Friday, November 18, 2016


Upon entering Rotisserie Georgette, you might think you've come upon one of those classic, old school New York holdovers, one of the few that have stood the test of time.  And while Georgette very well may endure, advancing its tenure, it is actually much newer on the scene than its looks would imply.  Georgette Farkas opened up her long-awaited solo venture in 2014, but the grand dining room exudes a dusty luxury of an earlier era.  Graced with high ceilings and generous square footage, the decor doesn't really take the best advantage of the bones of the room.  Drab, musty colored valances and glowy sconces are hung too low, truncating the room.  The eclectic mix of mirrors are a nice touch, but you're better off facing the back wall, covered in a showy blue and white tile and a glimpse into the kitchen, than towards the
 front, which looks a little dated and, frankly,  morose.  The room might appeal to the moneyed Upper East siders which it mostly attracts, but actually the restaurant needn't necessarily be a splurge: an excellent meal could be made of a variety of of options using a little penny-conscious savvy.  Or, one can go all out, truffles and fois, to make up a repast quite fit for a very special occasion.... or even have the repast be a special occasion.

The staff and waiters were certainly comptent, Ms. Farkas herself gliding through the dining room, seating patrons and keeping her expert eye to assure all the cogs were operating seamlessly.   But there lacked much affection between server and servee, beyond just the inquiry of having finished a dish or not, and consistently refilling glasses of water.   This didn't seem to affect much the temperament of guests, however, who all seemed to be enjoying themselves immensely, in fact so much so that the noise level was surprisingly boisterous.  One would think the high ceilings and carpeted floors, as well as the proportionately mature clientele, might provide a more placid noise level, but I actually found myself leaning in on more than one occasion to hear my dining companion.    But most of the time, our mouths were too full to talk, happily full, as soon our food arrived.

The menu follows a steakhouse format: everything is quite strictly a la carte, so know that your roast half chicken with choice of sauces (I recommend the Grand Mere) is simply that.  All sides need to be commanded independently, which can make that $26 bird a little less economical as just a part of a meal, instead of comprising it.  Sizing is a bit inconsistent, too: salads are easily large enough to share, but a portion of roasted leeks was better off for an individual, although the chewy, meaty slice of rich slab bacon underneath the vertically propped
alliums made the dish all the more hefty, along with a creamy crushed egg vinaigrette.  The black truffles, which were the justification of its $18 price tag, weren't particularly flavorful, as slices of
cold truffles tend not to be.  It might be better to restrain your truffle budget to where it is employed with warm food stuffs, as that is where is really performs most gloriously.  For luxury, opt for the terrine of fois gras, its highlight a warming zesty apple chutney.  The fois itself plays its typical suave role, but with plain white toast as the co-star, the chutney definitely steals the show.

As for that chicken, its a plush and luxuriant bird, regardless of the chosen sauce.   Really, the chicken is so juicy and luscious it needs no augmentation, although I wholeheartedly recommend the sauce grand-mere with its mushrooms, red wine and bacon.  But all sauces sound like valiant counterparts, from the Provencal flecked with the classic herbs, Marocaine kicked with cumin and coriander, or a bright, verdant chimichurri.  That said, even the grand-mere has but a couple of errant floating mushrooms, so side dishes are pretty much a must, unless you consider the fat bulb of creamy, pungent garlic
 adequate roughage.  I cannot resist
roasted Brussels sprouts, a solid preparation with roasted apple and bacon so smoky it infiltrates the entire dish.  Even so, crispy
sunchoked or orange roasted
carrots might be a little more interesting.  And as the menu states, there are "Never Enough Potatoes" (most blatantly since the entrees come with NONE), so there are three versions to opt from: roasted, tarragon-inflected frites, or a hedonistic baked number stuffed with a Gruyere-laden mash.   Even fish is cooked on the rotisserie, and that $41 whole branzino, even though it's not listed
along with the other "Pour Deux", it is certainly sufficient for that many.  It's gleaming silvery skin can barely contain the flavorful tender flesh literally bursting through: I think this is the best simple whole roast fish I have ever had.  An herby tomato-fennel concasse atop was vibrant and flavorful, but I was afraid to use too much even to mask at all the wonderfully fresh fish.  But it was light enough just to enhance the flavors, and the whole dish was certainly the highlight of the menu.

