The Muppets (2011)

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Hugo (2011)

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Club A Steakhouse

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Earlier this July, I bought a “dinner for two” coupon from LivingSocial.  I jumped on the deal during a time when I was craving steak.  Finally, two months later I was able to satisfy that craving.  Business casual was the suggested attire, so my date and I dressed nicely for the occasion.  Our reservations were set for 5:00 pm and unsurprisingly, we were the first at the restaurant.  As others trickled in, I saw that a majority of the diners around us were all participating in the same deal I had bought.

The coupon included a 4-course meal for each person in addition to a bottle of wine, either cabernet sauvignon or pinot grigio.  Since I was the only drinker, I decided a bottle of cabernet sauvignon since it would be better match with the steak.  To start we had the Mushroom Soup and Fried Calamari.  The Calamari was nothing out of the ordinary.  The mushroom soup really impressed me.  I was expecting the typical Campbell’s-like cream based soup with mushroom chunks/slices, but was surprised to find that their soup was a strange greenish color that was full of mushroom flavor but no mushroom chunks.  It was probably the best mushroom soup I’ve had in a while and it put a smile on my face.

We ordered a Hanger Steak and a Filet Mignon for our entrees with side orders of Mac and Cheese and Creamed Spinach.  The hanger steak was very good, but I thought the filet mignon was better.  My date had anticipated thus and let me enjoy the filet mignon, which was cooked medium and nearly perfectly.  Tender and a bit raw on the inside while nice and slightly charred on the outside, it really appeased and delighted me.  The creamed spinach was also delicious and smooth, although it felt a bit heavy after I ate a large portion of it.  The mac and cheese was good as well, but it was unimpressive compared to the S’mac we ate a few days ago.

Dessert was tiramisu and cream puffs.  The tiramisu was… edible.  But in the end I still couldn’t bring myself to finish it.  The cream puffs were good but it can’t compare the little dessert shops down in Little Italy such as Ferrera.  This place clearly does not specialize in desserts and could benefit greatly from hiring a new pastry chef.  From my meal, the dessert was the only real weak link in the entire meal, and I would’ve thought much more highly of the restaurant if I didn’t have to end the meal on such a low note.

Torrisi Italian Specialties

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After weeks and months of pining to dine at this establishment, the time finally came.  At 5:10, I thought I was way too early for a restaurant that only begins taking reservations at 5:30 and doesn’t actually start serving until 6:00; however, I was surprised to find that I was the 10th or 11th person standing in line already.  I see this as a good sign.  So, we waited, put in our name, meandered for 25 minutes or so, and returned.  This is an ideal place to go after work, especially after reading the recent New York Times article decision fatigue, because you only really have one choice to make.  Tonight, it was lamb or fish?  The rest is a set menu that changes on a nightly basis.

To begin, we were offered 4 appetizers:  Warm Mozz, DaVero, Milk Thistle Cream; Brighton Beets, Dill Pollen;Roasted Cauliflower, Dried Scallop Vinaigrette; and Tripe, Currants, Fermented Jingle Bell Peppers.  The mozzarella was incredible, and again, it could just be my love for cheeses, but I could have consumed a tub of the mozzarella with the garlic bread as an entire meal.  The flavors were strong and perfectly melted in my mouth with the soft cheese.  This was a rare situation where I actually wish I had more bread before the main course, because it just matched the mozzarella so well.  The beets and cauliflower dishes were as anticipated, great in comparison to other restaurants, but not for the standards already set by the mozzarella appetizer.  The tripe actually intrigued me deeply; I had never before tasted tripe prepared in a western style.  I was a big fan of it, although it could be attributed partly to the currants as well.  I was slightly befuddled though by the different consistency of this tripe from the kinds I generally had in Chinese cooking.  I was informed that this was a different part/type of tripe.  Clearly, there is more food for me to try in the world.

Our first course was Gemelli, Dirty Duck Ragu.  I appreciated the taste of the dish and the duck, as it was unlike other duck that I had in the past, but I am not a big fan of gemelli in general.  I often complain of other thick, chewy, doughy tasting dishes in the same manner.  I think this dish could have had a lot more potential if it was paired with another type of pasta.  It would at least be more suitable for my personal tastes.  Our gemelli wasn’t even twisted in the shape of pretty unicorn horn.  Maybe that would be demanding too much.

For our main course, we had the two options which were Striped Bass, Pickled Green Tomato or BBQ Lamb, Molasses Vinaigrette, and because we work so well in tandem, we each opted for one of the choices.  I took the bass while she indulged in the lamb.  These were both fairly unimpressive for what I had expected, and at this point, I only have a vague impression of both being more sour than I expected or liked.  This is unusual too because I am often ecstatic about very sour dishes.  Perhaps, I was still reminiscing over the mozzarella I had first.

