Manzo

Rating:

For dinner today, we ventured to the grocery restaurant amalgamation of Eataly.  Upon random selection between all the restaurants in Eataly, we ended up going to the formal dining establishment here, Manzo.  It was indeed classy looking from the atmosphere.  In a bright and lively area, they had hollowed out a small corner and dimmed the lights to produce the standard fancy restaurant feel.  The menu also reflected its class as I opened to a first page which presented me with an intriguing seven course summer tasting menu option for $90 per person.  I guess it’s fortunate that I didn’t get it though, since seven courses does seem like a significant amount of food, probably more than I should eat at this point.  It’s probably even more fortunate that I didn’t get the tasting menu with the wine pairing too which would’ve cost $60 more on top of the original cost.

Instead we opted  to start off with some authentic Mozzarella.  Simple and delicious, dipped in oil, with nuts and crispy bacon on top, as well as two small pieces of garlic bread on the side.  It was delicious, but why were there three pieces of mozzarella but only two pieces of bread?!?  Why??  No matter, I love cheese and will eat pounds of it at a time without any kind of bread, cracker, or wine.

For the main course, I selected Raven & Boar Whey Fed Pig which was made into some sausage form this evening.  I guess I’m not enough of a pork connoisseur because I can’t really describe the depth and details of what I enjoyed.  The fat was juicy, and the sausage was salty with a bit of spice flavor.  My stomach is smarter than I am though, because it gets upset by low grade meats and on this night, it had no reason to revolt.  The pork was served in a shallow plate of oil and vinaigrette which worked out very well.   The potato and arugula were adequately flavored by it the sauce.  With the meat, the sauce mix was just subtle enough that I could taste a hint of it without it overpowering the flavor of the meat.

I was then given the opportunity to finish a plate of the Fettuccine.  Egg, black pepper, and asparagus were all that were in this!?  The few morsels of it that I sampled were amazing, though quite oily.  Regardless… next time, I will probably go with pasta in Eataly.  I had heard much more rave reviews about the pasta and fish than the red meats.  This small sample of the pasta proved that, at least in terms of my taste buds, I would prefer the pasta here.  But Manzo was supposed to be more known for its red meats, so I couldn’t deny trying it.  No dessert on this night, just a simple stroll past the chocolate and pastry sections was enough for us.

Sushi Samba

Rating:

Since restaurant week in NYC has apparently become restaurant month, I decided to pop into Sushi Samba for lunch as it was just a few steps from my workplace.  It is well known in Las Vegas for attracting all the stars of Entourage for its grand opening.  Too bad when I stopped in for lunch here, there were no famous stars, or perhaps I just didn’t recognize who they were.  But the entire restaurant was pretty empty; I suppose Monday’s are the worst for restaurants.  Nevertheless, the atmosphere was very nice and chic, with the sushi bar in the middle and Japanese samba-esque music playing ambiently in the background.  There was a back room that looked like it may be an opium den where I did not venture, instead I opted for the bar, where I unfortunately could not see the sushi chef performing his art because the glass was covered with condensation.  Still, I eagerly awaited my first taste of Japanese-Brazilian-Peruvian fusion sushi.  I had heard nothing but good things.

My meal started with the Yellowtail Tiradito, which was  four pieces of very fresh tasting yellowtail in a jalapeno and lemongrass sauce.  Exceptional.  I would love to have eaten an entire mountain of this stuff.  I attribute the flavor choices for the sauce to the South American influence, but the flavors just intertwined with the thinly sliced fish so perfectly that it danced upon my tongue with beautiful subtlety.

This made me anticipate the Samba Sushi Plate that much more.  This plate came with the typical tuna, red snapper, salmon, and yellowtail.  I watched carefully to see who prepared it behind the sushi bar.  It was clear that one of the two was a sushi chef in training.  Thankfully, my meal was prepared by the pro, or at least the one that was more pro of the two.  And it really showed once I got past the four everyday sushi pieces to the peruvian shrimp roll.  Soft rice on the outside, crunchy shrimp on the inside, a dabble of subtle yellow sauce on top (I think peruvian corn sauce?), and a simple piece of cilantro on top.  This roll pleased me greatly.  It appears that all those good things I hear about Japanese-Peruvian fusion cuisine were indeed true, at least from my point of view.  It took no time for me to clean up this plate, but I did my best to hold back and savor the delicious taste.

