Sunday, February 3, 2008

Al Di La

Al Di La
248 5th Ave, Brooklyn 11215
At Carroll St

We finally made it to Al Di La! Considering how often it is mentioned, particularly in Park Slope foodie-lore, this was one restaurant we needed to check out. Famous for not taking reservations and ages waiting around, we'd decided against it multiple times in the past. This time we decided to go for it. There was an hour and 20 min wait even at 6pm on a Saturday (!), so we put our name in and took a walk, went to Union Hall for a drink (at least Al Di La calls your cell when your table is ready.) Al Di La also has a wine bar around the corner that you can wait in, so after Union Hall we headed there for a glass of Malbec which was very nice. A loud, somewhat cramped space at the wine bar, plus a small dining area too (wasn't sure if the menu there was the same). Eventually it was time, and they brought our wine glasses through to the restaurant since we were still mid-glass, while we walked around the corner outside and back into the restaurant, past the dark, velvet curtain into the loud dining room.

The vibe in the room was convivial and warm, though not as much character as rival Convivium Osteria in my opinion. Seats clustered together, lots going on given the popularity of the place. We waited a bit for our waiter but he was friendly and apologetic. I started with Casumzieei, which was ravioli with beets, ricotta, and poppy seeds, tossed in butter. It was simple, fresh, and richly satisfying. I never would have imagined ravioli with beets being so tasty. Hubby had carpaccio that he enjoyed, topped with capers, anchovies and parmesan.

For the main course I chose the hanger steak, which was tender and moist, served with arugula. It was very nice, though hubby’s pork stole the show—Saltimbocca alla Romana, with prosciutto and really nice golden potatoes. Pounded thin and tasty. For dessert a very memorable treat—vanilla ice cream and “almond prailine” (yum), “drowned” in espresso—different, and great mixture of flavors.

Overall very glad we went, and probably slightly better value than Convivium Osteria (I realize the food is slightly different there but the two do seem very comparable.). It was a nice date night, but may choose other options in the future instead of repeating the long wait. Recommended though!

Blogsoop reviews

Al di Là Trattoria in Brooklyn

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Barbeque at Blue Smoke

Blue Smoke
116 E 27th St
New York, NY 10016
(212) 447-7733

Girls night week.... you might not think of barbeque as a top choice on a night like this, but we had a great time. I'd heard about how good Blue Smoke was supposed to be, and being somewhat of a southern girl I had an interest in checking it out. They had a restaurant week special this week too, alright I was sold...

Supposed to have a decent jazz bar there too, though we didn't make it to that. Reservations were booked but we showed up to wait. 45 min wait or so, and the "blood-orange margarita" made up for the wait in quality, though not quite quantity (small for a margarita). Very tasty though. The place was packed and the bar was full, but we got by chatting for a while. Eventually we were seated at a giant booth, and checked out the restaurant week menu. In the end I didn't even go with that menu since I saw the pulled pork platter on the menu. The pulled pork was awesome, a huge mount of it (not sure how anyone could finish that platter) atop a slice of sourdough bread, a side of tasty baked beans and some coleslaw. Top with sauces as desired and enjoy. A bit pricey for barbeque (or barbecue to be proper), but memorable pulled pork for sure. Fun place for something different and a night out.

Blogsoop reviews of Blue Smoke

Blue Smoke in New York

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Italian in Midtown: Felidia restaurant

243 E 58th St
Btwn 2nd & 3rd Ave

Last night's dinner was a treat for sure. We went to Felidia upon recommendation that the food was great, and we definitely agreed. The flavors were rich and layered, the service was excellent, and it was a memorable meal.

We made a reservation for a Saturday night, and it does seem that reservations a couple of weeks ahead is needed often. We arrive on time at the restaurant which has 2 levels and big glass windows. I spied a table in the window upstairs for two, and made a foretelling comment about that being our table up there. Lo and behold it was, and I always enjoy sitting at the window. Though I admit there was not a ton to look at on 58th St, and the lighting in the restaurant was a bit lacking. Candlelight might have been nice. The atmosphere was simple and understated upstairs. When we first sat down they brought out a sampling of 3 flavors of basically houmous, with a selection of breads and breadsticks. Those were some tasty flavors, one was a basil pesto flavor, one was garlic and kalamata olive, and one was orange and carrot. Loved them all. We also tried the Olive Oil sampler for $7, with additional tasty breads. You could certainly taste the differences in the 3 types of oils, though I cannot remember the details of any of them now unfortunately.

