Posts Tagged ‘West Village’


Sunday, January 15th, 2012 by virginia

We went to Annisa back in October, with Josh’s family as sort of a belated birthday dinner for me. I was really excited for this dinner, as I’m a big fan of Anita Lo, the chef/owner. The restaurant has also been awarded a Michelin star, and I’ve read many great things about the food.

The restaurant is actually pretty small, though it has high ceilings and an elegant, minimalist decor. We were seated at a round table in the middle of the room and had a great view of everything going on around us. The menu is pretty eclectic, with lots of French, Asian, and Middle Eastern influence. Everything sounded delicious, and it was quite hard to decide what to order.

After we finally made our selections, they brought us an amuse bouche to start. It was a little tart filled with chicken liver mousse, topped with chopped chives and a dollop of whole grain mustard. I liked the creaminess of the mousse, the delicate flakiness of the tart, and the tangy punch of the mustard. It was a flavorful bite and definitely woke up our palates.

Amuse bouche - chicken liver mousse tarts

We also noshed on some bread, which were ciabatta-like rolls that were served warm and had a decent crust.

Bread service

For the first course, Josh and I geared towards the Asian-influenced appetizers, sharing the barbecued squid and the soup dumplings. The squid was lightly grilled with just a bit of char on the outside, and the meat was very tender. It was served with Thai basil, peanuts, and edamame. The sauces on the side tasted like hoisin and chili sauce, a great combination with the squid. It wasn’t too spicy and had a nice sweet/savory flavor that worked with all the different components.

Barbecued squid with Thai basil and fresh peanuts

The soup dumplings weren’t shaped like traditional xiao long bao, but looked more like regular dumplings. I’m not sure exactly what the dumplings were filled with, but they were topped with little slabs of seared foie gras, which dominated the flavor. Don’t get me wrong, I love seared foie gras, but it seemed like the dumplings might have been an afterthought. They weren’t as soupy inside as I would have liked, though I did enjoy the slight crunch from the jicama that counteracted the rich creaminess of the foie gras.

Seared foie gras with soup dumplings and jicama

While the dumplings were slightly disappointing, the rest of the appetizers at the table were pretty successful (we all tasted everyone’s dishes). The biggest hit was the cauliflower and romanesco gnoccho with hazelnuts and sheep’s cheese. The gnoccho was light and creamy, packed with tons of cauliflower flavor. Everyone also enjoyed the chilled avocado soup with shiso and unagi croutons. It was more savory than I expected, and fortunately did not resemble liquified guacamole, as I had originally feared. The hot and cold tuna was also delicious, with a fresh and bright tartare (cold) and some flavorful tuna belly (hot).

I had a REALLY tough time choosing our entrees, and we wound up picking the halibut and the spanish mackerel. We usually don’t both order fish dishes, but both came highly recommended from our waiter. The halibut was poached in olive oil and served with blistered shishito peppers and almond and lobster coral sauces. The halibut was gorgeous – delicately flaky and tender. The peppers weren’t too spicy or overly bitter, and the sauce was wonderfully savory. It didn’t taste a whole lot like lobster coral, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

Olive oil-poached halibut with blistered shishito peppers and almond and lobster coral sauces

The spanish mackerel was beautifully broiled so that it had a nice browned crust on the outside and crispy skin. It was served with garlic fried milk, cubes of satsumaimo (Japanese yam), and korean chili. I love mackerel in general, and this particular version was really well prepared. I love the oiliness of the fish, which really gives it a distinctively bold flavor. The garlic fried milk was novel and delicious, almost like super creamy fried cheese curds, but tastier. This was my favorite dish of the evening.

Broiled spanish mackerel with garlic fried milk, satsumaimo and korean chili

Again, all the other entrees at the table were successful as well. The miso marinated sable with crispy silken tofu in a bonito broth was a clean, classically Japanese style dish. The pan roasted farm chicken with sherry, white truffle, and pig feet was a surprise hit. While I love pig feet, not everyone else was convinced at how luscious it could be until they tasted it in this dish. The chicken was juicy and tender, and the truffle wasn’t overpowering. The grilled wagyu was the dish that I debated ordering instead of the halibut, and it too was very tasty. It was served with escargots, garlic chives, and alba mushrooms. While the beef wasn’t as tender as I thought it would be (it was wagyu after all), it was flavorful and well seasoned.

