushi Upper East Side NYC New York City Salmon White albacore with moro miso.House of Haos Tanoshi Sushi Upper East Side NYC New York City White Albacore Moro MisoAn annotated map of where the best Japanese seafood is found.  Take note. House of Haos Tanoshi Sushi Upper East Side NYC New York City Wall Map Continue reading

House of Haos Ramen Sanshiro Upper East Side NYC New York City Shio Ramen Chashu

New York Ramen Quest 1.0

In the past year or so of New York City life, I’ve made a small pilgrimage around the city to try some of New York’s finest (and most hyped) ramen offerings.  As you’ll see, I’m still missing quite a few notable exceptions (Ganso, Takashi, Chuko, Minca, Yuji, Ramen.Co, and mainstays like Momofuku and Menchanko Tei), but here are my favorites to date, in general order of preference.

Ramen Sanshiro (open late-nite only, 249 E 49th St, near 2nd Ave, Yelp, Google Maps)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

In a ramen landscape overcrowded with rich, tonkotsu-driven broth, Sanshiro’s late-night shio ramen is a tremendous breath of fresh air.  There’s a nostalgic fragrance to the soup (for me at least), intensely satisfying and full of umami, chicken broth that manages to be flavorful without being greasy or reliant on onions.  Running on fumes or adrenaline after a night out, or just getting into the city post-commute, the bowl can conquer a midnight craving without completely destroying your ambulatory capabilities in the way that a heavy dose of pork bone on high heat would.  The noodles are half-way between the angelhair’d twirls of Hakata-style ramen and the thick, springy curls, accompanied by a runny half-egg and a slice of deeply caramelized chashu pork.

Hide-Chan (248 E 52nd St, near 2nd Ave, Yelp, Google Maps, website)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Like Ippudo, the noodles here are the distinct Hakata-style, thin and hard, much the way I prefer my ramen most of the time.  I didn’t care for the black garlic ramen that I had on my first visit here, but I gave this narrow second-story shop a second chance.  On my next stop, I ordered the Kogashi shoyu katsuo ramen, which was deliciously fishy (katsuo is bonito) and light, almost sweet.  I added a seasoned egg, bamboo shoots, & chipped garlic (these are good, in moderation) to go along with two fatty discs of chashu.  I realize that my top two choices are not tonkotsu-based, but lighter broths are more in my wheelhouse.  Perhaps it has to do with a brainwashing from Chinese noodle soups, which predominantly feature lighter broths, but without getting too Freudian in my self-analysis, I just emphatically enjoy a powerfully flavored soup that doesn’t feel like a gut punch of fat.

Mu Ramen (tbd, Long Island City, Twitter, Menu)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Lest I forget my manners, nobody puts baby in the corner.  By baby, I mean tonkotsu pork broth ramen, and I don’t know what I mean by corner, but Mu Ramen’s Tonkotsu 2.0 is a pretty tasty version.  The broth is a two-day labor of love, with some ridiculously scientific hodge-podge of pork parts (not to say that the Japanese chains’ versions aren’t).  My broken-record appreciation for a lighter-bodied tonkotsu is a key reason for why I liked Mu so much – I had room enough after a pork belly steamed bun, some shishito peppers (with yuzu salt), and a bowl of Tonkotsu 2.0 to walk back to the deserted L stop, which is not something I could say with a bowl of Akamaru Modern.  The pork jowl makes for a great alternative to traditional chashu, and much preferred (stemming from my early ramen-crazy days in Los Angeles getting fat on Santouka’s special pork) I had a bowl when Mu Ramen was still in pop-up mode in Bricktown Bagels in Long Island City (they are currently prepping a brick-and-mortar location of their own).

Now, there are quite a few other bowls I quite enjoy and have gotten multiple times, since the above places are sometimes a bit hard to reach, especially now that I live in Hell’s Kitchen.  They are: Continue reading