Tag Archives: dining

New Brooklyn Restaurant James- Worth a Try?

I read three blurbs on a new American restaurant in Prospect Heights in Brooklyn and I have to say, I’m intrigued.  It looks sophisticated and the menu sounds really good.  It’s called James, opened by a chef who used to cook at Bouley and Union Pacific, and his wife, an event planner.  A good sign that they’re invested in this spot: they live in the apartment upstairs from the restaurant.  Read more here, here, and here.

 

Menu:

SMALL PLATES
Warm White and Green Asparagus Salad with a Bucheron and Chive Fondue
Seared Diver Scallops with Watercress Puree and Preserved Kumquats
Organic Pennsylvania Greens with Sherry and Black Pepper Dressing
Spinach Salad with Roasted Shallots, Shiitake Mushroom and Parmesan-Reggiano
Steamed Zucchini Blossoms stuffed with Peekytoe Crab, Tomato and Lemongrass
East and West Coast Oysters
Crispy Sweetbreads, Rhubarb Honey Glaze and Dandelion Greens
Grilled Prawns with Lemon and Sunchoke Puree, Garlic Confit

MAIN COURSE
Grass Fed Beef Burger with Cotswald Cheese on Brioche with Herb Fries
Herb Crusted East Coast Halibut with Spring Vegetables and Horseradish Cream
Grilled Organic Salmon with Stewed Leeks and Heirloom Carrots, Chervil Pistou
Pine Nut and Rosemary Crusted Rack of Lamb Eggplant Timbale, Jus Natural
Dry Aged Shell Steak, Roasted Marrow Bone, Au Poivre Sauce and Stinging Nettles
Sautéed Skate with Capers, Lovage and Roasted Potatoes
Poached Breast of Chicken with Roasted Thigh, Roasted Treviso and Lemon Thyme Jus
Fava Bean Ravioli with Morels Broth and Ramps Greens

DESSERT
Strawberry Shortcakes with Framboise Crème 
Ricotta Cheesecake Beignets with Raspberry Red Wine Coulis
Chocolate Ganache Cake with Hazelnut Center and Brandy Ice cream
Grilled Lemon Almond Pound Cake with Rhubarb Sorbet
Caramelized Pineapple Upside Down Cake with Tahitian Vanilla

 

www.jamesrestaurantny.com

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Summer Salad Perfection

Union Square Cafe is a place I sometimes forget about- it’s ubiquitous among foodies and has been for a gazillion years.  We all know the food is really great, the service wonderful, the decor sweetly outdated.  We all know it’s the first place to book up during restaurant week.  I’ve been there 3 or 4 times and have always been pleased, if not surprised, by the excellence of my meal.  

Then there are experiences like the one I had at lunch last week.  It was a snap pea salad.  Snap peas blanched and sliced diagonally (not sure why but the waitress made a point of telling me that), tossed with firm green peas, mint, pecorino, and smoky bits of pancetta.  Each bite brought this: a sweet crunch of snap pea, a burst of fresh mint tempered by sharp pecorino, peas so firm you would feel it under a mattress, and just a hint of crisp pancetta.  I mean, this salad was one of the most perfect stories of summer I could ever imagine.

Snap Pea Salad at Union Square Cafe

 

http://www.unionsquarecafe.com

 

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The Neighborhood Standby… why it is what it is.

Viva Cafe Habana!

Last night I went to the birthday party for one of my best friends (and my roommate) Erin.  It was a heady, champagne-fueled, dance-filled affair that lasted until the wee hours of morning, but aside from some salt and vinegar chips I chomped on the way home at 4:30AM, my nourishment came in the form of (delicious) bubbly liquid.   Inexplicably, I woke up five hours later feeling quite spry and went to one of those hardcore conditioning classes at my gym- you know, the one involving various sets of weights, those step thingies and a bordering-on-sadistic instructor.   Why do I disclose such trivial details of my night-into-morning? Because it’s the only way to appreciate the magnitude of my appetite this afternoon.  I was ravenous, and thus not too picky about where I went so long as it was close by.

I woke up post-birthday girl Erin and told her to get dressed as we were going to EAT.  We decided on Cafe Habana, a tiny Nolita restaurant that has been consistently packed since it opened in 1998.  To be honest, I ignore this place most of the time. Having lived in the Nolita area for the last four years, I’ve seen lots of restaurants come and go.   Sometimes the simplicity of Cafe Habana’s food and the crowds that form outside (lots of them with guidebooks in hand) make me shrug it off as the neighborhood teflon.  It’s ubiquity and unwillingness to change must mean it’s descended into mediocrity.  

