Thursday, September 27, 2012

Dirty Bird

Dirty Bird just opened in Tribeca!! It's a fried chicken place that boasts double fried chicken (what does that even mean?).

We had to test it out. This wasn't our first visit, but the first time that I had my phone.

It's a pretty tiny place. The seating is literally in the hall way!

Chicken fingers were about as skinny as human fingers... but oh my were they tender! The BBQ sauce was good, but I would have liked it a little more sour. No matter. There's a giant bottle of vinegar sitting at every table.

I don't know why kale is suddenly so popular, but I guess they sauteed it in garlic reasonably well. It also makes me feel slightly better about this dinner... no it actually just helps as one of the strongest palette cleansers ever. I would have gotten the mac and cheese if it had looked better!

Lord, I have been unhealthy. the skin was well seasoned and crisp. The skin had a nice crunch that crumbled in a way that KFC does not. It's also a lot less batter. That's a piece of corn bread in the back. I thought it was too oily, but some people like it. Yes you know who you are, eating mutilated corn.

I was impressed that the massive chicken breast was as tender and moist as the tiny little wings.

I think this is becoming one of our favorite back up dinner places. Just to make myself feel better, we got some fruits for dessert. Because you know, that's going to counteract all the delicious frying oil!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Hill Country

Listen all you non-New Yorkers. Hill Country is spreading, so this might be pertinent to you too.

Hill Country is a BBQ joint with live music, wooden furniture, and a giant smoker. Despite the Texan everything (There is a massive star hanging over the entrance and guitars everywhere), I believe the restaurant was actually started in NY. But the only overtly NY trait is unfortunately the prices.

See those giant metal things in the back? I think they're smokers... in any case, that's where the meat comes from.

You walk in, and they give you a little pamphlet with all the foods, and then you walk around and order meat by the pound. The servers then stick a bar code onto your pamphlet so the cashier can scan what you ate on the way out. It's all very psychological you see - can't have sticker shock looking at a bar code.

I've had everything there. Here are some highlights:

Moist brisket: 7/10 - it's not actually *that moist*, but it's good slathered with sauce
Not-as-moist-brisket (don't remember the formal name) 4/10 - don't get it
Chicken: 6/10 - too dry - go to Eataly nearby
Ribs: 7/10 - pretty good, but once again you need all the sauces.
JALAPENO AND CHEESE SAUSAGE (pictured above): 10/10 - worth the trip alone. Also better with sauces, but you don't need it.

Their sides are pretty good as well. They come in the sizes: good eatin', heapin' helpin', and feed your family. You can see the orange cups. Everything including the appetite must really be bigger in Texas, because the sizes are more like: for sharin', only thing you're eatin', and feed your family for a week.

Yum! sweet potato, pinto beans, collard greens, and green bean casserole.

They have the best green bean casserole. The green beans are not overcooked at all, and it's covered in mushroomy creamy goodness. I also like the crunchy fried onions on top! They're all mixed in there so you get a surprise crunch every bite.

This was obviously not our entire meal, but if you were to have an entire meal there, it's fun to visit when there's live music downstairs, and take it slow. Try out the different meats since it's by the pound, slather on the sauces, and don't forget the red velvet cupcake!!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Steamed Branzino in Ginger Scallion Soup

It's Sunday again, and time to cook something that would be difficult to make on a weekday.

Branzino. Or so the sign said. I honestly don't recognize many fish. Whole Foods offered to scale and gut it for me in 10 minutes, but the last couple of times I took them up on their offer, I ended up having to do extra scaling and gutting myself after waiting 30 minutes, so no thank you. I just took it home whole. (They weigh it before the gutting anyway)

My bf made the soup with the rest of the mushroom stock, lots and lots of scallions and ginger, salt, pepper, sesame oil, a tiny dash of sugar, and a hint of cayenne.

I did the dirty work. This is the closest I have come to applying my pre-med education. I scaled the fish with a knife by scraping it in short chopping motions opposite of the scale growth. I don't fancy swallowing scales! So I scaled all the nooks and crannies.

Then to gut the fish, you cut it open from the little hole on the belly (it is what you think it is) to its little double fins. Then you stick your hand in there, and pull all the guts out. Try not to puncture the green gall bladder, because if you somehow get that into the fish meat, your food is going to taste like crap. Not literally. Just really really bitter.

You also have to cut out the gills from the head, because it is inedible and has all the fun river water particles that the *fish* deemed obviously inedible... like sand. Whole Foods and places in Chinatown really like to leave the gills in because they're lazy and not eating the fish themselves.

Bye bye fish. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes on each side.

We put some mushrooms in on the flip and noticed that the fish was already falling apart. It was fresher than we thought! No problem. I turned off the fire early. 

It was absolutely amazing. The stock was infused with ginger, mushroom, and scallion flavor. We ended up drinking it from our bowls. The fish was mild and so tender that we poked it and the meat flaked into the soup.

Note: If you eat all the weird parts like me, be a star and fish it all out at the beginning so that you don't have dangerous fish bones and fins floating about in your soup!

