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12 posts from September 2006

29 September 2006

Eleven Madison Park

My final meal of note on my brief New York visit, was at Eleven Madison Park.  The first thing that struck me was how inconspicuous the restaurant is. I had been working next door to it for a couple of days, must have walked past it the best part of a dozen times and had totally failed to notice it.

It's low key exterior is balanced by the interior: a grand dining room, with a high ceiling, reminiscent of an old banking hall. It's scale reminded me of The Wolseley in London.

I had heard stories of being forced to wait at the bar, ad infinitum at New York restaurants. No such sending to Coventry here. I was offered the bar - my guest hadn't yet arrived - but I decided to head straight to the table.

Throughout the meal, the waiter was excellent. He got the mood of the table right - a fairly relaxed business meeting. He didn't bother us unnecessarily, but was engaging to speak to and knew the food and wine list inside out.

I went for the gnocchi of la ratte potatoes with celery, lemon confit and cured sardines for my starter. It was delicious. The gnocchi were light, but had enough density to cope with the flavour of the confit and sardines. I can't remember the celery. I also reckon there might have been a bit of veal stock lurking in there - one more thing to repent for before Yom Kippur.

For main I couldn't decide between halibut or salmon. On the recommendation of the waiter I went with the salmon. Compared to the quartet of salmon I had at Yasuda, I didn't really enjoy it. I know you can't compare raw sushi-grade salmon with a cooked steak, but there simply wasn't the flavour in this dish.  I felt I could have been eating any protein - the salmon did not taste of much.  Thus reaffirming the prejudice I lost the night before, that 99% of salmon in restaurants is tasteless.

The one good thing I can say about the salmon was that it was cooked beautifully.  By that I mean, only just cooked through, but otherwise I can't remember too much about it.

For dessert, I let the waiter choose for me and I ended up with a dense chocolate cake with a peanut butter caramel. The salty and sweet of caramel working well with the slightly sour cake.

To drink we shared a bottle Hubert Chavy, Les Narvaux '03 for the majority of the meal and ended up with a glass of Chateau D'Yquem '88 each at the end. In my not very informed opinion I thought the wine list tended towards the expensive, but I'm guessing they're looking for a Michelin star or similar so may feel that have to head in that direction.  Overall, including the service, it was a great meal.  I put the hiccup on the salmon down to poor ordering on my part.

Eleven Madison Park, 11 Madison Avenue at 24th Street, New York, NY, 10010, USA
Tel: +1 (212) 889 0905

Google Maps
Google Earth  (download)

What others say
New York Times - I can’t cut into such impeccably roasted duck — glazed smartly, but not too sweetly, with lavender and honey — and shut up about it. That would be a dereliction of duty. It would be just plain mean.  3 stars.
Opinionated About - Humm's "Lavender and Honey Roast Muscovey Duck" [is]...worthy of becoming Humm's signature dish, and I recommend that you hurry down to your nearest train station, or hop on a plane, and book a table at Eleven Mad in order to try it.
Megnut - It was very good, to be sure, but a let down for me. Perhaps the hype raised my expectations to an unrealistic level. Or perhaps it just wasn't to my taste.

28 September 2006

Sushi Yasuda

Although I loved Shake Shack, a more subliminal dining experience was dinner at Sushi Yasuda.  Getting from downtown to midtown wasn't that easy given that the UN was in session, and the Secret Service were having great fun screeching through the streets of New York, hanging out of SUV windows, brandishing guns.  Nonetheless I made it in time which meant I had time to book a table there for dinner when I go to NY with Silverbrowess later in the year.  I could tell, just from walking in, and knowing who had booked my table that evening, that I and she would love it.  My dining companion last week was a bit of a legend, Steve Plotnicki.  Who you may ask, is he?  Google him and find out.  But the reason I wanted to have dinner with him was because he is responsible for founding and running one of the best food forums out there, Opinionated About (registration required).  He has a blog of the same name and if you wander over there, you'll notice not only does it live up to its name, but he has a formidable track record of eating in some fantastic restaurants.  I therefore knew that when he said Yasuda was good, I was probably going to like it.  He was also one of the people who offered me sage advice on Urasawa, that I promptly ignored and paid for.


I had an opportunity to scour the menu and decide what I wanted.  Steve arrived, told me to ignore the menu, we were going for the omakase.  He nodded at chef Naomichi Yasuda behind the counter and so the adventure began.  What followed was a meal of astounding proportions, which as Steve said at the time and since, gave the impression chef was trying to kill us by overfeeding us.  The idea of omakase is that the chef serves what he believes is best.  Chef Yasuda clearly thought a hell of a lot was good that day.

