Minetta Tavern Review: Cool, Hectic, and Cocktail-Forward

Minetta Tavern is one of the those places that I had always heard about, but had never actually been.  My husband really wanted to try it, whether it was for dinner or brunch.  We had our hearts set on Sushi Yasuda for dinner, so we opted to go to Minetta for brunch.  I think going to a place for brunch is a good way to try somewhere new without committing to a long dinner.

All I knew before going to Minetta Tavern was that it’s an old classic New York establishment and that it was famous for meat.  I had seen it appear on several notable “Best Steakhouse” lists over the years.  Minetta Tavern is definitely classic New York.  It has been around since the mid 1900s, and use to be the hangout spot of Ernest Hemingway and E.E. Cummings to name a few.  The people who used to hang out there probably wouldn’t be able to afford it now, but that’s the theme of many of the historic NYC establishments.

Here we are en route like we’re embarking on some special covert operation mission.  Someone’s complaining on SnapChat about me copying his Porsche Design sunglasses.  Smh.  Who bought those sunglasses?

fullsizeoutput_338a

The outside of the restaurant is inconspicuous for a one Michelin star restaurant.  Don’t mind me, just adjusting my coat:IMG_0474.JPGAfter you walk through the front door, you go through a thick velvet curtain, and then you’re at the hostess stand.  I felt immediately warm!  It’s the perfect place to go on a gray, cold, windy day when you want to escape the outside.  Minetta Tavern is very cozy, and has an extremely hectic but romantic feel to it.  It’s very compact, the ceilings are low, and it’s a cramped space for sure.  It definitely gives off the cool Parisian vibe that it’s trying to evoke.  Aren’t all Parisian bistros too small?  Lol.

We sat at the bar because the restaurant was full of reservations, the space is small and we didn’t feel like waiting for a table.   They do have coat check, and I highly suggest checking coats whether you’re at the bar or at a table.nXy2Cla9QmqVoI%2wq2jQw.jpgHere’s our spot at the bar and my “Minetta Mary.”  I plan to sit at the bar again next time, unless I am able to reserve one of the private booths because the back was just too cramped for me.  It’s also fun to watch the bartenders make cocktails, and see what types of drinks other people are ordering.  Also, I absolutely love that they put a white dinner napkin at your bar spot.  It not only elevates the experience, but it stakes your territory at the bar and defines your space.h2H9kYyWQtmeknYjbIDVtg.jpgThe brunch menu has its own twist, and you’re also able to order certain items from their regular dinner menu.   fullsizeoutput_3398.jpegI had originally planned on eating steak or a big juicy burger, but I really needed some vegetables.  I know, I know, you’re judging my order, but I was here for the experience and I was not able to handle a meat meal at that moment.  Next time, I plan to go starving, and order their famous “Black Label Burger” or one of their meat cuts.  My husband had the “Minetta Omelette” and I had the “Avocado & Eggs On Balthazar Levain.”  Balthazar bread is obviously amazing and the radish and tomato salsa was fresh, fragrant, and exactly what I was craving.  (Note: Keith McNally, the restauranteur who opened Minetta Tavern, also runs Balthazar.  The styles of the restaurants are all very similar — French, bistro, brasserie, fogged mirrors, dim lighting, you get the picture.)vr+2LUywRpe%mR2%p10Eug%ZAPcnfAQr2ue4lGUP6twA1ee7ZjdfRSuhZ2gQ7Ob4awWe had to move on and run a couple errands during the day, so we were not able to try more rounds of cocktails.  They definitely have an extensive cocktail menu, and everything they made while we were at the bar looked delicious.  At the end of the meal, they hand you the bill paper-clipped to a Minetta Tavern postcard:stHhPxXwS5eRvFXNGxeQgg.jpg

Au revoir Minetta Tavern!

Links to reviews:

Yelp 4.0

TripAdvisor 4.0

OpenTable 4.6

Advertisements

Dirt Candy: A Vegetarian (or Vegan) Tasting Menu for a Broad Audience

Everyone has their regular circuit of restaurants that they frequent.  I wanted to branch out for for my birthday dinner, and I had a few qualifications — healthy, fresh, and creative.  After countless steaks, cakes, and heavy holiday eating, my body needed a break from heavy food.  For the vegetarian restaurant in my circuit, I’ve gone to Candle 79 a few times, but I wanted to try a new place.  I also didn’t want vegetarian food that’s just an imitation of regular dishes, I wanted a place that was more creative and slightly towards fine dining.  Dirt Candy had great reviews, and I was intrigued by the tasting menu and cocktail concoctions — carrot juice and tequila?!

