Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Thalassa - anew

It's been two years since I first reviewed Thalassa. In New York, two years is a lifetime for a restaurant.  Thalassa just celebrated its 10 year anniversary last November so it's holding stronger than a lot of other restaurants. The decor is still modern, simple and elegant.  I was excited to attend another press dinner. Although the last time was great, I was looking forward to a curated meal selected by the chef. We started with an amuse bouche.

The Zucchini Fritters were quite a pleasant surprise. I didn't expect that the crispy outside would be filled with well seasoned deliciousness. Our meal was served family style but I didn't realize that would be the case until the appetizers landed on our table.

The Zucchini & Eggplant Chips didn't just look good, they tasted great. Crispy and lightly battered, I just couldn't stop going back for more.  I must admit that I really did not realize I liked zucchini until that night.  The Horiatiki Salad was not very popular at the table.

It wasn't because it lacked flavor, the tomatoes were fresh and the feta was delightful, but with all those other options, it fell to the side. Speaking of options, I was thrilled when the selection of dips arrived.

The selection included Roasted pepper with feta, Taramosalata and Tzatziki. Yummers! Thalassa is definitely the kind of place where you can fill up on lots of little items. Thankfully, we were able to also enjoy quite a few treats from various sections of the menu. The Tartare Trio was not as exciting as I hoped.

The blend of royal dorado with taramosalata, tuna with tzatziki, and lavraki with garlic almond mousse, drizzled with truffle oil did not do it for me. The fresh tartare flavor was masked by the various ingredients that were mixed in. The use of truffle oil was a nice aromatic addition but did not highlight any flavors. The dish was accompanied by two Langoustines. They were worth every bite! The Diver Scallops are still a signature dish.

They are wrapped in filo which lends each bite a crunch taste you would not ordinarily get from scallops. Thankfully, they are presented in a clean and simple way so no one ingredient overpowers the others. By far my favorite dish was the Octopodi.

Everything you know about octopus goes out the window when you take your first bite. This is the opposite of rubbery. Each bite highlights the light flavors of the octopus. It is meaty but not exhaustingly chewy. I am a huge fan!! The chef was also impressive and showed some versatility with the Swordfish Crudo with fennel.

This item is not yet on the menu but I sure hope it lands there soon. I'm partial to Asian food so when I taste a delicious sushi like piece of fish, my mouth yearns for more. The slight tartness was surprising but definitely welcomed. The highlight of the entrees arrived twice. The Lavraki first appeared in whole form.

Then it showed up again filleted seasoned with salt and pepper with fresh lemon juice and a side of wilted greens.

I had stuffed myself silly on the previous courses so I could only take a couple of bites. I was so disappointed that I could not finish it that for the first time ever, I requested a to-go bag at a press dinner! I was thoroughly embarrassed. But thankfully the restaurant did not add to my shame by bringing a big bag to the table. Instead they gave me this discreet little note.

Cute right? Well later that night, I devoured the Lavraki and I'm happy to report it was equally delicious, if not more so! So you would think because I was unable to finish my Lavraki that would put me out of the running for dessert. Well then that means you have never seen Thalassa's dessert spread! As the various items started arriving, a second portal opened in my stomach and I was able to go all in.

The bite size Baklava was perfectly sweetened with honey and the filo was light and crunchy. The Yogurt cake was a different kind of taste and not really my speed and the Ekmek was not worth the hassle.

On the other hand, the Molten Cake was incredible.

The chocolate was rich and flavorful. Of course it also helped that it oozed out chocolate goodness when I cut my first piece!

The Ice Cream Medley got high points for presentation and also did quite well on flavor.

The cones were delicious and not too sweet. The chocolate deliciousness inside was also quite good. The overflow of desserts was the perfect way to end the night.

A decade (and in my case two years) later Thalassa is still going strong. The revamped menu has a lot of options for those who favor small bites, authentic Greek flavors and delicious seafood. The semi-private space downstairs is still an enviable location for a dinner or reception. They've even added live music, which is a classy touch to a top notch restaurant. If you haven't been, now is your chance!

Hungry yet?

Thalassa on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

El Toro Blanco

I haven't seen Z in for-ev-er!! I think the last time we hung out was post Vendy's!! Crazy right? I've noticed that we end up at Mexican spots frequently, but I'm a fan. So when we were deciding between two places, it was pretty easy to pick El Toro Blanco.  The space is well designed with a simple and clean look. It was pretty lively in there and had good energy but it's definitely not a space for quiet intimate dinners. Thankfully we were definitely more on the lively end that night. We of course started our meal with guacamole.

It was creamy delicious avocado with the right blend of spices. But the true winner in the starter column is the spicy habenero salsa in the trio that accompanied the guacamole.

We loved it so much we ended up asking for more to kick things up later in our meal. Although the menu had lots of terrific options, we both decided on the tacos. Z ordered the Baja  Swordfish.

