Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Costata: The Underrated Michael White Restaurant that Covers All the Bases (food)

Chef Michael White is a well-known chef who, through the Altamarea Group, has seven restaurants in Manhattan. These restaurants are fairly wide in scope, ranging from his 2 Michelin Star flagship Italian seafood restaurant Marea, to his pizzeria Nicoletta, to his American supper club The Butterfly. My favorite of these is Costata, and while it is his steakhouse concept, I find that it combines some of my favorite things from his other restaurants as well. The majority of entree choices are various cuts of steak, but Costata also brings a great selection of crudo and pasta, comparable in quality to his more famous restaurant, Marea. And while the prices in general are on the high end, the portions are very large, giving off a sense of value much more like his rustic and casual Osteria Morini.

It's hard to call an expensive restaurant owned and operated by a well-known chef underrated, but it was relatively empty when we went on an early Friday evening. It could be because of the summer, although NYC restaurants may just be struggling in general, but the lack of customers may have contributed to us getting very friendly and attentive service.


FOCACCIA, WHIPPED LARDO
There are no dainty amuses here. This is a steakhouse and even the bread and dip sets the tone that it'll probably be a fairly heavy meal.

FLUKE CRUDO; STURGEON CAVIAR, GARLIC CHIPS, CREME FRAICHE ($21)
The composition of this crudo reminded me a lot of the marlin crudo at Marea, and this was just as excellent. I really enjoyed the relatively softer texture of the fluke here, as I often think of fluke as being too resistant when I bite into it.

SEA SCALLOP CRUDO; CELERY ROOT, BLACK TRUFFLE VINAIGRETTE ($23)
The truffle smell is evident as soon as the dish hits the table. Classic flavor combinations, and just so good with the sweet scallop. It's a pretty impressive plate in terms of portion, and felt like great value.

MARE; WARM SALAD OF OCTOPUS, SHRIMP, SCALLOPS, TOMATO CONFIT, FENNEL, OLIVES ($21)
This was perfectly executed, with great texture from the well cooked seafood highlighting the delicious marriage of simple flavors. At a comparable price point, I find this much superior to more common steakhouse seafood starter staples such as shrimp cocktail or crab cakes.


ROMAINE CACIO E PEPE; ANCHOVIES, AGED PARMIGIANO, CRISPY CAPERS ($17)
INSALATA VERDE; HARICOTS VERTS, PICKED HERBS, RICOTTA, LEMON ($15)
Two of my friends ordered salads and enjoyed them very much, while I was more surprised once again at the generous portion sizes.


CAULIFLOWER; LEEK PESTO
CRISPY RED BLISS POTATOES; GARLIC, ROSEMARY, CHILI FLAKES
HEN OF THE WOODS; PARSLEY BUTTER
ARTICHOKES ALLA GUIDEA; LEMON, PARSLEY (vegetable sides $10 each)
All the vegetables were excellent, but my favorites were the very addictive fried artichokes and the nice crackly crispiness of the red bliss potatoes. I thought they provided better texture contrasts to steaks than mashed potatoes or fries.

ASPARAGUS (NO LONGER ON MENU, SEASONAL) ($10)

FILET OF BEEF 10oz ($47)
If you happen to have a friend who likes a well done filet of beef, they do a perfectly cooked version.


FIORENTINA; PORTERHOUSE 40oz ($122)
All the steaks at Costata are aged a minimum of 40 days, and the minerally tang definitely comes through. The porterhouse had excellent flavor on both sides, and I really liked the small touches with the grilled lemon and bouquet of herbs.


AFFOGATO; ESPRESSO, RAMAZOTTI AMARO, FIOR DI LATTE GELATO ($10)
A tasty affogato, but I still prefer the one at Marea.