I finished off the meal with the Sorvete Trio, which was really just three flavors of sorbet.  I was not pleased to find that my pisco, shiso, pineapple sorbet had become a strawberry, mango, pineapple sorbet.  Typical fruity sorbet, good tasting but not what I wanted or expected.  They had already shorted me by not offering the unlimited samba iced tea which lunch was supposed to come with.  I didn’t speak about it, but then again, I don’t believe that it should be necessary for me to do so.

The place is indeed slightly pricey, but the sushi innovations here are quite delectable, and I liked it quite a lot.  Whether or not I revisit may depend on the service.  I don’t like not being offered my complimentary iced tea, and I don’t like being uninformed  about significant changes in my order, such as the sorbet flavors.  Poor performance by the server, and she was even so eager to tell me her name too.  But she was clearly an amateur, I suppose I will refrain from publicly denouncing her by name here.

Express Manna Kitchen

Rating:

What do I do for lunch now that Restaurant Week is over?  I guess I’ll return to those cheap little shops littered around my office.  Well, I finally mustered up the courage to check out this little Korean place that I’ve had an eye on.  After all, I am a huge fan of some good bibimbap in a hot stone bowl.  Unfortunately, I guess the stone bowl eliminates the possibility of getting it as take-out, but I’ll live.

Upon entering, I found that the place was surprisingly packed, but that might just be how all places restaurants around Union Square are during lunch hour.  I must say, firstly, I was not impressed by the price of their bibimbap that came in a stone bowl, netting me $11.92 including tax.  Maybe it was really good though?  Or maybe they just had no competition within a ten block radius, basically until you reach Korea Town.

I believe bibimbap is, in general, pretty simple to cook.  I think much more important is the freshness and quality of the assorted vegetables they include.  I was not as impressed as I would’ve liked for the money I paid, none of the mushrooms, roots, and stems were nearly as delicious as I wanted.  And though it came with the standard side dishes of kimchi, etc., it also came with mashed potatoes rather than what it really needed, a good side of Korean hot sauce.  As well, just to complain further, I think they could’ve used a more appropriately sized bowl.  The quantity of the food was sufficient, but displayed in the bowl that they used, it looked like a meager little portion that would hardly satisfy even a small child.

With such high prices combined with such average ingredients, they should at least make the dish as presentable as possible.  I probably won’t be back just because I can’t afford something of this quality at such a price.  There are both cheaper and better options in the vicinity.  I’ll stick with my Chinese restaurant around the corner.

Giorgio’s of Gramercy

Rating:

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.

Apiary

Rating:

Apparently there’s always a $35 prix fixe menu at Apiary, just normally not on Friday’s, the day we happened to decide to pop in.  It’s a good thing it’s still restaurant week.  I realized that I often pass this restaurant and have just never really taken notice to it.  At 5:30, we were able to enjoy the complete restaurant to ourselves, but even then the service was a little more sluggish than I would’ve preferred.  Today’s meal was enjoyed with a pint of Speakeasy’s Prohibition.

To start, we had the Chilled Corn Veloute and Baby Romaine Salad.  The salad was typical and did not strike out in any way that amazed me, a typical good salad is all I can say.  As for my corn soup, it was chilled and good, but also nothing so amazing that I could not forget.  I only know that the chilled soups are a delightful treat and a pleasant way to start a summer dinner.  About all I can recall thinking is that at least the corn is better than that in China, which doesn’t take much.

The main course consisted of Roasted Organic Chicken and Atlantic Merluza.  This here was an example of a good chicken that was not that good.  The chicken was not as flavorful as what I had sampled from the previous restaurants, and it was a classic example of a chicken that was not roasted perfectly, leaving a dry and hard to swallow feeling in my mouth.  At least it was organic though; I suppose that should make me feel a little better.   The fish was quite enjoyable though.  More memorable than the bass I had at Telepan, but it really just made me want some authentic bouillabaisse.  It was beyond satisfactory, but I quickly inhaled the fish, and slowly savored the little broth that I was given.  Perhaps I will have to seek out an authentic French restaurant next.