Or was the Pavlova?  I loved this crispy meringue cocoon of  syrupy port-roasted plums bedecked with plump blackberries and a sprinkling of crunchy pistachio bits.  Supposedly there was a ginger granita lurking about somewhere in this little delight, but I'm not sure where it was hiding.  And while I'm not a chocolate person, the Souffle au Chocolat Amer was a marvelous chocolate option, the "amer" not to be mistaken for "American", it is unmistakably French for bitter, and an alluring subterfuge of fluffy cloud-like souffle relinquishing itself into a lusciously creamy bittersweet pudding beneath.  The extra three dark chocolate truffles aside may have been extraneous, but it would be silly to turn down extra truffles.
The coffee their using at Georgette is equally as lush and rich- even the decaf was wonderfully smooth and strong, an excellent counterpart to both desserts.   Its actually a good illustration of everything chez Rotisserie G.  She is using exemplary ingredients to their finest advantage.  There is little reinvention or modernism going on here, but sometimes if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

14 East 60th Street
tel.  1.212.390.8060

Saturday, November 5, 2016


San Carlo Osteria Piemonte is a big name for this tiny little West Village Italian gem.  I found my way here by good word from the trusted then-manager of Da Marcella nearby, and they suggestion was worthy.  The room is subtly lit, emphasizing its cozy, nook-like feel, and the congenial, welcoming staff compound this.  You are welcomed into their space, in Italian, and throughout the night the Italianness of the establishment just becomes more and more impactful.  The San Carlo team helms from the
 Piedmont region of Italy, and the menu is an inspired combination of traditional Northern Italian with a bit of modern whimsy.

They started us of with a lovely little bowl of chewy farro and diced market vegetables, fragrant with basil.  It's a dish that is also available on the menu as a primo, but it was offered as complimentary little nosh, in keeping with typical Italian generosity.  There are more little bites, labeled sfizi, such as a plush, ricotta filled squash blossom fried to a crisp, or crusty anchovy toasts whisked with herb butter.

Antipasti included a seasonal salad or one of grilled octopus, and a variety of crudi, some of which are nearly ample enough to either share or serve as entrees (or secondi, as the case may be), if you add a contorno, which is where I found my choice of appetizer.  While I was hesitant to get generic verdure grigliati for fear of just those generic verdure grigliati, these were anything but.  Robust, super-primo veggies- yes, the usual suspects, but seasoned to amplify their natural flavors to the ultimate degree, cooked just short of too much, toothsome yet tenderized.  Each veg was Noah's ark-style, two of each, so both of us at my two-top got a nice big sample of each specimen. Capesante con pure di rafano featured six fat little mollusks, buttery and sweet against a zippy puree of spunky horseradish smeared around the
 periphery.  A light eater could make a meal of these, and bigger appetites that go for the real secondi still might be challenged by their abundance.  

The primi, on the other hand, are classic first course portions, but regardless of how you fit theme into your meal, they are not to be missed.  Tajarin Superga live up to their braggadoccio, a dense spool of angel hair spun with brown butter infused with black truffles and safe, a decadent explosion of autumnal flavor.  On the lighter side is a fusilloni with shrimp and a lemony arugula pesto, or go heartier with the housemade agnolotti in a rich, meaty ragu.  The tajarin, however, pairs swimmingly with a contorno of sauteed wild mushrooms, salty with a truffled woodsiness.    Choosing a main course from the Secondi gets pricier... some of the items from this section approach the forty dollar mark.  But rest
 assured you'll get both quantity and quality for the price.    Unlike a classic secondo, bare on the plate, entrees here come with ample garnish: a vegetable and starch in every case.  Bone-in veal is pounded thin and breaded in the Milanese, joined by a zesty arugula salad and roasted potatoes, while a behemoth pan-seared split full chicken breast (free-range) shares a crowded platter with both fava and cannellini beans, and a thick tomato-pepper sauce called bagnet rosso, a classic Piedmont-style ragout.

