In photos: Jean-Georges, New York.

I must admit, one of the main reasons I wanted to dine at Jean-Georges was because of an episode of Friends (where Chandler managed to snag a last minute reservation for his & Monica’s anniversary). I am rather obsessed with Friends, but that’s another story for another day.

Of course, I wouldn’t have made a reservation had there not been good reviews for the restaurant.. I’m not that Friends-mad! And obviously, the fact that it holds three Michelin-stars was a factor.

In keeping with my ‘trying to be more efficient at blogging’ thing, this will be a a photo-centered post.

p.s. We dined here in mid-December 2011.

Bread. Good, but not great. (Nothing can beat Eleven Madison Park’s warm, flaky bun goodness. )

Amuse: Flavours of fall. From L to R – Cheese & truffle spring roll with lettuce; Salmon smoked with chilli; Sweet potato soup with apple & basil.

Scallop sashimi with crispy rice and chipotle mayo. This was my favourite dish of the meal. There was something so simple, yet so good about this.

Sea urchin on black bread, with jalapeno. I was impressed at the freshness of sea urchin – I normally am not a fan but was won over by this.

Crab dumplings with celeriac & meyer lemon tea. This was light and refreshing.

Comte risotto. This came with the (extravagant) option of having white Alba truffles shaved atop the risotto, which I decided against.

Chicken leg confit with parmesan crust, artichoke & lemon sauce. I order anything with artichoke in it. It’s another one of my obsessions, having only discovered the wonders of artichokes in the last year.

Caramelised beef tenderloin, with comte beignets, spinach & wasabi pea puree. Is it wrong that I enjoyed the beignets more than the beef?

For some reason, I didn’t write down the name of this dish! From memory, this was a chocolate pear cake, with shaved ice in the bowl. I can’t for the life of me remember which alcohol was used in the shaved ice, but I do remember it being extremely boozy.

Chocolates, one of which was adorned with ‘JG’.

Macarons. Again, I didn’t note down what flavour these were – oops!

Vanilla marshmallows. These were delightful. The restaurant stores them in giant glass jars, and cut them for you with scissors at the table.

Jean-Georges
1 Central Park West
New York
NY 10023
www.jean-georges.com

NB: This site houses the 70-seat Jean Georges dining room (which is where we dined), and also Nougatine at Jean Georges (a more casual bar-style dining room).

As the restaurant was just next to Central Park, we took a slow stroll across the park (and ended up in the Upper East Side). I didn’t have my tripod with me and it was getting quite dark, but I wanted to share a few photos I took at the time, even though they are not of the best quality.

Man, I ♥ New York.

The Modern, New York

One of R’s friends went to New York last week, and we gave her a list of restaurant recommendations… which included The Modern, the restaurant at MoMa (The Museum of Modern Art). This helpfully reminded me that I had yet to blog about our meal there (that took place almost 7 months ago!), so here goes:

NB: We ate in the bar area, as the restaurant (which I believe holds a Michelin star – but I might be mistaken) was unfortunately closed for lunch!

Bread rolls – I enjoyed the mini baguette rolls more than the sourdough, I think it was the novelty of miniature rolls!

Quail terrine, with a fennel and grapefruit salad. A delicious start to the meal. Loved the inclusion of pistachio bits in the terrine.

Artichoke soup, with pearl barley, almonds and ricotta salata. I always order artichoke dishes whenever they are on a menu, and this soup didn’t dissapoint. The accompanying biscuits were buttery and crumbly, just how they should be.

Crispy Atlantic cod, celeriac Granny Smith apple salad, and sauce gribiche. A slightly “healthier” take on fish and chips, where light celeriac/apple cubes replaced the chips. (Secretly I think I’d prefer some fat-laden chips though.) The cod batter was deliciously crispy, and the cod itself perfectly cooked.



Long Island duck breast, with peppercorn crusted apples and pistachio truffle dipping sauce. This was SO DELICIOUS I could have eaten another plate. By far the best pan fried duck I’ve ever eaten, hands down. I also loved the peppercorn crusted apples – they were so good that I would choose this over potato wedges/fries (believe me, that rarely happens).

Pan-Seared Skate with crispy rock shrimp, creamy grits and brown butter vinaigrette. All I can say is: YUM. The brown butter vinaigrette was an inspired sauce for the dish.

Citrus Carpaccio with lemongrass gelée and green apple basil sorbet. I never would have thought that a few simple segments of grapefruits and oranges could make for such an elegant dessert. I liked the crispy ‘sugar’ halve that came with the dish, as it added extra texture to the dish.