For dessert, we shared the beignets and the bread pudding. According to our waiter, Chef Lo is also responsible for creating the dessert items, which is pretty impressive since a lot of chefs don’t do pastry in conjunction with savory. The beignets were pecan and salted butterscotch, a nice combination of salty and sweet. They were freshly fried and pretty fluffy, not too dense. They were served with a bourbon ice milk that was kind of like a slushy sorbet. We could definitely taste the bourbon, but I thought it was a tad too icy for my taste; I preferred the beignets.

Pecan and salted butterscotch beignets with bourbon ice milk

The bread pudding was made with poppy seed bread and butter, and served with meyer lemon curd. I LOVED this bread pudding, which was bright and lemony and not too sweet. The bread pudding itself was a bit dense but I couldn’t get enough of the curd, which I soaked up with every bite. Meyer lemon has an intense, citrusy flavor that is slightly floral. I pretty much polished off the entire plate by myself.

Poppyseed bread and butter pudding with meyer lemon curd

At the end of our meal, they brought us little bites to finish things off. First was mini pineapple ice pops served on toothpicks. It was simple, just frozen pineapple juice, but refreshing. Next was candied ginger, which had a nice little kick to it. Lastly, we had mini mint chocolate truffles that weren’t too rich or sweet – a nice ending.

Pineapple ice pops, candied ginger, mint chocolate truffles

Overall we were really impressed with our meal at Annisa. The menu mixed classic techniques with inventive twists, and everything was well composed and beautifully prepared. From start to finish, we enjoyed every course. The soup dumplings were pretty much the only disappointment, and not because the dish didn’t taste good, but because it wasn’t really what I was expecting. I would happily eat more of the seared foie gras. Our entrees were all superb, and while dessert is usually a bit of a downer for us, that wasn’t the case here. Service was great as well. Our waiter was attentive and informative, stopping to chat with us once in a while. In terms of prices, it’s definitely an expensive restaurant, with appetizers in the $15-$20 range and entrees ranging from $30-$35, but I like that it’s a la carte so you can put together your own menu. It’s a great place for a special occasion, or if you’re in the mood to splurge a bit.

13 Barrow St. between 7th Ave. South and West 4th St.
New York, NY


Thursday, September 8th, 2011 by virginia

Our friends Silva and Felipe have been raving about Mémé, a Mediterranean restaurant in the West Village that is related to one of their favorite restaurants, Virage. Pronounced “may-may”, which means “grandma” in French Moroccan, the menu features assorted tapas/small plates and heartier entrees that reflect the owners’ heritage. We’ve been eager to try it out because we’ve heard such great things about the restaurant, and we also really enjoy Virage as well. We were thrilled when we were able to go to Mémé with Silva and Felipe for a last minute dinner on a random Tuesday evening.

We got to the restaurant around 8:45 and the place was packed. It’s not a huge restaurant but it was a beautiful night and they had tables set up on the sidewalk, which were also full. There was a little bit of a wait but since it was so nice outside we didn’t mind enjoying the fresh air and catching up as we waited for a table to open up. A short while later, we were seated inside. Even though the restaurant was full, the noise level wasn’t too bad and we could still chat pretty easily.

After looking over the menu, we decided to share a few small plates/tapas to start. Since Silva and Felipe are so familiar with the restaurant, Josh and I told them to order whatever they thought was good. They selected four different dishes to share for our appetizer, and then we each picked our own entrees. After we placed our orders, we dug into the dish of olives and pickled vegetables they gave us, along with some bread and seasoned olive oil. The bread was really quite good; it had a sturdy crust, a chewy texture, and was studded with briny olives.

Olives, seasoned olive oil, and pickled vegetables

Crusty olive bread

Our tapas arrived shortly, and we all eagerly dug in. First up was the ricotta gnocchi with truffle cream. There’s a similar dish at Virage that Josh and I have tried before, and we absolutely love it. This version was just as tasty, with soft, delicate pillows of ricotta gnocchi swimming in a rich, creamy sauce flavored with truffle oil. The truffle flavor is fantastically intense. After all the gnocchis were eaten, Josh and I used lots of bread to mop up all of the sauce.

Ricotta gnocchi with truffle cream

Next there were spicy carrots, which are seasoned with Moroccan spices. It was really an interesting dish, and I’m curious as to how the carrots are prepared. They’re soft but not mushy, and have a wonderfully exotic flavor to them. These were certainly far from a boring old bowl of carrots. If I knew how to make these, I’d eat carrots more often!

Spicy carrots with Moroccan spices

Both Silva and Felipe love the merguez at Mémé, which is served with hummus, pita, and chopped salad. The sausage had a nice snap to it and lots of spices mixed throughout the meat. It was very flavorful and paired well with the hummus and salad.

