Mu Ramen

Long Island City isn’t the easiest place to get to, and it’s not a food destination per se.  Some places serve as a good reason to venture out to a neighborhood less traveled.  Mu Ramen is one of those places.

I remember visiting them years ago when they were just a pop-up inside of a Long Island City bagel shop in some warehouse-y stretch by the water, and there was already this rare sense of comfort and wonder about the food.  Ippudo is reliable and reliably busy, Setagaya is a dive, Takashi is pure indulgence – those ramen spots have their feel and familiarity.  Mu has a sense of refinement, sureness about its craft, and confidence in turning up the details and luxury in its versions of things you think you know.

Look at the beautiful uni.  And ikura.  And under that pile of rich umami goodness some nori rice and spicy tuna and rice.  Fresh AF.Houseofhaos Mu Ramen LIC New York Uni Ikura Rice And fried chicken wings stuffed with foie gras.  A little decadent, delightfully crispy without being gummy or over-breaded or oily.  A little dangerous to bite into because the foie gras is pretty hot.  Delicious though.Houseofhaos Mu Ramen LIC New York Foie Gras Stuffed Chicken Wings This deeply satisfying shoyu duck broth.  So good.  Interesting to have a non-chicken clear broth.  The duck broth is gorgeously rich without being fatty, bright and complex, something you just want to keep sipping on a chilly day.  The runny egg, creamy, just melts in your mouth.Houseofhaos Mu Ramen LIC New York Duck Broth Shoyu house-of-haos-mu-ramen-lic-shoyu-duck-closeupI don’t remember what this tonkotsu-looking bowl was – maybe the Mu Ramen?  At that point, my mind was already a little mushy from deliciousness.

house-of-haos-mu-ramen-lic

Mu Ramen (menu)
1209 Jackson Ave, Long Island City, NY 11101

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

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

Tapas in San Sebastian: La Cuchara de San Telmo

It’s hard to believe how La Parte Vieja houses so many superb tapas bars within its narrow confines.  La Cuchara de San Telmo is a tucked away in the last back-street of San Sebastian’s old town, next to the Museo de San Telmo.  The restaurant is essentially an extended bar, with a tiny open hot kitchen next to it – the whole affair is cramped and economical, with busy but kind-faced and jovial bartenders managing the rush on busy nights, stopping to chat a bit in slower moments.  Lively and vivacious and filled with the din of convivial chatter and the unmistakable smoke of delicious things searing on the plancha.  Like foie gras.  Which is naturally one of the first things we ordered.  Beautifully crisped with a scattering of crunchy sea salt and a few streaks of buttery apple sauce.

La Cuchara’s dishes were not as deliberately quirky as A Fuego Negro’s, but there was a demonstrably clear command of its repertoire.  We ordered only hot dishes, and the most decadent ones at that.

House of Haos La Cuchara de San Telmo Tapas St Sebastian Basque Country Spain Pan-seared Foie Gras AppleDuck confit, with a wonderfully crisped layer of duck skin atop a layer of fat and tender slow-roasted meat.  I can’t think of many things I like more than duck confit, although that love started in Paris.  This version was more condensed, with intensified flavors, especially with the punch of the wine reduction and the expertly crisped skin that was almost like a thin layer of bacon (duck fat brittle?), and much better crafted to snack alongside a glass of wine than a main course.House of Haos La Cuchara de San Telmo Tapas St Sebastian Basque Country Spain Duck Confit AppleAnd so we plowed ahead: grilled octopus with quinoa.  The oblong shape of the tentacle made for an  easy balance between briny, meaty flesh and crispy char, and the earthiness of the lightly crunchy quinoa was a new combination I hadn’t ever seen before.House of Haos La Cuchara de San Telmo Tapas St Sebastian Basque Country Spain Octopus QuinoaSepia risotto with cuttlefish and goat cheese, although the grain was more like orzo.  The cuttlefish ink was superb, complex, with a slightly acidic, earthy roundness that carries the salinity of the goat cheese and slippery crunch of the cuttlefish to completeness.  Richly satisfying.House of Haos La Cuchara de San Telmo Tapas St Sebastian Basque Country Spain Risotto Sepia Cuttlefish Goat Cheese Continue reading

Paris, A Moveable Feast, Part 2: Spring

Our second night in Paris was spent in the dining room at Daniel Rose’s Spring – its elegant floor-to-ceiling windows peering out onto a quiet cobblestone’d backstreet, an openness that extends to the restaurant’s tidy cold kitchen.  The design is both industrial chic and rustic, clean lines of white, wood, and iron alongside the dull gleam of copper pots and warped support beams from another era, encased in glass.