The wine list was extensive, and the Montepulciano perfect. What about the rest of the food? Probably my favorite of the whole evening was the rock shrimp appetizer (Gamberi al Limone)—melt-in-your-mouth amazing, really blew my mind. Served in an hollowed-out onion (pictured here), these were the most tender pieces of shrimp I’ve ever had, with a creamy butter, garlic, lemony sauce and caramelized onions, heavenly. I was ready to order a few more of those and be done. Also tried the 5 onion, fennel, and fluke soup which was very good. For main courses, the paccheri was large pasta noodles and the wild boar almost like a winter stew, with carrots and mushrooms. It was very well done and meat nicely cooked, though a bit too bland for my taste. Hubby’s plate included venison loin, nicely rare for him, and almost a moussaka-like bison meat and potatoes blend I quite enjoyed.

Finally for dessert! A fruit tiramisu with cranberries and orange, and “mini caprese cakes” with coconut served with 3 dipping sauces (pictured), passion fruit, chocolate and caramel. Complimentary plate of sweets and dessert wine for our special occasion dinner, we were certainly done at that point! It was very memorable and recommended!

Felidia in New York

Saturday, January 12, 2008

One if by Land...

One if By Land, Two if By Sea
17 Barrow St
New York, NY 10014
(212) 255-8649

If you just happened to stroll down Barrow Street, between W 4th & 7th Ave, you would come across a white archway over windows that look like they peer into another city and time in some ways-- the ornate dining room with chandeliers that appear to be filled with real candles at first glance, and the pianist playing classy music to the bar patrons and couples cozying up by the fireplace. The candlelight and warm colors paint a timeless feeling across the scene, as though you were peering at a scene from Charles Dickens' inspiration for parties in the Christmas Carol. There is no large prominent sign out front, just a small posting of the menu, and I'm not sure I'd have gone in if I had just stumbled upon it given the exclusive feeling, but we had reservations after seeing the Restaurant Week specials they were offering-- $35 for a 3-course meal. We couldn't pass up the opportunity to see the restaurant renowned for marriage proposals at such a reasonable price (given their normal fares), and enjoyed a lovely romantic dinner for two, complete with our own taper candle on the table, and enough servers hustling around to ensure that you were catered to.

The feeling of the restaurant was very timeless, with brick walls inside and large windows near where we sat looking at some sort of courtyard, and of course the chandeliers. The table was a tiny bit big for sitting across from your love and having romantic conversation, but we did our best. The olive bread was wonderful, and the chef sent everyone a small cup of beet gazpacho with salmon cream that was different and tasty. I had a salad with a lite vinaigrette, walnuts, and pomegranate seeds, and the hubby started with a smoked ham soup with cheddar cheese foam that was warm, rich, and satisfying. I had hanger steak with mango/cumin sauce, served medium which was more like medium rare (but apparently everything there is a bit under, I still enjoyed it), and hubby had scallops with mushroom sauce and barley which were also rich and delicious. Portion sizes were tinier than expected, but the multiple courses made up for it. The desserts were divine-- a "liquid chocolate tart with salted caramel ice cream" and a "whiskey-caramel-sauce covered chestnut parfait". Both were amazing, rich, and memorable. Glad I got to experience it, felt very warm and romantic for an NYC restaurant, and no, didn't catch anyone busting out rings while we were there, though hubby decided to present me with notification that our house-loan was approved at the table-- a close second to another proposal; if not a ring, a house will do ;). No complaints here.

Blogsoop Reviews

One If By Land, Two If By Sea in New York

Monday, January 7, 2008

Another vote: Best Pizza in NYC?? Patsy's

67 University, Greenwich Village
(212) 533-3500

Finally! Isn't this, at least according to some, where this whole pizza debate began? With a coal oven at Patsy's in Harlem, circa 1933? 2 years plus in NYC and I hadn't tried Patsy's until this past week. Given my recent tastes of Lombardi's, Grimaldi's, and more, it had to be done. Of course only now do I realize I worked a year not so far from this location, geez, could have been a detriment to my lunchtime health had I known.