Upon arriving, we were welcomed with complimentary bourbon and beet hot chocolate, which was a nice touch after walking in from the bitter cold in the teens that night.  The hot chocolate was thick and delicious, and had just the right kick of bourbon. I even felt healthy drinking it, considering it had beets…  I am not even a hot chocolate fan, and I found it to be a delicious few sips of warmth and flavor.Next I opened up the menu to check out drinks and found that 1) employees get paid a fair wage and profit share in the restaurant, and 2) tipping is included.  I think it’s really smart of companies to give all employees a profit share in the business.  It motivates employees to treat things like they’re working towards their own personal goal, and they have a vested interest in making sure the business succeeds.Dirt Candy offers two tasting menus (no a la carte unless you’re at the their 4-seat bar or brunch): the five course “Vegetable Patch” for $57, or the nine/ten course “Vegetable Garden” for $83.  They also offer one pairings for each tasting menu at $45 and $65 respectively.  We chose the $83 menu option, and ordered cocktails and a bottle of wine.

I started off with the Carrot Penicillin and my husband had the Popcorn Old Fashioned.  Look at that beautiful rustic-looking carrot!  You have to eat the garnish, that’s what it’s there for, otherwise it’s like not finishing the olives in a dirty martini.

 

 

Dirt Candy’s spin on the bread for the table was a beet monkey bread and garlic butter.  Monkey bread is usually a very sweet gooey cinnamon and sugary pull-apart bread.  (In case you have forgotten what it looks like, here it is.)  A savory and beet monkey bread of all things, was creative and well done.  The bread and garlic butter were so delightful, we almost asked for another one but decided to save space for the rest of the courses.

 

 

Next up was the salad course.  Everything on the tiered platter below was edible.  The entire platter is lined with what looks like natural greenery and ivy growth.  The leaves are “glued” to the platter with a creamy and mild-flavored hummus.  We started from the middle of the platter, which was a warm pea soup with an amazing rim of salty pistachios and spices you eat as you sip the soup.  We then had the other warm components, which were at the bottom layer.  The layer was composed of miniature salad bowls of perfectly spiced and cooked roasted butternut squash, and the other one of flavorfully cooked onion with a nice crunch.  (Top layer addressed below.)img_5100The top layer was the playful cold portion of the tiers.  It was Dirt Candy’s play and use of the savory version of Japanese Pocky sticks.  There were three different kinds of sticks: the rainbow stick was stacked with fresh peppers shaped like Lifesavers candy, the green stick that looks like a tree with a long trunk was a cluster of peas, and the pink polka dots below are flakey sliced fresh beets.  The white peering through holding everything together in all the sticks was thick yogurt. 