The finale of our meal were the House Pastries.  This consisted of 5 little treats:  a green-colored pastry with a sunflower seed on top; a custard with cayenne pepper and sea salt; celery sugar cookies; tri-color almond cake; and ricotta cheese filled cannoli.  As we ate around the treats we often exchanged looks of surprise and apprehensiveness.  Some were quite unique, and some were not as delicious as I expected, but all were worth a try.  My personal ranking would be:  1. custard; 2. cannoli; 3. sugar cookie; 4. almond cake; 5. green-colored pastry.

Despite everyone’s ravings, I didn’t enjoy this meal as much as I expected.  Perhaps my expectations had already been built too high.  However, despite my complaints, even the dishes that I was “not a big fan of” or considered “unimpressive” were still very good on the entire spectrum of possibilities.  They were merely less impressive than some of the best dishes I’ve ever had.  Nevertheless, I really do think I would’ve been happier with a giant tub of the mozzarella and a large roll of the Italian garlic bread.

The Iron Giant (1999)

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I remember hearing of this movie long ago, but finally someone forced me to watch it, strongly suggesting that I would enjoy it.  On this momentous day, I found a friend (in the movie) who also aspires like me to be just like Superman.  Who doesn’t want to be a hero?  I certainly do, although I’m not from Krypton nor am I made of iron with built-in weapons of mass destruction.

The Iron Giant is one of those friends that every dorky child, like myself and Hogarth, dreams of having.  Even if I could never be awesome and amazing, I might have a best friend who is all those things and more.  It’s not really that different from most people wanting to be like E from Entourage with Vinny Chase as the best friend, except that I guess most older people aspire to have famous millionaires as a best friend instead of a superhero.  The happy aspect of this movie was of course the blossoming friendship between a boy and his iron friend; the dark aspect though was the fears and insecurities of mankind desiring to own, control, or subdue all things that he does not comprehend.

I am always sad to see fellow humans act out in such rash ways without even an attempt to reach out in understanding.  I guess that’s why in movies we often hear them say “shoot first, ask questions later.”  Unfortunately that doesn’t work out so well when you are shooting at a killing machine which has been tamed.  Luckily, the giant has a better heart (mind?) than us, and becomes a true Superman by saving all the people of that little town in Maine from nuclear destruction.

But, poor Hogarth lost his only friend.  However, maybe the giant will be back someday?  Iron Giant 2?

Giorgio’s of Gramercy

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I absolutely could not wait for lunch today, not because I had planned to go to Giorgio’s of Gramercy, but merely because the air conditioning in my office was broken and all of the employees were slowly roasting.  Lunch offered us an escape from the oven, at least for a short hour.  I decided to stop in at Giorgio’s as another stop on the restaurant week tour.  Nothing on the menu seemed exceptional, but I was ready to try 3 of the items to see how they were.  Fortunately for me, I inquired as to the Soup du Jour, which uninterestingly enough was Chicken Barley I believe; however, the server also eagerly announced the other specials for the day to me.  One dish did happen to pique my interest, and so I was swayed away from the prix fixe menu.

Among the numerous daily specials I chose the Garden Vegetable Ravioli with Grilled Shrimp, Asparagus, and Cherry Tomatoes in a Lemon Garlic Sauce.  As I awaited my scrumptious sounding choice, I embellished in some of the complimentary bed typical to most restaurants.  Giorgio’s was not off to a good start…  It undoubtedly was day old cheap bread from the deli around the corner, and I could barely bring myself to finish even a piece.  At this point, I feared for the worst, but I consoled myself with the fact that I had dined at other fine restaurants with subpar bread.

This only made me more eager to see what kind of special would be presented to me.  As the second person to arrive in the restaurant for lunch, my dish came fairly swiftly, and from its outward appearance, looked to satisfy me completely.  Even my server, who seemingly had not seen this order before, whispered to me, “I’m having that for lunch today.”  Indeed, this reaffirmed that the look of it was most appealing.  As for the taste, it was as good as it looked.  At first the asparagus and cherry tomatoes tasted a bit out of place, but I soon realized that I had to adequately soak each piece in the juices enveloping the ravioli and shrimp.  The shrimp itself was delicious and grilled to perfection, I was most disappointed that I could not get all of the meat out of the tails and had to sacrifice some of the deliciousness.  The ravioli was exceptional as well.  I’m not quite sure what exactly was in it except for remnants of diced mushrooms, but it certainly did not disappoint.  Whatever the chef did, it was amazing.  I remember thinking to myself as I ate, that if any parent should have trouble motivating their children to eat vegetables, they should have them indulge in this ravioli.  I can only hope that they will make this special more frequently in the future since I feel it is amazing enough to be one of their staple dishes.

