One Monday night, my friend (Editor in Chief of La Papillote), Joceylnn Neri and I were discussing the importance of reviewing restaurants. She was looking for a new restaurant critic for the school newspaper. I had done many reviews before in my own free time (I was that culinary nerd in high school). Yet, I wanted to try and expand on this idea of criticizing a restaurant. Whenever I had conducted reviews, I felt a bit guilty since the owners would never know a critique was coming. Instead of getting their permission, giving them a head’s up or contacting them after the occurrence, I thought, why do we need to mention the name of the restaurant? In order to see how many people actually read the school newspaper, I thought it’d be a grand idea to leave the restaurants nameless and leave it as a guessing game for students as a spark of interest to read the newspaper. For instance, much of the restaurant industry is based off of “word of mouth” marketing, right? Well, if somebody were actually intrigued in a writer’s review, they would surely contact them to see where it was they went to eat that was so good or bad. This way, not only students are participating in the reviews, but the restaurant’s name is kept private unless asked about. It’s a win-win situation.
NYC Restaurant #1
Nestled in the Upper West Side is a superb eatery that is well noted for their charcuterie and quality service. As the taxi dropped off my good friend Jocelynn Neri and me to the entrance of the restaurant, we were a bit baffled as to where the entrance was. Amongst the intermingled outdoor tables, there was a slim pathway to our destination. A narrow, clean opening marked the direction to our cozy booth against the wall of a bunch of paintings showcasing blush prints of wine. A modern touch, the ceiling was curved, almost resembling a wine cellar. A large community table was towards the back of the restaurant while the bar was full of ritzy New Yorkers ordering cocktails after work in-between the large bottles of wine decorating the counter. Jocelynn and I were greeted within five minutes by a young, jazzed up server who seemed very enthusiastic about his work. Ironically, Jocelynn knew a friend that worked at the restaurant and we didn’t know what the kitchen had planned for us. Our server assured both of us that we would be served an intermezzo or extra plates here and there throughout the meal.
The bread served was fresh and warm, with soft butter. The server was also very considerate about the allergies and dietary restrictions at our table, but didn’t really substitute the bread choice for a gluten-free option. Anyway, we glanced over the wine list and I selected a soft, blush rosé wine to start off with. Jocelynn wanted champagne but unfortunately, there was none in stock to order by the glass. Instead, our server suggested a fine cava, which made for a pleasing substitution.
The special menu for the evening consisted of specific meat cuts and charcuterie from a whole hog (from nose to tail). Not too overwhelmed by the choices, Jocelynn and I decided to order a small charcuterie plate, steak tartar and pork belly from the menu. Our taste buds were watering, craving delicious pork after a long day of traveling to the city (I had to stop myself from eating a dirty water hotdog on the way over, we were THAT hungry).
The charcuterie plate was delightful in each and every way. I am not a fan of liver whatsoever and the chicken liver was mild and creamy, soft in texture with hints of fat. The pickled carrots and mushrooms were tender to the bite and were spiked with pungent vinegar. The beef cheek pâté and country rabbit terrine were luscious. The rabbit resembled the flavor of chicken noodle soup since it was mixed with carrots and celery, a warm bite of sheer comfort. As for the steak tartar, the presentation reminded us of a 1985 wedding banquet, a bit tacky with romaine hearts sticking off the plate dotted with capers. However, the creamy emulsion along with the bits of raw steak made for a scrumptious bite. The pork belly was a bit soft in texture and fringy, probably due to the quality of hog butchered, but the warm potato salad meshed well with the meat.
As for dessert, we were a bit hesitant to ask our server what we should order, thinking the Chef would be bringing out some goodies. In the meantime, our after dinner drinks were served, the one cocktail a bit too sweet for a daiquiri, but the wine on the house, not too sweet and reminiscent of a mild Tokaji.
Dessert was fabulous. The colors on the plates were vibrant and we weren’t quite sure what each dish was because the elements were so intricate. The macaroons were very similar to the ones at Apple Pie Bakery. The restaurant indeed took care of us, buying our dessert drinks and bringing luscious, sweet treats to our table at the end of the meal. Last but not least, the service was helpful in pointing out a great bar for after dinner drinks.The bathroom was properly decorated as a wine cellar you would find in France. We did not feel ashamed at all dropping money on this restaurant, for the experience in itself was enjoyable and memorable. After all, isn’t that what fine dining is about?
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