One of the first warm appetizer dishes was a Korean fried broccoli, which is one of the restaurants signature dishes.  The broccoli was a lot more spicy than anticipated and was  really good.  After eating a broccoli you had to eat a piece of the greens, which were dipped in a very cold yogurt.  This helped cool you down after the spice.The next appetizer dish was a beautiful abstract geometric arrangement of different forms of beets, and a miniature beet sponge.  Each bite was meant to be eaten with one of the purees, yogurts, and sauces on the plate.  This dish reminded me of Momofuku Ma Peche (one of David Chang’s restaurants) because the chefs seems to have a similar presentation style in mind here.The following two courses came out at the same time.  The one on the left was pate, with a side of mushrooms, and topped with dehydrated fruit.  The dish on the right was the fresh fennel salad.This next silly little course was one of my favorites.  It sounds bland and boring, but it was a cooked mini carrot slider in an adorable fast food burger box adorned with a carrot.  The carrot melted in your mouth, and my husband still swears that it did not taste like a carrot.This dish was one of the final courses, and it was my least favorite.  It was spaetzle made from spinach, covered with greens and topped with sesame seeds.  I thought the dish was quite bland, and I didn’t think the sesame pulled the dish together the way it was intended to do.  The sesame seeds tasted raw and didn’t seem like they were warmed up or browned in a skillet.  For those of you that can’t remember spaetzle, it’s the German/Swiss/Hugarian pasta dish.This brussel sprout, cauliflower, and ginger “soup” was crunchy and refreshing.  The vegetables tasted very fresh, but I wish they had a little bit more in terms of spicing.  The taste was pure and clean.My pictures here do not do this fun dish justice.  This was the final dish of the night before the multiple dessert courses.  Since Dirty Candy is technically located in Chinatown, this course was inspired by crispy duck.  First you roasted the edamame, and then you took a small warm tortilla from the bamboo steamer and started building it up.  I forgot to take a picture of the “duck” but it was basically a rectangular truffle shaped filo dough flaky shell filled with Dirt Candy’s version of “duck.”The dessert courses kicked off with “Eggplant Foster.”  This warm dish was made tableside with flames and excitement.  The dish was a version of “Bananas Foster” which I think I have had once.  Bananas Foster is essentially hot cooked bananas with nice caramelization and a scoop of ice cream.  Dirt Candy’s dish was made with eggplant, sprinkled with crispy eggplant chips, and served with a side of refreshing lemon ice cream.  It also came with two extremely cute little thumbprint cookiesThe two final dessert courses were quite different.  One dessert was a spongey moist cake topped with two miniature ridiculously cute vanilla ice cream sandwiches.  The cake was served in a little pool of cinnamon and vanilla melted ice cream type sweet puddle.The other dessert was a chocolate brownie with a side of vanilla ice cream, and a variety of crunchy little goodies to have with your bites.And that’s a wrap of the tasting menu!  Since I was celebrating my birthday, our server gave us a complimentary sparkling Swiss cider.  I’m kind of picky about my cider because I started being able to distinguish between ciders when I lived in London, but this cider was thick and felt luxuriously rich.  We probably didn’t need cider after so much dessert, but we enjoyed every sip!

I asked the server how often they change the tasting menus.  He explained that approximately every two months, they change the menus.  I would like to come back here during the spring and summer and see what they do with a whole new variety of ingredients!

Cheers, people!

Yelp 4.0

TripAdvisor 4.5

OpenTable 4.6

Sarabeth’s TriBeCa: A Reliable NYC Brunch with Traditional Food

Brunch in NYC is nearly a sport.  There are so many brunch options, twists on the traditional brunch fare, open bar brunches, and the list goes on.  However, sometimes you just want to get out of the house, and you’re not looking for anything complicated.  Sarabeth’s is classic brunch, well-executed, and reliable.  Their food is traditional, and almost on the verge of a little too plain.  However, those same characteristics are what make it a consistent experience.

I’ve been to three Sarabeth’s locations: Tribeca, Central Park South, and Park Avenue South.  The Central Park South location is very touristy and it gets extremely crowded, but I’ve still been to that one at least three times!  You may actually need to walk in with your elbows up — stand back, tourists!  The Park Avenue South location is nice inside, and has a great bar area for a drink while you wait, but it’s out of the way for me.  I love the Tribeca location!

The walk leading to the restaurant is old school New York, almost European.  Look at the beautiful cobblestone street:Here’s the view when your back is to the restaurant, all 1776 feet of One World Trade Center!During the summer these tables are packed.  It’s also a very family friendly restaurant, and in the warm months the strollers are all parked around the bend:This is the bar area to the right when you enter.  (They have a happy hour, and if you’re in the neighborhood, the free chips are addictive!  They are like the “real potatoes” type of potato chips.  They offer beer, wine, cocktails, and small food selection for munching.)The room in the back has a nice skylight, which it makes it feel really airy and open.  (The Central Park South location has a skylight too, but it doesn’t feel airy because the ceilings are much lower than the TriBeCa location.)This is the “Goldie Lox” omelette.  It’s scrambled eggs with smoked salmon, and a bit of cream cheese.  All of their eggs dishes come with some sort of baked good, whether it’s toast, a croissant, muffin, etc.  Of course, you can’t forget to have mimosas!  I mean is it even “brunch” without mimosas?!One of the “appetizers” that you really should get for brunch while you’re there is the muffin basket!  (Carbs, carbs, carbs! lol 🙂 )  The muffins are so delicious, I had already dug into them, but here’s what’s remaining of the muffins to the right of the photo:Strangely, I don’t see this on the menu anymore, but I had an amazing popover stuffed with scrambled eggs, scallions, and cream cheese.Mmmmm yeah lol get in!

