Archive for May, 2007

Kee’s Chocolates (NY) – Best in America?

Are Kee’s Chocolates the best artisan chocolates in the United States? One woman, Kee Ling Tong, makes the chocolates in a tiny store-front in Soho (though I have seen helpers from time to time and the single store-front has now expanded to two small store-fronts.) This isnt the assembly line with marketing acumen of Vosges or Jaques Torres, nor the Paris-pedigree of La Maison du Chocolate and Richart; there’s only the shopkeeper (and helpers) with her name on the front of the store.

Manhattan adores her too – lines are frequent and if you arrive too late, you’re out of luck.

How good are they? Read the rest of this entry »

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Doughnut Plant (NY) – Beware of the Waistline

You could start your own doughnut plant, right around your waist, if you visit Manhattan too often.

My first visit to Doughnut Plant left me wondering what the hype was about. Sure, more-artisinal-than-normal ingredients for a doughnut but the end result left me unsatisfied. The doughnuts are made by hand with natural ingredients – fresh fruits, sea salt, fresh milk, fresh butter, and unbleached unbromated flour. Glazes follow the same formula. It’s a study in dialectics – healthier junk food and hoity toity doughnuts that are affordable for nearly everyone.

It’s an easy story for the media to latch onto (and they did) so I viewed the place with some scepticism after that first visit. (And there are others who believe the popularity has led to a decrease in quality.)
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Le Bernardin (NY) – A Michelin One Star Meal

Eating out at the haute level, and then reading/writing about it, can sometimes invoke a Schopenhauer-ian perspective on the hobby – life is suffering because our desires can never be fulfilled. Le Bernardin has its critics who argue that a restaurant focused on fish should not be awarded three Michelin stars; others argue the food is just plain ordinary. Based on my one and only visit, the ingredients were sashimi-quality, the execution flawless, and the conception perfect. It still ranks as one of my favorite meals. But this was the “re-visitation” New York trip, where Jean Georges got knocked out of my Top 5 US earlier in the day. Would Le Bernardin suffer the same fate?

This was more of a social meal so I didn’t take notes. The pictures, while not as good as the last few posts, did turn out ok once I got done with Photoshop.

1. Progressive Tasting of Marinated Fluke

This dish has garnered a fair amount of hype but it’s lost on me. The tasting starts with a simpler citrus-based marinade and progressively gets more “complicated” – more ingredients and stronger flavors. All of the marinades have a bit of heat but I found the last two too strong for the fish. Good.
Le Bernardin (New York) - Progressive tasting of fluke

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Kuruma Zushi (NY) – The Wrong Quadrant

As I stated in the Sushi Yasuda thread, NY’s big three sushi players have done a fine job segmenting themselves in the market. Take Masa, Sushi Yasuda, and Kuruma Zushi; add in Urasawa (LA) and Sawa (Bay Area); and you’ve got the best raw fish in America on any given day. The beauty of the system is that there isn’t much overlap – each has a niche that it dominates.

Kuruma’s niche was serving the best raw fish on the East Coast (with Sawa being its equal on the West Coast.) One went to indulge in a hedonistic feast of sashimi, unrelenting even when the sub-standard rice made its way into the meal. Push on, get past the rice, and begin with the seconds of sashimi. It’s an approach that has left the chef, Toshihiro Uezu, befuddled in the past – how do they eat so much?

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Jean Georges (NY) – Unbalanced Lunch

“I found it absolutely dreadful. Unbalanced flavours, dreadful conception in some dishes, good conception but dreadful execution in others. Some average ingredients.” – Moby

These words, from a comment in a previous post, echoed in my head the day leading up to my Jean Georges lunch. JG was my first “high end” meal five years ago and it stood head and shoulders above everything else for some time (French Laundry, Ron Siegel’s Masa’s, La Folie, and others.) I remembered a nuanced and subtle cuisine permeated by ginger, lemon, and lemongrass essences. The memory of that meal was so positive I found myself reluctant to return on subsequent visits to New York. Well, it was time to brave those waters again.

I met Alex and Aki from Ideas in Food, two of my favorite chefs in this country (see my previous Keyah Grande reports.) Read the rest of this entry »

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