Round after round of perfect nigiri, sashimi and hand-rolls, and whatever else took the chefs fancy were served on to our banana leaf, that serves as a plate.  I know the argument goes that what counts in decent sushi is the rice, but my main memory is of the fish.  For example, the four types of salmon nigiri laid to rest any niggling doubts I'd had recently that 99% of salmon served in restaurants is bland.  Similarly the otoro (fatty tuna) was meltingly beautiful.  It tasted of steak rather than fish, and was packed full of that lesser known taste, umami.  Throughout, we were drinking my new favourite, ice-cold sake.  I have no idea of its name, but it was as good as what I drank at Urasawa.

As a non-food aside, Steve invited me to join him after dinner at the Mets.  I'd been to a baseball match, the Mets as it happens, once before, about ten years ago.  I don't know the first thing about the game, but that night, they were playing the Florida Marlins and were set to win the Northern League East Division.  It was one of the most enjoyable sporting events I've been to recently.  The atmosphere in the stadium was electric and the mood was pure elation for two hours.  It was also very all-American, and great for that.


Sushi Yasuda, 204 E 43rd Street, New York, NY, 10017
Tel: +1 (212) 972 1001

Google Maps
Google Earth  (download)

What others say
Gayot -  If Sushi Yasuda is a shrine to raw fish, Naomichi Yasuda is the high priest
Ulterior Epicure - I was surprised, and disappointed not to see Sushi Yasuda get any stars [from Michelin]

Shake Shack


Having just stumbled off a transatlantic flight, starving and jet lagged, it was with some delight that as I was walking to my first meeting, I realised I was going past Shake Shack.  According to numerous sources, Shake Shack serve the best burgers in New York, if not America.  Although, the national title is hotly contested with In-N-Out Burger on the West Coast.  Such arguments are irrelevant to me given that I wouldn't eat the burgers in either.  However, I could have one of SS's legendary shakes, so I did.  It took half an hour from standing in the queue through to finally getting my drink.  (If you want to try to beat the queue, keep your eye on their webcam)  It was astounding.  It was dense and creamy and tasting of good chocolate, not over sweetened rubbish.  I'm not sure what chocolate they use for the milkshakes themselves, but I did notice that one of the toppings they serve is Valrhona.

I know I'll get in trouble for this from the diet police, but it was good, very good.

Shake Shack, Southeast corner of Madison Square Park, near Madison Ave. and E.23rd St., New York, NY, 10010, USA
Tel: +1 (212) 889 6600

Google Maps
Google Earth (download)

What others think
New York Magazine - A weekly visit could cause you to rethink the necessity of having to get out of town during the summer.
Gothamist - ...even if you ate already, nothing screams dessert like a double shack burger. That or a nice thick shake.
Amateur Gourmet - When eating at Shake Shack, bring your squirrel spray.

27 September 2006


I was a big supporter of Leon.  I still am I suppose.  However, I've found Hilliard and for the coffee alone I love it.  They make some of the best lattes and espressos in this bit of London.

Hilliard is in a slightly odd location and were it not for a piece in a recent Time Out, I don't reckon I would know it was there.  It is on Tudor Street, a side street in the middle of lawyerland with only a greasy spoon for culinary company.

Hilliard is clearly aimed at appealing to the highest common denominator.  The food is not cheap - £2.20 for a slice of lemon tart - but ingredients are clearly sourced well, there are a lot of staff on hand to serve and the surroundings are pretty nice.

Although the ingredients are good, I have had some slight issues with the final dishes.  On more than one occasion my porridge has been cold.  Somehow this has managed not to be as disgusting as it sounds.  I mentioned it once and they apologised, but it happened again this morning and is deeply annoying.  A similarly less than stellar outcome was their chocolate bread.  Essentially these are rolls with chocolate nibs melted into it.  The bread itself didn't have much flavour, mine was very doughy.  I'd go so far to say that with the very rich chocolate it was not very nice.

Having said that, a cheddar and pickle sandwich I had recently was on a great granary loaf, with a bit of sourness to it, working well against the pickle and the punch of the cheddar.  Their lemon tart is very good, a particularly nice touch are the small shreds of lemon peel.  For my taste, there could be a bit more lemon juice in it, but I'm sure others will like it just as it is.

Despite some clear negatives I really like this place.  I think it is still getting into its stride, but there is clearly confidence in the kitchen and in time that will fully translate into the food.  I also like it because much of the food they serve is the type of food I enjoy cooking: braises, stews, big salads, smoked mackerel.  I think the Caterer got it right describing it as bold food.

The restaurant opened earlier this year and I feel they're still finding their feet.  I'm more than happy to give them the benefit of the doubt - as long as they get that porridge heated up.


Hilliard (NB the website is not up yet), 26A Tudor Street, Blackfriars, London, EC4Y 0AY, UK
Tel: +44 (0)20 7353 8150

Google Maps

What others think
The Caterer - The level of thought that goes into the food sets Hilliard apart from what's available locally.