Links to Sarabeth’s Tribeca reviews:

Yelp 3.5

TripAdvisor 4.0

OpenTable 4.3

Ulysses on Stone Street: Monday Lobster Special $19.95

I’m rarely off during the weekdays because I’m working, but since it’s Labor Day, I’m off! The Mr. and I were starving and only bought food for dinner, so we went out in search of lunch somewhere nearby downtown.  We walked over to Stone Street since we really wanted to sit outside for lunch and enjoy the ideal 80 degree day today.  Also, Tribeca gets really crowded with strollers when it’s nice out.  The babies love Battery Park City and Tribeca!

We got ready in minutes and left.  This is my “I hope I don’t see anyone I recognize outfit because I just got off the couch.”

Stone Street is full of bars and outdoor seating.  Ulysses seems to have the most real estate on Stone Street, but all of the places have benches sit on along the cobble stone street.  We noticed these “How to Eat a Lobster” placemats and realized they had a Monday deal.  $19.95 for a whole lobster, corn on the cob, and a baked potato.  Not bad!  (It made me miss Burger & Lobster, haven’t been there recently.)  Ulysses is always reliable for good outside seating though, even when they don’t have a promotion.  I like it best for drinks during the day, and some basic bar bites.Here’s a close up of the sign and deal:I spy an intense eyeball.  I am not sure why there’s a Greek flag hanging…lol Beautiful day on Stone Street today:Eight dollars each for a beer–one Guinness and one Radberger.  It’s best when you get a beer cylinder here, but we weren’t going to be that ambitious for just two of us.  After all, we do have work tomorrow.We decided to share the mini cheeseburgers and a lobster special.  I love how they positioned the lobster so it looks like it’s clutching the corn on the cob and about to take it down.  The baked potato is hiding under there too.  (The baked potato was nice and salted on the outside.  I hate when they just bake it and bring it to the table completely plain!)

img_4351Look at that huge piece of lobster meat!A relaxed crowd enjoying drinks and lunch at all the bars and restaurants on Stone Street on this pleasant Labor Day Monday:There he is copying me and snapping photos:Here’s another weekend lunch/brunch time I was at Ulysses with my family.  It was a lot hotter that day!img_4282img_4277Mmmmm stuffed bowl with cheesy corn on the cob!  Definitely not diet-friendly!img_4285And calamari…perfect salty food for drinking:img_4283I am definitely a repeat client of Ulysses.  I generally only visit when it’s nice enough to sit outside!

Links to reviews:

Yelp 3.5

TripAdvisor 4.0

Yachting in SoHo with Bloody Marys

I really felt like a Bloody Mary yesterday, and it had been way too long since I’d gone out to brunch in NYC.  I rarely drink Bloody Marys, because usually they’re way too heavy and it’s like having a second meal with brunch.  However, the one at Lure Fishbar is pretty amazing, and the large cocktail shrimp they give you is unforgettable.  The Bloody Mary Royale comes in at eighteen bucks, but it’s totally worth it.  The drink is so well-balanced, and you get an oyster shooter on the side!  We were walking uptown through SoHo, and we really wanted to go to a seafood restaurant for brunch.  This place never disappoints, especially that Bloody Mary–perfect!

IMG_4141IMG_4140

For those of you who have not dined at Lure yet, the entire restaurant looks like a very luxurious wood and leather-paneled yacht.  It’s such a nice retreat going into Lure and getting away from the madness of SoHo shopping.  One of my favorite parts about the restaurant is how relaxing it is, yet how vibrant and youthful the atmosphere feels.

