Thursday, October 6, 2016

Nai Tapas Bar

On a beautiful June evening I was fortunate enough to attend a press dinner at Nai Tapas Bar. I had actually been on a Tapas kick for a while so any opportunity for small plates was welcome. 

The decor was tasteful with a mix of high and low tables. The back of the main dining area looked like the perfect place for a group dinner and the front was meant for catching up with friends or lounging casually. I was thrilled that the chef wasted no time getting our first course out. Esterificacion de Aceituna. 


Anyone who knows me is well aware of my life long battle against olives. I just can't understand the appeal of working so hard for such a tiny bite. So you can imagine my skepticism when an olive was the first thing to arrive. Not just any olive though. It was an emulsified recreation of an olive. It was the perfect solution for someone like me. A deliciously tasty treat without the pit or any of the hard work traditionally required with olives. Since the meal started with such a delightful surprise, I was excited to see what the rest of the night would hold.




The Mini-airbags of manchego foam were an unexpected treat. The crunchy pocket created a nice contrast with the light airy manchego filling. As we moved through the meal we were able to sample several proteins. My two favorites were the Tostada de Lubino (Chilean sea bass) and the Aguacate Relleno. 




The sea bass was rich in flavor but light on my tongue. The asparagus was well flavored to complement the orange emulsion and balsamic reduction. The Aquacate was a welcome change from most tapas restaurants. It essentially tasted like a sushi roll! Since I was on a strict no sushi diet, this was the perfect way to get my fix. I'm convinced Chef Ruben grows his avocados out back because they were incredibly fresh.  

We also sampled a tapas classic Gambas al ajillo. 



Anyone who has tasted this treat knows that the sauce is the secret. I begged for bread so I could dip it in the sauce! The Pollo Ahumado was a heavier protein for anyone who is really hungry. It was more than I had room for that evening but after a couple of bites I got the sense it wasn't your run of the meal chicken dish and I gobbled it all up. By the end of the meal, I didn't have room for much else but when I was told there were two dessert options, my stomach quickly opened up. 




The pear cotton candy was an unexpected treat. Sweet but not overly sugary. The chocolate filled churros were out of this world! I would go back just for those! 

Overall Nai was a lovely dining experience. A warm atmosphere with delicious eats. Highly recommend the olive, Tostada de Lubino and the Aguacate. 

Hungry yet? 

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Ponty Bistro

Hello eaters! I know it's been a while. I've been eating but so much has been happening that I haven't been writing. Please forgive me! I'm back now and will have a lot to write about given the many many dining experiences I've had. 

I recently went to a press dinner at Ponty Bistro. It's a Senagalese French restaurant in Manhattan. I ate at the original location which is on 3rd avenue and 19th street. It's a neighborhood I rarely dine in these days. The location seats about 45 guests and although there's no sidewalk cafe, if you come early you can snag a seat by the floor to ceiling window that remains open during warmer months. I have been to a couple of Senegalese restaurants before but rarely have I had the kind of culinary delight I experienced at Ponty Bistro. The first dish on the warm summer-like spring evening was Gazpacho.  


I have never been a fan of gazpacho so I was immediately skeptical. However when it landed on the table, I was pleasantly surprised by the scent of the berber spices. My first spoonful was enough to convince me. The spicy tomato based soup included cucumbers which had a cooling effect. The surprises continued when the Kale Salad arrived. 


Eaters, you know I'm not about the salad life. However I must say the combination of pine nuts, goat cheese, cranberries mixed with a lemon vinaigrette dressing was just right. I was the first to finish this dish and really wanted more. I was less impressed with the Risotto. 
Don't get me wrong, it wasn't bad. The combination of truffle mushroom and asparagus with Parmesan cheese was actually pretty good. I just felt overwhelmed by the number of mushrooms in my tasting portion serving. They did add an interesting texture and provide a richer flavor, but the dish still seemed more rice than risotto. The Risotto was a distant memory when the African Mussels arrived. 
If there was a drool worthy dish, this was definitely it. The scent of the coconut milk, curry, lemongrass, and berbere spices hit you right as the bowl landed on the table. These were unlike any other mussels I've had the mussels themselves were larger than what I'm used to. The sauce was light but the flavor was HUGE. The sauce was so good we were eating it by the spoonful when we finished the mussels. The last dish was an unexpected favorite. Chicken Tagine. 

This was another dish with lively color and bold taste. It is inspired by the Moroccan dish of the same name. The onion based sauce includes a blend of rich spices. It had a little kick to it which I appreciated. The Cous Cous was also cooked to perfection and went really well with the sauce. 

There's no better place I could have asked for to re-enter the blogosphere. Ponty Bistro had a diverse menu and offers a cuisine you can't find in many locations around the city. The dishes are well worth the prices especially considering the portions. I'm looking forward to trying the Harlem location soon!

Hungry yet?  

Monday, December 30, 2013

Bagatelle

I recently attended a Blogger night at Bagatelle. The restaurant is already well know for its party scene, but it could definitely use more shine for the delightful culinary creations of the talented chef Sébastien Chamaret. We were able to sample many of the signature dishes as well as some other delicious selections. By far my favorite dish was the Parisian Truffle Gnocchi. 

The melt in your mouth bite sized pieces of gnocchi were covered with thin shaves of truffle. Unbelievable. The truffle was complimentary not overpowering the way truffle typically is overused. Truffle was actually present in several dishes and each time it enhanced the dish. The Whole Roasted Truffle Chicken was phenomenal. 

