Thursday, June 22, 2006

Cafe D'Alsace, 6/22/06

As our week of eating continued, we headed uptown for a dinner with JB's mom. We hardly ever cross paths in the summer, so this was our farewell dinner.

With no reservations, we decided to try Cafe D'Alsace which has received some recent raves. Lucky for us, we snagged the last outdoor table on 2nd Avenue at 7:30 to enjoy the longest day of the year.

JB's mom had been a few times and recommended the burger. It was Burgers all around for the Bergers. They come with grilled onions, muenster and fries. Simple, perfect. Wait, this is a Berger Review!

But Cafe D'Alsace is more than a burger place, it's a beer place. They have TONS of beer. JB had a Trappist Ale which I learned is 11% alcohol making my 4% Hoegarden a measly sip. JB wanted three beers but could barely finish the one (lightweight).

We also shared some homemade duck sausage (JB's mom is much better sharer than mine) and a goat cheese tartlet. I didn't care for the sausage but JB loved it. So I took charge of the goat cheese. And we all took charge of the molten chocolate cake which had just enough molten, for once.

As the evening continued, we enjoyed people watching and soaking in the Frenchbistro ambience. So much so that we did not notice the slow as molasses service - maybe that's why it is so hard to get a table. Or maybe it is the food, which I strongly recommend.

Until we eat again, KLB

Kittichai, 6/20/06

Coming off the horrible dinner at Gramercy 24 (see below), I had superhigh expectations for Kittichai. It had been on my list for almost 2 years and when my mom asked where I wanted to go for my belated birthday dinner, it sprung to mind.

Kittichai was early in the Asian pioneers, before Spice Market, before Buddkhan, before Buddha Bar. It is Thai by nature, even though all Asian fusion places tend to follow similar themes.

The restaurant is in 60 Thompson, a boutique hotel on Thompson Street where you often read that celebrities hang their hat. The restaurant is celebrity-worthy, with a pool in the center of the room complete with floating candles and orchids, it is a downtown Four Seasons Pool Room.

My parents, not the best sharers, rose to the challenge and shared every dish. I had done the requisite research and ordered for the table. Appetizers were crispy rock shrimp with eggplant, seared tuna, foie gras and chocolate spare ribs. Sea bass and wok fried chicken rounded out the meal along with fried rice and asian greens.

All dishes were tasty. Highlights included the seared tuna which you cooked on a hot rock on the tabletop. The chocolate ribs were fun to watch being eaten -- my dad's face was covered in chocolate -- than to eat. I did not have the foie gras which JB especially loved and my mom devoured the shrimp.

I found the mains on the small side, especially the chicken, however, since we had a lot to start we were sated. And the extensive cocktail list helped, too.

Dessert included banana spring rolls and honey ice cream. The honey ice cream was a standout. A nice reminder of summer.

Until we eat again, KLB

Gramercy 24, 6/19/06

This was quite possibly the worst dinner in New York city in my lifetime. I knew to question the crowd which was small and obviously from out of town. But I had hope for the chef and the restaurant. Hope was not enough.

It wasn't entirely my fault. We had agreed to go to a seafood place. I nominated Tides on the les or Ditch Plains in the west village. It was kimberly who suggested something closer. And that's how I found gramercy 24.

A seafood place in the gramercy park area - how bad could it be?

At least the wine list was good. A nice bottle of reisling was reasonably priced. When we finished dinner JB asked what everyone's favorite of the worst was - matt's was the wine, confirming that he is indeed the smartest of us all.

I'll talk about the food in order of bad to worse. Kimberly had the linguine and clams which were sort of safe, Matt and I each had the tuna burgers, which were small, overcooked and taseless. JB had pizza for reasons no one could explain. Seriously, why order pizza in a seafood place? But he had a craving that was not satisfied. Elio's would have been better.

Also on the menu was a lobster club which was my first order. When ordering I specifically asked if there was celery, being a celery-hater. I was told a definitive no and wouldn't you know it, the club came packed with celery. I sent it back, but not before JB tasted it and declared it equally awful. At least they were consistent, consistently awful.

Until we eat again, KLB

Saturday, June 17, 2006

TBD, 6/15/06

OK, so this makes for interesting restaurant reviewing, since the restaurant is so new it has yet to be named.

It is located on Little w. 12th Street, and can't go by its number because that would be ripping off One Little W. 12th Street, a restaurant took its addresss first. And so in its place, it will now be called the great, new restaurant where we had Matt's birthday dinner.

Now that we've cleared that up - let's discuss food.

Aubrey had organized Matt's birthday dinner in a beatiful back garden, nearby their equally beautiful new apartment in the West Village. Each place setting had a single hydrangea defining our assigned seat. The menu choices were simple -- to start: a simple salad or a tuna ceviche or shrimp in black sesame paste or tomato and mozzarella salad. To middle: filet or swordwish or spaghetti alla vongole. To finish: chocolate crunch or do it yourself tiramisu or, darnit, something else with a coffee flavor. (This is why I should take notes and not relinquish my menu or both!)

JB and I were both thrilled with our meals. When you have a new, really new restaurant, you always need to be wary of the food while they get their feet wet. Since this place began as bar, they had a head start. Although their were a few service questions that took awhile to be answered. For example, it took our waiter a few trips to the kitchen to leanr the main ingredient of the ceviche. He tried to convince me it did not have any fish in it, which by definition, is always the main ingredient.

