Monday, November 18, 2013

The Marrow: A Reason to Blog!

This blog entry is dedicated to Bob. You know who you are, Bob. Feel better!

Most of you probably forgot I had this blog. I forgot I had this blog, too. (It’s been pointed out to me on more than one occasion that I tend to dabble in hobbies. For a few years it was this blog, then it was a fast and furious love affair with kickboxing; at this moment, it's photography.)

But the past is the past. It won't do any of us any good if I name drop any more of the places I went while the blog went dark, especially where my good friend Eileen took me this past April as a 35th birthday present. I’ll just say it had three Michelin stars. And it was French. And the chef was very hot. And the name started with "Le."

What made me recall I had a blog in the first place was my dining experience over the weekend. My mind was so blown that the very next day I began writing a thank-you note to the restaurant. Then I crafted a review on OpenTable (those clowns cut me off after like 50 characters). I was just about to dig up my username on Yelp when I had an epiphany that I could write anything I wanted on my own website, ie: here! So "here" is what follows:

I’ve long been a fan of Top Chef Season 1 winner Harold Dieterle, owner of Manhattan hotspots Perilla and Kin Shop. While strategizing where to take my good friend Eileen for her birthday, my co-worker and fellow foodie Joe mentioned Dieterle had opened a new contemporary German/Italian style restaurant called The Marrow about a year ago in the West Village. I perused the menu. “Who can resist German/Italian fusion?” I thought to myself. I knew I couldn’t, now that I knew it existed. From there, it was easy to convince Eileen that that’s where she wanted to go for her birthday.

The Marrow’s website has some great pictures of the decor, as well as of the food (Eileen took some pretty sub-par pics on her phone, which I’ll include despite their sub-par nature because people love pictures). What the site fails to capture is just how awesome the musical selection is. We heard Hendrix, Zeppelin, Bon Jovi, Journey, Poison, even some rap as the evening went on. I LOVE restaurants that have polished food, service and décor, yet create a non-pretentious, friendly vibe ala the playlist.

Our server Karla made her awesomeness known early in the evening, as well. Eileen was looking for a cocktail that “masked the taste of alchohol” (ie: a girly drink). When Karla realized Eileen wasn’t drinking the first cocktail she brought out, she offered to replace it right away with something bubbly and girlier. Out appeared The Marrow 75 (gin, lemon, sage, blanc de blancs), which Eileen loved.

For apps, we chose: The Ricotta Cavatelli $16 (Baby arugala, pinenuts, lemon, and parmesan)
I’m not sure I can describe how good this was. I’m out of practice with my wordsmithing. I’ll just say that it was so good, I told the couple sitting next to me to order it.

We also ordered: The Pretzel Crusted Rock Shrimp Salad $14 (Mizuna, pickled mushrooms, and chili-lemon vinaigrette)

This wouldn’t have even been on my radar (not a big fan of shrimp), if Eileen didn’t push it. So glad she did. The salad was bright and refreshing and delicate; the shrimp meaty, crisp nuggets of flavor, which perfectly balanced with the peppery greens. Naturally, I told the couple next to me to order this, too.

Finally, given it was the restaurant’s namesake, we ordered The Bone Marrow $17 (Sea urchin, fried potatoes, meyer lemon aioli and baby celery greens). (Pictured above the rock shrimp salad.)

Beautiful to behold, “meh” to the taste, I’m sorry to say. However, if you look online, people lose their shit over this dish, so take my opinion with a grain of salt (Seriously, what do I know? I’ve only had bone marrow on one other occasion, and I was meh about it then, too.) Eileen and I just weren’t impressed. Not with the marrow, and not with the bread that accompanied it. Thick, dry, a little chewy, and not toasted enough. This is where our server shined once again. Upon noticing two completely clean plates that recently had cavatelli and salad on it, and then the barely-touched marrow, she asked if everything was ok. We were honest. We said it just wasn’t our thing. She thanked us for the feedback and made no further mention of it until the end of the meal, when she kindly and discreetly removed it from our bill. Totally unnecessary, but very thoughtful and classy. We were touched.

For dinner, it was Pumpernickel crusted salmon $27 (schupfnudeln, baby beets, greens, and red wine sauce).
The crust took Sammy to another level. The sauce, the beets, and especially the rolled noodles, gave the dish a hearty, wintery feel. I loved it.

Eileen was similarly in love with her White Balsamic-Glazed Black Cod $36 (Roasted mushrooms, fennel and eggplant-basil sauce)

This was great, too. I preferred the salmon, but Eileen was over the moon with this.

Karla also brought out a plate of Roasted Delicata Squash ($12), compliments of the chef (pictured above my salmon). Eileen and I were so full at this point, we were going to take a few bites to placate our server and the chef, but after one bite, I pronounced it the best thing I had ever eaten, and decided I had to make room for it. I declared this to the table next to us, and even began fixing them a plate (you never know where you’re going to make foodie friends).

For dessert, we went with a special: a plate of donuts served with marscarpone cheese and some sort of syrupy dipping sauce I can’t remember.


