Monday, May 30, 2011


It isn't just a bad pun; it's also the name of a hand-pulled noodle restaurant on Bond Street where delicious shochu cocktails and mediocre noodles abound. Order the pina, which goes down easier than any high octane drink really should.

But maybe skip the short rib appetizer, which comes cloaked in white foam (how early 2000s!). The ribs are good, yes, but the foam is distracting and unnecessary. A pork head spring roll--really much more akin to a dumpling or a drunken noodle casing--meets with more success, a fatty, unctuous combination of meat and starch.

The noodles, though? Oh, how they disappoint. Each dish comes with the choice of thick or thin noodles, so we ordered one of each. Thin noodles with pork belly were fine, but nowhere near the nuanced texture of Ippudo. The pork belly was rich, but the overcooked turnips left something to be desired, as did the wan broth. Ditto for the duck, with its overcooked breast meat, thick and boring noodles, and flavorless stock. No roast pork bones to be found in these soups, alas.

Hung-Ry's beer and wine list is broad and interesting, and it might be worth it to stop in just for a snack and a libation. But beyond that, noodles are best procured elsewhere.

55 Bond Street
New York, NY 10012

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

In Vino

Veritas. In wine there is truth. In the wine list at Veritas, there is an abundance of high-ticket items. I had to call the sommelier over to direct me towards something less expensive (the lowest item I could find in all of France hovered around $120). Conceptually, I understand having a list with wines on it in excess of $25,000. But no average wine drinker can hope to afford what Veritas brings forth. And it is worth noting that point.

The amuse bouche for the evening was a Taylor Bay scallop served in its shell and garnished with a pepper coulis. It was lovely and fresh and set my palate up for more food. I began with the Ocean and Land, bone marrow and butter-poached lobster, served with a powdered lobster roe. Sadly, my lobster was overcooked and my marrow undersalted. My companion's crudo--salmon belly and Atlantic tuna with pomegranate seeds and grapefruit supremes--was a nicely composed dish, if lacking a little spark.

My entree, billed as a "wooly pig," was a pork loin cooked to medium over a gastrique and a mix of dark pork meat breaded with panko and fried, all over braised butter lettuce and roasted grape tomatoes. It was a beautiful dish, but I felt, once more, that everything lacked a little inspiration. My friend's raviolo--one large piece of pasta filled with short ribs and mushrooms--would have fit better on a winter menu. With spring in full swing, why settle for braised meat? Where were the peas and asparagus and morels and ramps?

I let the waiter talk me out of the strawberry tart and into the doughnuts and toffee pudding. One came with a peppermint ice cream and the other with a ginger lime, neither of which left me with much enthusiasm. Our cheese plate came with almonds, honeycomb, and fruit bread. Snore. I missed Tia Keenan's inspired combinations back from my Casellula days: bacon with white chocolate; lavender; home made fudge.

Overall, dinner left me a little poorer and a little underwhelmed. It could have been better, or at least less expensive. But maybe this is the milieu of the modern American three star restaurant.

43 East 20th Street, #1
New York, NY 10003

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Italian Night

I had wanted to try Ciano since it opened--and was awarded two New York Times stars--last year. The restaurant is known for its northern Italian cuisine along with its different approach to wine drinking; one can order a glass of any wine on the entire list, which can range from the ridiculous to the even more ridiculous as far as price points are concerned. But never mind. The idea is appealing to single diners or those who find themselves in the company of non-oenophiles.

Because my reservation included ten other people, we had a set menu, which is never an accurate reflection of what a restaurant can accomplish. Our appetizer choices included an arugula salad, fresh burata with a pine nut pesto and caramelized onions, and two oversized meatballs redolent of fine short ribs. Both the burata and meatballs were fine and delicate dishes, worthy of any menu.

I skipped the swordfish option entirely and found myself among duck papparadelle and a medium-rare lamb loin instead. The paparadelle was toothy and satisfying, if a little rich for mid-May. I missed the possibilities brought forth with spring's vegetable bounty. The lamb came closer to what one might expect from a spring menu, but the fava beans at the plate's top arrived undercooked and underseasoned. The lamb itself--cooked to a cool center--was surprisingly tough and gamy. And the portions for a tasting menu were far too large to be considered appropriate.

But dessert brought spring to the table in full force, a delicate and complex napoleon of strawberries and rhubarb and minted cream. I would have ordered it again and definitely would have chosen it over the yodel-like chocolate cake and stracciatella ice cream. I found myself underwhelmed at meal's end, possibly a testament to the limitations of a set menu.