While Marea and Ai Fiore are probably the most ambitious of his restaurants, I find that I am more likely to recommend Costata to people over them. The food is delicious and well executed, the portions considerable, and while there may not be as many super highs, there's also a much much lower chance of a miss. It's also a great restaurant for many eaters with different preferences to dine together, as you can make a wide range of great meals from salad and steak to pasta and crudo or even just a combined selection of excellent vegetable side dishes.

206 Spring St
Manhattan, NY 10012

Bonus pictures from a previous visit shortly after they opened:

AGED FATTY TUNA CRUDO; LEMON, OLIVE OIL, SEA SALT ($14 per piece)
The current menu no longer lists it as aged.

RED PRAWN CRUDO; LEMON, OLIVE OIL, PRAWN SUGO ($17 per piece)

SEA SCALLOP CRUDO
The scallop slices seemed thicker back when they first opened compared to my most recent visit.

GARGANELLI; ALLA FIAMMA, CON PROSCIUTTO, PEAS, TRUFFLE CREAM ($21)
The original Michael White signature pasta. The pasta itself was great as expected, but I think some of the other flavor combinations on the current menu sound even better.

COSTATA, TOMAHAWK RIBEYE 44oz ($126)
The namesake steak was also excellent, and to me it's really a matter of personal preference (for cut) which steak to choose.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Bouley Lunch Tasting Menu: Best Fine Dining Deal in NYC (food)

It may not be the best fine dining meal in New York City, but the lunch tasting menu at Bouley is definitely the best fine dining deal. I hadn't done the lunch at Bouley since my last visit almost five years ago. I had a disappointing meal then, but I believe that Bouley's restaurants have improved across the board since he came back and retooled his mini-empire, opening Brushstroke and other concepts. In those five years, the lunch deal at Eleven Madison Park has gone from $28 for 2 courses to $54 for 3 courses to being non existent, the lunch deal at Jean Georges has gone from $28 to $38 to $48 for 2 courses, while the lunch deal at Del Posto has gone from $29 to $39 for 3 courses. The 5 course lunch tasting at Bouley, however, has only gone from $48 to $55, while the whole experience has improved since that last disappointing meal there.

Atmosphere: Bouley pretty much looks the same as it always has, giving off a rustic, old school countryside vibe. It's a nice oasis away from the hustle and bustle of NYC, but sometimes it can feel cluttered and clunky.

Service: Service has gone from disappointing to passable, although water refills were still scarce. Don't expect to get much in the way of answers regarding the food. There appears to be a staff tier structure, but if so the captains never asserted themselves. I honestly can't imagine how they would be able handle a full dining room for lunch with the staff they had.

Food: The online menu was representative of the available menu at the restaurant, with at least two options for each course.


AMUSES: LOBSTER WITH FRUIT FOAM, CRACKER WITH TRUFFLE AND KUDZU
I don't remember exactly, but I think the fruit espuma was either blood orange or strawberry. There was also some grain and chia seeds which provided a nice balance of texture, but the overall flavor was one-note of sweetness. The truffled cracker, on the other hand, was extraordinary, with a depth of truffle flavor and a wonderful balance of textures with the crisp toastiness of the cracker and the soft and sticky kudzu starch.


BREAD AND BUTTER
The meal structure felt a bit weird in that they served bread and butter with the first course, but independent of the big bread cart which comes later.


BIG EYE TUNA; GREEN APPLE, BERGAMOT, OSETRA CAVIAR
Both my friend and I chose the tuna for our first course, which was also our server's recommendation. None of the flavor combinations were particularly novel, and I was expecting a stronger smell from the bergamot, especially with the domed presentation. It was a good starter though, as the fish was fresh and there was a sizeable amount of caviar. I wish the fish was seasoned more as a whole, as the dish fell victim to the chef relying solely on the caviar to provide saltiness, a very common occurrence these days.