Merguez sausage with hummus and chopped salad

Lastly, we had an order of fried artichoke topped with shaved manchego cheese. The artichokes were delicately crisp on the outside, and the salty manchego really complemented them well. There were two dipping sauces on the side, an herb aioli and a tomato/red pepper sauce, but I actually enjoyed just eating the artichoke and manchego plain. It was a pretty big portion and easily shareable.

Fried artichoke with shaved manchego, baby greens, two sauces

For our entrees, Josh and I went halfsies on Mémé’s couscous and the lamb two ways. The couscous featured merguez, chicken, vegetables, and chickpeas cooked in a broth and served over couscous. I’ve never had couscous in broth before, just dry and fluffy, so I thought it was a bit unusual but interesting. The chicken was falling off the bone tender, and the vegetables featured yellow squash, potatoes, and carrots. It was a hearty, comforting dish. My only complaint was that it was a little under-seasoned so it was slightly bland, but they do give you an herb mixture and some harissa on the side to liven things up a bit.

Mémé's couscous - merguez and chicken, vegetables, and chickpeas cooked in bouillon over couscous

The lamb two ways featured lamb chops served on top of ratatouille and mashed potato and a lamb kebab with hummus and chopped salad. I asked for the lamb to be cooked medium rare, and it was perfectly executed. Both the chops and the kebabs were tender and well seasoned, and the meats had a nice gamey flavor to them. The ratatouille tasted fresh and sweet, and the mashed potatoes were a good accompaniment. I really enjoyed this dish.

Two way lamb - chops with ratatouille and mashed potato; kebab with hummus and chopped salad

Felipe had the lamb burger, which is what he always gets apparently, and Silva had the short rib bourguignon. It was a massive serving of short rib that had been slow cooked in red wine, mushrooms, and shallots. Josh and I had a taste and the meat was tender and well seasoned, and the sauce was intensely rich with red wine flavor.

Overall Josh and I both really enjoyed the meal we had at Mémé. We were glad that we experienced it for the first time with Silva and Felipe since they’re so familiar with the menu. There are so many tapas on the list that we wouldn’t have known where to begin. Nevertheless, I definitely would like to go back and try more of them, as the menu is incredibly diverse and extensive. Prices are pretty reasonable with the smaller plates ranging from $7-$12 and entrees averaging about $20 each. The portions are big enough to share, and it’s a great place to go with a small group.

We were too full for dessert but Silva had thoughtfully brought us some macarons from the newly opened Lauderée on the Upper East Side. We ate them after we got home and though they got a tiny bit smashed in transit they were still light, crispy, and very tasty. The rose flavored macaron had a nice floral taste but wasn’t overwhelming. I preferred the pistachio flavored macaron though, which captured the essence of pistachio perfectly. It was the perfect finish to a lovely evening.

581 Hudson St. between 11th and Bank St.
New York, NY

Corner Bistro

Monday, April 12th, 2010 by virginia

Our friend Alex first introduced us to the Corner Bistro back in college (he went to NYU nearby), and it’s been my favorite burger place in the city ever since. Maybe I had some emotional attachment to it, because we would always hang out there with our friends from high school when we were home during breaks, but I thought the burgers were absolutely fantastic. They were always thick, juicy, and flavorful, and we would wash them down with countless mugs of McSorley’s dark followed by plates of crispy thin cut French fries.

When we eventually moved into the city after graduation, Corner Bistro was still a relatively frequent destination for us. If we were out drinking somewhere near the west village, we inevitably ended the night lining up for burgers at the always crowded bar/restaurant. And maybe I loved Corner Bistro because those burgers always tasted wonderful after a night of drunken debauchery.

After we moved uptown, however, we never found ourselves having the opportunity to go to the Corner Bistro. Anytime we ventured downtown we would usually end up at our favorite bar, Reade Street Pub and Kitchen. So over a year went by before Josh and I finally went back, after attending an open house up the block after work one day.

We got there at just the right time – there was no line for a table in the back room but a few minutes after we were seated, the place filled up and the familiar line soon snaked down the length of the bar. We both ordered our usual, a hamburger for me, a bistro burger for Josh, fries, and mugs of McSorley’s dark. I was happy to see that even after so long, prices have hardly risen. It was a welcome respite after seeing other burger places jack up their prices ridiculous amounts when they became more popular and well known (I’m looking at you, Burger Joint!).

Mugs of McSorley's dark

Our food arrived pretty quickly, and I couldn’t wait to dive in. The burger looked just like I remembered – thick, dripping with juice, on a soft sesame seed bun, accompanied by slices of tomato, onion, and lettuce. The only difference was that it was served on a plastic plate rather than a paper plate.

