Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Pan-Asian Invasion, 8/30/05

We Bergers like traditions. We have specific traditions for specific occasions. For example, for JB's birthday we always go to sushi. And when JB gets a new job we go to sushi. But when I get a new job, we go to Fusha. Since I've only gotten two jobs, we've only done it twice, but two times make a tradition in this family.

We got to Fusha at about 9:00 after sharing a few drinks with my now former co-workers at Redemption on 2nd & 53rd. The highlight of Redemption was the Bacardi Vanilla which resulted in multiple free shots for those were interested. I wasn't, but JB and others certainly were.

Fusha, a pan-asian restaurant located on 1st Ave on the corner of 58th, was packed. Not bad for a Tuesday.

We were four and luckily there was one free table for us. Our luck ended there. Service was abysmal. We laughed at how many times the waitress walked passed us before she even asked for our drink orders. Our first courses came in about three minutes, but not everything at once. And in the end our bill was wrong.

The food went from fine to bad. JB's wonton soup was ordinary, Emily's calamari didn't taste like fish and my shrimp tempura roll was bathing in mayonnaise. Larry was the winner by default here with an eggplant starter. Eggplant is pretty tough to ruin, even I can cook it.

We had hoped for better with our main courses. Having been before I knew that the Malaysian noodles were a safe bet, so I had those with shrimp. JB had sushi, of course, which he said was average. Poor Larry & Emily had both been craving pad thai. To quote Emily, "This is the worst pad thai I've had in the city." Larry practically drowned his in hot sauce so he could finish it.

This is the problem with the pan-asian invasion. Typically, there's one chef and he's only from one country. He's not from Pan-Asia. So at a pan-asian restaurant, you should ask where the chef is from and then order the dishes from his or her region. Case in point being Fusha's Malaysian chef and my Malaysian noodles being the most superior dish.

Needless to say, Larry & Emily, probably won't join us the next time we have to celebrate this tradition. But frankly, the next time I wonder if Fusha will still be in existence.

Until we eat again, KLB

Monday, August 29, 2005

Car Dealership Dining, Seriously 8/27/05

Lately JB and I have been frequenting golf courses for meals, so this weekend we decided to rev it up a notch and dine at the newish restaurant Annona above the luxury car dealership in Westhampton. With Rolls-Royces, Bentleys, Lotuses and the like, this is car dealership dining at its very best.

Everything at Annona is expensive from the 2006 Rolls-Royce Phantom to a bowl of spaghetti. In my opinion, the car is a better deal.

Saturday nights in the Hamptons are filled with lavish parties and opulent openings. We have yet to attend one, but here’s hoping for summer 2006. We did, however, arrive at Annona 30 minutes early to check out the cars and found ourselves in the middle of the Phantom viewing party. Lucky for us, that included gratis champagne and high-end hors d’oeuvres including shrimp & caviar. Throw in a new set of golf clubs and it would be JB heaven.

We headed up the elevator to the restaurant and were immediately struck by the size of the room. Compared to the mammoth showroom, Annona is tiny. We were seated a nice banquet and tried to soak it all in. Upon further thought, I realized that this was a strange place. I felt as if I was in another world, or at least New Jersey. Everyone was farpootzt and the wine list contained $800 bottles, yet we were a stone’s throw from the oil change place. With a setting like this, we were eager to try the food.

Our server, Matt K. if my memory serves me, was a delight. He talked about the cars downstairs and the event that we had crashed, plus he told us the dogs on the menu. (Corn pudding and homemade sausage in case you were wondering.) I ordered the eggplant ravioli, being a fanatic of both eggplant and cheese I opted for the entrée size ($30!) and decided to skip a first course. JB ordered the tagliatelle with a rabbit ragu to start and the albacore tuna for his main course.

As we settled into our selections from the plentiful bread basket (focaccia and proscioutto parmesan were the standouts) I was told that they had just run out of the eggplant ravioli. I was suspicious since two tables consisting of the dealership owners had just ordered, but did not put up a fuss. I am convinced through that they stole my ravioli. That said, I had to pick a new dish. I stayed with the pasta course and opted for the pennette with zucchini, squash and saffron.