Chef Daniel’s story is compelling, the story of an American moving to France and of food and learning and cooking and doing it at an extremely high level.  In some ways it is unique, because of how Spring started as a one-man show in one of the most food-obsessed and -particular cities in the world.  In other ways, it is a story of falling in love.  This Charlie Rose interview is pretty cool (Chef Rose’s part starts around 31:00).

Service was cordial, unpretentious, attentive.  The sommelier brought us some champagne, and recommended me some ridiculously tasty peach nectar from Alain Milliat (unpictured).  At our 7pm sitting, the restaurant was just whirring to life, with only a table or two having started before us.House of Haos Spring Restaurant Paris Kitchen House of Haos Spring Restaurant Paris ChampagneThe meal started with small bites: fried oysters, cured foie gras with artichoke hearts, and marinated scallops.  The foie gras was especially delicious, cold and intensely savory, with a bit of crunch from finishing salt and cracked pepper. House of Haos Spring Restaurant Paris Fried Oysters Foie Gras Artichoke Hearts Marinated Scallops House of Haos Spring Restaurant Paris Marinated ScallopsThen this amazing langoustine tail, in a broth of enormous depth with crisp bok choy, atop of a bed of tapioca pearls.  It conjured obscure memories of some magnificent soup that an old Chinese restaurant might nurture out of a master stock, but with the precision in that langoustine tail of a technically savvy kitchen.House of Haos Spring Restaurant Paris Langoustine Bok Choy Tapioca Pearls House of Haos Spring Restaurant Paris Bread BasketAfter the bread, a filet of red mullet with baby spinach, squid, and shredded Galician beef.  Again the broth was very satisfying, enhanced by the beef’s pungent salinity.House of Haos Spring Restaurant Paris Red Mullet Filet Baby Spinach Squid Galician BeefRoasted venison with venison jus, kumquat, and another garnish I don’t remember:  House of Haos Spring Restaurant Paris Venison Kumquat JustA play on shepherd’s pie with braised venison and celery root purée:House of Haos Spring Restaurant Paris Venison Shepherds Pie Puree Celery RootA glimpse of the restaurant:House of Haos Spring Restaurant Paris Open Kitchen House of Haos Spring Restaurant Paris Exterior Main Dining ROomA trio of sweets – sorbet, clementine, and pineapple (the last cooked in butter).House of Haos Spring Restaurant Paris Dessert Trio Sorbet Clementine Pineapple House of Haos Spring Restaurant Paris Dessert PineappleAnd Spring’s play on a traditional bûche de Noël – a little hazelnut cake with meringue and caramel hazelnuts.House of Haos Spring Restaurant Paris Hazelnut Bouche de NoelChocolate truffles and tea & coffee to finish:House of Haos Spring Restaurant Paris Chocolate Truffle Cappuccino TeaA view of the passe as we were leaving:House of Haos Spring Restaurant Paris PasseSpring Restaurant (map)
6 Rue Bailleul, 75001
Paris, France
Tel: +33 1 45 96 05 72
(le fooding)

 

Le Philosophe – Noho, New York

On Bond Street just east of il Buco and Mile End Delicatessen is one of my favorite restaurants in the city, with Chef Matt Aiti helming the kitchen at this year-old establishment.  I’ve visited a couple of times now, and have tried most of the menu now, which is firmly rooted in classic French dishes, with some interesting details and additions to lighten up what are usually on the heavier side (an approach imparted by Chef Matt’s time at Jean-Georges’ restaurants).  The menu is also surprisingly well-priced, for New York and especially for the neighborhood (Lafayette is just around the corner).