Hamburger with lettuce, tomato, onions, and pickles

It was huge once it was assembled, and I had to flatten it down a bit before I could take a bite. And the verdict? Disappointing.

Massive burger once assembled

The burger was cooked medium rare as requested, but the patty had sort of a gristly, crumbly texture to it. It tasted more greasy than juicy, and there was no seasoning to speak of. Even with ketchup, the meat just tasted bland. I was shocked by how bad I thought the burger was.

Autopsy shot

Maybe my disappointment was deeper because this was my favorite burger, the one that I’ve championed over the years above the Shake Shack or Burger Joint or all the other highly touted burgers. But then I thought, maybe I loved this burger because of my emotional attachment to the Corner Bistro, and back in those days my palate wasn’t the same as it is now, plus we had usually been drinking before we ate the burgers. This time I was stone cold sober, hungry but not starving, and I’ve had the opportunity to expand my palate more over the years.

Whatever the case, even though I was hugely dissatisfied, Josh still loved his bistro burger. The bistro burger is basically a bacon cheeseburger, and his was also cooked medium rare as requested. I took a bite of his burger and could see why he enjoyed it – the bacon added much needed saltiness to the burger, and the cheese provided a nice gooey texture to the otherwise crumbly patty. In that regard, the bistro burger is a better choice, because bacon and cheese can hide a lot of flaws.

Bistro burger (bacon and cheese)

At least the fries were still as good as I remembered – hot, thin, and crispy. They’re always served right of the fryer and are never greasy or soggy.

Crispy thin cut french fries

I felt pretty let down after we left the Corner Bistro, but I’m not quite ready to write the burgers off just yet. Yes, I thought the burger was really bland and unseasoned, but maybe it was an off night. Josh thinks that I should have just sprinkled some salt on the patty after I took my first bite, but I’m not in the habit of seasoning my burgers after they’ve been served to me. I plan on going back, and soon, to see if this was just a fluke. Either way, the bar is a fun place to hang out, and everything is refreshingly cheap. You can still get a burger and fries for less than $10, and mugs of McSorley’s are only $2.50 each. There are lots of TVs in the front room so you can watch a game and drink beer while you wait in line for a table. I just haven’t decided yet if the burger is still worth the wait, but I’m willing to give it another shot, if only for old time’s sake.

Corner Bistro
331 West 4th St. at Jane St. and 8th Ave.
New York, NY


Wednesday, January 27th, 2010 by virginia

For Josh’s dad’s birthday, 12 of us gathered at Wallsé, a Michelin starred restaurant that features Austrian cuisine. The chef/owner is Kurt Gutenbrunner, who also owns Café Sabarsky and Blaue Gans in the city. It seemed like a random choice on Josh’s part in selecting the restaurant, but by the end of the meal, we were all huge fans of Austrian food, and Wallsé.

To be perfectly honest, one of the reasons we ended up at Wallsé was because they were the first Michelin starred or highly rated restaurant he called that would take a reservation for 12, and without any caveats. Convivio and Union Square Café, for example, had a maximum reservation size of eight. A Voce Columbus had a $2,000 spending minimum. Yeesh! But Wallsé was also high up on Josh’s list because the menu looked extensive and interesting, and a four course tasting made up of your choice of any three dishes, plus dessert, was only $75 (though at the time, the restaurant had an outdated menu posted on the website that said it was $68; it has since been fixed).

The restaurant was almost completely empty when we first arrived for our 7 pm reservation. Josh told us that one of the reasons they were able to seat 12 was because there weren’t that many reservations for this particular Sunday evening. It was also the day after the huge snowstorm we had this winter so we figured that people wouldn’t want to venture out in the wet slushy conditions. It did fill up though, and by the time we left the restaurant was actually packed. We had a long table in the back room that was next to a lovely display made from branches, berries, and shiny ornaments. The room had interesting paintings on the walls and a soothing ambiance.

Festive but elegant decor

I had a really hard time choosing what I wanted to eat as part of my four course “make your own” tasting menu. The menu is broken up into four different categories – appetizers, fish, meats, and dessert. You can choose one from each category, or multiple choices from one category, so long as you end with dessert as your last course. With so many different choices, Josh and I made sure that we each ordered different items so that we could taste as many dishes as possible. It was actually a bit agonizing for us, because there were so many dishes we wanted to try.