The restaurant opened in 2004, and it’s been very well-maintained in regards to the decor and the standard of food.  I’ve been to Lure Fishbar quite a few times over the years, and the seafood is always excellent.  I’ve always been pleased with all of my dishes, and I’ve visited for brunch, lunch, happy hours, and dinner.  Yesterday, my only gripe was that the hostess kept texting while we were standing in front of her waiting to be seated.  I won’t let a bored and annoyed hostess take away from all of my great experiences at this place!  🙂

Links to reviews:

Yelp 4.0

OpenTable 4.6

TripAdvisor 4.0

Fig and Olive Fifth Avenue During February 2017 Restaurant Week

Restaurant Week is really hit or miss for me.  Sometimes, I have a great experience, and I feel like I tried a new place without committing to a full fledged bill.  Other times, I am disappointed and feel that the restaurant pre-prepared everything and I’m a sucker.  I had a great experience though, at the Fig and Olive right off Fifth Avenue.  I had an appointment at Pronovias a couple doors down, so it seemed like the perfect idea.  It was $29 well spent on a very leisurely lunch.  Okay, well plus $5 for scallops in my paella and extra $ for a bottle of wine…  I said it was leisurely, didn’t I?!

The appetizers were fresh and pretty.  I had the cold salmon appetizer with pomegranate arils and a nice salty soy type sauce.  It was refreshing, tasty, and peaked my appetite for the entree.  My mom chose to have a the carrot soup.  They brought the soup bowl with the “dry” ingredients first, and then they poured the liquid into the bowl separately.  I love when restaurant do that!  I think it elevates the dish and the whole dining experience.

Here is a good close up of the salmon appetizer:My mom and I both opted for the seafood paella, and paid the extra five bucks for scallops.  The consensus was that seafood was excellent and well-cooked, but the rice was very creamy and lacked that crunch and crispness that paella should have.There were two options for dessert, and we tried both.  One was a little pot of chocolate mousse topped with vanilla cream, and a little crunch nougat cookie on the side.The other option was a shortbread-type cookie spread with cream, topped with plumped berries and pistachio bits.I loved the fact that the cookie had the sugar coating on all the edges.  It was a good touch of sweetness, and it reminded me of those Danish butter cookies that are sold during the holidays.I would say Restaurant Week was a success!

3.5 Yelp

4.5 OpenTable

4.0 TripAdvisor

 

Locanda Verde: A Hustling and Bustling TriBeCa Italian Restaurant

I’d heard about Locanda Verde a few times, before I went.  People had raved about the food, and commented on the interior of the restaurant.  Well it definitely wasn’t what I was expecting, as it was packed with people, and a little less fancy than I had anticipated. This is a great place to come when you’re looking for a more modern Italian experience in a busier environment.  (The same goes for the contemporary interior.)  So if you want a sparsely populated, quiet dinner, I wouldn’t recommend this place.  Locanda Verde has more action and noise than you’d want on a quiet date.

Here is the interior: As you can see, it was pretty crowded and the bar scene was lively.  As we were waiting to be seated, people just kept pouring in!

We had a great table for two by the window, but it did face the construction across the street.  Oh well, it was still nice to face outside.  They had an extensive wine list, and we opted for a bottle.  My preference is always dry red full bodied wine. There’s more of that construction I was talking about…The wine is poured and ready to go.  I always like to order a bottle of sparkling wine.  I like it for hydration, digestion, it’s a good palate cleanser, and it prevents hangovers if you have too much wine 😉  I really think the bottled water at restaurants needs to be cheaper like it is in Europe.  The restaurants in the US make way too high of margins on it. As an appetizer we shared the Steak Tartara Piemontese, and the Burrata.  Both appetizers were excellent, and the tartare was made just like I like it. The Burrata:Wonderful appetizers…For main dishes, my fiancé and I both got pastas.  My fiancé had the My Grandmother’s Ravioli:For a main dish I ordered the Bucatini Nero with mussels and “saffron crema.”  I happen to love black pasta, and whenever I see it on a menu I tend to order it.  It’s just such a novelty, since at the grocery store you only see regular or whole wheat pasta.  This pasta was a lot more creamy than it looks in the photo below.  Had I known how creamy it was, I wouldn’t have ordered the Burrata in addition to this pasta dish.  My suggestion is so to get one or the other unless you really like cheese and creamy sauces.  We didn’t get dessert this time, but maybe I’ll try it in the future.  I’ll be back here, and I’ll for sure get the tartare again.

This is a great place for a group of maybe 3-6 people.  It’s spacious enough, and the environment is conducive to louder conversation.  There are a lot of great reviews on the brunch here, so I’ll be trying it soon!

Links to reviews:

3.9 Yelp

4.6 OpenTable

4.0 TripAdvisor