The food was good, but not $35 for a tiny piece of tuna good. Or $28 for noodles, vegetables and a very expensive spice good. The rabbit ragu on the tagliatelle had the best taste, but it was the least artfully presented. Think deconstructed lasagna with no cheese.

As we left we picked up the latest issue of Hampton Style. Hampton Style is Dan’s Papers attempt to play with the other Hamptons glossies like Hamptons and HC&G. Of course, there’s an article about Annona. The owners are quoted as saying that they opened the restaurant so they could have a place to entertain their high end clientele. With that it made perfect sense. This was a restaurant for salesmen, that was the other world.

And I guess since I won’t be buying a Rolls anytime soon, we won’t be back for awhile.

Until we eat again, KLB

Friday, August 26, 2005

Berger Review! Pop Burger, 8/25/05

A lot of people say that the Meatpacking District is over, its become ridden with tourists and therefore has lost its appeal. But Pop Burger is still alive and kicking.

A large group of us headed to Pop Burger last night after celebrating Laura's birthday at the Cabanas at the Maritime. We all needed something to eat and Pop Burger was the obvious and nearby choice.

The menu, like the place itself, depends on where you sit. If you sit up front, its a take out place with burgers, fries and the like. If you sit in back its a lounge that serves interesting-named cocktails and bar food including the requisite mini-burgers. I guess they think that if you're drinking you wouldn't want to consume an entire burger. (I think they may have that backwards.)

We opted for the lounge so some less hungry members of our party could continue the festivities. The rest of us, which included the insatiable JB and myself, ordered mini-burgers and fries all around. Each plate of mini-burgers comes with three burgers and a ketchup dipping sauce. Their burgers are simple, small (of course) and come with cheese, lettuce, tomato and pop sauce, which my friend claimed was merely Russian dressing. Its certainly not the best burger I've ever had, but it gets the job done. Fries are hit or miss. We had several cones of them. I sampled almost every batch, each having a different level of crispness.

My friend V.J. , who lives close by, says he makes Pop Burger a frequent stop. And that's just what it should be - if you're in the neighborhood or need a burger after a few drinks, its a great nightcap on the evening.

But next time, I'm getting a full size burger. This mini-stuff is definitely not my style.

Until we eat again, KLB

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Golf Course Dining Part I, 8/13 & 8/14

As I've already mentioned, JB is obsessed with golf. Since it was PGA weekend, to make it fun for me, we decided to hit some golf course restaurants and simultaneously watch the tournament.

Saturday was hot & muggy. I was stuck to the plush interior of Barney, our non-air conditioned 1992 purple Ford Taurus, when we pulled up to the Cherry Creek golf course in Riverhead, NY. I was also cranky after unsuccessful visits to Target and Home Depot. My spirits lifted when I opened the door of the clubhouse and was hit with a blast of A/C. It really is an amazing thing.

This was no typical golf course, it had a fine French restaurant. And I enjoyed the french waiters and white tablecloths. JB and I each had a grilled chicken salad with goat cheese, bacon and tomatoes while cheering on Phil Mickelson. I asked for no balsamic, which was smart because JB's salad was more like a vinegar soup. Being a fan of vinegar though, he did not complain, just drained off some of the excess.

The next day we went to Indian Island golf club, also in Riverhead, for a more proletariat golf course lunch. A turkey club for me and a steak sandwich for JB. Nothing to write home about but we had a good view of the TV and they let us stay as long as we wanted.

In the end, there was rain so the tournament finished on Monday and to JB's delight, Phil Mickelson pulled through. I've heard his favorite meal is lobster ravioli. We should have that one day soon to celebrate his victory.

