13 posts categorized "USA, New York"

05 November 2006

Bourdain on Ramsay

Anthony Bourdain interviews Gordon Ramsay in The Times, about Ramsay's attempt to break New York, Gordon Ramsay at The London.

Bourdain doesn't give him an easy ride and over the course of the article gives the impression he is sceptical that Ramsay will be successful.  In particular, he questions whether jaded New Yorkers will be excited by Ramsay's old school French cooking.  A point made to me by Michael Ruhlman in our podcast earlier this week.

Bourdain does seem to get Ramsay quite worked up over the power of Frank Bruni, the New York Times restaurant critic.  In one exchange Gordon asks "No one knows Frank Bruni, do they?", Bourdain writes "I tell him where he might get a picture."  That's very good of Anthony, but why the conspiratorial tone?  I don't get the cult of Frank.  I enjoy his writing but why is there this mystery over his visage? Can I suggest the denizens of New York dining stop getting so wound up and start using Google or Ask.

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

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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.

06 September 2006

New York Times on Gordon Ramsay

Food bloggers beware, unless you want the AA Gill treatment, do not start taking photos of your meal at Gordon Ramsay at the London.  In an interview with Michael Ruhlman in the New York Times, Ramsay says the food will be "very natural" and "very proper".  Err, what does proper means when it comes to food?  Anyway, he is explicit that "We're not going to stand there and gawk".  That's told us then.

The Ruhlman piece gives some interesting insight into Ramsay's financial backing.  I was aware of the important role played by his father-in-law Chris Hutcheson, but I was unaware of Blackstone's involvement.  It is interesting that a private equity house is involved, especially as it is the real estate arm of Blackstone.  Private equity firms have a lot of money to invest and are usually savvy managers.  But, they are always looking for a way to exit the business so they can make a large return on their investment.  Often, these sorts of companies look to hold their investments for up to five years.  I wonder what Blackstone's game-plan is for the Ramsay empire.  Maybe this is someone's toy, they're investing for the love (and free meals and kudos), but private equity firms are not known for their romanticism or their love of free lunches.  Could a stock-market flotation of Gordon Ramsay Holdings be on the cards?

06 January 2006

The end of the 2nd Ave Deli?

One of the dictums I try to live by, is to make the most of opportunities as they present themselves, in particular with regard to food and doubly so with regard to good kosher food.  I am thus gutted to discover the 2nd Avenue Deli has shut it's doors.  Possibly only temporarily (please let it be so) but potentially, for good.

I was standing outside the restaurant last October at about 3pm, it was drizzling.  I'd only just eaten my lunch of rather good pizza and really wasn't hungry, especially for one of their enormous sandwiches.  I turned on my heels, crossed the road and sat in a trendy cafe drinking an espresso and watching the world go by.  I couldn't escape the niggling feeling I had made a bad mistake and that I was being foolish missing out on this opportunity to sample some fine food.  It would seem that I was.

There has been a lot of musing on what the end of this institution means, but I feel we have to turn to Jackie Mason, another institution, for real, entirely un-politically correct, analysis of this latest blow to the New York culinary scene.

"It's almost like wiping out Carnegie Hall...A sandwich to a Jew is just as important as a country to a Gentile."