The Modern: bar area. It had emptied significantly when I took this photo, it was extremely busy around lunchtime, and were were lucky to get a table within 20 minutes. I highly recommend planning ahead, and booking a table! You can always wander back to the museum after you finish your meal.

The Modern Bar Room in a nutshell:
– Simple yet delicious food, I enjoyed every single dish!
– Has the bonus of having MoMA next door, and believe me when I say MoMA is a MUST visit.
– Gets very busy: reservations are definitely recommended
– Service was lacking at times, I suspect they reserve their A-list team for the restaurant perhaps?
– If I get a chance, I’d go back – but I want to try the restaurant next time around!

The Modern
9, West 53rd Street
New York 10019
themodernnyc.com

Jason Atherton’s Pollen Street Social

In my last post, I mentioned that I would be making a few changes to the way I blogged to ensure I’d be able to blog more often. One of these changes will be to do more ‘photo’ orientated posts, where I won’t write much – I’ll let the photos do the talking instead. I will primarily do this for restaurant and travel posts, as I was never all that good at describing dishes anyway! This will hopefully allow me to blog more regularly whilst I’m on my ‘student’ year.

I visited the very talked about Pollen Street Social recently, and this was what I ate:

Dining area

I adore the little ridged platter that the butter was served on – I would LOVE to have one of these. Ah, the joys of prop hoarding. 😉

Warm bread rolls – I enjoyed the french loaf (pictured above), and the mixed seed roll.

Full English breakfast – tomato puree, slow poached egg, crispy bacon pieces, crispy croutons and morels. The tomato puree was an intensely tomato-ey, and absolutely delicious.

Escabeche of quail, chicken liver cream, nuts and seeds. Perfectly cooked quail – need I say more?

Roasted halibut, Catalan paella, sprouting broccoli and pork-ham fat. The paella.. oh, my. Absolutely delicious. Better than any paella than I have eaten in Spain, thus far anyway!

Braised oxtail with carrots and mash. Don’t let the simple description of the dish fool you, for this packed a whole lot of flavour, and was a total ‘comfort food’ type dish.

The much talked about Dessert Bar

Pastry Chef Emily hard at work

(Complimentary) ice cream – passionfruit ice cream and lime sorbet. The passionfruit ice cream stood out for me, as it had a perfect balance of tartness and sweetness.

PBJ – a playful twist on the traditional peanut butter & jam sandwich. Peanut parfait (which tasted like frozen peanut butter!), cherry sorbet, cheery tagiatelle, cherry halves, cherry jellies, and toasted rice puffs. One of my favourite restaurant desserts, ever. I would happily eat this over and over and over again.

Tiramisu. This is one for any chocolate lover: dark chocolate mousse, chocolate shards, chocolate ‘fronds’, chocolate sand, mascarpone mousse, and kirsch jelly cubes. Served with chocolate coffee on the side (which can be drunk separately, or poured on top of the tiramisu).

The ‘chocolate’ coffee. Luxurious, thick and creamy. I couldn’t actually finish this as I hit my level of chocolate overload (which is very hard to do, believe me!).

View of the kitchen, from the dessert bar

Pollen Street Social in a nutshell:
– Lovely food, and brilliant desserts
– Dessert Bar – an inspired idea!
– Service was good, but not fantastic
– The set lunch menu is excellent value for money – but skip the desserts on the set menu, and choose something from the full dessert menu
I’m definitely going back! 🙂

EDIT: Pollen Street Social has been awarded one Michelin star, which is very well deserved! Extremely pleased for Jason Atherton and his team (and my tummy).

Pollen Street Social
8-10 Pollen Street
London W1S 1NQ
+44 (0)20 7290 7600
www.pollenstreetsocial.com

New York: Momofuku vs Ippudo – pork buns and ramen galore!

Time truly flies. I can’t believe it’s been almost 2 months since I was in New York, and almost three weeks since I last blogged! Before it becomes five months since my trip, I figured that I should probably get a move on and post the remaining New York posts I had planned…

I’d heard a lot about the famous Momofuku pork buns, way before I’d even planned my trip to New York. It was just one of those things that many bloggers have attempted to make at home… which obviously meant it was something I absolutely HAD to try when I visited New York.