Until we eat again, KLB

Berger Review! Triangle Pub, 8/12

Now that I am a Berger, I love to eat them even more. JB makes a terrific burger, but I am always on the quest to find one that lives up to my new name. One recent discovery is the Triangle Pub in Eastport, NY. For those of you who are not Long Island geography experts, Eastport is just west of Westhampton, and calls itself the "Gateway to the Hamptons." One of the best stops in this "Gateway" town is the Triangle Pub.

We passed it countless times without considering going, its right off of Sunrise Highway and the parking lot is usually packed with Harleys. But I saw a post on (one my fave websites) that raved about their burger. So we gave it a try.

At $6 for a large burger, the small is $5, its the best deal in the almost-Hamptons. All sides are extra, including lettuce and tomato. But for about $8 you can build a great burger. They are large and filling with the meat packed loosely, similar to a Jackson Hole burger.

The atmosphere is non-existent and the rest of the menu I'd skip, but if you want a good burger and still have miles to go until you hit a real Hampton, its a great stop.

Until we eat again, KLB

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Prix-Fixe Steals? Trata, 8/17/05 & Bamboo, 8/20/05

JB and I are supposed to be on a budget. We're newlyweds with a mortgage, a golf obsession (JB) and a Marc Jacobs problem (KLB). But we still have to eat. So we decided to give the whole prix-fixe deal a whirl.

Last Wednesday was a beautiful city summer night, not too hot with a breeze. The perfect night to eat outdoors. We were celebrating my new job, but had to keep the costs in mind. JB picked me up at work at 6 and we headed up 2nd Avenue looking for the perfect spot. I was thinking about something in the high 70s but we stopped at Trata just north of 70th.

I had always passed by Trata thinking it was too expensive, maybe a parents place. I'd heard nightmares of fish by the pound gone awry, so I had avoided it. But I remembered they had a prix-fixe. Actually, Trata's prix-fixe is from 5 to 7 so arriving just before 6:30 gave us plenty of time to linger over the menu.

We each had a glass of Greek wine, which is all they carry, and pondered the prix fixe, soup or salad; salmon, halibut, chicken or mahi-mahi; coffee and dessert. Not a bad deal for $19.95.
When we ordered our waiter said that it was too late for the prix-fixe. We reminded him that it was only 6:40 and ordered away. This happened again when we asked about dessert and he said that it was not included in the prix-fixe. We asked him to check and he came back to tell us that he was mistaken. He was nice about both errors, we just found it humorous, it was as if he really did not want us to get the prix-fixe. He was partially right.

The salad which we both had, was a plate of greens. We had at least thought it would be a Greek salad, but, nope, just lettuce. We asked for a little feta on the side which they brought out, and at no extra cost, to our great surprise.

The main course was fine. JB has the salmon and I had the mahi. The fish was OK and the grilled vegetables were tasty enough, but nothing wowed us. I've never liked salmon and after this meal, I may not like mahi-mahi either. It actually tasted like salmon. Maybe they cooked them together.

Our dessert was a walnut cake that did not look pretty but was actually delicious. And all in all we decided that for $19.95 a person, three courses and a sidewalk table on 2nd Avenue in the height of the summer, it was worth it.

Following our theme, we wound up in East Hampton on Saturday night at 6:30 looking for a similar deal. We had meant to go to Pacific East in Amagansett but their prix-fixe had already ended so we decided to try Bamboo instead. I had promised JB sushi after all.

Typically taking JB out for sushi is an expensive evening. He orders sushi for his appetizer, entree and dessert. You know how at a restaurant your server will ask you if want to hold on to the menu, well he always holds on to it and keeps on ordering. Meanwhile I am usually doing math in my head for each additional piece of toro.

The prix-fixe at Bamboo is more than Trata's at $25, but I think its even more worth it. There are plenty of appetizers and entrees to choose from. JB, staying the course, had a spicy tuna roll to start and a sashimi platter. I had the shrimp tempura as my first course and the chicken as my second. The chicken butterflied with the bone in a soy-heavy sauce with fried rice. I rarely order chicken with the bone, but this was pretty good. The shrimp tempura was the standout dish of the evening and huge, too. We ended the evening with coconut sorbet which was a great end to a great meal. Hamptons prix-fixe's really are no joke.