Well, sometimes I’m totally wrong.

The food is  Latin comfort food- a solid cuban sandwich, decent mojitos, and grilled corn on the cob that made the place famous.  For the one person who doesn’t know (you know who you are), Cafe Habana’s grilled corn is served on a skewer, smothered in mayo, cotija cheese, a sprinkle of cayenne, and then a squeeze of lime. It’s an awesome snack.  The place is tiny, the prices are ridiculously cheap, and the crowd is still pretty cool after ten years.  

We sat at the bar and ordered two cafe con leches, rich, whole milk mixtures served in tall milkshake glasses, two ears of grilled corn, scrambled eggs with chorizo and black beans, a cuban sandwich, a side of sweet plantains, and after we finished the coffees, a Dos Equis to take the edge off.  It was so filling and so good.   The service was awesome- everyone seemed sincerely happy (despite the fact they are working brunch on Sunday).  The bill was $35. To put that in perspective, I paid $27 for a lobster roll yesterday.  I left Cafe Habana feeling not just full but fulfilled.  

Some restaurants stay around forever because they’re real good at what they do.  They don’t pretend to be anything they’re not, they deliver on what they promise and they serve it well.  There’s never an identity crisis with Cafe Habana.  It’s a neighborhood spot where the food is cheap and good.  As long as they do that, they will always have the crowds.  Which is why I left the bartender such a big tip…I want him to remember me next Sunday when I walk in looking for a spot to sit and chow.

 

Cafe Habana

17 Prince at Elizabeth St

212.625.2001

www.ecoeatery.com

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I have a restaurant crush on…

Dell’Anima.  I dined there Monday night with my friend Nicole, who hinted that I might fall in love with the place.  She was right.  I realize I have a type when it comes to favorite spots.  It is this: unfussy, laid-back vibe, nice people,  with food I could eat every night, but can’t really execute myself.  I’m a big fan of perfect execution.  That said, I ate at the chef’s counter and saw precision in action.  Watching these guys (and one very cool girl) produce dinner for me and everyone else in the place was really fun.  For those who don’t want to see the substantial amount of butter used in the sauce to make ricotta ravioli and almost every other pasta on the menu, or if you have an aversion to smelling a little like roasted garlic when you leave, there are tables in the front and dining at the bar.  Dell’Anima reminds me of Lupa in terms of simplicity and the focus on seasonal ingredients, but it’s smaller and the menu easier (while it only offers 4 entrees, it does have 9 pastas on the menu).  It’s a fantastic place for a date, or for an intimate dinner with friends.  This place is a keeper!  Here’s the breakdown:

COCKTAILS: A really beautiful Roasted Orange Negroni ($12) and an ever-refreshing Aperol Spritz ($8).  For those who don’t know Aperol, stay tuned as I plan on devoting a chapter to the awesomeness of the spritz. 

WINE: Barbera “Vigna Clara,” Viberti 1996 from Piemonte ($13).  I was perplexed by its cloudiness when my server poured it, but in fact it was a really nice full-bodied barbera with a dry finish.  They offer a good selection of wines by the glass and an extensive bottle list. 

EATS: Avocado bruschette was like Italian guacamole- mashed avo with lots of lemon and sicilian olive oil spread over toast. Super fresh.

Arugula salad with lemon and shaved parmigiano-reggiano. This was only ok, and I can’t believe I’m going to say this but the salad was over-cheesed.  When you can’t taste the spiciness of arugula, there’s a problem.  And I don’t think it was the arugula. 

Ricotta ravioli was formerly the “secret dish” at Dell’Anima, but they’ve since added it to the menu.  The raviolis look like plump pillows in a simple sauce of olive oil, butter- more than you want to believe, cracked black pepper, and finished with pecorino.  It’s indulgent and addictive, but that’s the only one we tried.  Nicole wasn’t into ordering every pasta on the menu so I had to content myself with pasta observation: tagliatelle bolognese, the risotto, orecchiette, and garganelli all caused severe watering of the mouth.

Entrees: hake, a delicious flaky white fish (that I sadly never see on any menu) seared and served over juicy artichokes and tuna bresaola, the latter which seemed more like plate decoration than anything of culinary worth, and the chicken “al diavolo.”  The chicken was a killer version served over wilted spinach, spiced perhaps with paprika or cayenne, and notable for a good crispy skin and super moist meat.

Dessert: Espresso Almond cake with sweet cream gelato and candied almonds.  This was really damn good. Almost incredibly so.

INFO: www.dellanima.com

38 Eighth Ave nr Jane St

.Bruschette- Avocado with Sicilian Olive OilRicotta-filled Pillows of Love

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