Restaurant Week at 10 Downing

Last Friday I visited 10 Downing for restaurant week and the only words that accurately describes my dining experience are – grave disappointment.

I’d been patiently waiting for 10 Downing to get their feet wet after numerous bad reviews from early restaurant go-ers. I figured that they just needed a little time to adjust to us snobbish foodies looking for the next hot spot. Unfortunately, that was not the case.

Ironically, I was convinced that I’d gotten one of the best reservations restaurant week had to offer. I had a 9pm reservation for two on a Friday night. I’d been optimistic after hearing rave reviews from friends, but then again they ordered the small plates. Either way,  I figured my friend Justin and I were in for a treat.

Justin and I decided to share everything we ordered. We decided on the Winter Lettuce Salad and Veal & Bacon Terrine for appetizers. And before they arrived we had received an interesting Amuse Bouche of carrot soup. Though it wouldn’t be my first choice for a palette cleanser, it was mildly refreshing. Soon after we were served our appetizers. I enjoyed the winter lettuce salad which incorporated a healthy mix of greens and grapefruit. The terrine on the other hand was not my thing. Although I appreciated the plating and multiple elements of the dish it was a bit bland and incongruous. The arugula and the date puree just didn’t come together with the terrine for me.

10 Downing Bacon & Veal Terrine

Carrot Soup

For our main courses we ordered the olive oil poached sea bass and the Painted Hills Farms beef short ribs. Neither were flavorful or satisfying. Both portions were unusually small and apparently this is the case all year round (not just during restaurant week). The sea bass was cooked well but was lacking in flavor. And the short ribs were very dry and the smoked potato, apple, and pomegranate slaw was just a sad pairing. The must was reminiscent of baby food.

Beef Short Ribs

10 Downing Wild Bass

The food is likely no better now than it ever was and given their minuscule portions a small snack would be more satisfying. Luckily the cocoa nib pannacotta gave the meal somewhat of  a happy ending with its salty sweet creamy crunch. The varying textures of the chocolate and panna cotta gave the dessert great depth!

Unfortunately they were out of their other Butterscotch Pot de Creme dessert and apparently this isn’t anything unusual since Blondie and Brownie had the same experience. So our meal ended a bit on a sour note with one less dessert and slight hunger pains but we enjoyed the decor. As for everything else, not so much.

Cocoa Nib Panna Cotta

Cheeseburger

10 Downing

10 Downing St (at 6th Avenue)

Food Happenings: Hot Plates Live

Last night Metromix debuted some of NY’s newest downtown eateries at the their latest food soiree, Hot Plates Live. Highline Ballroom hosted nearly 200 hungry attendees who happily chowed down on a variety of snacks from eleven local restaurants. I figured arriving an hour late would have left me with slim pickins but to my surprise, most everyone came prepared with enough grub to satisfy this ravenous crowd.

Being a foodie and food blogger, I’ve learned that strategy can be very important at these events. I usually look at the event roster and think okay – which restaurants am I dying to try? which restaurants are looking low on food? which restaurants are the most expensive? And the reason why these questions are important is merely because these questions will determine which tastings are the most desirable. Luckily this event only had eleven dishes, otherwise I might have been in trouble!

But sometimes less is more and in this case I’d have to agree. Since the number of dishes on the must try list were tolerable, it enabled me to spend a greater amount of time with each dish and take in all of the flavors and textures, rather than racing to the next taste. That being said, there was only ONE restaurant which demanded seconds and that was Mark. See my rating of dishes below…

  1. Mark, mouthwatering sliders with American cheese and caramelized onions and served with homemade sauces!
  2. The Norry (at Kampuchea), succulent tamarind-glazed ribs
  3. Luke’s Lobster, mildly buttered and grilled main shrimp in a New England style bun
  4. Spot, deconstructed cheesecake with passion fruit air
  5. Stuffed Artisan Canolis, irish creme, peanut butter, nutella, and coconut canolis
  6. Corsino, ricotta crostini with honey and squid skewer
  7. Ofrenda, toasted tortillas topped with pigs feet, rice and green tomatillo salsa
  8. Spina, safron infused pasta with bolognese
  9. Sigmund Pretzel Shop, soft-style german pretzels with assorted homemade mustards
  10. Bia Garden, crispy pork belly, daikon hash, pickled new-year vegetable
  11. DISQUALIFIED – Lucy Browne’s, ran out of sliders!
  12. DISQUALIFIED – B. Clinton, never made an appearance. No pigs brains after all.

Despite the order you see above, if I was hard pressed to pick two favorite dishes, it would be Mark’s sliders and Spot’s deconstructed cheesecake.