Dinner might fill you up too much for dessert, which would be too bad, considering the options.  Pears poached in red wine and spices, or a minty semifreddo with spicy chocolate sauce await, or take the opportunity to try the Bönet, a traditional Piedmont pudding like a fudgy flan dusted with crumbled amaretti.  If you forgot to save room, however, finish your meal with an outstanding limoncello, tart and icy-fresh.  Reality always sets in inevitably, but for the moment you'll really believe in la bella vita, thanks to San Carlo.

Tel: 212.625.1212 / 212.625.1232


Monday, October 24, 2016


A very well-respected entity in the food industry told me that Momofuku Nishi was a different restaurant every week.  I'm not sure if he meant that it was intended to be so, or if it was just still sorting out  a massive identity crisis due to an onslaught of initial negative reviews.  I mean, David Chang is usually pretty impervious to criticism, and so it is that his new Chelsea venture, which began as a Korean-Italian hybrid, is still one of the toughest tables in town to procure.  It's one of those go super early or late spots, but at least it does now take reservations, another thing that has changed from its original policy.   Still, it does get packed, and the uncomfortable seating and tight quarters are some of the things that DO remain constant.  That, and a staff of somewhat unappealing surly waiters, more emblematic of a Chinatown hole-in-the-wall than somewhere charging $23 (with an optional $60 supplement for white Alba truflles) for a plate of noodles.

And those noodles can be worth putting up with the anti-luxe conditions: the ceci e pepe  that are now dubbed simple "Butter noodles" are a savory tangle of al dente spaghetti  swathed in a savory chickpea hozon to mimic the classic cacio cheese treatment, and a hefty grind of fragrant black pepper.  Less worth your while is Chili Squid, shreds of cabbage and squid tossed with a thinner lo mein and a decidedly fishy sauce.  The noodles actually tasted fishier than the scant strips of squid, and it was unclear whether a funky fish sauce was making that contribution or
 whether the squid just wasn't a la momente, but regardless it left a bad taste in my mouth, and on my mind.  A better choice might be the spicy beef that I was eyeing enviously in front of diners all around me: oversize spinach elbow macaroni mingled with fragrant shreds of tender beef scented with mint and topped with a crunchy frizzle of fried shallots.   I was happy to pick my mood back up with a stellar plate of jewel-like heirloom tomatoes wallowing in in a vibrant green basil oil strongly tinged with cumin.  It was a glorious tribute to close
 out tomato season with the exceptional fruits really starring in a sauce that enhanced their  lusciousness.  Just as good were the roasted beets, generously portioned and festooned with chopped chervil.  A meaty walnut bagna cauda referenced again the Italian influence, but the overall impression of the dish just celebrated the great roots, regardless of their.... roots.  Both vegetable dishes were obvious shares, for two or even three people.    As are most of the dishes, like a soft shell salt-and-pepper shrimp, the whole thing edible although you'll end up picking the little twiggy legs out of your teeth.  I preferred ridding the crustacean of his appendages and noggin', although consuming the outer shell was kind of nice, crunchy counterpart: like an all-inclusive fish 'n chips, no potatoes required. 

 Another eye-catcher on a neighboring table was a behemoth marrow bone served with tender rectangles of toasted milk bread to scoop out its creamy interior.  This was about as ubiquitous as
 the spicy beef pasta dish, again reiterating the fact that I probably did not order that well.  That was illustrated by the roast pork that came next, which tasted more like ham than "the other white meat", incredibly fatty even aside from the thick fat cap that encircled each slice.  The flat, fat broad beans that stretched across the meat were probably the high point, as the pickly shards of onion tried their best to cut the fattiness of the pork.  The only other entree was an Ocean Trout, though, and in that it's a similar species to char, not my favorite even though I'd normally opt for fish.

