Friday, August 26, 2011

Lyonnaise Birthday

I went to Lyon, initially, to see an old friend from my BLT days who is now the lead chef. But he was out of town on vacation. That was fine. It was a birthday celebration regardless, with plenty of meat to go around. Duck wings--three of them--arrived with a sticky, salty glaze, just as addictive as the smaller, more precious Buffalo variety. A charcuterie platter featured chewy beef salami, lamb pate, country pate, blood sausage, spicy mustard, grain mustard, pickled cauliflower, and cornichons. Onion soup was everything we wanted and more--a crouton thick with cheese and bone marrow, a broth with beef and onions and strings of braised brisket. And a truffle inflected hot dog, served with sauerkraut and mustard on a soft pretzel, was a meal in and of itself.

Entrees were a little less uplifting. A special of mussels and French fries was not only woefully undersalted but also a little too redolent of the ocean. They smelled and tasted a little old, regrettably. Steak tartare was a true winner, salty and creamy and filled with capers that popped in the mouth. But the bechamel on a baked dish of macaroni and cheese wasn't quite the soft and supple creamy I craved.

And even though I found the mission fig tart for dessert a little dry, an ice cream sundae, threaded with toasted coconut clusters and sour cherries, made up the difference. We got a lot for our money and if I happened to live in the West Village, I might find myself stumbling in every few nights for a plate of those wings and a hot dog.

118 Greenwich Avenue
New York, NY 10011

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Return to Flushing

Flushing rarely disappoints. This time, I headed out for Hunan food at Hunan Kitchen of Grand Sichuan. The room is noticeably smaller than most of the banquet hall dining rooms of outer Queens, the food just as potent. I took a tip from Sam Sifton and ordered what the Times recommended, with some deviation from the rules. Marinated wood ear mushrooms were slick and salty and chewy and bright; shards of cucumber came bathed in a vinegar mixture that coated each piece in some kind of miracle emulsion. Even the simplicity of fried pork dumplings astounded us. "These are how dumplings should taste," exclaimed one of my dining companions.

Braised pork Mao-style (you'll see a lot of reference to Mao in this spot, who, according to legend, shared a hometown with one of the proprietors) was really just fatty pork belly in a bright red sauce with baby bok choy. The texture isn't for everyone and harkens trotters, but trotters I can live with, really. Cumin coated lamb was crispy and aromatic and complimented by the leaves and stems of fresh cilantro and more than a few red Thai chiles.

Pea shoots sauteed with garlic were seasoned adequately, which is one of my usual complaints at Chinese restaurants that only serve greens as an afterthought. Actually, these greens tasted more of peas than some actual peas I have eaten.

For the rest of my companions, the evening's piece d' resistance was a whole duck, cooked in a mirepoix of vegetables and served over a bunsen burner, tableside. The waiter picked the braised meat from the bones and left all of it to simmer in a roasting pan. But I found my plate laden with more bones than meat and the addition of caraway seeds was nothing short of overwhelming. It tasted more of rye bread than barbecued duck, which is what it had been billed as. Also, cooked celery gives me the creeps and always has, so I had no particular longing to repeat my duck experience. Next time, I'll order what Sifton recommended: sliced pork with dried turnips.

Hunan Kitchen of Grand Sichuan
42-27 Main Street
Flushing, NY 11355

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


Back in Newburyport, I headed over to Enzo, recently opened in the Tannery and boasting a farmer's market menu. Phew, finally. Cocktails ranged from run-of-the-mill (classic Negroni) to inspired (market Bloody Mary with pickled garlic scapes). House foccacia, which I can only assume was made there, was soft and buttery.

Fried olives came in a crispy, cornmeal crust and stuffed with oozing cheese, a nice take. An appetizer of a soft goat and cow's milk cheese arrived with Tokyo turnips and baby arugula and honeyed Marcona almonds, simple, but smart. Bruschetta tasted of the garden: fresh dill, tomatoes, soft cheese, black olives.

Entrees, though well-conceived, were less successful. A dish of fresh linguine with maitake mushrooms was woefully under seasoned. Sea scallops over corn risotto were the requisite sweetness and crispiness, but the risotto was a portion in and of itself, overwhelming the dish.

A brown butter cake for dessert, served with an almond creme anglaise and fresh cherries hit all its marks, even if a chocolate pudding lacked enough starch to form an actual pudding, as opposed to a thick sauce.

Because the product is good, Enzo might overcome its issues and grow into itself. I certainly hope so.

50 Water Street
Newburyport, MA 01950