November 9, 2014
I had another wonderful birthday month filled with amazing meals. The kickoff was a very impressive chef's tasting menu at Degustation. The restaurant has only counter seating around their open kitchen so you can enjoy watching chef Nicholas Licata's effortless creation. I was super lucky to get the best spot in front of his work station so it was extra special. What I loved about their food was his technique to add unique flavors without killing the character of each ingredient. Some very fresh vegetables like corn and snow peas were served raw dressed with seeds, herbs or other aromatics. We all agreed that the fresh corn salad (Chile lime fresh corn salad tossed with crispy onion, smoked sheep cheese cream and anise flower) was superb and it was the best dish of the night.
Besides the six dishes in photos below, we had a chorizo croquetta with black Tabasco as an amuse buche and a bacon wrapped pork tenderloin with parsnip, celery root pure and Brussels sprouts with crispy mustard seeds and huckleberry puree (sorry, I lost the photos).
(from top left) Chef Nicholas Licata; spotless work station with beautiful spices;
Chile lime fresh corn salad tossed with crispy onion, smoked sheep cheese cream and anise flower;
Raw purple snow pea salad; Seared scallop and fried oyster with Thai curry sauce with finger lime;
Lamb belly and poached egg with gramorata;
Ricotta staffed pasta with chorizo flakes, chives and Reasling form; Briosh French toast pudding
The next day we visited the very popular Maison Premiere in Williamsburg for brunch. I went there one evening for a late night drink but it was so crowded I could not even get in. If you want to enjoy their beautiful setting in a more relaxed situation, I would recommend to go there for brunch. If you are there before noon, you get to enjoy their $1 oyster happy hour.
On my actual birthday, my husband took me to Momofuku Ko by David Chang which had been in my wish list for a long time. Just like degustation, the seatings are in front of their open kitchen. The whole experience was flawless and well (or maybe too) organized. We never waited more than five minutes in between courses. The first 1/3 courses were more Asian influenced dishes and the rest were more Western style flavors. They don't allow picture taking at the restaurant so I can't show you how wonderful each dish was.
Then next day, he gave me a surprise second birthday dinner at Kura Sushi in East Village. I really enjoyed the meal there. I have been a big fan of Ushiwakamaru but I have to say I fell in love with Kura Sushi. Kura might be one of the best omakase deals in the city. They just increased their price for $20 for all all levels of omakase courses but it still very reasonable for me considering the quality they provide. Kura is exactly what I expect for a sushi restaurant. I like to sit at the counter to be able to communicate with the master. And I like a friendly master. Some of the high-end restaurants are so intimidating and I don't feel comfortable. Kura made me feel like I am back at my favorite sushi places in my home in Tokyo.
They have three levels of sushi omakase and three levels of kappo (half cooked meal and half sushi). My husband and I ordered both sushi omakase and kappo so that we could share the cooked meal and had the same sushi course.
After the birthday week was over, we took a break but had a few very good cheap eats. One of my favorites was a Lao restaurant in Chelsea called Khe-Yo. Most of their food was very spicy but the flavor was so addictive. We got there very late after a movie so we just sat the bar and shared only a few appetizers. My favorite item at Khe-Yo was the complimentary basket of sticky rice with VERY spicy chili sauce and eggplant sauce. The chili sauce was too spicy for me but the eggplant sauce was so yummy. I can't wait to go back for full dinner experience there.
We also tried Izakaya Mew in Mid-town. It was so packed with youngsters in every possible ethnic group even after 11pm (opens until 2am on Friday and Saturday). I did not like their yakitori but the rest of their food was good and reasonable. The service was good for such a busy place. It is a great place for group dining.
And the last (but not least!) place was Cafe Katja. When it's getting cold out, I feel like going to Cafe Katja. It's a super cozy place with hearty Austrian cuisine. I usually get the most simple bratwurst and sauerkraut but this time I tried their creamed spinach and poached egg with roast veggies. It is a vegetarian dish but it fills you up. Their creamed spinach was super creamy in texture but very light in cream with a hint of nutmeg. I loved it. I am sure I will have it over and over in the next few months.
(currently close for relocation)
130 St Marks Pl
New York, NY 10009