After finally nailing down our selections, we turned our attention to the bread basket. There were two types of bread, one white and one multi-grain, both rustic with sturdy, crunchy crusts. The crusts were fantastic – not too hard, light, and crispy. Both breads had nicely developed flavors and were addictive to eat. We went through quite a few baskets between the 12 of us, and they happily brought us more every time the baskets emptied. If only the breads were served warm; that really would have put them over the top! They were served with round slices of unsalted butter that were also a bit too cold, which made them slightly hard but not impossible to spread.

Crispy rustic bread

Our first courses arrived a short while later and we all quickly tucked in. I started with spatzle, a traditional German/Austrian noodle that is made by scraping dough directly into boiling water. The result is a delicate and fluffy irregularly shaped short noodle. This spatzle was paired with braised rabbit, wild mushrooms, and brussels sprouts. I’ve never had spatzle before and was a huge fan of this dish. The noodles were soft and tender, not too dense, and paired perfectly with the tender and sweet pulled rabbit. The mushrooms added an earthy chewiness, and the brussels sprouts provided a slightly bitter crunch. The portion was surprisingly large for a tasting menu, and I happily ate every last bit of it. It was rich and comforting and I just wanted to cuddle up with a huge bowl of this stuff.

Spatzle with braised rabbit, mushrooms, and brussels sprouts

Spatzle with braised rabbit, wild mushrooms, and brussels sprouts

Josh started with the Maine lobster with homemade ravioli, black trumpets, and butternut squash. The portion wasn’t huge but there was plenty of lobster in the dish. Even though there were a lot of bold ingredients, with the mushrooms and diced squash, everything worked together and the flavors were clean. Josh enjoyed this dish a lot.

Lobster, homemade ravioli, black trumpets, butternut squash

My second course was veal cheeks and tongue served with winter root vegetables and potato puree. It was another comforting dish, reminiscent of a hearty beef stew. The veal cheek was huge, tender, and luscious. It broke apart easily with my fork and just melted in my mouth. The tongue was also surprisingly tender and meaty but I preferred the delicateness of the cheek. The root vegetables were chopped into little pieces and were just a side note to the veal but the potato puree was smooth, buttery, and very rich.

Veal cheek and tongue with roasted root vegetables and potato puree

Josh selected the wild striped bass with sauerkraut and black truffle sauce for his second course. We were both eager to try this dish since we love the flavor of truffles, but this dish failed to satisfy. While the bass was well cooked with a crispy top covered in herbs, the sauce lacked any truffle essence whatsoever despite what looked like decent sized pieces of chopped black truffle. At least the sauerkraut was an interesting accompaniment. It wasn’t a bad dish overall, just not quite what we were hoping for.

Wild striped bass with sauerkraut and black truffle sauce

For my third and last savory course, I had to order the wiener schnitzel because it came so highly recommended by our waitress. She was returning to Germany and said that one of the things she would miss the most was the chef’s wiener schnitzel. That’s a pretty good endorsement in my opinion. I’ve never had wiener schnitzel before and this one probably ruined me for all others. It was so light and so perfectly fried that breading crackled when I cut into it. There was no trace of grease whatsoever, the veal was juicy and delicious, and everything was well seasoned. All it needed was a little squeeze of lemon on top, and it was spectacular. The accompanying potato-cucumber salad and lingonberries were fine, if a bit standard, but the star of the show really was the wiener schnitzel.

Wiener schnitzel with potato-cucumber salad and lingonberries

Josh went with the sautéed duck breast with red cabbage and brioche dumplings. The duck was perfectly cooked, still pink and every tender, but he was disappointed that the skin wasn’t crispy. We were both curious about the brioche dumplings, which turned out to be like a soft french toast. Unusual, but not bad. The red cabbage was fine, but the star of the dish really was the duck.

Sauteed duck breast with red cabbage and brioche dumplings

For dessert, I selected the apfelstreusel with sea salt caramel ice cream. Basically it was an apple crumble, and a pretty tasty one at that. The sea salt caramel ice cream, however, really put it over the top. Again, it was something that I’ve never had before but something that I’ve read about a lot. The flavor of sweet and smoky caramel ice cream is really enhanced by the sea salt. It might sound weird or gross, but believe me, it really works. It’s kind of like salting a tomato to bring out the sweetness. It’s still dessert, but with a savory touch that cuts through the sugariness. Eating the apfelstreusel with the sea salt caramel ice cream together really brought the dessert to a new level.

Apfelstreusel with sea salt caramel ice cream

Josh decided to try the mozartkugel with pistachio nougatine. We had no idea what mozartkugel was but it turned out to be kind of like a large chocolate bonbon filled with a thick pistachio mousse. The presentation was lovely, with a bit of edible gold leaf on top and an artful scattering of pistachio nuts.

