Tuesday, October 21, 2014

New York's Best Secret Burger and Fries: Atera Lounge

In the basement of Atera is its lounge, a cozy little space with jet-black leather sofas and a handful of shiny wooden tables.

While restaurant guests can come down to the lounge to enjoy a pre-20 course drink, 

anyone can come visit the lounge (they take reservations !) to try a number of Atera's small plates (like the signature lobster roll or caviar macaron) or the soon-to-be-ultra-famous burger.

Naturally, we did all of the above.  Though there's a small menu of cocktails, the mixologist is more than happy to make you anything that tickles your liver's fancy with a variety of bitters and housemade juices at his disposal.  He will also, very patiently, explain any kind of alcohol question you may have - like history of the drink and the full creation process.  (We watched the mixologist's patience being tested by a particularly clueless gent during our visit.)

Cute cocktail with egg whites and citrus

The penicillin, with whiskey and ginger
We shared the beet jerky to start which comes as two dark knobs to an order, served alongside buttermilk cream.

The mixologist described how the beet jerky is cooked six ways to Sunday - it's baked, dehydrated, rehydrated, steamed, and whatever else possible, and whatever they do, it's delicious.  

The texture impeccably like beef jerky, but with the irresistible subtle earthiness of beets.  The added cream is absolute icing on the beet jerky cake.

And our excitement for that novelty vanished after the main attraction appeared before us.

The Atera burger is made with a house-ground blend of four meats: short rib, chuck, marrow and tendon, topped with perfectly melted white cheddar, and encased in the most beautiful possible sesame-studded brioche bun.

With the burger comes a set of accoutrement: pickled red peppers, pickled red onions, butter pickles and lettuce, alongside a neatly stacked set of the most incredible fries known to man.  You should know me.  I don't like to use hyperboles, but there really isn't a large enough hyperbole to capture just how amazing they really are.

The fries are blanched 6 or 7 times prior to frying, which creates the most velvety potato texture that instantly melts in your mouth, but yet somehow maintains a lovely little crunchy exterior.

AND THEN.  As if your life could not get even better, the fries are served with a duck pate mousse, (because ketchup would just be too declasse).

While the Atera burger is simply one of the best burgers I've had in New York, or even ever (it's so meaty, textural and wonderful!), the fries certainly outshine it, and for both of them to embody a single plate, well you simply have to wonder what have you done to deserve this, and you are probably not worthy, and that's probably true, but welcome to burger heaven anyway.

Han's Nonsensical Rating: Go! How often can you get a two Michelin-starred burger?  Seriously the best burger and fries in New York.

77 Worth St
New York, NY
Atera on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Glorious Brick Chicken @ Maysville

Maysville pitches itself as a whiskey bar and restaurant, and indeed it delivers on alcohol (and food) in spades, as evident from the glowing display of bottles behind the wooden bar that greets you upon entry.

A full page of whiskey inspired cocktails and mixed drinks accompany a book with pages upon pages of all sorts of whiskeys to properly whet your whistle.  I ordered the Nor'easter, with bourbon, maple syrup, ginger beer and lime, and it was delicious - essentially a delightful little bourbon-fueled mojito.

Our bellies were raging with hunger, so we ordered two appetizers along with our entrees.  We were glad we did.  The portions are tiny, and plates are not really quite designed to share.

Fried oysters, came five to an order for $15.  The oysters were small, but flavorful, topped with a tasty, creamy chili mayo and chili.

The black spaghetti ($15) was essentially four healthy bites of briny noodle and thin slices of grilled squid.  Light and lovely but so, so little.

The duck entree featured duck cooked two ways - a seared duck breast, solidly seared and moist, and duck confit (with a beautifully crisp layer of fat), with rounds of ripe plum and cute wisps of haricot verts.  I'm sure in its own right, you would be happy with this dish, but unfortunately, we had tasted this plate after we had tasted...

Maysville's popular chicken dish, with breast and thigh, cooked under brick until the skin is crisp and crackly, and the meat just brilliantly succulent, nearly melting in the mouth.  Oh that moist, moist chicken.

Dipped into the creamy sweet potato puree, soaked in beautiful pan juices, every bite made me dance with such joy in my seat.  The boy and I remarked how we just never order chicken at restaurants, and maybe we have been missing out, because this chicken is just a marvel - and for chicken to be even better than duck, you can only imagine how much of a believer I really am of this plate.

With the check comes a lovely little plate of lemon shortbread and caramel truffles.  The truffle had to be the best piece of chocolate I've had in sometime.  We wished our waiter came by for us to ask for more.  I think he knew better than to come by again - our eyes instantly ravenous from the taste of creamy cocoa-dusted chocolate.

Han's Nonsensical Rating: Maysville is exorbitantly expensive for some dishes, and the portions are small, but dammit, if that chicken isn't pure perfection, and I will come back anytime to lick that plate clean.

17 W 26th St
New York, NY
Maysville on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Chicago ! Alinea, Again.

I know it might be a bit much to visit Alinea two times in a matter of months, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta to do, and sometimes what you gotta do is eat 15 more exquisite and creative dishes from the world's best restaurant.

Although several of the dishes were the same from my prior visit with Diana, I was delighted to find so many were new, beginning with the first course: tangy ossetra caviar with caper gelee and brioche foam.  The foam was the absolute best, as you can imagine, capturing the essence of buttery bread with every tiny bubble.

Second was the fun little salsify dish,

the prize intertwined into the nest of twigs.  I let the boy have a go in the search.  And then we ate the amazingly beef-jerkyesque salsify with great satisfaction.