And you know what, I completely understand the hype. These little babies were totally worth the 45 minutes we waited to get a table at Momofuku Noodle Bar. Tender melt-in-your-mouth pork belly and cucumber slices, sandwiched in between a soft, fluffy steamed bun = utter deliciousness. We ordered two each, and the only thing stopping us from ordering any more of these were the fact that we had already ordered a bowl of ramen each…

And because we simply could not stop thinking about them, we made it a point to have some on our last day in New York. This time though, we had them at the Momofuku Milk Bar (no seats, just tables and standing areas), as I wasn’t really in the mood to queue to get seats at the Noodle Bar. For some reason, the pork belly slices served at the Milk Bar looked different from the ones in the Noodle Bar (I think the ones in the Noodle Bar had a thicker glaze) – they still tasted the same though. Fat-laden? = yes. Worth the calories? = Totally.

This was one of the specials, I forgot to take take a photo of the specials board so can’t exactly remember what this was. From memory, I think this was a duck ramen dish. Whilst the broth itself was a little too salty, the buckwheat noodles were just the right consistency – springy with a slight bite to it.

Momofuku ramen – pork belly, pork shoulder and poached egg. This was good (I’m a total pork fan, as you will probably guess by the end of this post), but again I felt the broth was too salty.

All in all – I wasn’t bowled over by the ramen at Momofuku Noodle Bar. Nevertheless, I would still recommend trying it as their pork buns are simply amazing.

The next day, it was time to try Ippudo which was another place I had heard many good things about. We met Ken (Hungry Rabbit) there for an early lunch, as Ken had warned us that the queues would get manic later on in the day. Truth be told though, queuing is not all that bad if you’ve got good company.. As long as you’re not starving or hangry, that is.

It was great to finally meet Ken though, who even took the time to show us around East Village after we finished our lunch. He also brought me to Broadway Panhandler where I errr… let’s say I bought a few things there. 😉 Thanks, Ken!

We started off with Shishito (fried Japanese peppers, served with a yuzu salt). I’ve been a fan of these peppers since I tried them in Barcelona a couple of years ago, and order them everytime I see them on the menu. Fried peppers are what they are – but dipping them in the yuzu salt made them something a little more special. Definitely a good alternative to edamame.

Ippudo’s Hirata pork buns were next – at first glance, these looked slightly ‘mean’ as there appeared to be a lot less pork in them compared to their counterparts at Momofuku. Whilst these were good, they just weren’t as good as the Momofuku ones – although the buns are served with a spicy sauce, I felt that the sauce bordered on sweet rather than spicy. The fact there appeared to be more bun than pork was also a little disappointing.

Shiromaru Chasu – The original “Tonkotsu” noodle soup topped with pork loin chashu, kikurage, menma, red pickled ginger, sesame, and scallions. Whilst their pork buns were underwhelming, their ramen was excellent. The broth was very good indeed, and had just the perfect balance of flavours. Definitely a winner.

Akamaru Modern – The original “Tonkotsu” noodle soup topped with Ippudo’s secret “Umami Dama” miso paste, pork chashu, cabbage, kikurage, scallions, and fragrant garlic oil. I thought this tasted better than the Shiromaru Chasu, I suspect this was because there was a scattering of garlic oil in this.

Mentaiko (spicy cod roe) over rice – one of the small dishes that came with the ramen lunch set.

Spicy fried chicken over rice – another one of the dishes that was part of the lunch set. I preferred this to the mentaiko version, I suspect it’s something to do with the fact that the chicken is deep fried…

So… in the end, which did I think was better?

Momofuku Noodle Bar
The good: Amazing pork buns. Order two for yourself and don’t share.
The not-so-good: The ramen broth was too salty! And the queues – they have a no reservation policy.

Ipuddo
The good: Delicious ramen, with flavoursome broth. Great ambiance and more spacious compared to the Noodle Bar.
The not-so-good: Pork buns were slightly ‘meh’. And again, the queues. Definitely not a fan of these no reservation policies, sigh.

There were definitely good things about each – but if I could only visit one, I’d choose Momofuku, as the pork buns are just too good to miss out on.

Momofuku Noodle Bar
171 1st Avenue (between 10th and 11th Street)
New York, NY 10003
http://www.momofuku.com/restaurants/noodle-bar/

Ippudo
65 Fourth Avenue (Between 9th and 10th Street)
New York, NY 10003
Phone: 212-388-0088
http://www.ippudony.com/

Scarpetta’s tomato basil spaghetti

I can’t believe it’s 2011 already. I mean, could time pass by any more quickly?

