Wednesday, July 30, 2008

16 Dishes, 2 Restaurants, 1 Day: A Blow-by-Blow Account

Dear Boo,

We've talked a lot about hangover foods in recent posts. Today though, I must admit I'm suffering from a food-induced hangover. Aka, yesterday I ate more than Jabba the Hut's yearly intake of Princess Leia-inspired cinnamon buns. Now we Harts are a small people. And we mice are small animals. Keep this in mind as you read. Unfortunately, no one person was with me over the course of the eating extravaganza to appreciate just what took place, so I'm going to share it with you in all its glory and hope I get some in return.


1) In anticipation of this event (though not yet knowing exactly how momentous it would be) I went with a light breakfast on my way to work:

Protein and much needed energy for what was to come.


It's restaurant week here in NYC which means you can go to some of the city's most famous, fancy, trendy spots and have a 3 course lunch for $24.07 and dinner for $35. At our uncle's office, where I work part time to support this crazy actor/writer/loafabout lifestyle, restaurant week is an office-wide holiday. This time we had the double excuse of a birthday in our midst, so at 12:30 we stuck a sign to the door saying we'd be back at 4, hailed a cab, and headed to what is apparently an upper east side society staple, and home to one Michelin Star, La Goulue.

Tres jolie, non? Inside the restaurant feels just like a bistro or restaurant in Paris with the dark wood walls, fluted glass wall sconces, and frosted glass partitions in the dining room. It made me think back fondly on our time in Paris what with the 3 hour dinners and the case of the mysterious fish with suspiciously chicken-like bones. Note from the Boo: It was Frog. On the restaurant week prix fixe, (which here, featured pretty much none of their regular menu items) there are usually only 3 choices for each course and as there were 6 of us, I had to come to terms with the fact that some of us would have to double up on our orders.

2) Since everyone was getting the grilled calamari salad to start, I opted for the chicken liver "parfait" with shallots which made me a bit leery imagining liver mousse layered into a sundae glass with shallot sprinkles. It was delicious, however, and very traditionally served with toast and cornichons (my fave) and a little pile of carmelized shallots. I only ate part of it since it's quite rich and NO ONE would even taste it. Our uncle claims he only eats chopped liver, not the smooth kind my plate featured. Our dining companion pointed out this was chopped at one stage, but he wasn't convinced.

3) Our uncle also ordered a tuna tartare with cilantro, wasabi cream, and tempura flakes which was delicious and super-fresh and creamy.

4) And a caesar-esque salad with tiger shrimp which had been somehow butterflied to look like flat layered discs of shrimp. Interesting presentation and quite good.

5) Next I had the Chicken Paillard "Totonno style" When we asked what "totonno" meant, the waiter waved his hands and vaguely said, "it's french style" and then mumbled something about tomatoes. What appeared was the largest and flattest piece of chicken I have ever seen. I mean, this thing had to have been pounded within a millimeter of it's life and how it hung together through all that is a miracle of science and perseverance. It was topped with a light arugula salad, capers and a drizzle of lemon/mustard dressing. No tomatoes. Despite the slightly disturbing shape, the chicken was moist and tasty if a little on the salty side.

6) Finally I finished with a few bites of creme caramel (I'm just fascinated by the fact that practically every culture has some version of a custard dessert. I could go on about this but we still have dinner to get to.)

7) Our table also featured peach melba, and a chocolate mousse, as well as a glass of sauternes and a vintage port to taste. All after 2 bottles of delicious wine though I can't tell you a thing about it as our Uncle is master of the wine list and I am on a need-to-know basis.

We rolled slowly up Madison Avenue and back to work grumbling of much-needed naps.

I had just barely begun digesting my lunch when I looked at the time and realized I had to book it back home to grab my birthday present, freshen up, and head out to my friend's dinner at Public in Soho. (Inexplicably I stopped for a few of these rice chips:

which are really good, but when eaten in between two 3 course meals, might indicate a problem.)