To close out, I have no fault to find with the moist pistachio bundt cake, its crisp edges nutty and buttery, and the whipped ricotta with which it was served completely redefining this often gritty and maligned cheese.  Nishi's version was ethereal, densely creamy yet light, and luscious to pair with bites of cake.  That said, it was a fairly heavy finish to a fairly heavy meal, and if I could have yet another do-over for the night, I'd head a couple store fronts down the block and splurge on a cup of soft serve from Milk Bar, Cristina Tosi's associated dessert mecca conveniently nearby.  But anyways, if my friend was right, I can come back again in a week or two, and run no risk of repeating my missteps.

232 Eighth Avenue
Between 21st + 22nd Streets
tell  646-518-1919

Saturday, October 22, 2016


Maneuvering through what is almost inarguably the dodgiest area of town to approach China Xiang, my expectations for the restaurant just about imploded. Needless to say it was quite heartening when the food began to arrive to squelch this misperception. The room itself is pretty bare-bones, although a step up from what you normally find in Chinatown. Charcoal grey stonework comprises one wall, and there are some attractive
modern lanterns suspended from the ceiling, but the windowed facade looking out onto a shoddy stretch of 42nd street doesn't do
 much to improve the ambiance.

Saute Mix Vegetables
So shift your focus to the voluminous menu, spanning from an innocuous but respectable saute of mixed vegetables, to more audaciously authentic Hunan fare like chili-spiked frog or baked corn with a salted egg.
 While the former is a laudable, if somewhat uninspired, melange of crisp-tender broccoli, enoki and straw mushrooms, plus the requisite water chestnuts and bamboo shoots, the hacked-up frog jumps in (no pun intended) to
Saute Frog with Green Pepper
Shanghai Style Thick Noodles with Shrimp
sate more ambitious palates. It boasts an incendiary duet of chilies, red as an engine and green as… well, frog. It is the scarlet ones to which one should pay deference, although the frog-hued ones too are not just there for decoration. Pay attention to the bones, too, as this meat will need to be sucked off of them. If that's a little much for you, there is the American Chinese section of the menu, as well as numerous soups, rice dishes and noodles, of course, skinny lo mein or fat, hand shaved ones slicked with a subtly sweet, umami-rich glaze best teamed up with meaty pork of beef. The more delicate shrimp we ordered didn't add much, and the heft of the noodles sort of overwhelmed them. 
The ingredients utilized are all
exceedingly fresh, from garlicky flaps of slippery, floppy woodear mushroom accompanying a sauté of tender chicken with sweet red peppers to fat bulbs of brilliant jade bok choy steamed juicy and crisp. To quaff is beer and wine only, and while the pinot grigio they have on hand works well enough with the cuisine, it's not a particularly admirable bottle: better off with suds.
Chicken with Black Mushrooms

The service is basically what one has come to expect in a casual Chinese restaurant, but glasses of ice water are efficiently refilled and a server will readily come to your assistance when beckoned. As far as desserts go, you don't get to choose. There's one option, a funny, somewhat pasty puree of purple potato piped into, weirdly enough, miniature Tostitos Scoops, and to add to the hilarity, spritzed with a sprinkle of turquoise Pop Rocks. Get these just for the novelty if you're inclined, because although consuming one is an amusement, it's hard to imagine anyone wanting more than a taste, let alone the six of which arrive. Otherwise, grab a fortune cookie from the deep bowl at reception and ponder your fate on a white slip of paper as you exit, hopefully with a great enough satisfaction from dinner to distract you through the unsavory sidewalks of Port Authority on your way home.

 360 West 42nd Street
Tel: 212.967.6088/6085

Wednesday, September 28, 2016


Some of the buzz may have worn off at High Street on Hudson, a cozy West Village eatery that was all the rage when it opened up almost a year ago, but that only makes a table that much easier to procure.  Because the quality has held the line if not superceded it, from what I discerned from a late summer night's meal.  The space is a little dark, but not at all dreary.  An open kitchen illuminates the from the west, which is a busy hub of activity, starkly white-aproned chefs busy at their tasks, creating all the delicacies your are soon bound to enjoy.

