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Friday, May 13, 2011

SHUTTERED Overhyped and UNDERwhelmed...Vandaag

A restaurant I had been waiting to try. Everything about it appealed to me: decor, ingredients, cocktails, the menu and the endless hype. The dining room is beautifully decorated in Scandinavian style with wood tables, wire lighting fixtures, Eames chairs and an enormous floor to ceiling window on 2nd Avenue. What a room for brunch when it is flooded with light!

The waiters are dressed in white collared button-downs, jeans and adorable mis-matching floral aprons; but when I asked my usual pre-dining question, 'what are your favorite menu items?' The answer was, 'Everything is good', which was unenthusiastic and only highlighted appetizers. One thing she was right about, everything was just 'good'.

Starting with the pickle pot, I thought it was a good prelude of what was to come and unfortunately, I was wrong.

Pickle Pot complete with cucumbers, turnips and fennel

Barely there gravalax with celeriac, celery, bitters, leaves, seed and roe
(The fishy roe was the noticeable ingredient)

The one dish the waitress seemed to be excited about was the bitterballen slow braised oxtail croquettes with mustard relish; but alas, another tasteless appetizer. Authentic croquettes are typically, what most would consider, tasteless and are jazzed up with some type of dipping sauce. But these were OXTAIL! Slow braised oxtail tasteless? What the heck? They tasted exactly like a regular croquette. Slap on the wrist for me since I never order the most popular dish the menu.

The Mangalitsa pork (heirloom beans, Sepia, pear, clove jus 28) was the most enjoyable dinner item. Mangalista is a fattier cut of meat, therefore, is abundantly rich. The sepia was apparent, although I'm not sure how it tied into the dish.

Hete Bliksem ’hot lightning’ - crisp fingerlings, bacon, apple, stroop syrup
By far, the best eats at Vandaag and described by the waitress as 'Heaven in a Bowl'. Crispy potatoes with chunks of bacon, microscopic chunks of apple in a housemade stroop syrup. This dish blended sweet and heated (aftertaste) that was awesome!

We waited thirty minutes for the waitress to take our dessert order that the skyr custard (maple, rhubarb, granola bar, mace) was just brought over and on the house. Glad the decision was made.

Bottom line - Vandaag tries too hard with their menu. There are too many ingredients they're working with. Don't reinvent the wheel. Simplify.

Vandaag 103 Second Avenue @ 7th Street (212) 253-0470

Thursday, May 12, 2011


A year ago this month, I met THE chef of all chefs! Mr. Thomas Keller

with Edna Ishayik of NY Magazine and @Ishlist

Signing Ad Hoc

Cafe Edison

It was as if I had gone back in time in a once magical 1930's theatre district hotel. You could just imagine black-tie clad couples dining and dancing in the grand ballroom of The Edison Hotel. Well, you would have to imagine pretty hard. It has now become one of many mid-range Times Square hotels, however, the diner is still a throwback to a fountain bar serving one of the most delicious egg creams I've had.

Most of the staff are lukewarm Polish women with thick accents, but they certainly know the best items to order.

The hot Roumanian pastrami sandwich was a good with a generous helping of meat, but nothing out of the ordinary in the world of deli sandwiches.

The dish to be enjoyed is the browned corned beef hash with poached eggs and steak fries. These old-time 'diners' know how to make eggs properly!

It's sad to see, what used to be a magical ballroom, fade into history; but on a positive note, the hotel recently revamped The Rum House bar run by the Ward III folks.

The Hotel Edison 228 West 47th Street (between 7th & 8th Avenues)

Friday, May 6, 2011

SHUTTERED: Nuela Ambitious

Nuela reminds me of my short-lived, club-hopping days in good 'ole Miami. Almost all new dining establishments in Flatiron lack grand food to justify their grand spaces. Not Nuela. They have the goods to back it.

First thing I see, round corn balls which serves as their 'bread' served with mascarpone cheese drizzled with olive oil. Sweet and sour.

The ceviche bar was staffed with two ceviche chefs that prepared ceviche made-to-order. The Mixto Mariscos (lobster/shrimp/crab/octopus) had a light, charred tomato sauce. The rocoto pepper provided the heat and spicy, apple-tinged flavor.

The market fish was snapper and prepared traditionally in lime with red onion.

I must say, watching the ceviche being prepared was more enjoyable than the ceviches themselves. While fresh, they are overpriced ($16 each) for a small amount as well as difficult to decipher which shellfish you were tasting with the Mixtos.

I went against the grain (a restaurant known for it's arroz con pato (essentially duck paella), and ordered a quarter roasted suckling pig. When it arrived, I wasn't sure what was going on...Spanish-Asian fusion??? But HOLY MOLY! This was one of the best pieces of pork I've ever had!!!!

Served with scallion pancakes, cumin lime rice and a pink peppercorn guava sauce, it was a wonderful balance of protein and carb. Each bite was a new, different bite. It was......delicious!

Asparagus - brown butter, aji amarillo & white soy

The restaurant itself is a little cheesy with its black and burgundy colors with actual tourists from Miami trying to speak over the club music. The kitchen should be showcased more. It is a wall of beautiful, ridged, frosted glass panes and randomly placed clear-hinged panes to see the kitchen and its staff. The waiters were attentive, but not too overwhelming.

Don't forget the bar snack of roasted corn with onion and bacon!

Nuela 43 West 24th Street(212) 929-1200