Mozartkugel with pistachio nougatine

Last but not least, we were presented with a plate of petit fours, which included an assortment of cookies and small chocolate brownie-like bites. Most of us were too full to eat anymore but I soldiered on, not wanting to miss out on anything. My hands down favorite was the little linzer tart cookies, which were slightly nutty and filled with raspberry jam. They were a great way to finish off the meal.

Pretty and tasty petit fours to end the meal

Overall we were all pleasantly surprised and completely delighted with our dinner at Wallsé. Coming in we didn’t know what to expect, since none of us were familiar with Austrian or German cuisine, but we left full and happy. There wasn’t a single dish that anyone disliked, and with 12 of us dining, we collectively went through a good portion of the menu. For me, the worst part was having to decide which three savory dishes to choose; I would have liked to try them all. It was a great meal from start to finish, with our friendly and helpful waitress explaining different dishes to us and making great wine recommendations. It’s too bad that she was leaving to go back to Germany because she really was terrific. The meal flowed wonderfully, as the courses were evenly paced and the portions were sized just right so that we left feeling satisfied and satiated but not overstuffed. The price of the tasting menu is pretty reasonable, especially for a Michelin starred restaurant, and the food is really spectacular. I highly recommend making the trip down to Wallsé for some homey yet refined Austrian food.

344 West 11th St. at Washington St.
New York, NY


Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009 by virginia

We’ve heard a lot of good things about Arturo’s in the Village so we decided to check it out one Saturday night for a late dinner with Josh’s parents. Even though it was around 10 pm, the restaurant was completely packed. There was a jazz combo playing, which bumped the noise level up a bit but they were quite talented and pleasant to listen to. There wasn’t much room though by the bar to wait, but luckily we only had to wait a few minutes for a table and were soon seated.

All of us wanted to try the pizza we’ve heard so much about so we ordered a pie to share, and also decided to split a few other dishes. First we had the arugula salad with shaved parmesan. It was lightly dressed and simple, just as we expected.

Arugula salad topped with lots of parmesan cheese

The famed pizza, which we asked for well done, came nicely blistered and not too charred, but the crust was very disappointing. It was much thicker than we thought it would be, and very dense as well. As a result, it was crunchy rather than crispy, without the nice chew on the inside.

Well done large cheese pizza

The pizza also didn’t have enough cheese on it and way too much sauce, rendering it a bit too sweet.

A bit too much sauce, not enough cheese

We had to sprinkle on tons of parmesan cheese and garlic powder just to get any saltiness and extra flavor. While I like garlic powder on my standard delivery pizzeria style pizza, I would never sprinkle it on a pizza like Lombardi’s or John’s, which I considered Arturo’s pizza style to be similar to. Doing so just made me feel a bit blasphemous, but the pizza really had no flavor to it.

Underside shot

Even worse was the chicken parmesan, which Josh and I found to be inedible. The pieces that we sliced off were strangely bouncy in texture, like chewing on rubber. At first we thought the chicken was raw, but an impromptu surgical maneuver on our plates revealed the chicken to be fully cooked. So why was the texture so off? We don’t know, and quite frankly, we didn’t want to know. Josh’s dad tried a piece and while his bite wasn’t strangely textured, he didn’t care for the flavor. We left the chicken untouched after that, and the waitress never made a comment or questioned us about it when she cleared away the plate.

Really bad chicken parmesan

The spaghetti Bolognese was better, though the pasta and sauce were a bit watery. There was a definite pool of liquid on the plate, which is just sloppy preparation. Nevertheless, the Bolognese sauce was decently tasty, and it was my favorite thing on the table.

Soupy but tasty spaghetti bolognese

Since we were ordering pasta separately, we opted to get a side dish of broccoli rabe with our chicken parm (you get a choice of pasta, vegetable, or salad). The broccoli rabe was really limp and overcooked. It was hard to tell if they boiled it or sautéed it, and it didn’t have any seasoning at all.

Mushy broccoli rabe

Overall the whole meal was one disappointment after another. Which was surprising because Arturo’s gets such great reviews, and the fact that it was still packed and hopping when we left. Maybe people go for the ambience, as the décor gives it that old time NYC pizzeria feel, with old movie posters and pictures hanging on the walls. The jazz ensemble was also a nice touch, but we were there for the food, not the atmosphere. With so many other better pizza places around the city, I don’t think we’ll be coming back here anytime soon.

