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.

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

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

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

Tanoshi Sushi Sake Bar – Upper East Side, NYC [Update]

I’m a big fan of Tanoshi Sushi Sake Bar.  Because (a) good sushi is damn expensive in New York, a city with no Sugarfish [UPDATE: Sugarfish is now open, woot!], 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

Paris, A Moveable Feast, Part 7: Restaurant David Toutain

We spent Christmas eve at the newly-opened Restaurant David Toutain, the inventive chef who had previously put l’Agapé Substance on the map.  Prior to arriving in Paris, I’d originally made reservations for the latter, somewhere I’d been meaning to go since some of the chefs at Mugaritz recommended it ages ago (2011).  But Chef Toutain had moved on, and Chef Christophe Hache, who I had met when he came to De Gustibus Cooking School, mentioned that Chef Toutain had just opened an eponymous restaurant in the vicinity of the Eiffel Tower.

The culinary world is so small sometimes.House of Haos Restaurant David Toutain Paris Wine Menu WaterThere was just one tasting menu, a combination of the several selections of tasting menus typically offered (including the truffle menu).  One of the things that the chef gained a reputation was an adroitness with and love of vegetables.  We started appropriately with a bowl of roasted carrots in a parsnip and white chocolate purée, with a sprinkling of crushed sesame powder.  It was an opening note to an extended étude to the possibilities of vegetables.House of Haos Restaurant David Toutain Paris Carrots White ChocolateThis worked as well, a purée of smoked potatoes, and instead of chips, we got upgraded to perfectly crisp chicharrones.House of Haos Restaurant David Toutain Paris Smoked Potato Puree House of Haos Restaurant David Toutain Paris Pork Rinds House of Haos Restaurant David Toutain Paris Smoked Potato Puree Pork Rind Chip This adaptation of croque monsieur: a finger sandwich of onion compote, smoked eel, parmesan, and beurre noisette emulsion.House of Haos Restaurant David Toutain Paris Croque Monsieur Onion Compote Smoked Eel Parmesan Beurre Noisette Emulsion Continue reading

Dinner at Toro – Chelsea, NYC

I suppose the main takeaway from a relatively splurge-tastic meal at Toro, the expansive Chelsea hotspot and import from respected Boston chefs Ken Oringer and (newly-crowned James Beard Foundation Best Chef Northeast) Jamie Bissonnette, is that the food is honest.  It is decidedly Spanish in influence, the food prime in its choice of ingredients, with a clear dedication to technique and some incorporation of international ingredients, particularly uni.

The restaurant is cavernous, and when we went it was packed with well-dressed and well-heeled people.  There is a raucous vibe, halfway between the flashing-lights sheen of Tao and the txicholi-fueled camaraderie of a Basque tapas bar.  It is a tapas restaurant, inflected through a lens that part Wall Street and part West Village.  There was a pair of barely twenty-somethings making a mess of their porron glass, and our neighbors were discussing their love of their new X5 (compared to their Porsche Cayenne).  That’s not the communal table companionship we were hoping for, but there is (by comparison) a row of seats around a mini-open kitchen (just the plancha).  That would be a fun place to sit.

So amidst that, here’s some tortilla española.House of Haos Toro Chelsea NYC New York Tortilla EspagnolVentresca – Spanish tuna belly, tomato tapenade and celery leaves on toast:House of Haos Toro Chelsea NYC New York Tuna Belly on ToastPulpo: Galician octopus with potatoes and charred onions:House of Haos Toro Chelsea NYC New York Galician Octopus Potatoes Charred Onions

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Aldea: Dinner at the Chef’s Counter – Flatiron, New York

If there was one impression about the setup at George Mendes’ Michelin-starred Aldea (dining floor, kitchen, and menu) I had, it would be conciseness.  The entrance was dark and inconspicuous, the hostess pointed us through to the back, adroitly navigating the narrow space to the six-seat chef’s counter in the back of the restaurant, where we looked into the bustling kitchen, inspecting the mise-en-place and the flat-top grill beyond that.  The chefs moved about with succinctness and efficiency, adding meats and seafood to the plancha when orders came through the passe, the cook on the left whisking away at stocks and purées.

House of Haos Aldea New York City Open KitchenA surprisingly abundant bread service kicked off the meal.  True to my roots, I chose the cornbread (there were some other options, as well, but who cares when there is cornbread?). House of Haos Aldea New York City CornbreadA little amuse-bouche that followed: beet purée and horseradish on a potato crisp.House of Haos Aldea New York City Amuse Bouche PotatoWe share a few appetizers.  Chef Mendes’ menu in many areas recalled Spanish and Portuguese references, brought home with a host of regional American ingredients.  This plate of Benton’s country ham, accompanied by a piece of bread with tomato jam, is the perfect representation of that.  And there was a generous serving of Benton’s, which I will never complain about.House of Haos Aldea New York City Benton's Country Ham Tomato BreadUni toast with mustard seeds, shiso, cauliflower purée, and lime.House of Haos Aldea New York City Uni ToastSpanish octopus with lemon squid ink, halved potatoes, smoked paprika, and some greens.  The octopus was tender and the bitter citrus combination of the squid ink was a good sauce, though I like my octopus with a bit more char.House of Haos Aldea New York City Spanish OctopusMussel soup with chorizo, fennel, and coconut curry.  A bit too watery and a bit too much of the acrid pungency of cooked mussels.  Aromatic, certainly, but just not in my ballpark of flavors.House of Haos Aldea New York City Mussel Soup Chorizo Fennel Coconut CurryA Knollcrest farm egg with bacalao, potato crisps, and black olive.  The egg was soft-scrambled, and melted into the slightly-salted bacalao.  The crisps, tangled with a sprig of herb and morsels of black olive, were my favorite part.  This was a dish that ended in a flash, but was just perfectly delicate in both presentation and gustatory brevity.House of Haos Aldea New York City Farm Egg Bacalhau Potato CrispWe sat and watched the passe while we waited for our entrées. Continue reading

