More Restaurants

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Note: None of these restaurants are featured in NYC Restaurant Week deals. BUT they are still worth going to.

Gato

Off the corner of Lafeyette and E Houston lies the “passion project” of famed Food Network chef Bobby Flay.

Though I had reservations about eating at a potentially touristy, embellished/pretentious venue, Gato did not disappoint. It’s dishes ran more on the overpriced side than reasonable, but at the same time some felt like you were simply paying extra for the ambiance.

Which while we’re on the subject - Ambiance Tax is a real thing. Think about how much more rooftop drinks always are – you pay for the view, of course, but half the time you’re also paying for the scene. The literal “see or be seen” scene. Scene.

To start off we had 3 dishes from the Bar section of the menu. These are small, bite-sized portions, which is annoying when most diners are 2 people, sharing. For $21 the dishes aren’t expensive, per se, but not cheap to be paying for one bite of roasted eggplant each.

 I will be talking about this octopus for a good while.

I will be talking about this octopus for a good while.

Next up was the famous, heavily-talked about on the food scene – scrambled eggs dish. You think “Wow Bobby really must think we are fools to pay $17 for eggs” but they REALLY are THAT good. I mean, you're out to eat in New York City, you will be swindled no matter what - might as well be swindled for something that is delicious.

Served with a side of grilled focaccia topped with tomato jam, the ramekin is filled perfectly creamy, mildly spicy eggs. The secret (I believe) is the Calabrian chili oil used, and possibly cooking the eggs slowly over low heat for a creamier consistency.

For our mains, we split the highly raved-about octopus plate, and the kale and egg paella. Throughout the meal, you can tell there is homage paid to simple, basic ingredients and he does it well.

The octopus was by far my favorite – grilled to perfection for a crispy outside and beautifully tender inside, the consistency was knockout. Then came the sauces. There was a lonesome shishito pepper placed atop the solo tentacle, but more so for aesthetics than taste. The real flavor came from the slightly sweet vinegar Dijon sauce and crunchy bacon bits. I was quizzing the waiter over the sauce because I simply couldn’t get over the divine pairing of something so light and refreshing with such a rustic flavor as the octopus itself.

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The paella, however, needed a sauce. I would say it erred on the underwhelming side for flavor except when I asked for a hot sauce, I received something magical. It was peppery, vinegary, definitely spicy but thicker than your average Tabasco – and it complimented the saltier, blander rice with its briny taste. The artichokes in the dish, nevertheless, were fried to a crispy perfection. They have a reasonable wine list to boot, and it seems the place is always packed.

I would recommend for casual dates or when the parents are in town.

Estela 

Once on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, Estela has been on my dining bucket list since I moved to NYC.

It was much less pretentious than I envisioned (seeing as most of the Top 50 are fine-dining, white tablecloth places like Le Bernardin and Gramercy Tavern) and gave off a chic-without-trying vibe.

We started off with lamb ribs with charmoula and honey, fried arroz negro with squid and romesco (famed dish here) and beef tartare (to be honest, nothing to write home about). The ribs were fall of the bone tender, and spiced fabulously. The rice was surprisingly crunchy, which in Dominican tongue is called “concon”, or the crunchy bottom of the rice pan. There was a good bit of depth to the flavors there as well.

A successful meal I would recommend for Classy First Dates (think dim lighting and tapas-style sharable plates), or a bougie girls’ dinner (groups of 4 or less) because of the intimate setting.

 Lamb ribs and Crispy Arroz Negro

Lamb ribs and Crispy Arroz Negro

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).