45 East 22nd Street
New York, NY 10010

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Mmm. Wells.

This is the third time that I have attempted to eat at this restaurant and the first time that I have found success. It helps that a New York Times review forced the Canadian-influenced Long Island City Diner to start taking reservations; we made ours for the bar. The menu at M. Wells changes daily, so it's hard to predict which way the wind will blow on a particular evening. There are large format plates and organ meat feasts and a slew of French-style desserts, all boasting a Montreal heritage. And few of our dishes disappointed.

We began with bone marrow and escargot, which lacked a little salt but spoke to the finest qualities of both fat and snail. A raw tuna preparation came decorated with pickled mustard seeds, an incredibly inspired and balanced preparation. Veal brains grenobloise reminded me of the crunch suckers I once enjoyed in a cavern in Barcelona. I would have liked a touch more caper, but I was happy even without. The dish arrived atop the Time Out New York award. No, I'm not joking.

Next: a soft shell crab club sandwich with bacon and onions and mayonnaise and an ample dusting of smoked paprika. Would spring ever be complete without fried soft shells? The sandwich paled in comparison to the one consumed by our dining neighbors, M. Wells regulars who received, gratis from the kitchen, a foot-tall sandwich of foie gras, meatloaf, fried chicken, veal brains, soft shell crab, and fried grouper. It's not to say our sandwich wasn't near perfect--it was. But how can one look at a sandwich like ours next to a sandwich like theirs?

M. Wells serves a spin on a bibimbap, the Korean rice dish that usually comes cold with chili paste. This version featured oysters on the half-shell, foie gras, raw scallop, gravlax, carrots, cucumbers, and avocado. I wanted the cote de boeuf with soft shell crab, a mammoth rib-eye carved off the bone. M. Wells also serves a peking duck tasting priced at $150 for three courses, but we didn't get that either.

But five courses could not prevent us from eating dessert, a Paris-Brest filled with almond pastry cream and a lemon pot de creme with madelines and, finally, a pineapple upside-down cake. Chef told us to come back as we waddled away from the bar. And yes, I will be back.

M. Wells
21-17 49th Avenue
Long Island City, New York 11101

Monday, May 9, 2011

A Trip to Latin America

Or, more accurately, a trip to Nuela, on W. 24th Street, where Peruvian haute cuisine is alive and well. Nuela opened last year and has done an admirable job of turning Latin American food into high-end art. The room is a vibrant red, sort of reminiscent of the color wash one might encounter in South Beach. It will appeal to some and not others, and sitting by the floor-to-ceiling windows only offers a vista of down-on-its-luck 24th Street. A better bet is probably to sit at the bar.

Before any food arrives, Nuela sends out tiny warm rolls made with yucca flour. They taste like elevated cornbread and come with a salted cream and honey for spreading. Pork belly with cheese-filled arepas and a ramp chimmichurri didn't disappoint, arranged architecturally into cubes and spheres. The short rib empanada, stuffed with a traditional savory-sweet cross of meat and golden raisins, was a success of flaky crust and earthy meat, even if the pie itself--one small serving--was a little too little to be an adequate appetizer.

The ceviches, as expected, stole the show. Blood red tuna came with a charred pineapple marinade and slices of watermelon and French breakfast radish, a spicy and crunchy compliment to all that sweet. Hamachi was served with a black garlic marinade that did not overtake the delicacy of the fish. Our only regret was not opting for the fish of the day, red snapper with chili, lime, and red onion.

Entrees at Nuela are offered in several ways. Some of the dishes are normal, entree sized portions and some are large format options for the table to share. They offer a suckling pig in three sizes--a quarter, half, and whole pig--as well as chicken, porterhouse, and duck. We chose the duck, served hot in a paella pan over rice, sugar snap peas, and market carrots. The manager came over to scrape the soccarat, or burnt rice bits, from the bottom of the pan. A confit of leg and a breast roasted rare accompanied a fat lobe of duck foie gras, not to be outdone by a duck egg, sunny-side-up. It was a transcendent take of an Andalucian dish.

The wine list at Nuela is heavily South American, not really my bag, and expensive for what it is. I found a bargain in a 2005 Shafer Merlot (not normally the type of wine I would have chosen, but supple enough to live up to the food). And I finished my meal with deep-fried cinnamon churros and hot chocolate for dipping, along with a glass of cream sherry, which may be the perfect way to end a Saturday night in New York.

43 West 24th Street
New York, NY 10010