Pot-au-feu leftovers


Being a perverse sort, I'm posting about what to do with the leftovers for pot-au-feu before I post about the pot-au-feu itself.  I'm only doing this out of laziness.  I reckon it will take as long to write-up the pot-au-feu as it did to cook it, this is quicker.  I am pleased to say that I'm not doing this because I have a ton of leftovers left over.  Most of what I made for lunch on second day Rosh Hashanah got eaten up.

According to Elizabeth David, pot-au-feu is two dishes in one.  First you have the boulli, the meat, second you have the bouillon, the stock.  You can use some of the bouillon to baste the boulli as you serve it, but basically the two are quite separate entities.  She suggests you serve the boulli to your guests hot - as I did.  She then notes that the bouillon can be used as the base for a multitude of recipes.  I followed Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's recipe and got a third meal out of it.  The upshot is below.

Given the the length of ingredients for the p-a-f itself, the technique for the leftovers couldn't be simpler.  You shred by hand any of the meat you have left over.  Dice an onion and garlic and quickly fry in oil.  Add the meat until you get it nice and crisp and serve.  That's it, or so Hugh says.

I added a of salt.  I also made a bit of a rough and ready sauce for the fried meat.  I chopped some flat leaf parsley and mixed it with a healthy swig of wine vinegar (I used white because I'd run out of red), a swig of good olive oil, some salt and a pinch of dried chilli flakes.  I preferred the meat with the sauce, it cut through the rich meat beautifully.  However, I am quite addicted to the cold meat without any accoutrements.  Having been cooked for so long in its gelatinous stock, it is soft, shreds at the touch of a fork and is full of flavour.


As for the bouillon, I have yet to find a use for it.  Although, the fat-cap (yes, that's what the photo is) is giving me thoughts of roast potatoes.  When I crack through that, I see soups and sauces in my future.

26 September 2006

Light my (bon)fire

**Whoop** **Yeah** **Come-on**

Yes people, autumn has arrived.  Actually, given my intro I should say fall has arrived.  Either way, we're there.  Rosh Hashanah is over (there'll be a post about my pot-au-feu shortly), there's a slight nip in the air, the leaves are turning, the evenings are drawing in.  Italian mamas are beginning to pulp their tomato harvest into passata, thoughts are turning to stews, soups, pies and in general the best season for food.

Why so you ask me.  Well let me tell you.  Autumn heralds the short lived truffle season. I don't believe it's possible to add any new hyperbole to the delight truffles can give.  I do think that much of what is written is pretentious hyperbollocks, but I do love those expensive little pieces of pig food.  It's impossible to describe what they taste like, although Giorgio Locatelli gets close in his new book (more of that shortly as well, in addition to this).  He says something along the lines of they taste like sweaty humans.  I know what he means - there's something earthy about them and somehow that makes them delicious.  They are the apotheosis of umami.

Additionally, if there are truffles, there must be risotto.  If there's risotto, there must be butter.  If there's butter, all must be well with the world.

Autumn also heralds the return of the chestnut.  You can put that nutty little chest to all sorts of uses.  Whether in soups (as we did for the Silverbrow nuptials) you can make cakes out of it, you can make stuffings out of it.  Sod it, you can chuck them on the fire and eat them straight out of the shell.  For the record, the best place to do this is wandering around Florence in the early evening, contemplating just how many courses of your dinner that night will include truffles.  The worst place to do is Oxford Street with the pushy vendors and those annoying tourists.

Apples come into their proper season, not their Tesco season.  With apples here, that can only mean that citrus fruits are not far off.  Strictly speaking a winter fruit, but by the end of November, you can get some fantastic juicy, sweet flavours.  And oranges and lemons (say the Bells of St Clement's) and apples and some spices, means more pies and tarts and pastry and butter.

Unfortunately, for me, it is also the time of year that Vacherin Mont d'Or is put on the market.  All you heretical buggers that don't keep kosher can swan off and eat the greatest (and most hyped??) cheese out there.  I can merely watch and sniff and slobber in wonderment.

This year, there is also the Salone Internazionale del Gusto to look forward to in Turin at the end of October.  I won't be there damn it, but again, you kids can go enjoy yourself and tell me how it was.

People, this is a great time of the year.  As Nigel Slater recommends, chuck away your shopping list, ignore the supermarket, go to your local market and see what is crying out to be bought - ignoring the girl in the short mini skirt, ankle boots and dodgy make-up.  Go home and cook whatever you bought (excepting that girl once again).

If I were American I'd say I'm stoked.  I'm not American so the only thing I have any plans of stoking is the bonfire.  I am however very excited.  Childishly so.

14 September 2006

Dan Lepard podcast

I think it went rather well.  It, is the first, hopefully not the last, Silverbrow podcast.  As previously announced, Dan Lepard was the man at the other end of the phone.

He is one of the UK's best bakers and takes stunning photos of food.  Giorgio Locatelli's Made in Italy: Food and Stories is evidence of that.

If you want to download the podcast you can through iTunes. Alternatively, you can access the soundfile by clicking on the podcast button.