Chicago, IL USA. June 2009
The Tasting Menu
There’s not much to say that Virginia didn’t already. In fact, there wouldn’t be anything I could write even if Virginia hadn’t posted already; this meal simply left me speechless. Trying to describe it to friends and family after the fact was hard. The reaction was always along the lines of “really, and that was good?” There is no way to convey how good this experience was. Alinea has raised the bar for restaurants in my mind, and it has been raised significantly.
Posts Tagged ‘top5’
Chicago, IL USA. June 2009
New York, NY USA. March 2009
4-course prix fixe
I developed the desire to try Le Bernardin after reading about the chef, Eric Ripert, in Michael Ruhlman’s books and seeing him as a judge on Top Chef. The restaurant didn’t disappoint in the slightest. Everything was cooked to perfection and the flavors were light but delicious. My meal began with a Geoduck ceviche with sweet dried corn from the “Almost Raw” section of the menu. Next, from “Barely Touched” I had Bacalao with arugula/lemon confit pesto, almond and chorizo oil. During this course Virignia had zucchini flowers stuffed with peekytoe crab in a black truffle sauce that, before visiting Alinea, might have been the best thing I had ever eaten anywhere. My main course came from the “Lightly Cooked” section and was Wild Striped Bass – Langoustine with confit tomato, agnolotti, bouillabaisse consommé and curry emulsion. Before dessert, Eric Ripert stopped by our table (we had told the waiter that we’d like to meet him). My sister embarrassingly told Ripert first off that Virginia and I were fans of his and he looked at us and coyly asked “are you still fans?” He was extremely nice, wishing me a happy birthday and letting us know his favorite desserts on the menu before heading back to the kitchen where the stove hoods must be built into the ceiling to accommodate his seemingly twelve-foot frame. For dessert, I ordered the Grapefruit (vanilla cream, grapefruit sorbet, tarragon coulis, crisp meringe), which was not recommended by Ripert but was different than what everyone else at the table ordered. We did get to try his recommendations (chocolate/peanut and the hazelnut desserts) and the kitchen sent us a free dessert (pineapple panacotta I think) because it was my birthday. Overall it was a fabulous meal, one of the few where I remember everything I ate even though we took no pictures of the dishes.
Taipei Taiwan. November 2008
This was a meal I will never forget, although it took me six weeks to find the name of the restaurant. This was my second time to Taiwan and one of the reasons I was so excited to return was because the food, the sushi especially, remained in my memory. Some time on the 4-day drive from Taipei to Tainan I had mentioned my, and my family’s, affinity for Japanese food to Virginia’s uncle while she and her siblings slept in the back seat. When we got back to Taipei, my parents and sister arrived for our wedding banquet he arranged this meal the night before we returned to New York. It was a 16-course omakase-style meal. Here was the progression:
There are no words to describe how good this next course was. Until I had the “truffle explosion” at Alinea, it was the best single bite of food I’ve ever had:
No doubt the best Japanese meal I’ve ever eaten.
New York, NY USA. March 2007
4 course prix fixe
My favorite food author, Anthony Bourdain, says his first oyster was what made him realize that food could be special. I remember what I ate that made me feel this way too. The Grand Marnier soufflé at Le Cote Basque on my sister’s birthday sometime when I was around 9 years old, was, up to that point, one of the most unique things I had ever eaten. I don’t know how it happened, but I became a soufflé nut. I’d look for restaurants that made it well. For example, Chez Madeleine in Bergenfield, NJ was a must for chocolate soufflé, and even its successor, Madeleine’s Petite Paris (with far inferior savory food) maintained the chocolate masterpiece. I even took to making my own soufflé and was given all the necessary materials and tools by my aunt on a particularly young birthday. It should come as no surprise then, that on my birthday, I commonly request a French meal, particularly at places that serve dessert soufflés. Bouley seemed a perfect choice: renowned restaurant and it has chocolate soufflé for dessert. Although we ate this meal way before Virginia began photographing food, I still remember what I ate. Tuna tartar, “Return From Chiang Mai” (Lobster), lamb chops and, of course, the chocolate soufflé. All this, combined with good wine, amazing bread, and impeccable ambiance and service, was unmatched at the time.
Barcelona, Spain. December 2006
One of the best meals of my life was also one of the most unexpected. The first time I was at Cervecería Catalana was in the spring of 2000 and I didn’t think anything more than that I had found the best tapas restaurant in Barcelona. When I returned in 2006 with Virginia, because Virginia would complain about how much I talked about Barcelona, we ate there twice in three days. Thinking back, I’ll confuse what I ate at each meal, but it was all fabulous. Pimientos de padron, garlic shrimp, calcots (only in season due to a freak warm spell), chiperones, calamares rellenos and more. The mood of Barcelona and atmosphere in the restaurant that’s crowded even at 1AM both contribute to the overall experience. I recommend this place to all my friends who travel to Barcelona and can’t wait to return myself and try more offerings. The only downside to this trip was that I didn’t get to see my friend Ana, whose email address I lost when I moved several years ago and a computer died.
Since Virginia has been posting details about our various dining exploits it doesn’t make much sense for me to duplicate those. I’ve been thinking for a while, as you can tell from my absence on this site, about my role here. Besides writing about my independent dining experiences, the result of my job’s travel requirements, I’d like to be able to contribute on a more regular basis. I suppose I could be considered the TFB “features” writer. Is there a word for “amateur writer”?
With this role in mind I decided my first post had to be positive. Since we’ve started the blog I’ve noticed that I’ve become more critical about my meals and have begun to notice things that irk me. For instance, servers at a fancy restaurant reaching across me to lay a plate or clearing the table before everyone’s finished. I don’t want to use my space here to kvetch (although I will one day), but to fulfill the spirit of TFB: our love for food and how it can make you feel. The feeling after a wonderful meal is unique and memorable. I was reminded of this after Virginia wrote her post on Alinea; just looking at those photos still makes me smile like an idiot.
My next five posts are going to be about the best five meals I’ve ever had. Writing about them isn’t as enjoyable as eating these meals was, but the memory of each keeps that stupid grin on my face. Two thoughts linger in my mind after re-reading what I wrote (and am going to post over the next few days): 1) I am extremely blessed and lucky to have had the opportunity to eat like this over the last few years and 2) how many great meals there are to look forward to as chefs raise the bar over and over again. This list will be a living feature on this site. I will update it as it changes; I just hope it changes often.
- Alinea – Chicago, IL. June 2009
- Le Bernardin – New York, NY. March 2009
- Kikugawa – Taipei, Taiwan. November 2008
- Bouley – New York, NY USA. March 2007
- Cervecería Catalana – Barcelona, Spain. December 2006