I apologize in advance for some of the iPhone photos, the restaurant is pretty dimly lit (and as a result, not a bad date spot), and I am a fairly reluctant flash user.  Here’s a rundown of some appetizers.

Bouchot mussels with a cream sauce with leeks and Aleppo chilis.  I’m normally not a fan of mussels themselves, and even this version doesn’t make me a believer, but the creme fraiche that sits under that pile of mollusks is phenomenal.  You will exhaust all the bread on the table trying to soak up that savory, spicy mess.  Frankly, I was eating all the mussels just to get to the sauce on the bottom.

House of Haos Le Philosophe Noho NYC New York MusselsCured foie gras with cranberries, figs, sea salt, and crumbs.  If I get a choice, I like my foie gras pan-seared, but this creamy puck of chilled livery goodness is nothing to complain about.  The figs and cranberries lend a necessary sweetness and acidity, and the fruit component changes seasonally to allow for whatever’s good during the year.  I also swapped breads between this and the mussels, for a crustier bite to go with this buttery texture, and the more absorptive griddled brioche to slop up as much aleppo-spiked cream sauce as I could.House of Haos Le Philosophe New York City Foie GrasCrispy frog legs with hen-of-the-woods mushrooms, sunchoke, watercress, and garlic. House of Haos Le Philosophe New York City Frog Legs Hen of the WoodsThe roasted bone marrow, topped with shallots, lemon, caper, and watercress.  This is probably my favorite thing on the appetizer side of the menu.  Bone marrow is already one of my favorite things in French cafe or bistro line-ups, something that (cardiovascular health permitting) I could eat for days.  I’ve had it quite a few times al forno as well at Pizzeria Mozza, as well as in niche moments in Chinese cuisine.  But what makes Le Philosophe’s version great is the addition of savory notes on top that blended into the melting richness of marrow, plus the citrus to cut through that a bit.  The marrow is still the focal point, but there’s some other interesting stuff going on that doesn’t let the heaviness of the marrow get to you.House of Haos Le Philosophe New York City Bone Marrow Shallot Lemon Capers WatercressHouse of Haos Le Philosophe New York City Bone Marrow Shallot Lemon Capers Watercress 2The pork & duck terrine, as well as the duck rillette, (both not pictured) were also quite tasty.  The terrine is quite rich, and the rillette (topped with an almost-gelatinous fennel-orange marmalade) a cousin to the duck à l’Orange. Continue reading

Il Buco Alimentari & Vineria – New York

Il Buco Alimentari & Vineria, with its bright glassy entrance, felt warm and welcoming, the drool-inducing fragrance of a high-end deli giving you a big hug when you step through the door.  The buzz of dinner conversation is like another layer of aroma, convivial and inviting, settling in around us as we took our seats.DSC_0654-001We started with a small cheese plate, with a drizzle of honey on the side.  The presentation I wish was looked a bit more generous, if only because compared to the big wheels and sturdy cases stacked behind the deli bar when you walk in, it looked a little meager.  Great cheeses, though – stout, wholesome, sharp enough to stand out against the flowery honey.DSC_0633-001The salumi plate was superb, bits of peppery salami, prosciutto, what I recall to be coppa, and maybe one more cured meat that I don’t remember.  The fat on the prosciutto was tender and dissolved in a rush of salty, porky flavor.DSC_0632-001 Continue reading

Roast Chicken Lunch at the NoMad – New York

I’d been hearing great things over the interwebs about NoMad, and for the restaurant project I’d been working on in Shanghai, we’d been inspired by the elegant minimalism of the restaurant’s menu (the sleek layout and the beautiful font).IMG_1958 IMG_1954Alas, we knew that the restraint that NoMad displayed on its menu would undoubtedly invite questions about each dish, which then required a certain aptitude in service that at the time our fresh service staff in Shanghai, having not spent any time with the kitchen staff in tastings, wouldn’t be able to handle.  So in turn, I was very excited to see how the NoMad front-of-house would perform, given its proximity in concept and leadership to Eleven Madison Park, one of the city’s meccas of fine dining.