We definitely have to do this more often!

Saturday, September 22, 2012


Jungsik is a high end Korean restaurant tucked away in some forgotten corner of Tribeca. We've walked by it many times, but it was never inviting or even easily noticeable with its white shades down.

The food there was surprisingly solid - everything tasted great. The service, however, was questionable at best.

The cartoonish waiter showered us with nonsense: "Are you all old enough to drink?" (but didn't check ID), "Oh Korean girls these days all like to dress like 18 year olds" (wtf does that even mean). The sommelier sounded like a used car salesman. When asked to describe the difference between two wines, he replied "Well both would be great with your meals. I definitely recommend getting either of these." (Yes I got that part. I believe that was your reply to my original question.)

After some confusion, we decided on this half bottle of champage to start. We needed it after navigating the cryptic EMP-like menu. Just to prepare you, all three of us were voracious.

Amuse bouche 9/10: Great start. From left to right: black sesame crisp, house-made tofu with more black sesame, fried chicken, and some kind of gazpacho that was dominated by the mango foam on top. The black sesame crisp tasted like a high end rice cracker - I would have loved a bag of these to go. The tofu was silken, the chicken had kick, and I love mango.

I rarely take pictures of bread, but this earl grey and raisin bread was as soft and fluffy as a brioche. Their olive bread was very good as well.

Yellowtail 7/10: There was nothing wrong with it. I thought the radish and all the other bright crisp tubers were a strange combination with the mild flavor of the fish.

Octopus 8/10: I didn't think it was super special for an octopus dish, but I knocked it up one point because my dinner mates loved it. I swear it tasted like it was lightly fried at the finish. There was something extra crispy on the outside. Once again, a lot of tubers.

Some bold but delicate burgundy with dinner. The sommelier kept repeating that it was not a wine that we could find in wine shops... and presumably that was the primary reason for getting it. The logic escaped me.

Despite the bizarro service, they took great pains with their decor. The butter had the same logo/markings as the wood frames hanging in front of the windows, and the forks had a heart-shaped cut out that reminded me of people with hello kitty backpacks.

Uni rice 9.5/10: The uni was amazing. I actually had a fun time crunching into the black seaweed rice and the crispy quinoa. They were just coarse enough to highlight the butteriness of the uni. They either didn't cook the rice properly, or it wasn't a great rice though.

Pork belly and rice 9.5/10: The pork belly was flavored amazingly with just the top of the fat a little crisp. I thought that the flavor of the soy bean rice was far richer than the uni rice, but it was more fitting for the dish and heavier protein. Once again... the rice itself just wasn't quite right.

Branzino 8/10: The green block is wasabi tofu... that tasted nothing like wasabi. The mussel broth with jalapeño, and sea squirt oil was good enough to drink. The rolls of zucchini were also a nice touch.

Lobster with beurre blanc, raspberry sauce, and tapioca 9.5/10: My only complaint was that the lobster was not perfectly butter poached. We had just come back from Maine, so the fact that the lobster was not super fresh was forgivable. The presentation was stunning. The sauce was rich, brought out the flavor of the lobster, and I loved the fact that I could just make out the raspberry and tapioca. I was extremely impressed.

Wagyu beef with kimchi sauce 9/10: Beautiful marbled beef. I had just a little bit of trouble cutting through it. Kimchi sauce was just spicy enough that it offset the fattiness of the beef (and was too spicy to drink with a spoon), but not so spicy that I felt the need to drink extra water. It was also less pungent and acidic than your usual kimchi sauce, so it did not dominate the dish.

Pork Jowl 9/10: The taste was actually a 10/10, but they really looked like dead blocks of dried tofu especially before they added the sauce. Jowl meat, like head meat, is amazingly tender and under appreciated. For that fact alone, I loved the fact that it was the center of the dish. The dashi-based sauce on the bottom was light and citrusy sweet.

Fruit and ginger palate cleanser

What's this?! The table next to us had 2 additional amuses bouches. I felt slighted... perhaps we could have taken the offbeat comments better.

Green Tea Cremeux 6/10: I don't get it. If I had not looked up the name, I would not have known the focus of the dish. We were eating dollops of random sides. I know that a lot of restaurants do this... but usually the plate would be *a lot* larger.

Strawberry Cremeux 7.5/10: Only 1.5 points more coherent. At least there was a story here.

Plum with lychee-rose mousse 10/10: Everything about this dish evoked a fragrant bouquet, so when the spoon cut easily through the gelee on top into the white fluffy mousse releasing the smell of roses and white chocolate, it tickled the senses.

Peanut St. Honore with frangelico and praline cream 9/10: This was rich. But I have a great love for frangelico and praline. The pastry was not perfect, but good enough. The brandied cherry pieces were a great touch. I thought it was funny that on the other side of the chocolate window was another smaller runt pastry.

Overall, I felt that every dish was well thought out (maybe except for all the turnips and radishes at the beginning). Most dishes had a delicate touch and a complex flavor profile. Not many dishes had obvious Korean - or even Asian - influences... but I guess that was fine.

