Crispy Brussel Sprouts with Granny Smith Apples, Crème Fraîche, and Pistachio Nuts
I’m the sort of person who enjoys doing research before dining, and I’ll admit that a treasured Monday morning ritual is to get on the phone and on Opentable.com to make the week’s reservations. I find it extremely comforting and not weird at all that I know exactly where I at least could eat every night for the next month or so. Because of this and because they like to humor my foodie hobby, I am usually the meal organiser within my group of friends. Every once in a while though, I take a chance and accept an invitation without doing any background reading, and in the case of the unobtrusive Alta, am completely blown away! The $400 Whole Shebang option recommended for parties of 9 or more, entails being served all 46 dishes on the menu!!! It only has a food rating of 23 on Zagat, but in my humble opinion, the dizzying array of inventive small plates with such cosmopolitan and confusingly complementary components such as Danish Pork Ribs Roasted with Kecap Manis and Coriander, places Alta within the highest echelon of practitioners of the art of tapas. For your next team dinner or group celebration be sure to stop by for unforgettable feasting. Special thanks to Jay for the recommendation.
Details: 64 W 10th St New York, NY 10011-8702 (+1-212-505-7777)
Sea Urchin Scrambled Egg with Sturgeon Caviar
This Christmas I received the book Never Order Chicken on a Monday from a Secret Santa who accompanied his gift with a note encouraging me to explore my true calling as a gourmet. Six months down the line, I realise how certain seemingly minor incidents can turn out to be life-defining. From its beginning as a Facebook album to its current incarnation as a blog, Really Good Food has become a central part of my identity in a way that my sixteen year-old, picky eater self would never have imagined. Nowadays not only do I never order chicken on mondays; I never order chicken period. While I admit that there is a certain element of “trophy hunting” in my persistant consumption and photography of exotic foods, I’ve found that choosing something “adventurous” and being pleasantly surprised, or even blown away is a welcome thrill that I’ve experienced on almost a daily basis since becoming a fully committed omnivore. Sea urchin both looks and sounds like something to be approached with apprehension, but I assure you that at LAN the brave are well-rewarded.
Details: 56 3rd Ave (bet 10th & 11th) New York, NY (+1 212-254-1959)
Kumamoto Oysters Royal Miyagi Oysters
Oysters are one of those foods that one associates with decadence, and rightly so. All the effort that goes into farming, transport, and storage might seem like an extravagant use of resources in exchange for rather a paltry payout. Speculation about their effect as an aphrodisiac aside, I would venture that when we order oysters we do so because eating one is evocative of experiences on the ocean. Food often has the quality of conjuring a mental image, and for me the taste of a freshly opened oyster makes me feel nostalgic for setting sail into a salty breeze and for the delight of a headlong plunge into wind-beaten waves. Whether you have them elaborately garnished like those found at O Ya, or perfectly plain like those at B&G Oysters, Boston is the place to indulge.
Details: O Ya: 9 East Street Boston, MA 02111 (+1 617-654-9900), B&G Oysters: 550 Tremont St Boston, MA 02116-6314 (+1 617-423-0550)
Braised Oxtail with Picadillo Red Peppers, Tomato and Red Wine Reduction
The proper preparation of oxtail (the commonly available form being tail of cow rather than ox), involves prolonged braising or stewing. Although nothing can beat my mother’s version, Alma de Cuba’s variation showcases everything that makes oxtail such a comforting food; tender flesh waiting to be coaxed away from the bone, an aroma so heady as to tempt the staunchest vegetarian, and a beef flavor rich enough to perfume the dreams of the most committed of carnivores.
Details: 94 Christopher St, New York, NY (+1 212-242-3800)
Roasted Bone Marrow with Baguette Soldiers and Shallot Confit
After reading a review of this restaurant by the NYT’s Frank Bruni in which he mentions “sublime hunk[s] of glorious meat that you dream about hours later [and] pine for the next day,” my appetite was thoroughly aroused. The multimedia slideshow that accompanied the article paraded an array of dishes glistening with fat, oozing sauce, and dripping blood in a manner that can most appropriately described as erotic. I was not a bit surprised that making a reservation one month in advance involved the deployment of half the weapons in my negotitation arsenal. In hindsight, I am glad that I was forced to exercise patience. Delay of gratification can only enhance the delights of indulgence, and in this case the combination of dizzy anticipation and decadent lived experience resulted in a rare and complete satiety. Each exquisite bite of bone marrow slathered atop a crisp baguette soldier was an explosion of flavor subtly sweetened with shallot confit. After a good meal, a dear friend of mine often quips that she feels like “licking the plate clean.” I think my fellow diners would have been thoroughly scandalized had I acted upon the urge to do that and more to the nearly-stripped beef bones crying out for attention. I know my dinner date was rather surprised that his humble steak tartare could cause, compell rather, a most wicked reaching across of the table. From the electric spark of fingers momentarily entwined around the same fork to the mutual sighs of pleasure in consumption, the destiny of a meal shared at Minetta Tavern is that of becoming a seriously sensual feast.
Details: 113 Macdougal St New York, NY 10012-1201 (+1-212-475-3850)
Green Tea Power (Matcha Green Tea Powder, Banana, Frozen Melon, and Soymilk)
Many people look forward to a morning coffee to help them wake up. I try very hard to not pick up habits that make me dependent on a particular substance, but this particular Elixir smoothie has me totally enslaved. The combination of banana and frozen melon is a stroke of genius, causing it to be both substantial and refreshing. There is no Elixir branch near the apartment in which I am staying, so nowadays I find myself going into the office earlier and earlier so that I can get my fix. Suggestions for alternative smoothie combos welcome, as this sort of addictive behaviour has clearly become hazardous to my health!
Steamed Vermicelli with Lobster in Egg White
So I’ve been deathly ill all week and haven’t had a chance to indulge in any RGF. This is why the day I felt better I decided to invite my fellow foodies Jesslyne and Shierley for a Chinese banquet. These ladies know how to order! I had been looking forward to eating at Min Jiang at the Royal Garden Hotel ever since hearing from a trusted source that “Hakkasan is passé; Min Jiang is THE Chinese restaurant now.” Imagine my surprise when I arrived this evening, read the brochure, and realised that this was the London branch of a well-known restaurant in my home country of Singapore! Hakkasan’s owners should be shaking in their boots! Min Jiang may be more traditional than trendy, but such a sweet and delicate lobster noodle I have never before sampled, not even in Asia. Really high quality Chinese food is all about the ingredients, and tonight’s meal made me dread going back to the US, where chefs pander to Western tastebuds and there is a puzzling dearth of authentic cuisine.
Details: 2-24 Kensington High Street Kensington, W8 4PT (+442079378000)