Everyone always tries to be healthier in the new year, especially after the Christmas/New Year “stuff yourself silly” festivities. Although I don’t believe in dieting (hunger makes me grumpy), I do believe in trying to eat healthy. So for the rest of this month, I will be trying to eat more greens and fish, and less dessert. Not sure how well I will actually fare with this, considering how much bbq pork belly I ate in Koba today… oh well. 😛

But in the spirit of healthiness, here is a fairly healthy pasta recipe. (I say fairly healthy because there is some butter and Parmesan used in the recipe.) I first saw this recipe on Jaden’s blog, was immediately taken by the simplicity of the recipe, and so bookmarked it. I have lots of bookmarked recipes, so this was left for a good period of time. But this pasta kept on popping up on the food radar, with everyone raving about how good it was. Which obviously meant that I *had* to try making it.

This tomato basil spaghetti is one of the most popular dishes at New York’s Scarpetta (so I hear), and I’ve read about people who specially make a trip to Scarpetta to try this dish. And after making it, I can see why. The freshness and sweetness of the tomato sauce that coats each strand of spaghetti is infinitely better than ready made pasta sauces – and when you think about how simple it is to make, it will make you want to give up on premade sauces altogether.

The original recipe calls for fresh plum tomatoes, but I used a mixture of fresh and canned plum tomatoes. The quality of your tomatoes are important, as you want the freshest and sweetest tomatoes you can find (they don’t necessarily have to be plum tomatoes, I’m sure other varieties would work just as well). Quality may cost more, but trust me when I say it will be worth it when it comes to making this sauce.

The spaghetti is served with a garlic basil oil, which in my opinion brings the dish to another level whilst not overpowering the star of the event – the tomato sauce. The oil is made by infusing garlic, fresh basil leaves and a pinch of chilli flakes in hot olive oil. I might take the “lazy” route the next time I make this, and infuse fresh basil leaves in store bought garlic olive oil (Waitrose does a fantastic one which I use everytime I don’t want to chop garlic). Plus I think that the intensity of garlic is more evident in the store bought oil – I’m a HUGE fan of garlic you see.

Scarpetta’s tomato basil spaghetti
Adapted from this recipe on Steamy Kitchen, who adapted it from Scarpetta and Scott Conant

For the sauce:

  • 6 ripe tomatoes (preferably plum tomatoes)
  • One 400g can of peeled plum tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Pinch of red chilli pepper flakes
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the garlic basil oil:

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 6-8 whole cloves garlic
  • 10 whole fresh basil leaves
  • Generous pinch crushed red chilli pepper flakes

To finish:

  • 500g spaghetti
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 6 to 8 fresh basil leaves, sliced thinly

To prepare the tomatoes: (you get to skip this whole part if you use canned tomatoes)
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Have a large bowl of ice water nearby.
2. Whilst waiting for the water to come to a boil, cut a small X on the bottom of each tomato. Ease tomatoes into the pot and boil for about 15 seconds, then promptly move them to the waiting ice water.
3. Pull off the tomato skin with the tip of a knife (a normal butter knife works fine).
4. Cut the tomatoes in half and use your finger to flick out the seeds.

To prepare the tomato sauce:
5. Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium high heat. Add the tomatoes (both fresh and canned) and red chilli flakes to the pan, and season with salt and pepper. It’s safer to under-season at this point, as the sauce will reduce down later.
6. Let the tomatoes cook for approximately 5 minutes, or until they become soft and mushy.
7. Use a potato masher to mash up the tomatoes. (You don’t have to mash it all into a smooth paste, but I try to mash it up as finely as possible.)
8. Cook the tomato sauce for 20-25 minutes, until it thickens. Whilst the sauce is cooking, make the garlic basil oil.

To make the garlic basil oil:
9. Put the olive oil, garlic cloves, basil leaves and pepper flakes in a small saucepan, and heat over low heat. Allow the ingredients to warm slowly to release their flavours.
10. When the garlic is lightly browned, turn off the heat, and let it cool.
11. Before using, strain the oil and discard the solids.

And to put it all together:
12. Cook the spaghetti in boiling, salted water until just shy of al dente. Drain and reserve a little pasta cooking water.
13. Add the spaghetti to the tomato sauce and cook over medium high heat, gently tossing the pasta and the sauce together with a couple of wooden spoons. (You can use tongs but this increases the risk of breaking up the wonderfully long pasta strands.) If the sauce seems too thick, add a little pasta cooking water to it to thin it down.
14. Remove pan from the heat, and toss with the butter, basil and Parmesan.
15. Serve the spaghetti into plates, drizzle with the garlic basil oil, and serve!