Raoul’s – SoHo

Raoul’s

180 Prince Street
(212) 966-3518

Classic and chic

Raoul’s is basically an institution in SoHo, and I learned why last night. The food is delicious, the space is tight, you can walk right through the kitchen to get to your seat, and the tiny spiral staircase that leads up to the bathroom together create an atmosphere of intrigue and adventure. On a Tuesday night, by 9 o’clock, the place was packed – every table taken, every stool at the bar occupied. Amazing ambience. But how was the food?

Appetizer

  • Seared Big-Eye Tuna with Cucumber Pousse Pied and Melon – beautifully presented with quite a surprise combination of tastes. The sliced grapes that were carefully placed on the sides were seasoned with a cumin (curry) powder. The spice mixed magnificently well with the sweetness of the red grape and provided a surprising sensation in my mouth. The tuna was topped with some greens and three very thin slices of cucumber. The juxtaposition of the spiced pepper-encrusted tuna with the sweet fresh fruits was very pleasant and palatable.
Seared Big Eye Tuna at Raoul's

Seared Big Eye Tuna at Raoul's

Main Course

  • Rack of Lamb with roasted asparagus, spinach and olive – I love lamb. Almost anytime I see lamb on a menu, I will go for it. The lamb entrée was good, but to be very frank, was not among my most favorite lamb experiences. The lamb was accompanied by an olive sauce and some asparagus. The asparagus was good, but a little overcooked and soggy. The lamb was a little overwhelmed by the sauce, and cooked a little to much for “medium rare”. I also tend to like my lamb with a slight crispy texture on the outside, but that wasn’t the case. I actually didn’t even finish the third chop even though I was still slightly hungry. But in hindsight, I’m glad I saved room for dessert anyway.
Rack of Lamb at Raoul's

Rack of Lamb at Raoul's

Dessert

  • Profiteroles with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce – absolutely delicious. The server drizzles the chocolate sauce on the tiny morsels of delight right in front of you at the table. The perfect combination of cream, pastry and chocolate.
  • Coconut creme caramelanother spectacular dessert. Creme caramel resembles the Spanish dessert, flan. The creme caramel here at Raoul’s was a perfect texture, enticingly coupled with coconut mousse, pineapple and blackberries.
  • Banana Coconut Bread Pudding with banana creme fraiche – by far the favorite dessert at my table. The texture of the still-warm bread pudding was divine. Slightly crispy on the outside, moist and decadent within. Just the right hint of banana, not too overwhelming.

Kudos to the dessert/pastry chef.

Out of 10:
if you are talking only the food, I would give it a 8.5. Taking the atmosphere into consideration, I’d bring it up to a 9.

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Bread Tribeca – Tribeca

Fresh and Somewhat Unfriendly

Bread Tribeca buzzes with the liveliness of a popular hotspot. With amazing natural lighting and an open kitchen, the bistro is upbeat with a wholesome take on lunch. Definitely a go-to if you’re looking for a healthy yet satisfying meal. But if you’re expecting a down-to-earth atmosphere, then maybe head somewhere else.

Bread Tribeca

www.breadtribeca.com
301 Church Street
(212) 334-8282


Appetizers

  • Fresh Fried Calamari with Rocket, Lemon & Marinara – it seems that almost everywhere I go, we always end up  ordeing calamari. At Bread, the calamari was well seasoned and the batter wasn’t too heavy. It was good, but definitely still resembled your typical calamari dish.
  • Pesto bruschetta – the bruschetta surely wasn’t so ordinary. Served on a thicker slice french bread was a spread of pesto paste and fresh mozzarella. The pesto was quite extraordinary in that it was very fresh – tasted as if they had just made it in the kitchen. Great pairing with the fresh mozzarella.

