Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Paname French Restaurant

Earlier this spring I had the chance to visit a delightful French bistro on the east side. I typically don’t dine on this side of town but with the Q train functioning it’s becoming more of a destination for west siders like myself.

Paname bills itself as a contemporary French restaurant. Having spent a lot of time in Paris the past 18 months, I was trying to feel like NY doesn’t do French food as well as it could. However, I must say this place would fit right in among many of the restaurants I visited. The space isn’t particularly large but it had an airier feel than most NY restaurants or Parisian bistros where you’re typically packed right next to the other diners. We had a delicious sampling of treats while we were there. The Baby Octopus with Haricots Blanc was my favorite starter.

It had a tangy yet rich flavor to it that kept me going back for more. I was surprisingly pleased with the Pate Maison aux Cornichons.

In fairness I’m not generally a big pate fan so the bar is usually set pretty low for me. The real highlight of the meal were the entrees. Bouillabaisse is not something I’ve had at other French restaurants.

This one was jam packed with fresh and flavorful shrimp, cod, clams and mussels in a saffron broth. The thing about bouillabaisse is you can really miss the mark of the broth is too thick or too thin. This one was perfectly flavored and when I finished my seafood, I was happy to dip the bread in the rich bounty of sauce. After stuffing myself silly with bouillabaisse I was barely interested in anything else. But then the duck arrived!

I was a bit skeptical at first because I’m used to a citrus sauce but this was served with a mango coulis. I’m not sure what the chef was thinking, but he nailed it! There were an assortment of delectable desserts and I sampled most of them. I don't usually go for sweet treats, but with this spread it was tough to resist.

I went home with a renewed appreciation for French cuisine in New York. I have already planned my next visit and look forward to a delightful return to Panama!

Hungry yet?

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Sel et Poivre 3.0

I’m embarrassed it took me this long to write about the fabulous dinner I enjoyed at Sel et Poivre. Trust me, it’s not for lack of enthusiasm! Frequent readers will know this is my third time writing about this restaurant! The difference this time is that I can now write about this popular Upper East Side French bistro with a comparison to the bistros I’ve been to in France. In the past 6 months I’ve been to Paris about half a dozen times. Each trip has been filled with many meals. Some highs and definitely some lows. I will say Sel et Poivre rivals some of the best bistros I’ve been to in Paris. The highlight of the meal and the easiest to draw a comparison to my Parisian meals was the Escargot.

A half dozen succulent snails bathed in olive oil and herbs. They were simply divine! I would travel to Sel et Poivre just for the snails. I also enjoyed the light appetizer of Mussels.

The restaurant offers two styles mariniere or a la provencal. Of course, a la Provencal was the preferred. It was delightful! A light broth with flavorful fennel. It took a lot of restraint to keep myself from bringing the bowl to my lips. The pomme frites were crispy on the outside perfectly soft on the inside and well seasoned. The French really know how to do justice to potatoes. The French green bean salad was a pleasant surprise.

I must admit, I’m not one for salads and I don’t really care for green beans. Yet, the way this was prepared, I had to hold myself back from devouring my neighbor’s plate. The contrast of the crunchy carrots and the green beans. I was shocked by how much I enjoyed the Roasted Chicken.

I often find that ordering chicken at a restaurant is a waste. Sel et Poivre surprised me with a flavorful and moist cut of white meat. The accompaniment of mashed potatoes was creamy and light.

There’s a reason I continue to go back to Sel et Poivre. Aside from the delightful selection I sampled on my most recent visit, they also have many of the classic French dishes you expect to see including Duck a l’orange and Grilled Chicken Paillard. The service is beyond measure. The staff is incredibly attentive, never letting a cup run empty. The patrons mostly look like repeat customers and I can certainly understand why we all keep going back.

Hungry yet?

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


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 S├ębastien 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?

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