106 West Houston St. at Thompson St.
New York, NY

Disappointing Dessert at Cones

Thursday, December 17th, 2009 by virginia


After our lovely dinner at Po Restaurant, we decided to skip dessert there in favor of some gelato down the street at Cones. There were plenty of flavors to choose from and even though I was considering being adventurous (corn gelato anyone?), we all stuck with our standard favorites.

Selection of sorbets available

Just a small sample of the large selection of sorbets and gelatos available

I went with the pistachio gelato, which is my must-have whenever we’re traveling in Europe. I ate tons of pistachio gelato when we were in Italy with Josh’s family a few years ago and it’s my favorite ice cream flavor. Unfortunately the one at Cones was kind of gritty, not smooth like you would expect gelato to be. Flavor-wise it was fine, but they blended the pistachio in miniscule pieces, which was the culprit for the grittiness. It’s nice that they use real nuts but the texture was off putting. I also found several icy bits that detracted from the gelato as well.

Pistachio gelato in a cup with a cone on top

Pistachio gelato in a cup with a cone on top

Josh had the coffee mocha chocolate chip gelato, which also had tiny pieces of chocolate chip running throughout but they were less offensive because you were expecting them, and they melted on your tongue right away. The coffee mocha was mild in flavor, and while the gelato tasted ok in general, it definitely wasn’t the best.

Coffee mocha chip

Coffee mocha chocolate chip in the front, lemon sorbet in the back

Josh parents opted for the lemon sorbet, hoping that it would be like the sweet creamy sorbet we had in Italy. Unfortunately the sorbet they received was icy and not creamy at all. It was also extremely tart, much tarter than you would expect from a sorbet. There was hardly any sweetness to it at all and made my mouth pucker a bit. It definitely wasn’t what we were expecting and pretty disappointing.

Overall I wasn’t too impressed by the gelato and sorbet we got from Cones. To me, they failed on both flavor and texture, the two most important things for good gelato/sorbet. However, I’m not all that familiar with the NYC gelato scene so I have no basis of comparison. All I can say is that I definitely won’t be coming back here the next time a gelato craving hits.

272 Bleecker St. between Morton and Jones St.
New York, NY

Po Restaurant

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009 by virginia


I’ve read a lot of good things about Po Restaurant in the West Village and have been eager to try it for some time now. Mario Batali used to be the chef/owner there, before he opened up Babbo. Although he is no longer affiliated with Po, the restaurant is still turning out fabulous Italian food with interesting flavor combinations and beautiful presentations.

It was just four of us for this particular Sunday night dinner – me, Josh, and his parents – so we were able to snag a last minute 6:30 reservation at Po. The restaurant really is tiny; it’s basically just a narrow room with limited seating. Tables are small and space is a bit cramped, but the room has a quaint townhouse feel to it. The restaurant did get a little bit too hot though, even though it was cold outside.

We started off with a bottle of bubbly prosecco and munched on the amuse bouche while we looked over the menu. The amuse was a garlicky white bean bruschetta doused in olive oil on top of toasted slices of Italian bread. And boy, was it garlicky! There were whole cloves mixed in with the white beans, camouflaged by their similar appearance, so each mouthful was a bit of a surprise. Fortunately the garlic was cooked through (poached maybe?) so that it was soft, sweet, and creamy, without any harshness. This was a great starter for any garlic lover.

Garlicky white bean bruschetta

Garlicky white bean bruschetta

They also brought us a loaf of rustic Italian bread with olive oil for dipping. The bread had a hard crust that crackled when we tore into it, which I liked. It had a bit of a sourdough flavor to it that complemented the sweet and fruity olive oil well.

Good bread and olive oil

Good bread and olive oil

For my appetizer, I had the roasted beet salad with endive, sliced baby artichokes, watercress, and a taleggio crostino. The beets were sweet and tender and were a nice contrast to the bitter endive and watercress. The sliced baby artichokes kind of got lost in the mix but the taleggio crostino added a nice richness and butteriness. The taleggio was almost like a brie, and I broke up the cheese and crostino and mixed it in with the rest of the salad to give it some crunch.

Beet salad

Beet salad with endive, sliced baby artichokes, watercress, and a taleggio crostino

My beet salad paired perfectly with Alice’s goat cheese and black olive tartufo with pickled vegetable slaw. I love the combination of beets and goat cheese, and I wish the restaurant had done the pairing itself. But her tartufo had a nice tanginess to it from the olives and pickled vegetable slaw, which worked nicely with the creamy and savory goat cheese.

