Posts Tagged ‘Salmon Tartare’

Winter Restaurant Week 2011 – 21 Club

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011 by virginia

I don’t have any pictures of my Restaurant Week lunch at the 21 Club because I wasn’t sure if photos were allowed inside, plus I was with my co-workers who don’t really know about the blog and would probably find my picture-taking a bit odd.  They do know, however, how much I love food so they put me in charge of selecting a place for Restaurant Week lunch. We had a large group – 10 people in all – so I knew finding a place that could accommodate all of us would be difficult. We were willing to hop on a subway but given the time that would take on top of a long lunch, I was looking for some place closer to our office.

I didn’t have to look too far, as the 21 Club was just a few blocks away and the menu online looked fantastic. I knew my co-workers would appreciate the history of the restaurant, and I was thrilled when they were able to take my reservation on the exact date and time that we wanted. The restaurant called the day before our reservation to confirm, and I reminded the guys in our group that they had to wear jackets.

When we arrived at the restaurant, walking past the famed wrought iron fence lined with statues of jockeys, the lobby and waiting area was exactly how we pictured, elegant with an old school feel to it. When we walked into the dining room, however, we were all completely shocked by the decor. The entire ceiling was covered with hanging toy airplanes, football helmets, toy trucks, and other assorted antique toys. The tables were covered in red and white checkered cloths, and the place kind of had the vibe of a TGI Fridays, but in a good, kitschy way. It just wasn’t the upscale, jackets required kind of place that I thought it would be.

Nevertheless, we had a large round table that was great for chatting, and after we placed our orders, we dove into the bread baskets full of assorted breads, rolls, and crackers. I snagged a small baguette that had a nice crispy crust, and a wheat roll with dried cranberries. What would have made the basket even better was if the breads had been warmed up first, but we all enjoyed the variety offered.

For appetizers, we had a choice of soup (I think it was minestrone?), salmon tartare, and grilled calamari. I was debating between the tartare and the grilled calamari, and ultimately settled on the tartare. The portion was actually larger than I expected, and the salmon was cut into big chunks, which I loved. The fish tasted fresh and was marinated in yuzu, giving it a nice brightness and tanginess. The tartare was topped with a wasabi creme fraiche that had just a slight kick, and was served with pickled daikon and taro chips. When all of the components were eaten together, it was a nice blend of sweet, sour, spicy, and salt. It was actually one of the best salmon tartares that I’ve ever tasted.

For entrees, we had a choice of flax seed crusted salmon, grilled pork belly, and cauliflower risotto. I can rarely resist ordering pork belly, and that was the most popular choice among my co-workers as well. The first thing that struck me about the dish was its size. There was an absolutely huge piece of pork belly resting on top of a bed of sauerkraut and served with fried potatoes and slices of sausage. The second thing that struck me was the absolutely irresistible smell coming off the pork belly, a combination of maple and bbq smoke. I could not wait to dig in, and the dish did not disappoint. Although my pork belly could have been grilled just a bit more (everyone else’s had a deep brown color on the outside, while mine was a lighter brown), the fat on top of the belly still melted in my mouth, and the meaty part fell apart with a twist of my fork. Flavor wise it was sweet and smoky, and the richness of the fatty layer was nicely cut by the acid of the sauerkraut. The slices of sausage might have been overkill, but I didn’t care. I’m normally not a fan of sausage, but this one was slightly sweet and really delicious. The dish was a winner all around.

For dessert, we had a choice of creme brulee, red velvet cake, and a salty caramel bombe. I went with the bombe, which was filled with marshmallow fluff. The cream on the outside had a subtle caramel flavor to it and was also kind of peanuty. There was chocolate involved as well, and it was pretty rich and decadent. While I wish that salted caramel played more of a starring role in the dessert, it was a sweet finish to a great meal.

Overall I was pleasantly surprised by the lunch we had at the 21 Club. While the restaurant is known for its history, I haven’t really read anything remarkable about its food. I thought this was one of the best Restaurant Week meals that I’ve had though. I only wish that Josh could have joined us because then I could have tried more things from the menu. My co-workers raved about the grilled calamari though, and the salmon. The creme brulee was a hit as well. The risotto might have been the only miss that I heard about, as it had a gluey and stiff consistency, like it was undercooked. Not even the truffled mascarpone mixed throughout could rescue it. Nevertheless, we all rolled out of the restaurant happy and completely stuffed. There are only a few days left for Winter Restaurant Week 2011 so if you can’t make a trip to the 21 Club before it ends, definitely consider it for Summer Restaurant Week!

21 Club
21 West 52nd St. between 5th and 6th Ave.
New York, NY

Winter Restaurant Week 2011 – DB Bistro Moderne

Sunday, February 13th, 2011 by virginia

I apologize for filing this post so late. I usually try to write up Restaurant Week reviews right away, so that people can still have time to make a reservation if they think a place looks interesting. Restaurant Week has been extended a few weeks, but unfortunately, this particular restaurant is not participating past the original two weeks. Still, it’s a place you can consider for Summer Restaurant Week when that rolls around.