PORCINI FLAN; DUNGENESS CRAB, TRUFFLE DASHI
FORAGER'S TREASURE; WILD MUSHROOMS, SWEET GARLIC, GRILLED TORO, SPECIAL SPICES AND TRUFFLE DRESSING
The porcini flan is a Bouley signature although I'm not a big fan of it. I had the forager's treasure, which sounded amazing. Overall it was wonderful, with earthy mushrooms and luscious fatty toro. The only thing that seemed out of place was that it was a little too sweet (I vaguely remember hints of either honey or coconut), although I couldn't tell whether it was from the sweet garlic, spices, or dressing. I would have preferred it if they had just focused on the rich earthiness of the ingredients.


BREAD CART
An impressive bread cart featuring over 11 different kinds of bread. Some were more traditional (sourdough) while others were chock-full of healthy nuts and grains. I tried a few, and they were all quite good, so I would just suggest being adventurous and going with whichever ingredient base sounds good to you.


SLOW BRAISED KOBE STYLE BEEF CHEEKS; BLUE KALE GNOCCHI
I've never really considered "Kobe-style" beef to be a particularly premium ingredient, but I would imagine putting those words there might help get ladies who lunch to order beef cheeks. Regardless of the provenance of the beef, this was just an absolutely delicious, sizeable mound of rustic, flavorful, tender braised beef and pasta.


ORGANIC LONG ISLAND DUCK; ORGANIC GOLDEN NEVADA DATES, HAND MILLED POLENTA


CHILLED COCONUT SOUP; PINEAPPLE GRANITE, EXOTIC FRUIT SORBET, AMARETTO ICE CREAM
TRISTAR STRAWBERRIES; AMARETTO ICE CREAM
Simple and delicious combinations of flavors, without being overly sweet.

HOT VALRHONA CHOCOLATE SOUFFLE; WHITE COFFEE CLOUD, COFFEE ICE CREAM, CHOCOLATE MOUSSE
A classic decadent, comforting dessert that reminds you that you've just had a luxurious and rich lunch.

PETIT FOURS

This is fine dining in its classical form, with rich entrees and desserts, generous amounts of luxury ingredients, and an overabundance of choices highlighted by the overindulgent bread cart. Just a tremendous value at $55+t/t. If you have the time to take in this lunch, I highly recommend this (barely a) splurge. However, I felt that the execution and service weren't at a level where I would rush to come back for dinner, when the prices get a huge jump.

163 Duane St (Tribeca)
Manhattan, NY 10013

Monday, July 7, 2014

Instant Classic: 2014 Wimbledon (sport)

I usually play pickup hoops on weekend mornings, but I had a feeling I needed to DVR this year's Wimbledon final. That turned out to be a very wise decision as I was able to watch one of the greatest grand slam finals of all time from start to finish (with no spoilers). What stood out to me most was that even though one of the things that made it exciting was that it went the distance, it wasn't just an out-and-out slugfest war of attrition that many of the recent classics have been. With both Federer and Djokovic having increased interest in approaching the net, there was much more strategy/tactics involved in this final. You could hear it in the giddiness of John McEnroe's voice as he talked about things like Federer needing to get more depth on his chip-and-charge approach shots.

Of course, the new-found interest for both players in playing at the net was attributed to their new coaches, with both Stefan Edberg for Federer and Boris Becker for Djokovic being recent hires. While both got plenty of screen time from the occasional pans to both players' boxes, there wasn't much mention during the match of the fact that it was exactly 25 years ago when Becker beat Edberg in the finals of Wimbledon, the only time Becker won of the three consecutive Wimbledon finals that the two of them played each other in. Edberg's influence was the most noticeable, as Federer had 67 points at the net (winning 44 of them), and his wide serve looked to have more kick to it, which was one of Edberg's signatures.