These buttery sliders were perfection! Due to Mark’s genius preparation (see on right above), each slider was heated and stored face side down so that when they were served, the sliders would appear as if they were made right on the spot – fully intact buns, warm caramelized onions, and slightly melted cheese. Yum!

Although this dish didn’t look like much from afar, it had the perfect tartness to culminate a savory meal. And as someone who loves to mix multiple flavors and aspires for the perfect bite, this deconstructed cheesecake was both delicious and fun to eat.

Other notable dishes were presented by Stuffed Artisan Canolis, The Norry, and Luke’s Lobster.

But with the good, always comes the disappointing. And despite their attractive presentations, my least favorite dishes of the night were Ofrenda’s tortilla toppers , Spina’s pasta bolognese, and Bia Garden’s crispy pork belly.

More event photos…

Turkish Meze at Beyoglu

After seeing the Blindside last Friday, my friends and I stopped in for a bite at Beyoglu. I was pleasantly surprised by the festive decor and the welcoming staff. Beyoglu serves their dishes family style, so we ordered a plethora of wonderful Turkish meze to share with an affordably priced Cab/Shiraz blend.

Our food came out extraordinarily quickly which left me a bit skeptical. But despite the fact that the majority of the food was likely prepared in advance, all of the dishes were pretty tasty. My favorite dishes were the Greek salad and the hummus. The octopus left little to be desired, hidden in between mounds of red onion and tomato and the lamb kebab was flavorful but had an unsettling texture to it (possibly because I’m not used to eating lamb in that fashion).

Though Byoglu’s decor was comforting their food was less than satisfying. Its a cute and reasonably priced but doesn’t leave anyone much of a reason to return in a city filled with dozens of real Turkish delights.

Greek Salad crisp lettuce, greek olives, onion, feta cheese, stuffed grape leaves & artichokes

Hummus chick peas & tahini seasoned w/ cumin & garlic

Doner Kebab vertically grilled thinly sliced lamb & beef over rice pilaf

Ahtapot Salatasi char-grilled octopus marinated in olive oil & balsamic vinegar

BEYOGLU

1431 Third Avenue at 81st Street

Spicing up Brunch with Paprika

This past Saturday I enjoyed a hearty brunch at the East Village’s up-and-coming unassuming eatery Paprika. With a crowd shortly after their 12pm brunch opening, I figure that East Village dwellers are tweeting phenomenal reviews across the web or their $12 brunch is JUST that good. Could it be both? I was about to find out.

First off, arriving at Paprika at 12pm was the smartest thing we could have done. On my walk over I noticed enormous crowds waiting outside of other St. Marks favorites like Cafe Orlin and Cafe Mogador – tsk, tsk. By 12:45, Paprika was already packed with large groups of hungry brunch fiends like myself. And who could really blame us with a $12 brunch including coffee or tea, orange juice, and a healthy selection of main courses — we were pumped!

Our party of five ordered the Scrambled Green Eggs, Polenta and Salsa Cruda and the Mushroom and Fontina Omelette with Sausages and Tomatoes. Both dishes were absolutely delicious – beautifully presented, aromatic, and satisfying! The pesto in the green eggs made the dish bright and flavorful and tasted wonderful with the fluffy polenta and salsa cruda. The mushrooms and fontina in the omelet were also very tasty although I could have done without the accompanying sausage. But despite the richness of the omelet, the staff was polite enough to substitute egg whites for me at no charge – so I had no complaints!

I’d absolutely recommend this rustic, homey restaurant for brunch or dinner! I look forward to returning for their specialty – Northern Italian Cuisine! And in addition to their budget friendly brunch special, Paprika also offers a

two-course $15 prix-fixed dinner Monday – Thursday from 5-7pm. If you’re lucky, you may even experience a celebrity spotting!

PAPRIKA

110 St. Marks Place

Between 1st & Ave A

The Allure of Alta

Imagine being transported to a wonderful Spanish home with an endless selection of  mouth watering Catalan cuisine you could only indulge in a foreign land. Well, guess what, its not as far away as you thought.

Known to some as a West Village staple, Alta is a wonderful restaurant for any occasion. Their extensive menu accommodates anyone from the experimental foodie to the locally sourcing vegetarian. Despite Alta’s discrete residence, tucked away on West 10th street, New Yorkers have been in-the-know about this neighborhood gem for ages and for good reason.

We enjoyed everything we had from the crispy brussels sprouts and Catalonia flatbread to the tantalizing torija dessert, which I cannot find a recipe for anywhere! The decor, the rich flavorful tapas, and the phenomenal wine made for a memorable evening, though leaving more to be desired… There’s about twenty or so other tapas I’ve yet to try!

