NYC Restaurant Month, As Created By Big Al

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I’m on a food crawl.

I’m feeding off the buzzy energy of this city in a literal way.

I’m setting my time limit for September of 2018. Or when my money runs out, whichever comes first.

I'm not actually going off the NYC Restaurant deals, because why limit yourself?

I will eat, drink and treat myself through the chaotic metropolis of New York City.

I'm considering it an investment. It's good for the soul, after all. #TreatYoSelf

Starting off with the best two so far:

 Tetsu's open kitchen 

Tetsu's open kitchen 

Tetsu

Though I was a bit wary it may be getting overhyped, Tetsu delivered. The new brainchild of famed chef Masa Takayama, the more-inexpensive-but-still-quite-expensive restaurant should not be compared to Masa. As its website indicates, “We're not trying to be Masa -- we are Tetsu”.

Tetsu, Japanese for iron, has an industrial interior within its 1860s landmarked building in the uber chic metropolitan neighborhood of TriBeCa. It features an open kitchen with an 18-seat counter, along with host stands and a giant flower pot made from reclaimed pipes and recycled oil drums, again paying homage to the historic cast iron structure of the building. Never one to miss a detail, the design was another element in Chef Masa’s plan for the restaurant.

In Japanese culture, robata is the center place of the home. Tetsu wants your eyes and ears focused on the robata in his new home. He breaks his menu down into verbs – raw, sizzling, grilled. He includes an extensive sake list, in which our waiter described a selection to be crisp and clear, like the freshly snow-peaked mountains the grain originated in. I could hear the silent peaks, I could taste the icy frost. I was sold. What was ordered:

Tamarind Baby Back Ribs

Squid Ink Pasta (made from actual squid) with Bottarga (cured fish roe)

Negi Toro Tamaki

Kinme Chili Ponzu: an Asian version of ceviche made with frisse, slivered green peppers, serviced in a light but fragrant citrus ponzu sauce.

Uni: the pride and joy of the night. I would’ve adopted it if I could. It was actually so exceptional, we order a second. The sea urchin is roasted in white miso paste and served inside its shell, topped with freshly shaved truffles. You’d think it was gilding the lily, but the lily was really just dusted with truffles and kissed by angels so gild away my friends.

Grilled olive oil cake and mascarpone cream : the cake was fluffy with a toasted outside crust, the cream was subtly sweet and delightfully refreshing; served uniquely oblong, like a mirror image of the bar counter.

 The super oblong olive oil cake. Looks weird, tastes GREAT.

The super oblong olive oil cake. Looks weird, tastes GREAT.

 The unbelievably good sea urchin (uni) at Tetsu.

The unbelievably good sea urchin (uni) at Tetsu.

L’Artusi

 Mushroom Ragu. I would ragu on you if you didn't order it. #dadjokes

Mushroom Ragu. I would ragu on you if you didn't order it. #dadjokes

If you want the short route: This place is on par with that of Dell’anima. If you haven't been to either, go to Dell'anima first. In my opinion it's less pretentious and THE perfect date spot.

L'Artusi summarized: Chic décor, chic people, sophisticated pasta. But yet simple, delicious, satisfying.

Mushroom Ragu – hearty, refined, complex, the perfect pairing to a robust red.

Braised octopus special with supersatta, green (castelvetrano) olives, tiny panfried breadcrumbs. Salty, crunchy, grilled, smokey, briny, refreshing.

The long route:

I honestly don’t know what was better, the people watching in a room full of obvious wealth and beauty, or, the pasta. L’Artusi is definitely a scene for the wanting-to-be-seen. It has a chic décor with an almost homey feel – as if you’ve just arrived to your super good-looking friends’ apartment.

The wine list here is extensive and not cheap – nothing is less than $60 a bottle.

The pasta, however, is divine and worth every penny. While we had heard of the simple spaghetti with Parmesan, I was immediately sold by a current special. Once again I was sold by the octopus! The dish was tagliolini (similar to linguini) with braised octopus, supersatta, pepper and castelvetrano olives.

 The beauteous octopus pasta up close, in person.

The beauteous octopus pasta up close, in person.

I, of course, only know this about the super specific type of olives after harassing our waiter – “WHAT are these magical olives!?” They were briny like typical Spanish green olives but yet not as intense. They fit into the dish seamlessly.

The other plate was a menu-listed item: Garganelli mushroom ragu. The mushrooms actually tasted like a braised meat that had been slow cooked for hours. It was fragrant, earthy, tender and the best accompaniment to the twirls of garganelli. Which, for the record, I hate the name of – reminds me of gargling. And I don’t want to gargle my pasta.

Of course, on top of all the delicious pasta was a mound of freshly grated parmesan, which we all know – never hurt anybody.

Both dishes were washed down with a vintage Cordero di Montezemolo Barolo – rich, mildly robust and that’s as far as I’ll go in describing it because I’m not Gary Vaynerchuck, or a wine snob, or really care. I want my wine to taste like wine and not nail polish remover, that’s as picky as I get.

So yes this was a good wine – a bit too fancy for me – but it made everything taste that much better no less.

I would recommend Tetsu for a Special Occasion dinner; L'Artusi for Date Night, Dinner with the Parents.

 A completely unrelated photo of a lamb sausage sandwich from Borough Market, London

A completely unrelated photo of a lamb sausage sandwich from Borough Market, London

Up next will be Gato (Bobby Flay's Bowery-located spot) and Estela (formerly on the World's 50 Best Restaurants list).