Again, this is where The Marrow showed its class. I made the reservation online about a month prior. Karla brought the donuts out with a candle on it (note: not the candle pictured; that was us trying to recreate some of the magic), and warmly wished Eileen a happy birthday.

I’m not sure it comes through in this entry, (Remember: I’m a photographer now), but I REALLY REALLY REALLY loved The Marrow. To the point I’m telling Eileen to take me there for my birthday. Get there, my friends!

The Marrow
99 Bank Street
(212) 428-6000

Friday, June 8, 2012

2012: Oh, the Places I've Been

Well hello! I needed to take some time off of the blog. Number 1: I kind of burnt myself out (there’s only so many ways you can call lettuce, ‘crisp,’ you know? Number 2: I’ve been busy with work, kickboxing, and moving all my shit into a new apartment in the heart of White Plains. Number 3: I suppose I may be afraid of success, lol. At least that’s what I’ve been told. You see, my blog was starting to get really popular! I felt I was writing reports for all the wrong reasons (obligation), as opposed to why I originally started the blog (merely to keep track of all the meals I had in the city).

So anyhoo, today, I really found myself missing my own write-ups. I was perusing the Platt 101: New York City’s Best Restaurants, and realized I had been to a lot of the places on the list. Not only had I forgotten what I ordered, I had plum forgotten I went!

So, in an effort to catch up, here’s a list of places I’ve eaten the past year, with what little detail I remember. In no particular order. Actually, I lie, I’ll put them in alphabetical order for ya:

9 Restaurant: Oh wow, this really is a testament to how out of the loop I’ve become. Don’t bother looking it up. Apparently, this place closed last month. I was totally going to tell you to order the buffalo chicken dumplings. They were off the hook!

ABC Kitchen: Everything you could possibly want in a dining experience. Ingredients were amazingly fresh and masterfully combined. After sampling a bunch of vegetables and salads to start, I surprised myself by ordering something pretty ordinary-sounding: the akaushi cheeseburger with herbed mayo and pickled jalapenos. But I did not regret this decision. It was a great cheeseburger. There was a homemade ginger ale there that also stood out. This now rates as one of my all-time favorite restaurants.

Ai Fiori: Did Eileen and I like our food? Oh yes. Crispy sweetbreads stood out as an appetizer, as did the rack of lamb entrée. I think Eileen said the lobster was the best lobster she ever had. I had a panna cotta for dessert that made me want to cry it was so good. But would we go back? Doubtful. The place just seemed kind of stuffy. Service and décor alike.

Ammos Estiatorio: So, my girlfriends and I had a $100 gift card to this joint, receiving it for participating in a 24-hour run benefiting Muscular Dystrophy research. We were just going to capitalize on free stuff, but we ended up staying for lots of free drinks from the friendly bartenders (I guess that still qualifies as “free stuff”), as well as one of the best, simplest, grilled lamb chops I’ve ever had. Check it out; commuters: it’s right next to Grand Central Station.

Bar Boulud: Probably my new favorite place to dine in Manhattan. I love the service, the décor, the ambiance… take away all that and you still have food that is second to none, especially the brunch! Do yourself a favor and take someone you love: get the 4-course prix fixe brunch: split the steel cut oatmeal and the pate grand-mere, and then the brioche French toast with roasted almond butter with the croque madame (Holy eff, that croque madame sings to me while I sleep). Good luck trying to fit the other two courses in your belly. ...God, I love Bar Boulud; did I mention that?

Bondi Road: I went on a fun date here a few months back. We did lots of oyster shots, fruity drink shots, along with mussels, shrimp, salt and pepper calamari. I just liked the chill, laid back vibe and the surfer motif. 

Ilili: Speaking of cool places to take a date, Ilili is a decidedly more trendy scene…. My friend knows one of the managers here, and when a big group of us visited, he really took care of the table: steak tartare, warm eggplant, brussel sprouts, batata harra (cute little cubed fries), veal sweetbreads in lettuce cups, duck shawarma, citrus trout, and all these amazing meats. I couldn’t imagine not ordering the same stuff next time I visit. …but I suppose I would also like to keep my tab under one million dollars. This place is a must visit.

The John Dory Oyster Bar: Loved everything about this place. Oysters were off the hizzle, excellently paired with a refreshing cucumber rickey. Also worth trying was the grilled octopus salad and the chorizo stuffed squid. I could go just for the oysters and rickeys, though.

Kin Shop: Our group had high hopes for this contemporary Thai restaurant, co-opened by Top Chef Season One winner Harold Dieterle, who also owns the wonderful Perilla in the West Village. The Fried Pork and Crispy Oyster Salad is reason enough for trying it; however, the spicy duck laab salad was so spicy it killed our tastebuds for the rest of the evening. The Steamed Sticky Rice was a wonderful side, especially when I spooned it into the curry dish I ordered (don’t remember which one). When we visited, the dessert menu looked sparse (only ice cream and sorbet), but it looks like they’ve added some good stuff: a panna cotta and coconut cream cake.