Nonetheless, the ceviche was delicious. The other starters I tried were even more so. I typically love tomato and mozzarella salad, but have had a few unripened tomatoes of late which is why I skipped ordering it. Big mistake - huge! That cheese reminded me of capri and the tomatoes were right on.

I did order better on the main with the filet that was accompanied with three sauces, a balsamic, a bbq and a terriyaki. I stuck with the terriyaki, of course.

We shared lots of sides including asparagus and hand cut french fries.

After all of the wine and champagne (and food), dessert was almost an afterthought, but my few bites of the chocolate crunch were tasty. JB demolished his make your own tiramasu and starting making more tiramisu off of Aubrey's plate.

As the evening progressed, the bar area spilled into the outdoor restaurant and we found ourselves in a veritable hot spot, which is when we left for the more laid back atmosphere of Matt and Aubrey's rooftop and more champagne (obv).

To bring it full circle, I'd like to offer up the first suggestion for a name for the new restaurant - Matt's, in honor of his birthday.

Until we eat again, KLB

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Dinosaur BBQ, 6/6/06

Let's just say that it took me a full two days to recover from the amount of food consumed two nights ago at Dinosaur BBQ. This is not a joke. Never have I ever had such a vast quantity of such delicious food that I could not stop eating. Let's begin at the beginning.

Dinosaur BBQ is a local restaurant in Syracuse, New York that opened a Manhattan, Harlem actually, branch last year. To get there is no easy feat, you must take the Subway up to 125th Street and walk over to 12th Avenue and then up to 131st Street. Luckily, 126th - 129th street do not exist that far west, or as our friend Jenn noted they must have been "stolen", so the walk is shorter than you think.

Inside, it looks like a large bar with tables one step up from picnic. But seriously, who cares.

There were four of us, which was the perfect number for the appetizer sampler of friend green tomatoes, deviled eggs, spicy shrimp and wings. One for each, with some extra shrimp to share. The FGTs were particularly good, and surprisingly, so were the wings.

I was dead set on ribs and got the smallest portion available which was subsequently huge. I got 2 sides, mac and cheese, adequate, and salt potatoes which came in a butter bath. JB and Jim both had platters of brisket, ribs and pulled pork. Everything fared well and Jenn especially liked her pulled pork which was her only meat.

As if that wasn't enough, we had key lime pie and peanut butter pie, not mention several beers from their huge selection.

The next day, I told everyone I knew to check it out. But the problem is, I can't go for awhile. I'm still full!

Until we eat again, KLB

Monday, June 05, 2006

Berger Review! Zip Burger, 6/5/06

It's been ages since I've done a Berger Review, but even longer, it's been a year and a half since I'd seen my friend Jeramie.

Jeramie and I started working together in 2000 and then when he moved jobs, I followed suit. And we were at the same place when he left in May 2004 to follow his dream and move to Australia.

What I miss most about Jeramie are our food discussions. We both love food in its simplest form, especially burgers.

And so, it was almost fate that Zip Burger, the newest "foodie" burger joint to hit Manhattan, opened last week mere blocks from my office on 52nd & 2nd. Jeramie had asked to have lunch near my office.

I had, of course, reviewed the menu in advance. It is simple -- burgers only -- beef, veggie, turkey and salmon. Pick your bun, your cheese, your sauce and any extras. Fries and shakes complete the menu. And hamburger salad -- right.

All ingredients are high quality which is why our two burgers cost over $20 at this takeout place.

My burger was topped with Vermont cheddar and grilled vidalia onions wrapped in a lettuce wrap. I don't recommend the lettuce-wrapped burger, it just falls apart. I do recommend the vidalia onions.

Jeramie chose a more extravagant bunned burger of guacamole, bacon and cheddar.

We had similar opinions: excellent toppings (next time I want to try the goat cheese burger), decent beef and at an average price. Both burgers, though, came underdone at medium, so I'd order up.

And get there early, the lines can be long and last week they ran out of meat!

Until we eat again, KLB

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Hosteria Mazzei, 6/3/06 (Port Chester, NY)

I needed a reason to get back into the Berger Blog and what better way than a Berger birthday. Well technically, my mom is not a Berger, but it sort of counts.
For my mom's XXth birthday, my dad, generously, took several of us to an Italian restaurant in Port Chester. We knew it would be good because my Uncle Jim recommended it and nothing comes between him and fine Italian cooking.

The meal was, to my father's liking, not conduive to sharing. So I can only report on my dishes and JB's, my ever-willing dinner partner.

The options ran your typical Italian fare, from antipasti to grilled meats to delicious pastas.

I started with an insalate caprese, a constant favorite of mine. I've been wary of it lately since tomatoes are not yet in season, but the fresh mozzarella was tempting. The cheese was tremendous, very fresh and the tomatoes were almost there. JB's stewed calamari starter was too fishy for me, I had anticipated a Batali-like calamari and was let down.

I opted for a pasta special of homemade cavatelli with lamb ragu for my main. It was tasty and hearty. I think from now on I will only eat pasta if it is homemade. Otherwise, it is just not worth the carbs.

JB chose one of my all time favorite dishes -- rack of lamb. It was not a huge portion, nor was the pasta, but my (small) taste was good. Not as good as I've had elsewhere, though JB seemed to gobble up the four grill-marked chops.

Dessert was somewhat of a lowpoint, as it often is, my apple cake was just too muffiny. JB did like his panna cotta although what's not to like about a gel-formed milk.

Regardless, it was a festive evening for all and another Italian Job well done.

Until we eat again, KLB