We’ve been so busy lately that Restaurant Week sort of snuck up on us this year. We got a late jump on making reservations so there weren’t too many prime lunch spots available but we managed to get a somewhat decent time at DB Bistro Moderne, which is part of Daniel Boulud’s restaurant empire. There was a snowstorm the day of our reservation so when we got to the restaurant, it was almost empty. The place did fill up completely by the time we left though, so people were probably just running a bit late.

I always like to review Restaurant Week menus online before I decide where to go, so we knew beforehand exactly what we wanted to order. We made our selections and quickly dove into the container of bread we received, which contained two ciabatta rolls and two slices of wheat bread. The ciabatta rolls were delicious, with a nice crackly crust and a chewy but airy interior. The wheat bread, on the other hand, wasn’t my taste. It was kind of dry with a cottony flavor, and not even copious amounts of butter could salvage it for me. We stuck with the ciabatta bread.

Good ciabatta rolls, not so great wheat bread

As usual, Josh and I went halfsies on all of our dishes. To start, we selected the yellow split pea soup and the salmon tartar. The soup was flavored with ham hock and topped with toasted croutons and olive oil. It had a velvety texture and smoky flavor to it, similar to bacon. However, we both felt the soup lacked seasoning. A little bit of salt really could have elevated it to the next level. Still, we found it pretty rich and comforting to eat on a cold winter day.

Yellow split pea soup

The salmon tartar was beautifully presented with a smear of avocado mousse and a salad of frisee and radishes, but it also lacked seasoning. It came with a few gaufrette potato chips on the side that added a nice crunch and a bit of much needed salt, but there weren’t enough chips to go with the portion of salmon. And while the salmon were nicely cut into a chunky dice, we thought it was a bit fishy in flavor, maybe not entirely fresh. We were both a little disappointed with this dish.

Salmon tartar

For our main courses, we selected the roasted monkfish and the braised flat iron steak. The monkfish was served with a piece of crispy bacon and a potato gratin. Josh had first crack at this dish and really enjoyed it. By the time I got to it, however, I thought the texture of the monkfish had suffered quite a bit, rendering it a bit mushy. Josh disagreed and said the fish was firm and meaty when he ate it. We both liked the flavor combination of the monkfish with the bacon, and there was a red wine sauce that tied all the components together.

Roasted monkfish

I started with the braised flat iron steak, which was my favorite dish of the lunch. I’m usually not a huge fan of braised beef but the steak was surprisingly meaty in texture and flavor. When presented, it looked like a regular piece of steak covered in a dark sauce. When I stuck my fork into it, however, the meat was so tender it just fell apart. Flavor-wise, it still had the beefiness of a steak, not the watered down meat that you usually find in a stew or other braised dishes. The steak was served with a sweet carrot puree and sauteed brussels sprouts, baby carrots, and pearl onions. I apologize for the picture – it was a delicious dish but not very photogenic.

Braised flat iron steak

Dessert was a surprise hit for us, since neither of us have much of a sweet tooth. We both loved the citrus tartelette with sable breton, frangipane, grapefruit curd, EVO foam, and vanilla ice cream. The dessert had a lot of components to it but when we ate everything together, it tasted just like an orange creamsicle, only fresher and less artificial in flavor. Because the main ingredient was grapefruit, it was also less sweet, but in a good way. Citrus was the predominant flavor, and given the snowy day, it was a welcomed bit of sunshine. We enjoyed the brightness of the grapefruit curd and the supremed slices of actual grapefruit.

Citrus tartelette

The other dessert, called chocolate and coconut, featured coconut dacquoise, caramel fondant, chocolate mousse, and peanut ice cream. It also had a lot of components to it but everything worked beautifully. Chocolate and peanut butter is one of my favorite flavor combinations (who doesn’t love Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups?), and the peanut ice cream was an interesting twist on that. The coconut and caramel might have been a bit overkill for me, as it was a really rich dessert, but I liked the contrast between the smooth chocolate mousse, the crunchy toasted coconut bits, and gooey caramel, and the cold and creamy peanut ice cream.

Chocolate and coconut

Overall we both enjoyed the Restaurant Week lunch that we had at DB Bistro Moderne and thought it was a good value. Sometimes Restaurant Week menus offer subpar items that aren’t very reflective of a restaurant’s real offerings, but DB Bistro has been consistently good with their Restaurant Week choices. While we found some of the dishes to be under seasoned, it’s something that can be easily remedied by asking for some salt for the table. I wish, though, that all restaurants would leave salt on the table by default, so diners don’t have to go through the awkwardness of asking for salt. Sometimes that leaves the kitchen a bit defensive, and they may oversalt the next dish to overcompensate. Regardless, with the exception of the slightly fishy salmon, we thought the ingredients used were top notch, and everything was carefully constructed and presented. We’ve been to DB Bistro Moderne for Restaurant Week several times over the last few years, and it hasn’t disappointed us yet. It’s definitely a place we’ll consider visiting again for more Restaurant Weeks to come.

DB Bistro Moderne
55 West 44th St. between 5th and 6th Ave.
New York, NY