Main Course

  • Prosciutto di Parma Pizza with Tomato, Fresh Mozzarella, Wild Arugula and Parmigiano –  absolutely delicious! The crust was very thin and crispy, but adds to the flavor and texture of the whole dish. The arugula was fresh an not too bitter. In fact, it perfectly balanced the savory prosciutto. By far the healthiest pizza I’ve eaten in a long time. Looks huge when they first bring it out, but since the crust was so thin, it was more like eating a salad with some flatbread on the side. Great pick.
Prosciutto di Parma Pizza at Bread Tribeca

Prosciutto di Parma Pizza at Bread Tribeca

Side note: The only thing I was slightly disappointed with was the inconsistent service. Our server was warm and friendly at first, but as the restaurant filled up, soon became inconsiserate an unattentive. We didn’t even get bread for the table until we asked! The worst part however was that at the end of our lunch, as we were chatting about some work-related topics, the hostess actually came to give us our check and ask us to leave as another party of rather pretentious women were fed up with waiting for a table for more than 5 minutes. That left a somewhat of a bad taste in my mouth.


Out of 10:  7.5
for light, satisfying and healthy food but inconsistent service.

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Craftbar – Flatiron

A Non-Experience

Craftbar

www.craftrestaurant.com/craftbar.html
900 Broadway
(212) 461-4300

I was truly looking forward to trying out Craftbar for lunch as I had loved Tom Colicchio on Top Chef. Knowing that his flagship restaurant, Craft (only open for dinner service), had won a James Beard award, I had very high expectations for his more casual dining experience. Perhaps my expectations were unfair, but unfortunately, I don’t feel that my lunch at Craftbar met the desired outcome I had been anticipating.

Don’t get me wrong – it was not a bad experience, I’m not a hater who just likes to complain. For example, one of the most notable parts of my lunch was the décor and atmosphere of the restaurant. Chic and tasteful – the way I’d imagine it would be. The service was also impeccable. Our waiter was not only attentive, but also witty. But when it came to the food, it was good – but I dont think I can use many adjectives beyond that level. Perhaps I didn’t try enough items on the menu, but please note that I didn’t hear any cries of pleasure from my companions about their dishes either. Let me explain mine…

Starter

  • Mushroom bruschetta – when I ordered the bruschetta, I envisioned small crostinis. When my dish came out, it actually looked more like a 16 oz steak! Fine by me – I do love a good hearty portion. The mushrooms were delicious and fresh, but goodness, the bruschetta was salty! In fact, I had to guzzle water for the rest of the day to quench that dryness in my throat from saltiness.
Mushroom Bruschetta at CraftBar

Mushroom Bruschetta at CraftBar

Main course

  • Veal meatballs – the waiter recommended the meatballs, commenting that it would have a similar feeling to eating clouds (if that were possible). When the food came out, in my dish sat before me were three large meatballs (maybe a little smaller than tennis balls) in a shallow bowl of marinara-type sauce. I took a bite, and yes, the waiter was rather accurate – the meat was surprising light tasting. However, after my first meatball, I was rather satisfied. The dish was too much of the same. If I had known it would really just be the meatballs, I’d have ordered something else – perhaps a pasta or the skate.
Veal Meatballs at CraftBar

Veal Meatballs at CraftBar

Maybe I was just hoping for more of a culinary adventure – such as an eclectic yet appealing choice of spices and flavors. But I was slightly disappointed in the lack of extraordinary tastes and textures that I encountered today at Craftbar. I wonder what Tom Colicchio would have thought if those dishes were presented to him in a Top Chef competition.

Out of 10: 7.5 for being nice, but rather uninspiring.

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Ditch Plains – SoHo

Surf in Soho

Ditch Plains

www.ditch-plains.com
29 Bedford Street
(212) 633-0202

Tucked in a little corner of SoHo is Ditch Plains – a surfer-casual inspired restaurant that serves up some delicious seafood and interesting hot dogs.

Appetizer

  • Fried Calamari with spicy tomato sauce – delicious, lightly breaded. The squid was fresh so not too chewy. Just plain, good calamari
Fried Calamari at Ditch Plains

Fried Calamari at Ditch Plains

  • Roasted oysters with garlic and parsley butter – usually I don’t like to eat cooked oysters (much prefer the raw ones), but the roasted oysters were quite good. The garlic and parsley took away the fishy taste usually associated with oysters. Definitely a good choice for appetizer.
Roasted Oysters at Ditch Plains