Another thing that made this match special was that it captured different phases of the game in one match. It wasn't one-note like the old serve-dominated Wimbledon matches where a guy like Roddick would hit 40+ aces, nor was it purely a baseline slugfest like many of Nadal's matches. In the third set, Federer hit 13 aces, held serve at love 3 times, and still ended up losing the set! In the fourth set, there was a streak of five breaks in six games, which is pretty much unheard of at the highest level of men's tennis. Both players played at an incredible level throughout, as evidenced by the astonishing winner-unforced error stats: Djokovic 68 winners to 27 unforced errors, Federer 75 winners to 29 unforced errors.

There were also plenty of dramatic moments, with my favorite being Federer's comeback in the fourth set. Djokovic had been consistently attacking Federer's forehand in the middle sets. While Federer's forehand is generally stronger, you could see that he was hesitant to really go for forehand winners. At the same time, he was more consistent mixing in shots with his backhand, including looping topspin shots and slices which changed Djokovic's eye level. But down a break (and down 2 sets to 1) with his back to the wall, Federer finally ripped a huge forehand winner to break Djokovic. Djokovic held strong and broke Federer again shortly after, but I think that shot set the tone for Federer as he regained his aggressiveness and came back to win the set.

I also wanted to mention one general thing about Wimbledon. I had previously written a post saying that the many upsets at last year's Wimbledon reminded me of a typical French Open. There was once again many big upsets at this year's Wimbledon (more so in the women's draw). I'm beginning to wonder if this will start becoming a regular occurrence because of the change in the way the game is played nowadays. The French Open used to be the outlier, with the clay court favoring long baseline rallies. But as modern tennis has moved more and more to a backcourt game, I wonder if it is Wimbledon, featuring shorter rallies and favoring net players, that has become the outlier and ripe for more future upsets.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

2013-2014 NBA Finals Recap (sport, gambling)

Some people may have already forgotten about it, but the San Antonio Spurs won this season's NBA championship only two weeks ago! It capped off what might have been the biggest weekend in modern sports history when factoring in the importance of the events played, with the NBA Finals, NHL Finals, US Open (golf), and World Cup all going on. That was followed by more World Cup action, the start of Wimbledon, as well as one of the most hyped NBA drafts in a long time. June has just been an incredible month for sports, and I wanted to wrap up my thoughts on the NBA Finals before the the finals of the World Cup and Wimbledon come along.

The series was rather anti-climactic, so there isn't much to analyze in more depth. Let's start by looking back at my predictions from my NBA Finals preview.

"Both are excellent coaches, and while Miami has the best player in the series, the Spurs are much deeper and will be more pliable for different coaching strategies. I give the edge to the Spurs here just because they have more options and looks they can go with."

That was pretty spot on. While last year featured an amazing back and forth chess match between the coaches, the Miami Heat just didn't have enough pieces for Spoelstra to fire back with.

"Prediction: San Antonio 4-3
Possible bets: Bet San Antonio to win the series 4-1. Current price around +375, which represents pretty good value. While the series seems pretty even, I can see San Antonio winning easily if their league-leading bench outperforms at home while they steal one on the road."

The series wasn't really that even, but this value bet did cash as the Spurs had 9 players who consistently made significant contributions throughout the series.

"The Key Players (who will need to step up): Dwyane Wade, Boris Diaw, Rashard Lewis"

The player who obviously stood out was Diaw, who made his way into the starting lineup midway through the series and almost had a triple double in one game. While Kawhi Leonard deservedly won the Finals MVP, Diaw stepping up was the key piece that solidified that the Spurs could handle whatever Miami threw at them. Wade played well to start, but he was clearly gassed towards the end of the series. Diaw was an effective defender against him, as his height and reach advantage bothered Wade while Wade couldn't overpower him like LeBron could. Like Wade, Lewis shot well to start the series, but didn't do enough to make San Antonio change what they were doing.

Legacies
Last year, I wrote that "A 5th championship would probably have cemented [Tim Duncan's] status as the greatest player of his generation." I still think that this is true, and even though most of the attention was on the Spurs' pretty offense and Leonard and Diaw, Duncan played his usual consistently excellent game, averaging 15.4 points and 10 rebounds in only 33 minutes per game in the finals.