I'd walked by Public a few times and thought it looked appealing. the design is warm and sexy and in the summer the inside sort of bleeds out onto the sidewalk in a casual enticing way. I went in and was directed into the cocktail lounge:

Warm and sexy, kind of like the birthday girl herself. :)
Upon entering the lounge I was offered a glass of sparking rose or prosecco (chose the rose). Soon passed hors d'oeuvres arrived, each of which I tried in the name of being a fearless food explorer:

8) Mini venison burgers on a miso bun with tomato chili jam. I think this was my first ever taste of venison. not bad. Rich and buttery.

9) Mushroom ceviche with miso aubergines and ginger ponzu sauce. I wasn't too excited when this was described to me, or when I saw it served in those enormous miso soup spoons which I think is sort of annoying. But it was amazingly delicious. The ponzu sauce was vinegar-y and tangy and sharp. Mmm.

Roasted beet and goats cheese arrancini. These were fantastic fried rice balls which were bright red with a dab of melted cheese inside. All served in a pesto dipping sauce.

11) Tea-smoked salmon, fennel and green apple summer roll with preserved lemon yogurt and fennel pollen. I don't know that I actually tasted the fennel pollen, but whatever was in there tasted good....

12) Confit duck spring roll with nam phrik num. Almost burned my fingerprints off it was so hot, but YUM.

13) And some kind of spicy lamb spring roll that I can't find on the online menu. Ditto.

Next we headed into the wine room for dinner:

That's a wall of wine bottles on one side, and a nice sheer curtain on the other, separating us from the common folk dining in the main room. We were given personalized menus with a greeting from our hosts printed on top and three choices each of appetizer, main, and dessert. Here's what I had:

14) Grilled kangaroo on a coriander falafel with lemon-tahini sauce and green pepper relish. What I really wanted was the salad, but one of my dinner companions shamed me into ordering the kangaroo in the name of the blog. So there you go--I ate kangaroo for you people! It was totally not what I expected--nothing like chicken, not really gamey, served very rare, it was more like a very lean steak crossed with rare tuna. ? Yeah, I know. Anyway, it was quite good. Note from B: And this from the girl who wouldn't eat the Frog...

15) Pan-seared New Zealand snapper on wasabi-bonito mash with poached conch, pickled ginger, and yao choy. All I know about conch is that it's a staple of the diet in Turks and Caicos (thank you PBS). By the time I got to this dish I had forgotten the description so I'm sorry to say I can't tell you what the conch tasted like because I don't really know which part of the dish it was. oops. Overall though, it contributed to a delectable and perfectly prepared dish. The interweb tells me that Yao Choy is flowering chinese cabbage, which sounds good to me.

16) Since the waitress steered me away from the red velvet cake with wattleseed (?!) ice cream and my neighbor next to me was getting the sticky toffee cake with armagnac ice cream, I went with the Yuzu cheesecake with macadamia nut crust, blueberry sauce and basil seeds , which was good, but not mindblowing. I think I like my cheesecake denser and more traditional. The sticky toffee was kind of knock your panties off good. Get that. Note from B: how could you turn down an ice cream flavor that I am still laughing about right now? Ok I'm done.

Phew. 16 dishes in one day. 5 different types of alcohol. 2 new (to me) restaurants, with wildly different menus, designs, nei
ghborhoods, vibes, and patronage. All in all, a good day, though I have a major food hangover as a result. Of course, I decided to top this all off by going to a wedding the next day, the last of three open bar/food events I've been to in one week. Someone get me an alka-seltzer.

The Mouse

Hungry for More? After this long-winded post, you gotta be crazy. But if you want, go check out Blogsoop for restaurant reviews from all kinds of food bloggers like us. Get the real deal from people who have no readership or boss to please and therefore must tell the truth. And vote for us while you're there.


Trouble Jones said...

Me thinks the Mouse is total hedonist.
The fish that was a frog - hilarious!
Why is this blog so good?

Anonymous said...

miss mouse -- great post. btw, if you enjoyed the burgers, you should try venison sausage. it's delicious. my girlfriend once brought me some from italy, but I'm sure you can find some in these parts of the world. isn't deer hunting big in jersey?

Anonymous said...

not that i would have any say, but in my eyes you have just proven membership into /d's hungry psychos competitive eating club.