But if I can leave you with one recommendation it would be to order a bottle of the Celler Cecilio L’Espill (Vintage 2000). This smooth Catalonian wine, made in Priorat, Spain,  perfectly compliments any of Alta’s tapas and your palette!

Dishes I tried…

*my favorites

Carpaccio Of Beef horseradish créme frâiche foam, orange supremes

*Crispy Brussels Sprouts fuji apples, crème fraiche, pistachio nuts

Lamb Meatballs spiced butternut squash foam, toasted sesame seeds and lebne

Skewer of Grilled & Maple glazed Duck Breast foie gras emulsion, Marsala reduction

*Coca (Catalonian Flatbread) oven roasted mushrooms, fresh ricotta, truffled boschetto, herbs

*Torija (Dessert) marcona almond croquant, mandarin sauce, lebne sorbet, and grapefruit air

ALTA

60 W. 10th Street

A Lucky Strike

Last night some of my closest friends celebrated our friend’s engagement at Lucky Strike. Lucky Strike is the ultimate destination for both activity seekers and party goers. A high class lounge parallel to a 26 lane bowling alley sounds like the perfect place for a date — a little bowling and drinking never hurt anyone, right?

But last night I was there for one thing only, to celebrate one of the most anticipated engagements to date. And since the elaborately decorated lounge was located conveniently behind the bowling alley, we had the privilege of witnessing the actual proposal and luckily he didn’t strike out! She said YES!

Following an adorable proposal, we surprised the beautiful bride AND groom to be in Lucky Strike’s lounge and celebrated over champagne and hors d’oeuvres which included fried macaroni and cheese bites (the bride’s favorite) serves with marinara sauce, vegetable plates, and spinach and artichoke dip with accompanying pita wedges.

Lucky Strike was the perfect place for this wonderful couple to celebrate their engagement and to replicate where they first met — Badger Bowl in Madison, WI (go Badgers!).

Congratulations Lauren & Adam!

(ps – I highly recommend Lucky Strike for dates, birthdays, engagements, or just plain ol’ bowling)

Lucky Strike

624-660 W 42nd Street (at 12th Avenue)

646-829-0170

The Best and Worst of Aruban Cuisine

After spending three consecutive Christmases in Aruba I’ve had the privilege of surveying a great deal of Aruba’s restaurants with offerings varying from fanciful Italian delicacies to authentic Aruban prepared fruits of the sea. And I’ve found that despite the decor (elaborate or simple), the cuisine (Asian Fusion, Italian, or Aruban – or casual), or the service (which is mostly quite poor), all of these restaurants left me feeling equally disappointed, unsatisfied, and slightly cheated.

Living in New York has made me incredibly spoiled. If I want the freshest organic milk Manhattan has to offer its either across the street at the Food Emporium or a short subway ride away. If I get a sudden craving for delicious Indian food it is four blocks away. Good Italian food, one block – ten blocks for REALLY good Italian. And so on.

In Aruba if I want good anything I go to one of the now four Dunkin’ Donuts or a cute local shop called Dushi Bagels. I know, great name. A lot of things are coincidentally named Dushi in Aruba- boats, restaurants, drinks- you name it. And why? Maybe because in the native Arubian language of Papiamento, Dushi means precious. And let me tell you, on an island full of awfully plain restaurants, Dushi Bagels is a precious gem. This quaint, incredibly friendly “coffee shop”, located right outside of the Playa Linda, serves great salads (especially their crab salad), turkey burgers, egg sandwiches, and draft beer! Most importanly they have a lovely staff which is tough to come by in Aruba.

Aruba claims to be “One Happy Island” but their restaurants state otherwise. Despite the many duds I came across this past Christmas there were a few shining stars to be found.

Iguana Cantina

This causal Mexican eatery really hit the spot. With all you can eat fajita Wednesdays, the Levine family took advantage of this fabulous find which is centrally located across from the Holiday Inn.

Yemanja Grill

With Christmas vacation always comes my dad’s birthday and Yemanja Grill was a great place to celebrate! Aruban Decor and a sophisticated menu delighted our party of eight. And if you arrive early and stick to the appetizers and the grilled Salmon, you’re guaranteed to have a great meal. Just be sure to pay in cash as the service here is no better than the rest of the island.

Chef’s Table

Our favorite restaurant of three years. Ahi tuna appetizer and entree are excellent as are their salads and fish soup. The rest of the food is as plain and simple as is expected. But their desserts are a dime a dozen! Chef’s table uniquely serves all of their desserts in tall shot glasses!

Other restaurants I’d like to try….

Pago Pago

Screaming Eagle

Morandi

Places to stay away from…

Blossom’s (inside the Hyatt)

Cuba’s Cookin’

Scala