Scarpetta: You know, even though the food here was way better than decent (I had a bread pudding for dessert I still remember), this place almost made me take to the blog during my hiatus. I was pretty annoyed: I made dinner reservations as soon as was allowed, and, because we were celebrating my friend’s birthday, I had asked ahead of time that we not be rushed during dinner. Nevertheless, courses were piled on top of each other, plates were cleared immediately, and the check was literally dropped off along with our dessert. No coffee refills. Service was cold and frenetic.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Fatty Crab

My mom and I were in Manhattan last weekend. Originally, we had tickets to see that Spider-Man musical, but the opening was delayed because Spider-Man flew into a wall or something. So instead, we had a leisurely stroll around Manhattan. Stops for the day included: the New York Public Library, Bryant Park to see the ice skaters, and the highly anticipated high-end Italian market Eataly in the hopes of sampling something delicious (note to self: in the future visit Eataly on a weekday, say early a.m., if you don’t want to get trampled by others hoping to sample something delicious—we were in and out of there in less than a half hour due to the crowd).

Around 3 p.m., after a brisk stroll along the High Line, stomachs growling due to the mob scene at Eataly, we walked the few short blocks east to Hudson Street, thinking it was finally an opportune time to visit the tiny, no reservations Malaysian hipster hotspot, Fatty Crab.

We had a good feeling about this Fatty Crab almost immediately. Upon entering, we received a warm welcome from a smiling, unassuming waiter. The restaurant is tiny, the very definition of “hole in the wall.” A corner bar is manned by a hippy-version of Ryan Renolds, with a small kitchen window to his right. Bright red walls, exposed brick, a tin ceiling, and worn wooden floors give off an aura of “I’m-not-trying-too-hard-despite-my-reputation-of-Awesome.”

Given the few patrons at 3 p.m., we were seated right by the front window, a Fatty Crab delivery bicycle parked outside.

We started with Steamed Pork Buns ($13):
I think the picture says it all.

Well, NOW the picture says it all:
I am a SUCKER for a soft, squishy steamed bun, and these buns delivered. Piping hot, soft as clouds, the perfect conduit for succulent pork belly. It’s served with a hard-boiled egg, pickled radish, and a tangy-yet-somewhat spicy dipping sauce.

Here is the Watermelon and Crispy Pork ($16):
At the time, I think my mom and I were under the impression we were ordering an entrée, but now I think this dish fell under Appetizers with our pork buns. Which makes sense, given our waiter brought this out after the buns, but before our entrée. A small matter. The lesson learned was simple: Crispy pork belly and watermelon is the Future. Who knew these two could be such a duo? The pork crunches satisfyingly before melting on the tongue, the watermelon gives a burst of refreshing sweetness. A glorious dish, albeit a small one.

Sadly, this is when we should’ve left Fatty Crab (ie: on top).

Take a good, hard look at the Nasi Lemak ($21), aka, the worst dish I’ve had in years.
Nasi Lemak is described on the menu as “coconut rice, chicken curry, slow poached egg.” On the left are two pieces of fried chicken, a wing and a leg. It was not remarkable fried chicken, but it did taste like fried chicken in its defense (wasn’t it supposed to be curry, though?). There were also some spiced peanuts buried underneath the chicken that were tasty. The shimmering poached egg on the coconut rice wasn’t terrible; the egg, coupled with the creaminess of coconut, just ended up being too creamy and rich. Not a pleasant combination, especially paired with the stuff in the middle, which is what we really took issue with: a fish cake in banana leaves that was extremely fishy-smelling and off-putting. What type of fish was it? I think the waiter said it was a “combination of leftovers” which should’ve been our first clue something was up, but he also went on to say it was made “fresh” daily. There was a little pile of dried anchovies that were fun, but next to it, a dark pile of sambal belacan—chilies, shrimp paste, sugar and lime juice—that was beyond fishy. It smelled off; I tasted it anyway, but it tasted like it smelled. Nasi Lemak: FAIL. Keep in mind: this was my first Malaysian meal. I’m merely telling you my personal feelings on Nasi Lemak (in essence: I was horrified).

The staff, initially on their best behavior, were now acting kind of erratic, as well. What started out as a warm, welcoming feel, was quickly dissolving into the weird and eccentric. Our waiter was conversing loudly with diners behind us, the word “porn” coming up over and over.

We were still somewhat scarred by the Nasi Lemak when our waiter arrived with our bill. There was no offering of a dessert menu (maybe he sensed the last dish didn’t go over well), but he did leave us with two slices of coconut-flavored mochi. They had an unexpected, slightly salty aftertaste, which was wonderful paired with the sweetness of the rice cakes. This lifted our spirits.

I’m left slightly mystified by Fatty Crab. How could a restaurant that served two exceptional, knock-your-socks-off dishes, send out such a BOMB? And what of the vibe? Is it warm or wacky?

Jury’s out.

Fatty Crab
643 Hudson St
New York, NY 10014
(212) 352-3590