We started with this warm load of bread with beans and rosemary:DSC_0594-001As an appetizer, we ordered the tagliatelle with king crab, meyer lemon, and black pepper.  The balance of creaminess and sharp citrus was perfect, and the crab succulent and sweet.DSC_0595-001We had to get the whole-roasted chicken for two.  It was mandatory.  Especially when the stuffing is a heart-stopped concoction of foie gras, black truffles, and brioche.  And quite a show when they bring by the chicken en cocotte before taking it back to the kitchen.  I’m glad we came a bit later after the power lunch rush, if only because we didn’t have to see an endless parade of roast chickens through the dining rooms (I’m assuming other diners weren’t foolish enough to skip the dish). Continue reading

The Commune Social – Shanghai

Jason Atherton’s new Shanghai venue in Jing’an is similar to his 22 Ships, another quirky tapas-inspired outfit in Hong Kong.  He’s imported much of 22 Ship’s menu and design elements, albeit in a much larger space, with a terrace, an open kitchen, and a dessert bar.  The Neri & Hu-designed space makes use of a funky first-floor layout of an old police station, where the middle terrace commands the most space, flanked by three disparate rooms with slim, intimate interiors.  For Jing’an, it’s one of the first Western restaurants with a modern, interpretative flair, a presence the neighborhood has sorely lacked.

DSC_0079 DSC_0071 DSC_0056Beyond these place-setting menus, the daily specials are written on chalkboards propped along the walls.  We chose to sit by the open kitchen and watch the action, although these might have had something to do with it, too:DSC_0054 DSC_0065From the paper menu (we skipped the daily specials, most of which were brunch items, heavy on eggs), we ordered a few items that I’d tried and liked in Hong Kong, and a few new dishes as well:DSC_0058 Continue reading

8 1/2 Otto e Mezzo Bombana – Shanghai

There aren’t a lot of good Italian places and fine dining in general in Shanghai, so dinner at 8 1/2 Otto e Mezzo Bombana, the Shanghai offshoot of the Italian original, was an exciting proposition, if only to see what the fuss was all about.  It also was my first time dining with a chef, in this case the former executive chef at one of l’Ateliers de Joel Robuchon.  The experience was interesting, in part to see how one chef cooks for another (that he respects, presumably) and to see what kind of comments our fellow guest had to the food, the service, etc, and our guest certainly did not lack for opinions.  It was illustrative of how nuanced one can be in enjoying and/or evaluating a dining experience, and also things must go right, how many details to which it is important to pay attention, when trying to create a memorable or just good meal for a discerning patron.

8 1/2’s own chef, Allen Yu, customized a tasting menu for us and was kind enough to come by, say hi, and talk a bit of shop.  The first courses were a seared scallop and then a foie gras / terrine combination (with Piedmont hazelnut sauce on the liver and fresh eel on the terrine).  The dishes hinted (strongly) at the French theme that would dominate the meal.  Despite 8 1/2’s Italian menu, Chef Allen’s extended working history had mostly been in French restaurants, and it showed through the selected dishes and their execution, not to any particular negative way, other than that it was a bit at odds with 8 1/2’s stated Italian identity.  Our guest pointed out that foie gras was atypical in traditional Italian cooking, in which fresh liver was more common (sometimes marinated in cream for a day so as let soften as it soaked up all the fat particles).  I’m looking forward to trying that version sometime.

 The next courses were pasta: cavatelli with seafood ragout and (not pictured) vegetable risotto with braised beef tongue.  The seafood broth and the cavatelli pasta were both quite excellent.  I only noticed the overcooked lobster because our dinner guest pointed it out, since the pieces were small, but I tried to think of the point more as a learning exchange, something to notice next time, which is useful to the point that one can imagine how incrementally better the dish would be if the buttery lobster were less chewy.  The risotto, while cooked well, was a bit heavy and uninspiring, although I did uncover my strong preference for beef tongue braised, and not grilled.

Continue reading