Bamboo was empty when we got there. We had our choice of seats in the bamboo garden so could enjoy the last hour of sunlight and our Sapporo. When we left, it was packed. JB did not want to leave when he saw the "talent" (as he calls it) lining up at the bar. I'm sure he'll want to go back next weekend.

So back to the title, Prix-fixe steals...I don't think they are a steal. Sure, if we added up the money for ordering all 3 items it equals a lot more than we paid for it, (JB's sashimi at Bamboo would have been $27 an hour later) but we may not have ordered so much food. I was pretty full after both meals. It is also is not so fun to head home when a restaurant is just starting to buzz. Nevertheless, I think we'll keep trying to find the perfect prix-fixe meal, its almost as much fun as not paying retail.

Until we eat again, KLB

Golf Course Dining Part II, 8/20/05

JB is obsessed with golf. So much so that since we're both obsessed with food, we now have to go restaurants at the golf course. After spending last weekend at 2 different golf courses (see Golf Course Dining Part I to be posted later this week), we were on to our 3rd golf course.
I had planned a "Day of Fun" for JB which included tennis, a golf course lunch, some putting, the Writers & Artists solftball game in East Hampton and sushi.

After looking through my Long Island Zagat, I saw that there was a restaurant called The Fairway in Sagaponack at a public course. It was on the way to East Hampton, so we braved the traffic and the heat (our purple Ford Taurus has no A/C) and hit the course.

JB was immediately in love. It was a diner on the golf course. And this diner had outdoor seating with a view of the putting green and the final hole. JB had to strategically position himself so as not to miss any action.

Unfortunately, the food was not good. JB's cheeseburger came with cheddar that was still cold. He picked at the burger and then said he wasn't that hungry after all. I tasted the meat and it was just plain ordinary, especially after the PJ Clarkes burger from the day before.

I had a grilled cheese which had promise since it offered four different kinds of cheeses, American, Swiss, Cheddar and Mozzarella, plus bacon on whole wheat toast, double decker style. Here the cheese was melted, but they were separated and not blended together.

Although the food was not great, I think we'll be back. There aren't that many golf course dining options. Hopefully, we'll each have something better next time.

Until we eat again, KLB

Berger Review! PJ Clarkes, 8/19/05

Friday afternoon, I actually ate lunch on my lunch hour, with two friends from high school. Vicki was visiting from Boulder having just gotten engaged and Laura, a fellow NYer, was recently back from a trip to Italy & Spain. I, being the only one crunched for time, chose the closest place to my office, PJ Clarkes.

When I arrived there was a line, I had thought it wouldn't be crowded since it was a summer Friday, but I guess not. Vicki and Laura perservered and we were seated at the corner table. Its perfectly fine for three females, but JB (Mr. Berger) would not have enjoyed such a tight space.

The three of us had the same burger, cheddar, medium. As good as I remember it, not too big and not too small. The bun was spectacular. It may be that I've given up my "no-carb lifestyle" for a "some carbs are good, especially at restaurants, lifestyle" but the bun was so soft that I ate both sides. I have not done that in a long time.

Speaking of old habits. As a part of my no-carb life, I stopped eating french fries, cold turkey. I remember eating a large fries from McDonalds somewhere in Connecticut on New Year's Day 2003. We had just spent a week in Vermont doing some heavy eating and drinking, after finishing my McFlurry I vowed to my parents and JB that I would not even touch a french fry for 1 year. The self-imposed ban lasted two and half years, until on our honeymoon I reached over and grabbed a few fries off of JB's plate. For the past two months, I have a had a fry here and there. I'm not over them, but I don't crave them. But the fries at PJ Clarkes were excellent. They brought me back to that day in January. I had missed fries. (We also had the onion strings, which did not receive as much fanfare, but were spicy and tasty nonetheless).

As a Berger, I'd like to think that I can pick out a good one. I picked out JB after all. PJ Clarkes is definitely on the Berger list.

Until we eat again!