Goat cheese tartufo

Goat cheese and black olive tartufo with pickled vegetables

Josh’s dad had the polpette di carne, which is meatballs with tomato sauce and cheese. The meatballs were soft and nicely seasoned, though not as good as the ones he makes himself. Lloyd’s meatballs are legendary in the family, and our golden standard that we measure all other meatballs against. That said, Po’s meatballs were actually pretty good, one of the best that we’ve had at any restaurant.


Polpette di carne - meatballs in tomato sauce

Josh had the winning appetizer of the night though, in my opinion (and his). He ordered the cured tuna with white beans, artichokes, and chili mint vinaigrette. He first made sure that the cured tuna was made from fresh tuna that was still rare, not canned or cooked tuna. It was, fortunately, and it was spectacular. The tuna was very lightly cooked on the outside and still bright red in the middle. The curing gave it a nice saltiness and tanginess, and the meat was so tender it almost melted in my mouth. The beans, artichokes, and vinaigrette gave the dish a nice texture and a freshness, so that all the flavors just popped. I couldn’t stop stealing bites from his plate and secretly wished that I had ordered this dish for myself.

Cured tuna

Fabulous cured tuna with white beans, artichokes, and chili mint vinaigrette

We decided to share a pasta for a mid course, as well as a cucumber salad. We selected the spaghetti carbonara, which was the lightest version of carbonara that I have ever tasted. Although I kind of missed the silkiness of the egg finish that you get in other versions, the pasta packed in a lot of flavor from the crunchy salted and smoked pork bits (I think maybe it was guanciale, as it didn’t taste like regular bacon). The portion was surprisingly huge and fed all four of us easily.

Spaghetti carbonara

Spaghetti carbonara

The cucumber salad was thin shreds of cucumber mixed with capers, red onion, and a chili and mint vinaigrette, topped with thin slices of salty ricotta salata cheese. It was a nice mix of salty and tangy flavors. We all thought that it was very refreshing and a great palate cleanser.

Refreshing cucumber salad topped with ricotta salata

Refreshing cucumber salad topped with ricotta salata

For my entrée, I had a really hard time deciding what I wanted to eat, as all of the menu offerings sounded really delicious. After hawing and hemming for a bit, waiting for everyone else to order, and asking the waitress for her opinion, I finally settled on the grilled guinea hen with roasted pumpkin and scallion fregula. I typically don’t order poultry in restaurants, except for the occasional duck, but I was glad that I went with the guinea hen. The hen was deboned and cooked under a brick so that the meat was flat but still juicy and tender. Though the skin wasn’t crispy, it was covered in a delicious balsamic glaze. The fregula is a tiny ball-shaped pasta, similar to Israeli couscous. It had a nice chew to it and worked well with the roasted pumpkin and scallions.

Guinea hen with pumpkin fregula

Grilled guinea hen with roasted pumpkin and scallion fregula

Josh had the porcini crusted cod with borlotti beans, sautéed kale, and sweet red pepper vinaigrette. He liked that the earthiness of the mushrooms translated to the fish, making it seem a lot meatier in flavor. I only took one bite but I thought it tasted a bit weird. Josh enjoyed it though and liked the unusual combination.

Porcini crusted cod

Porcini crusted cod

Alice had the grilled pork chop with mashed pumpkin and apple mostarda. When I took a bite of her dish, the first thing I said was, “this tastes like fall!” The ingredients were obviously very seasonal, and the pumpkin and apples were spiced in just the right way to make you think of pumpkin pie and hot apple cider, but in a good savory way. The pork chop itself was huge, and cooked perfectly so that it was tender and juicy. It was one of my favorite dishes of the night.

Grilled pork chop

Grilled pork chop with mashed pumpkin and apple mostarda

Lloyd had the linguine vongole with clams, pancetta, chilies, and white wine. Again, the pasta portion was pretty huge and there were plenty of clams mixed throughout. The sauce was a tad heavy on the white wine flavor but the pasta was cooked perfect and it was a pretty good dish.

Linguini with clam sauce

Linguini with clam sauce

Overall I would have to say that Po Restaurant is one of my new favorites for upscale Italian food. This isn’t a red sauce, chicken parmesan kind of joint. Although some of the pasta dishes are familiar, the food is definitely more upscale and creative. Each course we had was well thought out with interesting flavor combinations, and beautifully plated. While the restaurant isn’t cheap, I wouldn’t consider it expensive either. Prices are pretty reasonable for the quality of food that you receive. Service was attentive and helpful. It was really a lovely meal and I can’t wait to come back again.

Po Restaurant
31 Cornelia St. between Bleecker and West 4th St.
New York, NY