Kappo at Kigawa – Osaka, Japan

On a narrow alleyway called Hozen-ji yokocho in Osaka, Kigawa is a warmly lit, cozy, concise space that won a Michelin star for its kappo-style menu (although it seems to have since relinquished that).  I’m not entirely sure how I stumbled upon it, but most likely it was this WSJ article on Osaka’s resurgent food scene.  While kaiseki is a unique and highly enjoyable meal, I wondered how it would compare to the proximity to the kitchen that kappo would offer.  Not quite as intimate as omakase at a talented sushi chef’s counter, but with more moving parts and more complexity to the particular dishes, kappo couldn’t be condensed into quite so direct a line between chef, food, and diner.  But for what it was, kappo was one of the times I wished most intensely that I spoke some Japanese.  Each course offered a moment of interaction with the kitchen, and that Kigawa’s chefs took the time to write out the English translation of each dish on scraps of paper was a step beyond.House of Haos Kigawa Osaka KitchenThe initial place-setting:House of Haos Kigawa Osaka Japan Place SettingThis was a block of either gluten or something made with mountain yam, but more importantly, topped with salted sea cucumber entrails, with a nib of wasabi.  The sea cucumber part was exceptionally funky, a nearly simultaneous spark of salty, sour, acidic, pungent, viscous, and creamy, like a uni spiked with something as sharp as yuzu, with a little kick from the grainy fresh wasabi.House of Haos Kigawa Osaka Japan Salted Sea Cucumber Entrails Yam WasabiThis arrangement had a smattering of small bites, with (1) barracuda and lily bulb paste sushi, boiled fish paste, and gingko nuts (center), (2) prawn and lily bud, yolk and vinegar (small bowl on the right), and (3) tofu in miso (small cup on the left).House of Haos Kigawa Osaka Japan Barracuda Sushi Ginkgo Prawn Lily Bud UniThen, a visually stunning and palate-freshening array of sashimi and accouturements: conger eel (bottom right), smoked Japanese mackerel (bottom center), squid (top center), young yellowtail (top right), maguro (top left), another fish I don’t recall, and a sprig of shiso flowers.  Side note: I love shiso flowers.  House of Haos Kigawa Osaka Japan Sashimi Continue reading

Sakurada – Kaiseki in Kyoto

For my last dinner in Kyoto, I found myself at Sakurada, a twenty-five year old establishment where diners are graciously attended to by a team of kimono’d waitresses, the chefs hidden from sight throughout dinner.

Sakurada was a unique experience in hospitality, on top of the already tradition-infused structure of kaiseki, essentially a multi-course tasting menu of ardently seasonal items prepared in often-traditional, always-careful ways.  The ladies, polite and graceful, would bring along beautifully and skillfully arranged dishes on an array of porcelain and lacquerware, each different from the next and from those of other diners.  The food arrived with the lid on, and I was instructed each time to in essence show myself the dish, which was then explained in as much English as the women could muster (anything unknown was then calligraphically scribed on parchment paper).  More than the sushi omakase dinner, kaiseki was an exercise in patience, pacing, (broader) palette of technique, artistry of presentation.

The show began with barley tea with soba & shiso:DSC_0521Cold tofu (preceded by a gulp of cold sake) topped with uni & wasabi, in yuzu juiceDSC_0523DSC_0524Soup of abalone, ginger & winter melon:DSC_0525DSC_0526Sashimi of flatfish, sea bream, & clam (torigai), with ponzu sauce and incredibly fragrant shiso blossoms and freshly grated wasabi:DSC_0527 Continue reading

Sushi Matsumoto – Kyoto

Sushi Matsumoto was a subtle, glorious step up from the sushi counters that I had come to know living in Los Angeles, even the good ones like Kiriko and Sushi Zo.  Part of that was due to the unparalleled freshness, delicacy, and abundance of the phenomenal ingredients, but the other element was this sense of dedicated interaction between the 3-person staff and me (and the rest of the diners).  I counted my blessings, embarking humbly on an eighteen-step program of enlightenment.

We kicked off with a small dish of salted broad beans, followed by hirami (flatfish), ika (squid), and kohada (gizzard shad).  The hirami hummed a first note of freshness, a stark contrast to the distinct, lush, vinegar-y pungency of the rice.  In turn, the squid was the textural point of departure, a soft crunch, a mix of sweet flesh and lightly-sprinkled salt.  Even though it was thin, the kohada had a blend of richness and acidity like fresh sardine just-splashed with lemon, supported by the flavor of the rice.

DSC_0478 DSC_0479 DSC_0480 DSC_0481 Next, the chef served up two cuts of tuna, the leaner maguro and the luxurious toro.  I’m slightly more partial to toro, but regardless, this toro was magical DSC_0482 IMG_0859  Continue reading