We arrived around 6:30, and the place went from empty to slammed in a manner of minutes. Definitely felt the college student vibe. Not a lot to look at, tables crammed in to the very last inch, but I was there for one thing only. Pizzas were served up quickly on a convenient double-decker stack. One standard margarita, and one with pepperoni.

Not a lot was said during this meal.... I know it may seem like each new pizza place I go to is a contender for my fav, but I TRULY think that may be the case with Patsy's. Somehow the crust was just that much lighter than the others, and the tastes perfection. Even the pepperoni was delicious, though I prefer simple flavors of mozzarella, tomato, and basil. Before I moved here I really don't think I knew what NYC pizza meant....I just figured, yeah, good (decent) pizza, so what. But now I get how people can obsess over it... the coal, the temperature, the dough, the charring...yum.

When can I go back??

Blogsoop reviews of original Patsy's

Patsy's Pizzeria in New York

Friday, November 23, 2007

Mexican at Maya

1191 1st Ave, New York 10021
Btwn 64th & 65th St

It sometimes feels tougher to find good food in Midtown East and Upper East Side; thankfully came across Maya as a great place to meet up with friends on a recent weeknight and get some good Mexican in a nice environment on the East side. It was a bit of a walk since it's on 1st Ave, but no major probs getting there. The atmosphere was warm and inviting, with large carved chairs for each table. I didn't notice any booths, all were tables, and a small bar in the front. Service was fine.

We ordered guacamole, couldn't pass it up, and it was served in a double-decker tray with chips on the bottom and guac on top. A small amount of guac for the price (and for 4 people), nothing compared to quantity at Mary Anns for example or even probably Rosa Mexicano, but it was tasty. We got the special appetizer which was lobster soft tacos with avo and melted cheese; they were TINY but also very tasty. My salmon was grilled with "chile chipotle mustard", great grilled flavor and nice sauce. The salmon could have been slightly more cooked to my liking. The asparagus and potato pieces on the plate were delicious with the chile habenero aioli. Hubby got the pork-- it was tenderloin and shoulder, with black bean & avocado, and it was DELICIOUS. We were very satisfied overall and would go back (if ever in the area!)

Citysearch reviews

Maya in New York

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Convivium Osteria

Convivium Osteria
68 5th Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11217
(718) 857-1833

On a cold, dreary, drizzly winter night, Convivium Osteria is definitely a warm inviting destination. We did the long walk from South Park Slope to get there, and despite some slightly sore feet, it was well worth it. Hard to believe we waited so long to try it! Hope we get plenty more opportunities in the future...

As all of the online reviews say, this place feels like you are in a rustic restaurant in Europe. There seems to be 3 seating areas or levels, the front/main area where you first walk in, complete with small bar and shelves of wine bottles, the next level after a walk almost through the kitchen that has the feel of an outdoor patio with skylight, in fact, has an even more outdoor seating area for summer time that opens up, and an even lower "wine cellar" seating area. We sat in that second level area, near the glass doors that I'm sure completely open up for warm weather to the patio. The whole place is very warm and cozy, with lanterns and wooden accents and candlelight, and has plenty of character. Right away I knew this would be a great place to take visitors (though not much else in the immediate vicinity, location-wise. But worth the walk).

The food, over all, was the best we've had in months. Italian, but with "spanish & portuguese influences" according to their website. Really really sumptuous and flavorful. Yes a tad bit pricey ($30 for special/entree; $13 for pasta dish), particularly as portion sizes, at least what we saw, were fairly small for American standards. But it encourages you to savor each bite, as you should with such rich ingredients and flavors. We started with the "carciofo alla romana", artichoke marinated in olive oil with mint and garlic. It was delicate and delicious. I then had butternut squash "tortelli" with sage and butter... the plate was very small, almost more of a first course, but divine. I cut up my little pasta pieces into teeny bites to savor the flavors! The sweet and salty juxtaposition was perfect for me. Hubby had that night's special which was RIGHT up his ally-- venison loin with a blueberry & port-wine reduction sauce served with mashed potatoes. Wow was that amazing. The blueberry sauce was so tasty, I sopped up the extra with bread for another tasty treat, and the venison was very tender and well-cooked.

No dessert this time, but definitely hope to be back. I read that their cappucinos are great too, have to check it out.

Blogsoop reviews

Citysearch reviews

Convivium Osteria in Brooklyn