Since the entree was so surprisingly delicious, I decided to indulge in a dessert as well.  The server recommended their famous S’mores Bread Pudding.  I had just had an amazing s’mores dessert the other night at Telepan, so this was good opportunity to see how it would measure up.  As the first bite entered my mouth, I knew that it was not the same caliber as the s’mores I had before.  This was strangely enough, a case where the brownie was too moist, and I suppose, certainly very pudding like, too much so for my taste.  The vanilla gelato on top was nothing exceptional, and there was no form of mashmallow or whipped cream, which I usually feel is necessary (unless your brownie and gelato/ice cream are amazing).  The graham cracker was just a sad sad piece of out-of-the-box Honey Maid laying next to the creation, and the caramel sauce contributed next to nothing.  It was covered with crunchy chocolate wafer balls and a nice piece of dark chocolate; their purpose I assume was to distract from the fact that the top layer of the brownie did not offer the usual kind of slightly hard texture, an attribute I quite like.

All in all, it was still amazing meal.  The entree was something superb, and I feel fortunate to have stopped in today while they were serving it.  The dessert was good as well, merely not as good as I had hoped.  Perhaps I did not get as much food in terms of quantity as if I had ordered the prix fixe, but I was certainly very pleased with my entree choice.  There will be no regret today for straying from the original lunch plan.

Telepan


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This would be the third stop for me on restaurant week.  Here, one could choose from the typical $35 3-course dinner or a discounted version of their 4-course meal, available for $45 rather than $59, wine of course was not included at this price.  Again, I was not alone, so I had the opportunity to at least sample eight dishes, although I cannot say that I can judge them all fairly.  Sometimes the pleasure of a dish evolves as you eat, and for at least 3 of the dishes, I had no more than a single bite.

For the appetizer, we began with a Vegetable-Bread Soup and their famous “BLT” Salad.  I only had a spoonful of the soup, but from it, I could only say that it did nothing to impress me or entice me to try more of it.  The salad was very good, like a BLT sandwich with high quality ingredients, just with more greens and less bread.  I quite enjoyed the incredibly crispy bacon as well except for the fact that it was sometimes hard to get from the plate to my mouth using a fork.  The Chinese side of me really wanted chopsticks at times…

The mid-course consisted of Nettle & Wild Spinach Ravioli in addition to Lobster Bolognese.  The ravioli was quite pleasing, but small.  It only consisted of 3 pieces, and I took an entire piece from my dinner mate, apologies for them, but I liked it a lot.  As for the lobster spaghetti, it cost a supplementary $5 and though delicious, I am not completely convinced it was worth it.  The lobster was by all means delicious, and the spaghetti was well prepared, complimented with just the right amount of sauce.  The combination was great, but not great enough to convince me that the extra $5 was really worth it.  But I suppose you live and you learn.  I guess fresh lobster is not so readily available here as it is in Maine.

For our entree, my partner in crime as-per usual had Roast Chicken, whereas I indulged in the Wild Striped Bass.  The chicken here was well roasted, causing me to reminisce about the chicken at Maialino the other day.  The meat was very good, but I was not as impressed by the sauce and skin.  It did not offer the simplicity combined with the flavorful taste that I was able to indulge in the other day.  My bass was very good too, but not exceptional enough to leave a deep impression on me.  As this post is a few days overdue, I can no longer accurately recall my experience with the fish, therefore I can only presume that it was good, but certainly nothing that changed my culinary life.  She tells me that she thought I ordered scallop from the first bite…  Sadly, I can’t even remember if it tasted like scallop…

Dessert, however, is a different story, for I thoroughly enjoyed my Telepan S’more.  This was everything I loved about a s’more translated into a luxury dessert.  Chocolate brownie, marshmallow, graham cracker, and ice cream neatly stacked and each piece complimenting the others.  My only complaint would be that certain parts were a bit hard to cut with just my spoon.  But that most definitely did not detract from how satisfying it was to my palate.  The person across the table was not as impressed, which I can’t agree with.  But, I do agree with her assessment of her own dessert, which was the Crunchy Peanut Butter & Milk Chocolate Gianduja.  The first bite was amazing.  Every bite after that was an overload of sweetness and sugar.  If somehow they could make it less overwhelmingly sweet, it would be an ideal way to finish the meal.  It reminded us both of our overwhelmingly sweet experience of “The Works” Pizza at Max Brenner.  Though this was sweet, it still couldn’t compare to that pizza.  I personally blame the peanut butter.