The meat was juicy and fell right off the bone. The potatoes were lightly roasted and perfectly cooked; soft, but not mushy.  The White Truffle Pizza was not what I expected at a french restaurant. 

Again I was thrilled  that the truffle was not overwhelming. The crust was perfectly crispy.  The Ahi Tuna Tartare was fantastic. 

Sushi grade tuna with lime soy vinaigrette on top of an avocado salad. I was a little bummed that I had to share it with other people at the table. The Salmon Tartare was good but not quite as impressive. 

The mixture of fresh and smoked salmon was unique but the touch of cream threw it off a little. Generally the seafood entrees were not as well executed.  The Thyme and Parmesan Crusted Scallops looked great. 

They tasted fine. After so many great dishes, I was generally underwhelmed. The Grilled Salmon was also lacking. 


It was cooked medium but lacked any seasoning and was unimpressive.  The Calamari had a great presentation.
 

The polenta and tomato confit coupled with parsley butter added great flavor to the dish. The calamari was thin so it lacked the meatiness I usually prefer.  While we were eating, the lights were turned down and the music turned up. By the end of the meal, I was spending more time singing and chair dancing than actually eating. 

The party won't stop at Bagatelle, but the food should be given due consideration.  I highly recommend the gnocchi and the chicken. Several of the dishes are worth returning for and I can't wait to go back! 

Hungry yet?

Bagatelle on Urbanspoon

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Masq Restaurant & Lounge


It’s no secret that I LOVE NEW ORLEANS! Food is the primary reason that I love that city.  So when I received an invite to attend a press dinner at Masq Restaurant & Lounge, a New York restaurant with a New Orleans theme, I HAD to be there.  The theme is definitely there in the décor.  There are three main areas and my favorite is definitely the back lounge area, which is heavy on the masques and likely to be the location of my birthday celebration next year.


Aside from the décor, the food is heavily influenced by New Orleans, but also has some standout dishes outside of that theme.   By far my favorite dish was the Shrimp Po Boy.


It was served on a sweet Hawaiian roll, which enhanced the flavor of the Cajun fried shrimp by providing a contrast.  The spicy remoulade was also a game changer that brought up the level of complexity in an otherwise simple Po boy.  The Asian Marinated Salmon was a close second.


Since it falls outside of the theme, it couldn’t be the favorite.  It is usually offered as a special.  The honey garlic soy sauce had deep flavors. I treasured every bite of the salmon.  I also very much enjoyed the Maryland Crabcake.



Another item that falls slightly outside of the theme, but it was seasoned to perfection.  The breading was light and it was quite obvious I was eating chunks of crab and not filler.  The arugula was slightly salty so I stayed away from that part of the dish.  This is definitely not the restaurant for vegetarians.  Both the Grilled Vegetable Flatbread and the Asiago Cheese Wedges were the least successful dishes.  

The tomato basil sauce tasted great, but the cheese itself was bland and the breading was equally tasteless.  The flatbread suffered a similar fate.  It was also foiled by its use of cheese.  The goat cheese seemed odd and detracted from the flavors.



The two dishes I would most like to return for are the ones I did not taste.  The Mac ‘n Cheese Croquettes and the Jambalaya.  Both of them contain some form of pork so I unfortunately missed out.  Judging by the empty plates and looks of satisfaction around the table, I would guess that these were the top dishes.  I have already inquired and I’m pleased to hear that the chef is willing to work with me and de-pork these dishes, when it comes to my birthday dinner.  I can’t WAIT to try both.

Masq’s menu is diverse but definitely has a clear New Orleans swing.  Considering my love for the city, I am thrilled that this restaurant exists in my city and I’m looking forward to returning.

Hungry yet? 

MASQ on Urbanspoon

Friday, December 13, 2013

Cook & Go


As the weather starts to cool down, hanging out has become more of a challenge and I'm always looking for a fun and interactive indoor activity. When I received an invite to attend the press event at Cook & Go, I was pumped! Cook & Go is an awesome venue that allows you to do just what it says...cook, and go! The concept is brilliant. They have a short cooking class where you make an individual portion of a meal then you box it up and you take it elsewhere to eat. The set up is beautiful and I was super excited to get started.


Our chef was awesome and we had four fantastic dishes to make.  The best part of the process is that you make your own dish, so you can add a little flair.  My absolute favorite dish was the Ravioli with Pumpkin Sage Sauce.


We assembled the three cheese ravioli ourselves then cooked it…and of course I made a few extra pieces.  The chef was also kind enough to give me some sauce to go. YUM!  The panko crusted chicken bites were quite easy to make, and I have already replicated them at home.


Our entrées were restaurant worthy, and quite hearty! We also had not one, but two desserts!


The Chocolate Cranberry Tart tasted great but mine fell apart a little in the oven. 

The Maple Upside Down Cake was much more successful!


I truly enjoyed the experience, and you can also take advantage of it.  For a limited time, Cook & Go is offering my readers a chance to get a 10% discount! It’s totally worth it and I already have plans to return in January.  Register here and use the password: Lady.  Also not a bad idea if you're still looking for a list minute holiday gift! 

This is also a great place for anyone who is unsure about whether they can cut it in the kitchen. You'll have some easy starter recipes created by well trained chefs! I also got to walk away with a new apron. 


Hungry yet?