Aside from the plates we ordered, I got a good glimpse of a handful of others given the tight proximity of tables, as well as a very friendly couple sitting next to me.  They approved of everything they ordered as enthusiastically as I do, and I got a preview of what was to come.  A hefty, oval slice of bread was heaped generously with mashed up bluefish salad, dotted with onions and radishes.  Actually, this does introduce a sort of strange phenomenon for a place that prides itself on its bakery, whose homepage is a food porn centerfold of crusty loaves and moist teacakes: there was no bread provided throughout the course of the meal, and only available as "Breads and Spreads" from the Lighter Fare section of the menu for eight bucks, so you gotta have dip. too.  Perhaps the "Leave it To Us" prix fixe at $65 a head provides a sampling of the boulangerie, but it would've been nice to have a few slices alongside our entrees, for sure.

Or even the appetizers we chose, two of which sported magnificent saucy components that would have appreciated a crust or two for swabbing purposes.  A smart grilled eggplant showed none of its oil-philic properties, leaving it light and tender under a thick drizzle of salty miso paste, freckled with toasty sunflower seeds and pickly rings of okra that left their mucilaginous trail across the plate like sticky spider-web threads in a not unappealing way.  Sizeable nebrodini mushrooms (a cousin of Trumpet Royales) were roughly chopped and grilled, crowned with two oblong green peppers that were deceptively NOT shishitos- spicy as all get-out, leaving me in further want of that non-existent bread basket.  The rinded puck of tangy goat cheese helped douse its piquancy in a starch's absence, and although the cheese itself wasn't soft as described on the menu, it was much tastier than typical chevres to which I am accustomed, with more body and verve and less farmy funk.

The best dish of night was a super coarse fresh corn polenta served with soft shell shrimp for consuming cannibalistically in their entirety.  But even with the enjoyable novelty of devouring the whole crustacean, head to tail, the polenta was the scene-stealer.  It was shockingly corny, its tender, pebbly granules of corn grits melded together in a creaminess, green onion adding a pronounced allium bite and a verdant freshness.  Fun to eat the shrimp whole-hog, even thought the taily end and the spiny, long-whiskered head were less enjoyable to masticate in practice than in theory.  The meaty body in between was exquisite, though, and listed at just $15 as an appetizer, it could act as a reasonable entree for a cheapskate (no shame!) and was far more interesting than the tilefish main I did order, even though our server steered me toward the latter.

The tilefish itself was flavorful, although the texture was a bit mushy; roasted sun-gold tomatoes helped perk it up decidedly, but the best part of the dish were the smashed potatoes, salty of skin and in a rainbow variety of colors, purple to gold.  The Grilled 1/2 Young Chicken was tender in its youth, juicy-fleshed under a nicely burnished skin.  Corn succotash underneath had its sweetness augmented with chow-chow, compounding the dish's summery classic American appeal.  There is a "Leave it To Us"
 option at just $65, a prix fixe of the chef's choise which might be a great way to experience High Street, for if anything, I was certainly left with a curiosity to experience more of what there was to offer.

Onto desserts, I'll forgive them their paucity of peaches in the snickerdoodle concoction, but I cannot entirely forgive the un-snickerdoodliness of the affair.  It was great, the buttermilk ice cream sublime, but really quite misnomer-ed.   Softly crumbly biscuit studded with seeds didn't taste at all like snickerdoodles: in fact, any cinnamon sugar component was quite absent aside from a pleasantly gritty smear beneath the ice cream.  The peaches were slightly dried, giving them an unexpected chew (I wonder if this wasn't to mask the un-juiciness of subprime peaches, but in any case, it totally worked).  The overall dish was great- I'd order it again.  But it should be called something else. Snickerdoodles impart a distinct nostalgia, and while this dessert had all the yumminess going for it, it had none of the snickerdoodliness.  Other than that, I was so glad none of the quality implied from the initial hype as worn off.  High Street's ratings come in as high as ever.