This meal took a surprising 3 hours for 5 courses. It took 3 normally decisive people an inordinate amount of time to gather the menus and order, and if it weren't for the great conversation, I would have been a little worried about the lag time between courses.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Risotto with Salmon

I had a choice between a no-stir risotto recipe, and the traditional risotto that takes a lot of stirring. I chose to cook risotto instead of going to the gym, I decided to just suck it up and stir... well sort of.

I recently ordered arborio rice from Amazon. It was screaming risotto! Actually it was written on the label.

I got 4 of these!!

The bottom half of a leek cooking in 1/2 canola oil and 1/2 olive oil. Canola oil because it heats up more, and olive oil for the taste.

Super important step... sauteeing the rice dry in the oil until the rice is a little translucent. After that, you throw in some white wine, and let the rice soak it up and release some sticky gluten. This will insure the nice al dente texture that risotto has, which your normal cooked rice does not.

Lots of starchy diced potatoes! At this point, you can add whatever you want. potatoes take a while to cook, so I added it early.

Enough mushroom stock and boiling water was added so that I could stir easily.

Here's where I cheated. The no stir risotto requires you to completely cover everything in liquid and then simmer for 20 minutes. The regular risotto requires you to keep adding stock 1 cup at a time and then stir until your arm falls off. I barely covered the risotto and simmered for 10 minutes the first time so that the potatoes and rice cooked.

Every 10 minutes, I added another cup of water+stock, and I simmered and watched tv. This way, the rice absorbed the liquid slowly and the grains stayed separate, but I didn't have to stir for as long.

I lightly seasoned the salmon with salt and pepper, put it on some olive oil, and threw it in the oven at 350 degrees for 5 minutes.

I then broiled it for 5 minutes until the skin puffed up nicely and browned.

Some ponzu would be perfect for the salmon and risotto. I thought little something sour would make a good pairing for the creamy rice.

Once the rice was done, I mixed in 1/4 to 1/2 cup of shredded parmesan cheese and let it sit for 5 minutes. I separated the fish flakes a little so the ponzu drizzled on top sank into the folds. Dinner is served!

Thursday, September 20, 2012


I've been meaning to try Degustation, which is a small tapas bar in the lower east side. The restaurant is just an L-shaped bar around the kitchen.

I recommend it highly for the entertainment value and ambiance if you're into the kitchen to table thing, but the food was not nearly as good as I expected given all the rave reviews.

My friend and I ordered a 5 course prix fixe each, but had completely different courses. We had all of this with a big bottle of rosato.

Bagel and lox 7/10: The salmon and creme were great, but I didn't really understand the "bagel". It was a fluffy buckwheat pancake. I miss the taste of yeast, which to me, defined that particular element of the dish.

Chicken croquettes 8.5/10: the chicken was so shredded and creamy that I seriously thought that I was eating crab. The outside was incredibly crisp. It tasted a lot lighter than most croquettes.

Kale and roast fig salad. 7/10: Both very well cooked and seasoned. The top few pieces were very crispy, which is a nice textural contrast. From watching them cook it, I'm not sure if that was on purpose.

Roasted beet salad with seaweed puree. 7/10: The seaweed puree is interesting, but not nearly as flavorful as I had hoped. I feel like they could have done a lot more with the concept.

Scallops with oats, and some kind of bean? 10/10: I thought everything was cooked perfectly. The scallops were decadent. The oats were nice and firm, and that bean tasted almost like okra without the sliminess.

Mini paella with fish and chinese sausage 10/10: I'm sure that they did not call this dish a paella, but that's almost exactly what it was. It was extremely flavorful. I enjoyed every ingredient that they put inside.

Octopus and potatoes 7/10: The potatoes tasted very smokey... they almost seem to be cooked in liquid smoke, because no other part of the potato indicated that it was actually smoked. The octopus was a little rubbery, which was a big disappointment.

Quail! 6/10: This is actually what I wanted to cook for dinner. I watched them make it. Everything about the meat was done perfectly. They even cut it into extremely convenient pieces. However, it was way over-salted, and the savory bread pudding stuffing tasted only slightly more moist than one of those nightmare Thanksgiving stuffings. I only ate it because the quail was so salty!

Chocolate mousse 6.5/10: Maybe I'm being a little harsh. The chocolate mousse was chocolaty and light, and the berries were sweet and delicious... but there was literally no innovation here.

Brioche bread pudding 10/10: Easily the best dish we had. It's an ugly little piece of brioche sitting on 2 slices of grapefruit. The top was charred. It was so sweet... the outside was nice and caramelized, and the inside was gooey, soft, and tasted like creme brûlée. It's only the 2nd bread putting that I've ever liked.

Overall, I'm glad that I finally got to try Degustation. The food was not as light as whimsical as the decor might suggest. The quality from course to course was somewhat inconsistent. I like the food better than a lot of New York places at this price point... but this not the best choice for a long dinner. It may be difficult because of the limited seating, but I'd just drop in for the paella, scallops, and brioche bread pudding.