But in my mind, the one person whose legacy was truly cemented in this win was coach Gregg Popovich. He finally managed to do the one thing that Bill Belichick hasn't yet been able to. Much has been made about the similarities between the two, from leadership style to adherence to fitting players into their "system", and their terse interaction with the media. But to me, there's one similarity that stands out and separates them from all the other top coaches in their respective sports, and that is their ability to win using two completely different approaches. Both coaches accomplished their initial dynastic run of championships with defense-oriented teams, but then each of their respective leagues began to adopt rules that were clearly designed to increase scoring and favor the offense. In my mind, the ability of both coaches to then create scoring juggernauts to win is truly remarkable. But only Popovich has managed to come through with a championship after radically changing his team's style, edging him above other venerated coaches such as the aforementioned Belichick and Pat Riley (who won with the showtime Lakers, but also took the physical, defensive minded Knicks to the NBA Finals).

Friday, June 13, 2014

Shake Shack 10th Anniversary Special Burger: The Humm Burger (food)

That is a picture of a burger that my friends and many others waited over 6 hours for yesterday. All throughout this week, the original Shake Shack in Madison Square Park has been doing burger collaborations with famous chefs in celebration of its 10th anniversary. Yesterday's offering was the Humm Burger: Shack beef-blend gruyere cheeseburger topped with all-natural applewood smoked bacon, celery relish, Bibb lettuce, truffle mayo and shaved fresh black truffle.

Here's a closer look at the freshly shaved truffle.

So, what's the verdict? Honestly, I'm not sure any food is worth a 7 hour wait. But this was an absolutely delicious burger. The perfume of the truffle whet the appetite while the gruyere bacon cheeseburger provided an excellent base. What really made the burger for me was the celery relish, which worked beautifully to both highlight the strong ingredients and to make them work together in harmony. If they took out the truffle shavings to lower the cost and served the burger regularly, I'm sure there would still be a long line to get it.

Eleven Madison Park: Spring 2014 Tasting Menu (food)

When it comes to recommending top tier fine dining restaurants, I find that the way a restaurant handles an overall seasonal theme is more important to me than individual dishes. Unless the dish is so spectacular that it becomes a "signature" item, the chances are not that high that one great specific dish reappears on a subsequent menu (although it'll probably appear later in a cookbook).

I also find Spring to be an especially difficult season to judge. It's not that the food is less delicious in the Spring. It's that when you're able to eat more luxurious ingredients during the fall and winter seasons, from truffles to foie gras to heartier proteins, it's easier to feel a sense of value. Not everyone appreciates that the costs for foraging and sourcing certain vegetables and herbs are expensive. As my friend over at www.donuts4dinner.com once wrote in her first review of Eleven Madison Park years ago,
"When I think about the one thing that really, really gets my goat, it’s the sheer unimpressiveness of the ingredients we were served. Two of our main courses were vegetables."

I found the Spring 2014 menu at EMP to be truly special. Not only was it a celebration of the season from start to finish, it also managed to be both delicious and luxurious in a way that alleviated some of the aforementioned dissonance. I believe that this meal compared favorably to both my meals at EMP last year, and I highly recommend reading last year's Thorough Review of Eleven Madison Park posts first to get an idea of the foundation that they built and have improved upon.

ADDITIONAL THEME INGREDIENT
Interaction with the diner is one of the things they really enjoy doing at EMP. As the four of us sat down at the table, we noticed an envelope and a letter opener. Opening the envelope revealed four perforated chits featuring four different ingredients - cherry, coffee, celery, strawberry. It was then explained to us that we should punch out the ingredient we liked, and that ingredient would be featured multiple times throughout the meal. Since there were four of us, we decided to give all four ingredients a try, and I chose celery.