The meaty taco included avocado, roasted jalapeño aioli and citrus slaw. She added some spice to kick it up but definitely enjoyed the tacos. I went with the Camarones en Barbacoa.

It was a good looking taco and definitely lived up to expectations. The roasted tomatoes were not as flavorful as I expected so I also spiced it up with the salsa. There was nothing left on my plate. Of course we had to try something else so we went with a side of poblano rice.

Although it looks tasty it was definitely the most disappointing part of our meal. The rice was undercooked and boring! We mixed in the queso fresca but still got nothing out of it. There was no kick or flavor. Overall a very disappointing side. I had to make up for it with dessert.

The Mexican Chocolate Cake was a notch above what I usually expect. The matchstick churros and dulce de leche ice cream definitely brought this dessert together. The rich chocolate was completed by the ice cream and churros. I was quite pleased and this was the perfect end to the meal.

Our service was definitely subpar but it didn't take away from the meal. I was a huge fan of the variety on the menu and loved the tacos as guacamole. The rice was a low point, but the cake was a fantastic end. I'll definitely be back to more thoroughly explore the variety of the menu!

Hungry yet?

El Toro Blanco on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 11, 2013

El Kallejon

I've never been a fan of the east side. Something about it just never appealed to me as a child and I find it even less appealing as an adult. This is especially true in my neighborhood. I don't cross fifth avenue uptown but when Shrutster suggested that we find tapas in Harlem, I figured it was the perfect opportunity. El Kallejon is the kind of restaurant you would miss if you didn't know where to look. Tucked away down a few stairs on 117th and 3rd, it is overshadowed by its brighter, more colorful sister restaurant, Agua Fresca. The restaurant has only been open for about 9 months and doesn't have much of a weeknight crowd. The menu had several notable options and we were starving. We started with the Picudo Fish Ceviche.

It was like a bowl of never ending deliciousness! The fish was bite size and perfectly proportioned. The blend of jalapeño, red onion and lime juice was tart with a spicy bite. The ceviche was easily the highlight of the meal but the other dishes also didn't disappoint.

The El kallejon garlic shrimp tostas were a delicious surprise. The mix of garlic shrimp, chipotle aioli, avocado and roasted pineapple were creamier than I expected. I was a little hesitant to bite in, but was thrilled by the delicious shrimp and refreshing avocado. The pieces if bread were lightly toasted but thankfully not crispy.

We also ordered the Pollito tacos. I'm definitely a soft taco kinda girl so I was excited when these arrived. The bright colors and mix of adobo marinated chicken, black beans and salsa was even better when I added the avocado jalapeño sauce. I was overstuffed so it was hard to finish the tacos but I enjoyed every bite. Our server was kind enough to offer us a complimentary dessert.

The flan wasn't particularly delicious. I don't think it was because I was full. I think it had more to do with the consistency of the flan. The heart shape was cute but that's about the only thing desirable about the dessert. Next time I'll skip it or order something else. Thankfully the meal was otherwise worth it. I'm thinking East Harlem will be seeing more of me soon.

Hungry yet?

El Kallejon on Urbanspoon

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Lucky Cheng's

My guest blogger got hitched to one of my best friends last year. Since she had to celebrate her impending nuptials in style, she decided to make it happen in NYC. It was a ridiculously fun weekend and I wish we could do it all again!  The weekend started with a fabulous  dinner and show at Lucky Cheng's.  We ordered the family style dinner so a lot of delicious items started arriving on the table. Since we were famished, I had to dive in as soon a something landed on the table or risk it disappearing.  The Fried Veggie Spring Rolls were the first to arrive.

I wasn't particularly impressed.  They looked crispy but the inside was filled with mushy vegetables.  I was much happier with the Glazed Chili Lime Chicken Wings.

They were packed with flavor and definitely a table favorite. The Chicken and Mushroom Dumplings also got some love.

The dipping sauce was a simple sesame but really helped pull together the flavors.  As they started giving us previews of the show, our entrees made their way onto the table.  The Five Spice BBQ Chicken was an instant hit.

The rich tangy flavor was exactly as I imagined it.  It tasted even better when mixed with the Lucky Cheng's Veggie Fried Rice.

The rice was perfect for carb lovers like me, but also loaded with vegetables which tasted as though they were seasoned and cooked with the rice...not just thrown in as an afterthought.   I was not nearly as impressed with the Wok Seared Coconut Chicken.

It lacked flavor and chewing it was not worth the effort. Overall it was surprising to get a decent meal when that was definitely not the highlight of the place.  By no stretch of the imagination would I call this gourmet dining, but I'm glad they didn't let the food fall by the waist side.  They recently moved to near my office which is an odd location but could make for some interesting summer associate events....

Hungry yet?

Lucky Cheng's on Urbanspoon