Roasted Oysters at Ditch Plains

Main Course

  • Grilled Skirt Steak Salad with frisee, radicchio & roasted pepper red wine vinaigrette – the salad was good, the skirt steak was a little tough. Pretty standard steak salad
  • Ditch dogs with side of French Fries- now this is where it gets interesting. Ditch Plains is famous for their special hot dogs. These came with macaroni and cheese as the topping. Yes you heard me right – mac and cheese on top of your hot dog. And it comes in twos. When my ditch dogs first came out, I can easily say I was overwhelmed. I didn’t even know where to start. Surprisingly, after my first bite, I found the hot dogs to be delicious and not in the least bit overwhelming. The mac and cheese was light and the cheese wasn’t too pungent to take away from the hot dog. I would highly highly recommend trying the Ditch Dogs out if you’re a fan of interesting yet delicious combinations.
Ditch Dogs at Ditch Plains - Mac and Cheese on Hot Dogs

Ditch Dogs at Ditch Plains - Mac and Cheese on Hot Dogs

Side note: Ditch Plains also serves up special Sloppy Dogs (chili dogs), but the Ditch Dogs are the favorite.

Out of 10: 8 for a great twist to your average hot dog.

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Strip House – Union Square

Oh Steak Divine!

When placed in charge of finding a place for a work dinner, I knew immediately that I wanted to try one of the many famous steakhouses in the city (New York City – for those of you non-locals). The actual challenging part as actually choosing which one. After much debate, where names such as BLT Prime, Sparks, Wolfgang Puck, etc., came up, it was decided that Strip House would be the place where I started my quest of discovering New York steakhouses.

Strip House

www.striphouse.com
13 E 12th St
(212) 328-0000

Walking into Strip House, I was immediately struck with the down-to-earth atmosphere. No feelings of snobbishness – especially since the place was decorated (tastefully) according to the theme of the name of the restaurant. Staff was very friendly and the large room where all diners sat was comforting.

Starters:

  • Lump Crab cake – the crab cake was rather good, and well paired on top of the bed of green beans.
  • New England Sea Scallops – savory and drenched in a creamy sauce.
  • Warm Garlic Bread with Gorgonzola ondue – a delicious and creative combination. The rectangular cubes of garlic bread were buttery and slightly crispy. Fondue was creamy and the cheese was quite delicious
New England Sea Scallops at Strip House

New England Sea Scallops at Strip House

Sides:

  • Asparagus – made sauteed with garlic. Very good accompaniment to the steak.
  • Black Truffle Creamed spinach – claimed to be “the best creamed spinach she’s ever had” by one of my fellow diners.
  • Crisp Goose Fat Potatoes – good, but definitely not my favorite side
  • Steamed Broccoli – standard

The Meat:

  • 22 oz. Bone-in Rib Eye (cooked medium rare) – absolutely beautiful cut of meat with just the right marbling of fat to bring out the juiciness of the steak. Grilled to perfection – crispy and seasoned on the outside, juicy and tender within

    My steak - cooked to perfection.

    My steak - cooked to perfection.

Steak at Strip House

Medium rare

Dessert:

  • Chocolate brownie with ice cream – the brownie was good, but would’ve been better if it had been heated up. It was more room temperature, which took away from the normal pleasure of ordering a brownie sundae.

Out of 10: 9 for the spectacular steak and great atmosphere.

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SALT – SoHo

SALT

www.saltnyc.com
58 Macdougal Street
(212) 674-4968

SALT is a small, cozy bistro situated near the NYU campus. A few large family-style tables, a bar, and an open view of the kitchen added to the warmth of the restaurant. The service was a bit slow – we had basically finished our appetizers before the one person working the front remembered to come and take our orders for the main course. But it was a cold Friday, so lingering for a while longer indoors was pleasant and not so obtrusive.

Starters:

  • Cream of cauliflower soup, mushroom, truffle essence – This creamy soup was the perfect for a winter day. You can order it by the cup or by the bowl, I only ordered a cup, but did wish I had gotten the larger size when I finished it. The mushrooms were tender and the truffle oil added just the right amount of fragrance and flavor to the soup.
  • Carmelized Onion Risotto, red wine reduction, lamb’s lettuce – The risotto could have been a main course for one person, but was easily shared among four of us as a starter. Great flavor, not too salty, and the risotto was cooked well – but I’m not sure what the red wine reduction really added to the mix.
  • Honey glazed dates wrapped in bacon – By far the must-order appetizer on the menu. Only comes with six dates, but each were delicious. The honey and date juice mixed together acted as the perfect glaze to a salty and sweet delight.

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