CHEDDAR - SAVORY BLACK AND WHITE COOKIE WITH APPLE
The first course was their savory take on a black and white cookie. I felt that this time the crabapple chutney was more pronounced, and played off well with the cheddar.


OYSTER - BAKED POTATO ICE CREAM AND CAVIAR
This could have been served as two separate courses, but serving both together was a brilliant touch that created a great balance. One of my main issues with single oyster courses (usually with some sort of mignonette) early in tasting menus is that it often leaves a mouthfeel that is too cold and/or too acidic while waiting for the next course. The baked potato ice cream and caviar managed to round out that bite of oyster, soothing the palate while still maintaining the chilled temperature of an early course.

MOREL - CUSTARD WITH MAINE SEA TROUT ROE
Between the morel custard, morel ragout, trout roe, and bonito broth, this was just loads of umami. There was great attention to detail with the use of borage flowers as garnish. The blue/pink color looked beautiful next to the brown and orange, which is not an easy color combination to make pretty.

ENGLISH PEAS - WARMED WITH MEYER LEMON AND EGG YOLK
Pure Spring in a little bowl. I love English peas and meyer lemon, so this was perfect. But even though it looked simple, it was a well-composed dish with great depth that also featured a lavender-pea puree, smoked fish gelee, miso cured egg yolk, and coriander and lavender flowers.


BEEF - PASTRAMI WITH RAMPS, RYE, MUSTARD, AND FLAVORED SODA
The first of the interactive courses featuring a tableside presentation. The pastrami was ridiculously good. Rich, tender, and beefy with the spices being noticeable but not overpowering. But what really made the dish for me as a whole were the condiments. It's common to have pastrami with rye and mustard and dill pickle, but the additional presence of ramp and dandelion greens in various forms (mayonnaise, relish, pickled) reinforced both the freshness and savoriness of Spring.

SODA - CELERY
I love Cel-Ray, and thought that this was the best version of it I've ever had. It was not as strongly carbonated, which I prefer, and contained additional hints of mint, apple, and lime. This course featured all the theme ingredients we chose at the beginning of the meal, and the coffee soda featured espresso powder, while the cherry soda had flavors of cherry, lemon, and apple, and the strawberry soda featured strawberry, lemongrass, and apple.

FLAVORED BUTTER
Similar to previous visits, the butter was flavored with drippings from our choice of main course, giving the butter additional warmth and lusciousness.

FOIE GRAS - CURED WITH ORANGE-CHAMOMILE, WHITE ASPARAGUS, BITTER ALMOND
As usual, there was a choice between hot and cold preparations of foie gras. I've always thought that EMP had the best seared foie in the city, but for the sake of completeness I opted for the cold prep (well, my dining companions all called dibs on the hot prep). Instead of horizontal layering, the layer of gelee was actually in the middle through the cross-section. It was interesting, but didn't really work for me. I tend to like foie for its decadence, and this just wasn't as rich as the one I had at Per Se.


FOIE GRAS - SEARED WITH FAVA BEAN MARMALADE AND SORREL


WALDORF SALAD CART
The second interactive presentation was accompanied by a brief discussion on the history of the Waldorf salad.


APPLE - WALDORF SALAD WITH CELERY, RHUBARB, WALNUTS
While the original version contained only three ingredients, the version made tableside included a variety of ingredients commonly associated with the Waldorf salad, including apples, celery root, mayonnaise, cranberries, walnuts, blue cheese, and fresh celery leaf. It was delicious and so refreshing, and made me rethink, "Wait, this is a Waldorf salad!?"
VELOUTE
But that wasn't all! The bowl opened up to their modern take on a deconstructed Waldorf with celery root-apple veloute, celery gelee, dehydrated and pickled apples, candied celery root, garlic croutons, chives, and chervil. It was also delicious and refreshing, but I think I preferred the salad version.


The gorgeous dinnerware with the double decker bowls and an ingenious nook to hold the spoon and keep its contents above the soup!