 637 Hudson Street
tel.  1.917.388.3944

Thursday, September 15, 2016


Jams was THE place in its hey-day, back in the '80's, introducing California cuisine to the New York dining scene as a novel genre, celebrating market-fresh ingredients and lighter, breezier cooking techniques.  Although Jams closed before the nineties began, Chef Jonathan Waxman never faded from the scene, cooking in or consulting for twenty some-odd restaurants and fathering the ever-popular Barbuto in the West Village.  Perhaps on the coattails of its success, and a bit of nostalgia for the good old times, he resurrected Jams, this time in midtown occupying the ground level of  1 Central Park Hotel.  While in the eighties, the idea of cooking on a wood-fired grill, minimalist preparations of organic, seasonal ingredients and celebratory vegetables was enough to draw crowds, today it is basically a given.  So while the bar of expectations is a much higher today for type of food, the seasoning and innovations of the menu seems somewhat tamped to placate its midtown clientele.

That said, there is still a pleasant meal to be had at Jams... but it might take you awhile to get through it.  Service is a bit lackadaisical, and not particularly engaging even when you have their attention.  The menu is of standard format- there are few, if any, quirks that need explaining.  No real surprises in most of the dishes, either; the cooking here is rather straightforward.  A chilled corn soup with charred scallions was creamy and smoky, a nice late summer starter.  A kale salad could've held up pretty much any time of year, but the heirloom tomato with cucumber and melon certainly spoke of the bounties of August's
 market.  Peter's Point (MA) oysters were served a half-dozen, on the half shell, but almost double too much money, at $21.  They were good for the time of year, although notably briny.  For a restaurant priding themselves on market seasonality, the Starters seemed a little heavy, and lacking in vegetable/vegetarian options, so I took an offering from the side dishes, a whole roast tomato.  It was flavored like pizza with garlic, fennel and oregano, and baked 'til it succumbed to the ovens heat, releasing its plentiful juices that would've been wonderful soaked up by some slice of a chewy loaf, but continuing in true California-style
 (365 days a year bikini-season) no bread was offered, nor do recall any for purchase on the menu, so most of those fragrant drippings remained in the bottom of the bowl.    Snackier options consist
 of small bowls of nuts ($7) or olives ($6), or a cheesy toast with tomatoes and herbs.

The one pasta we tried was basically the white clam sauce classic, snazzed up with spicy breadcrumbs whose spice really of infiltrated the whole dish, making for quite a piquant little plate of noodles.  Clams were small but numberous, impeccably fresh and plump.  Gnocchi with corn and tomato, a seafood risotto and a hearty gemelli with braised pork shoulder joined its ranks.

The menu included five options for main courses, plus an evening's special pork chop served with lightly braised, leafy kale and spiced, charred carrots.   The kale was a little sour eaten on its own, but cut up in little bites to pair with the robust pork it made a nice condiment-type accompaniment.  Olive oil poached cod shared the plate with whole, miniature patty pan squash and slices of grilled eggplant.  The cod, too, might've worked better had it been thrown on the grill as well, the delicacy and softness achieved by this method of cooking less complimentary to the hearty smear of rugged romesco, with its chunky bits of almond, and abundant smattering of intense olives with which it was served.  It would've been better off with less aggressive bedfellows, or else grilled along with them to attain more continuity.
 And again, without any bread, I used the
 remaining romesco to pep up a rather lackluster side dish of fairly un-garlicky garlic sauteed green beans.

The best part of the meal came to close it out, which is always nice- ending on a high note.  And I actually thought that virtuoso would be the peach and blackberry cobbler, with is oaty, buttery crust, but in the end,  the stage-stealer was a moist, juice-steeped blackberry upside down cake with sweet corn ice cream.  Its ice cream could've been more intensely corny, but it was enhanced by the golden polenta cake, stained with the inky juices of the berries like sticky fingers after a day of picking.  The coffee that I got with it was just as outstanding, a rare occasion where the lack of caffeine seemed to be made up for by the depth of flavor.  After such a successful dish, I wondered had I ordered better, like going for that signature roasted chicken he made so famous here, and lives on at Barbuto, perhaps I could've experienced a more satisfying Jams.  Those who have fond recollections of the original might benefit from the nostalgia they could to apply to this new version, but more likely Jams will thrive on hotel guests, the restaurant desert of the area,  and midtown foot-traffic familiar with Waxman's celebrity.  And they won't be disappointed, but a native might find themselves a lot happier heading downtown where his talent  never needed reintroduction.

1414 Avenue of the Americas tel.  212.703.2007