New York Food Adventures
After some rather ambitious efforts to go to five Michelin-starred restaurants in a week, a new—and possibly more ambitious—goal has begun: Go to 50 of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants before I turn 50.
In San Francisco, we went to Saison, which just so happened to be on The List. That meant only 49 more to go. New York is a short hour-long flight from Ottawa and, thus, it made sense to go to those restaurants when I had some availability. With a free weekend, I booked the three in the city: Cosme, Eleven, and Le Bernardin. Blue Hill at Stone Barns will have to wait.
Cosme serves up “fresh Mexican cuisine from one of the hottest young chefs in the US”.
I’m a big fan of tasting menus where everything is decided for you—including the drink pairing. Cosme only does a la carte small plates, so I was overwhelmed with what to choose. If you can go as a group of four, I think that’d be ideal. That way, everybody can order a couple different things and share.
Even still, Cosme was wonderful. The place was busy but you can still carry on a conversation without yelling. The food was wonderful. I highly recommend the mole with the flat iron steak.
The cocktails were fantastic, too. I kept with the Mexican theme and had a margarita and followed that up with a paloma. The paloma was perfection.
Anthony Bourdain said, “I would like people really to pay more for top-quality Mexican food. I think it's the most undervalued, underappreciated world cuisine with tremendous, tremendous potential.”
I think he’d be pleased with Cosme.
Verdict: If you find yourself in NYC with a group of friends, go here.
In doing some research on places to eat, I came across a place called Sushi Yasuda. It was rated the #1 place in NYC for sushi. We went for lunch but by the time we got there, the place was full and we couldn’t get in. A quick look on Foursquare revealed another restaurant just across the street: Sakagura.
We walked into an office building and then around the corner and down a set of stairs into the basement. Getting to this restaurant reminded me of a couple of the places I went to in Tokyo where the location felt hidden and hard to find. It made the upcoming meal that much more delightful and this time wasn’t any different.
The place was busy and definitely worth the short wait to get in. We opted for the tasting menu and I chose a flight of sake to go with.
In the past, most times I’ve tried sake I’ve been underwhelmed. There wasn’t much flavour to it and just felt dull in my mouth. This changed after going to Daruma in Portland. The gentleman there knows his sake and brings in a fantastic assortment. We tried a bunch there and I was delighted by the flavours. Since then, I’m much more willing to try sake.
Sakaguru provided a flight of three. They recommended each one pairing with a particular part of the tasting menu. It’s worth trying, if you’re at all curious about sake.
The meal itself started off great. The sashimi was fantastic. The tempura that followed was yummy. Probably my only disappointment in the meal was the beef. It was chewy and not all that flavourful. One bad dish out of a handful is fine. (And it was the last one!)
To finish, I had a black sesame ice cream that was tasty. I’ve become a fan of sesame as I’ve aged.
Verdict: If you find yourself in the area, do it. And be sure to try the sake flight.
Eleven Madison Park
Eleven Madison Park was rated #1 in 2017 and only slipped slightly to #4 in 2018. It’s also a 3 Michelin-star restaurant. As you might imagine, getting reservations means planning ahead. Reservations for a given month open up on the 1st of the previous month. For our July reservation, we booked June 1st. The rest of the restaurants were planned around this one.
The service from the moment we walked in the door was fantastic. Our host was cheerful and friendly throughout the meal.
The food. Oh my god, the food. The meal was incredible. I was nearly to tears with how good the food was.
Most of the dishes have a seasonal twist on them. Being in the thick of summer, corn was a common thread through some of the courses. Caviar served on top of a corn soufflé with a cream sauce, for example, was fantastic.
Chef Daniel Humm himself said, “The duck is probably the only recipe that I feel I have perfected fully.”
And it was fantastic. I highly recommend choosing the duck option, if you have the chance.
By far my favourite dish was the foie gras. Absolute perfection. Each bite was bliss and I savoured it through and through. Nothing I’ve had before or since compares to this dish.
One other interesting tidbit was that we prepaid for our meal when we made the booking. This actually made the end of the meal quite pleasant. There was nothing to sign and no large bill to pretend wasn’t some insanely large amount. It also meant not feeling uncomfortable about how much to tip. I wish more restaurants did this.
Verdict: Worth it. I will fly around the world to go here.
Le Bernardin was good but a bit of a rocky start upon our arrival. Despite the 33ºC heat with untold humidity, I was told by no less than three different people from the front door to my seat to put my jacket on. (It’s the only place I’ve been to that has such strict rules about jackets.)
Each of the dishes were tasty but didn’t seem to be pushing any boundaries or presenting any surprises. The wine pairings were nicely done, all complimenting the dishes. Le Bernardin has knowledgeable sommeliers wearing tastevins (a silver cup) around their neck. (Okay, maybe a little pretentious but considering the jacket requirement, I suppose this shouldn’t come as a surprise.)
The service fell off towards the end of the meal. They asked if I wanted a coffee and I said yes to an espresso. They brought it out and then also brought out petit fours and a dessert wine. I consider the espresso the end-of-the-meal drink and was surprised to have more. We were also left waiting for our bill.
Verdict: If you’re a fan of good wine and good food, you won’t be disappointed but I probably wouldn’t plan a cross-country trip to go here.
Our flight was cancelled and thus we had an extra day in NYC. Now was our chance to get to Sushi Yasuda, a 1 Michelin-starred restaurant.
“The kitchen lives up to its hype by ignoring new wave trends in favor of serving classically assembled and spectacularly fresh sushi.”
I wish I knew this going in. I was expecting something a bit more adventurous with the sushi. We did omakase, letting the chef decide what we’d have next. We weren’t disappointed in the quality of the sushi, though, that’s for sure. The sushi was delicious, even if it was simple in its presentation. The octopus was a bit chewy and the oyster tasted too much like the ocean. Everything else was fantastic.
Be careful with the omakase. They’ll keep bringing plates out until you tell them to stop and for two people, the price can add up quickly. There’s no tipping but we still walked out of there with a $400 bill.
If you don’t mind things on the pricy side, I think Sushi Yasuda is a place to try.
Verdict: If I lived in NYC, I think this would be a place I’d go to whenever I was in the mood for some good sushi.