LOBSTER - POACHED WITH BEETS, GINGER, NASTURTIUM
Over the years, quite a few of chef Humm's lobster preparations that I've had have included a sweet vegetal accompaniment. The latest one involved the use of beets, and it added a wonderful extra dimension. There's an innate meatiness to beets, which were further explored here with the use of a citrus beurre blanc and bone marrow sauce.


EN VESSIE
More tableside fun as they bring over the asparagus for our next course, still poaching while encased in the pig's bladder.


ASPARAGUS - BRAISED WITH POTATO AND BLACK TRUFFLE
The black truffle and potato puree was rich and earthy, complementing the asparagus and completing the Spring theme of vegetable from the ground. But what was unique about this dish was how they took that singular asparagus, that vegetable main course and made it truly special with not only luxurious truffle, but also the tableside presentation using a technique that one doesn't get to see too often nowadays.


LAMB - BROTH WITH CURED LAMB AND WATERCRESS
LAMB - ROASTED WITH LETTUCE, GARLIC, AND ONION BLOSSOMS
The broth was made into a gelee and served on a rice crisp, fitting for the season as it was a lighter preparation compared with the hot broth from last year's winter tasting. The plated main course featured roasted lamb loin, brioche-crusted torchon, and confit lamb shoulder. It reminded me a lot of the chef's work during the earlier days of his tenure at EMP. The flavors were concentrated without being dull, and the texture on the lamb loin was ethereal, tender without being too soft, and reminding me of tendon during certain bites. Some of the best lamb I've ever had.

DUCK - ROASTED WITH RHUBARB, SHALLOTS, AND SCALLIONS
The other protein option was Duclair duck dry aged two weeks and glazed with lavender honey, sichuan peppercorns, coriander, and cumin. I'm willing to bet that the duck will always be an option and never leave the menu.


FRESH CHEESE - PRETZEL, PARSLEY, STRAWBERRIES
The whimsical picnic basket course is always a grab bag, and this time around there were refreshingly tart pickled green strawberries, as well as a delicious parsley relish with honey that went beautifully with the fresh cheese and pretzel baguette. I also preferred the brown ale to the previous pale ale, but that's a very subjective preference.

WHEY - SORBET WITH CARAMELIZED MILK AND MILK FOAM
The cool thing about this dessert was that they utilized the whey that was used in the cheese-making process for the previous course. Unfortunately, while delicious, it wasn't a very memorable dessert.


ALMOND - BAKED ALASKA WITH RUM, CARAMEL, AND ADDITIONAL THEME INGREDIENT
Continuing the theme of celebrating iconic New York foods, the Baked Alaska featured another nice tableside presentation. Even though the dessert itself had been around long before, the name "Baked Alaska" originated at Delmonico's Restaurant in New York City in 1876. Both the toasted almond ice cream and the cake were delicious, and the dessert once more featured our chosen ingredient from the start of the meal. While I liked this dessert more than the whey, I didn't think either of the two desserts were particularly novel or daring in combining flavors and textures.

PRETZEL - CHOCOLATE COVERED WITH SEA SALT

CHOCOLATE - SWEET BLACK AND WHITE COOKIE WITH MINT
The finishing sweet black and white cookie had a refreshing mint filling, providing one last note of Spring to send us off.


In a city filled with some of the best restaurants in the world and a culinary world where "chef personalities" are dominating more and more, Eleven Madison Park's most endearing trait to me is its humility. It may be ranked the 4th best restaurant in the world, but there's no, "you'll eat only what I want to make" mentality here. There's clearly a concerted effort that every dish be enjoyable to eat, not just interesting, cool, or thought-provoking to look at. To that end, EMP gives me the impression that they want to make the enjoyment of their dining experience accessible to as many people as possible, and not just pandering to jaded foodies in search of the new and exciting or rich folks who don't care how much they spend on a meal.