We ended the dinner a Trio of Ice Cream & Sorbet along with Vanilla Panna Cotta.  The ice cream was a typical chocolate and vanilla along with an atypical raspberry sorbet.  The raspberry was much more sour than I had really expected, but it was refreshing.  Unfortunately, I can’t say it was anything exceptional.  I think I could’ve scooped it out of any fancy ice cream shop myself.  As for the panna cotta, it was unimpressive compared to that of The Red Cat from a few days ago.  Not only was the dessert itself not as satisfying, it also was not showered with a large array of berries.

All in all, this is a good restaurant.  Perhaps it still may be a bit pricey for what it is though.  And unfortunately, for someone of my tastes, I can find versions of the same dishes that I enjoy much more at other restaurants.  A worthwhile experience, but I am not sure I’ll be back unless someone can convince me that I just chose the wrong dishes to sample.

Maialino

Rating:

So the upcoming two weeks is restaurant week in New York City.  What that really means is a lot of 3-course lunches at fancy places for $24.07 and 4-course dinners at upscale establishments for $35.00 (not including tax and tip of course).  I intend to take advantage though of these two weeks.  This is my opportunity to visit all those places that have $$$ and $$$$ ratings on Yelp.com at a reasonable price.

My eating journey begins at a fine restaurant around the corner from my current office.  Located in the Gramercy Park Hotel is the delightful Italian restaurant, Maialino.  Restaurant week is a blessing, as I was able to enjoy a 3-course lunch that would’ve originally netted me over $30, not including the dessert it came with.

For an appetizer, I began with the Carciofini Fritti (Fried Artichokes & Anchovy Bread Sauce).  It was simply amazing; it reminded me why I loved artichokes, from the fried outer layers to the warm inside and it was scrumptious both with and without the anchovy dip.  I thought usage of the dip was much more dependent on your opinion of anchovies.  Fortunately for me, I like them, and it simply seemed to amplify the flavor since anchovies generally taste like a combination of light fishiness and salt flavor to me.

The main entree was a smaller portion of a dish that Maialino typically only serves for dinner, which was the Pollo alla Diavola (Peppered Chicken & Pickled Chili).  Definitely another win.  It was such a simple dish with just a small slab of chicken and an average sized portion of arugula.  But somehow, their combination of sauces and chili and flavor just combined so well in every possible way.  The chicken was flavorful, the skin was delicious, the meat was perfect moistness, and the sauce was a tad sweet with medium spice; it was just enough that you could taste all the flavors working together, and none overpowered the others.  The arugula was simply served on the same plate, and had no dressing except the same juice/sauce that enveloped the delicious chicken.  It was not oily or greasy feeling, but enough to give it a solid chicken “feel,” making even the simple serving arugula so enjoyable as well.  I finished every little piece of chicken I could get off the bone, and every little leaf of arugula that was presented on my plate.

The finale was a dessert that I have not seen on any of their normal menus, the Crostata di Mirtillo (Blueberry Tart & Fior di Latte Gelato).  A great way to end a thoroughly enjoyable meal.  I love blueberries, and I don’t know the specific ingredients for their tart, but it was a pleasure to know that it was not the typical canned blueberries that are dowsed in sugar and high fructose corn syrup (but they still might be canned blueberries, just higher quality ones).  But it was cripsy, and sweet, and delicious with the gelato that came on top.  A great finish to a great meal.

I really hope I can afford to return here in the future.  I truly believe my love would enjoy the chicken here, and I’m eager to sample the roasted pig that is so highly recommended.  Perhaps it will just have to wait, but hopefully not too long since I know the quality of a restaurant can vary greatly over short periods of time.  At least for today, I will tip my hat to Maialino and their 3-course restaurant week 2011 lunch; it so completely satisfied my need for something that was quality and delicious.