Brown buttered skate was presented on a beautiful paper-like porcelain plate, the flesh deliciously tender with hints of lemon.

Heirloom tomatoes were blanketed by ashed goat cheese, disguised on the piece of slate like rock and accented by a creative spray of licorice graffiti.  Definitely a dish for the goat cheese lovers.

One of my new favorites was the corn, which appeared...like corn.

Corn reinvented to the core(n) of course - underneath the grilled layer of the sweetest corn was the sweetest corn pudding mixed with truffle oil, manchego cheese and chunks of ham fat (yum).

Rhubarb truffles were again grated atop earthy celery root, celery branch and sweet red wine reduction.

Perfectly poached lobster was served like a work of art, an autumn palette with rounds of beautiful curry sauce, coconut cream and delicately sliced cucumber and grapefruit squares.

I could eat ten of these. All day. Everyday.

Sweetbreads took the form as Chinese takeout once more, flavored with orange citrus and ginko nut, and served with cinnamon sticks, sweet warmth wafted from the charred ends to heighten the experience.

A bubble plate of lily bulbs, rambutans and lime caviar served to cleanse our palates - rosy and refreshing.

The following course repeated the burning coals on the table, hiding the meat treats inside,

instead of wagyu beef, which Diana and I adored last time, pork belly was hidden within.  The slab of tender pork was served on the midnight stump with very charred parsnip, black trumpet mushrooms and inky kombu seaweed crisps.

Another personal favorite of the meal is the hot potato / cold potato dish, a time sensitive affair which requires you to immediately pull the pin out of the plate, releasing the skewered potato coated with black truffle and cubes of cheese into the warm buttery liquid.  You take the whole thing as a shot, and it's just waves of hot and cold and absolute deliciousness in your mouth for a solid minute afterward.

The final meat dish was a repeat of the plumes of dragon's breath aromatics pouring over

dumplings made of foie gras,

duck breast and lobster mushroom.  I loved bites of the ever so melty duck swirled into the strands of the sweet, caramelized sauce.

Blueberry made its brilliant reappearance in the form of crisp airy foam, chewy strands of cold bubblegum that melted instantly in our mouths, with lilac and sorrel.

The weather was a bit humid, so the balloons floated lower than usual, and our waiters had us attack the balloons immediately upon hand-off.  My voice was higher than you can ever imagine and elicited much laughter from nearby tables.  My favorite !

The final dessert was live artistry and magic with ripe, golden-fleshed passion fruit as the star.

So many wonderful and delicious elements on the table, including a smashed ball of solidified coconut cream, thin sheets of crisp, sweet chocolate, brandied cherries, caramelized pineapple, pieces of key lime candy in edible wrappers.

Again, all wonder and brilliance.
Again, I love you Alinea.

1723 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60614

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

California ! Snacking at The Boiling Crab & Snow Station

I spent several days in California recently to visit family.  We stayed with my aunt in Garden Grove in the last two days which entailed just sitting at home, marveling at the fruit from her garden, eating the fruit, and watching Vietnamese television.  

So in the downtime, when both aunt and mom lay on the couch and start falling asleep, I jaunt off to hang out with Jean to partake in the art of "snacking."

Garden Grove is in the heart of Little Saigon, and in addition to the dozens of pho places that dot every corner, there are also several cajun seafood spots in each marketplace - the most popular being The Boiling Crab.

The waits can be intense at The Boiling Crab, but once your lucky name is called, you are escorted to your table which is promptly covered with a clean sheet of white plastic.  A mound of limes is dumped on top for you to make your own salt and pepper dipping sauce.

Since we were here just to "snack," we just shared a half dozen briny oysters (also accompanied by many limes), a pile of cajun fries (which were long, crispy and delicious),

and a pound of shrimp in the 'whole sha-bang' style sauce, which is the kitchen sink of butter, garlic and spice.  The levels of spice you can order are: mild, medium or XXX - the medium ends up being just fine.

The shrimp were beautifully fat, perfectly cooked, and plump enough for dipping in the bag of sauce or your own handmade salt/pepper/lime concoction.  The pound of shrimp had Jean and me busy for half an hour as we sucked on heads, filling our bellies up with sweet, tasty shellfish.

After, we cleansed our palates and cooled our jets at Snow Station, a Taiwanese style shaved snow spot.  Sizes start in mini then baby bear and go up to gigantic loch ness monster sized plates.  The baby bear seemed ample.

The best thing that happens at Snow Station is after you pick your flavor (we did green tea), and the two complimentary toppings (jackfruit + lychee popping boba), you can pick a sauce which there are many options but you should only choose one: CONDENSED MILK.

And then the clerk will say, "Tell me when," as she squeezes the most giant bottle of condensed milk over your frozen treat, zigzagging back and forth until your mind will tell you to stop but your heart will tell them to go on.  

The clerk will then say, "Feel free to come back up for more sauce."  What?  Even more condensed milk is at my ready disposal?  Did I just die and enter heaven?

And the answer was, yes, I did enter heaven.  Each spoonful melted on my tongue like freshly fallen snow, melding with the creamy richness of the condensed milk, the fruity pop from each boba and the tender sweetness of good ol' jackfruit.

God, I love snacking in California.

The Boiling Crab
14241 N Euclid St, Garden Grove, CA 92843
Boiling Crab on Urbanspoon

Snow Station
9938 Bolsa Ave #117, Westminster, CA 92683
Snow Station on Urbanspoon