Hirohisa lies behind a nondescript unmarked door on a quiet block in Soho and just walking in the door will instantly calm and relax you.
We started dinner with two cups of hot hoji tea to warm us up from the bitter cold and an amuse from the kitchen, one bite of seared red snapper with a light broth.
Even though Hirohisa features Kappo style cuisine where the guests are welcomed to dictate how they would like the fish to be served, we were much too exhausted from the week to make any kind of proper decisions and left all the choices up to the chef. The assortment of fresh sashimi featured some of the usual suspects such as tuna and mackerel but also some unexpected elements like squid and artic char. Fresh as can be, we had no complaints at all as we devoured each piece.
Next, a bowl of unbelievably delicate chawa mushi with uni and lobster. I love how this homey dish was elevated to such an elegant level with just a few key ingredients.
Immediately following was the seared scallop salad with ikura and lotus roots. I loved the salty pop of the salmon roe against the sweet flavor of the scallops and the crunch from the thinly sliced lotus root added a great textural contrast.
Then, just because we were craving more uni, a plate of the grilled sesame tofu with uni. As someone who can always use more uni and have rarely anything bad to say about uni dishes, something about these particular bites left me wanting more variety. Perhaps a little bit of the lotus root would have broken up the rather similar textures of the tofu and uni.
We wrapped up dinner with a heartier dish from the meat section of the menu. Grilled Colorado lamb was wrapped around Daikon radish, Shiitake mushroom and shiso leaves and served medium. I do hesitate to call this hearty because much like the rest of what preceded it, this was an intricate dish might have been mistaken as an appetizer elsewhere. However, in this particular setting, it was indeed the heartier dish of the night.
With no one to really rush us out, we lingered a little longer with one more cup of hot hoji to conclude the meal. Finally when we were ready, we left the tranquil inner sanctum of Hirohisa feeling satisfied but not full, an illusive state that is much often too difficult to achieve.
Hirohisa | 73 Thompson Street, New York, NY 10012 | http://hirohisa-nyc.com/
This pretty much described how I felt walking out of The Clam, one of the newest spots bordering Soho and West Village. I was skeptical about yet another seafood centric restaurant in the already densely populated neighborhood. After all, we were already have two awesome choices between Pearl and Mary’s Fish Camp. However, ever since it had opened a few weeks ago, The Clam has become a rather difficult reservation to secure so I was happy just to join AD for dinner Friday night after she nabbed a reservation for two.
The minute I walked in, I could tell immediately that this was not going to be like the other two spots. The spacious and rather handsomely decorated dining room with walls of exposed brick was filled with light thanks to its western as well as southern exposure.
Dinner here started off with a butter Parker House roll, a buttery sweet roll that was still slightly warm when it arrived on my plate. It is always a good sign for things to come when the bread is so delectable that I was half expecting to be charged for it.
AD and I were in agreement on the dishes that caught our eye so no comprises there. We began with a beautiful plate of scallop crudo with pear, hazelnut, lime and chives. A little bit of frisee and pickled onions to juxtapose the sweet tender scallops – a great refreshing way to start the meal.
Next, we shared a bowl of steamed little necks in their natural broth. This was a house specialty and a must when you are dining in a restaurant named The Clam. The restaurant did its namesake proud with a simple and light preparation. We were happily soaking up the remaining natural broth with bread even long after the clams were gone.
For our main courses, we decided to split the clam fried rice and the clam and spaghetti. The fried rice was on the lighter side and studded generously with bites of clams and fatty pork belly. A rather odd preparation that seemed a little out of sync with the rest of the Americana menu but I accepted it happily as I shoveled bites of rice onto my plate.
The Clam was thoughtful enough to split our order of the spaghetti into two plates, a gesture that was much appreciated. Unfortunately it did rob from the photographic aspect just a little. Nonetheless, this was a fabulous take on the red sauce spaghetti and a must order. The sauce was spicy and buttery, assertive yet smooth. The arugula was a nice touch but I could have easily devoured an entire bowl of this with or without the greens.
We completed the meal with a side of market carrots with a spiced labne and pumpkin seeds even though the creamy kale was also an extremely compelling choice. The carrots were roasted to perfection, sweet and tender, and the spiced labne was a great way to add some exotic touches to a familiar vegetable.
We opted to skip dessert but I am happy to report that there were some pretty enticing options, saving them for a return trip soon. To think I was this close to writing off The Clam as another seafood restaurant and risked missing out on one of the best plates of spaghetti and clams. That’s what I love about New York, just when you think you know what to expect, you will find some place that will prove you wrong.
The Clam | 420 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014 | http://theclamnyc.com/
Almost four years after the original Empire Diner closed its doors and many other occupants later, Amanda Freitag threw open the doors again and brought life back to the diner on the corner of 22nd and 10th. Even though the newest operator of the iconic neighborhood spot left the outside facade somewhat untouched, the inside received a much needed updated and is accompanied with a brand new menu.
I will confess that I never had the fortune to dine at the original Empire Diner but the new menu along with the initial opening buzz intrigued me enough to stop by one Sunday night. One meal was really all it took for me to come back the following Sunday, eager to explore more of the menu. The offerings here are pretty straightforward but draws inspiration from the beloved New York diner and other New York specialities.
On my first visit, ever the buffalo wing enthusiast, I insisted that we include the buffalo skate wings in our order. Instead of the usual boned affairs, the new upscale take on the bar staple comprised of three pieces of skate wings enrobed in a mildly spicy buffalo sauce on top of thin ribbons of celery and carrots and a creme fraiche. I say mildly with only a tiny tinge of disappointment only because this way at least I can share this now with many who aren’t so fond of tongue burning levels of heat. If only the skate had been just a little bit crispier or the creme fraiche a little more tangy, then I would have been able to get behind this reinterpreted dish 110%.
The creamy orzo “mac n cheese” on the other hand was a dish that re-emerged perfectly if not better than before. Finished off with parmesan and black truffle butter, the little bits of rice shaped pasta were held together by a cream sauce and studded with broccoli florets. Now this is a sure fire way to get a child, or anyone for that matter, to eat more vegetables.
I am a real sucker for chili cheese anything these days so of course I had to get the Empire Diner’s version of the classic during my second visit. Instead of regular fries, the chunky chili, lime crema and salsa verde were ladled over sweet potato fries. I personally loved the substitute and any way to make this just a little bit healthier will only go further to justify adding the messy bowl to any future visits.
For a lighter appetizer, I decided to try the charred octopus “Greek salad”. While it was nice to get a reprieve from the other rather heavier appetizers, the salad didn’t have as much to offer and left me wondering what happened to the mint and the feta.
The takes on old classics continue into the entrees and two must tries are the lemon chicken with ricotta, charred lemon and carrots. The flavorful half chicken was topped with a thin crisp sheet of crunchy crispy chicken skin that made me wish that I could have an entire basket of it. A squeeze of the lemon to impart a little bit of smoked flavor, this was gone in a New York minute. And the pork on pork chop? There is nothing that can be made worse by adding pancetta on top. What made it even better was a perfectly executed piece of moist pork chop with caramelized edges.
For something unconventional, the oyster pan roast was a great choice. The pan roast at Empire Diner included fatty pieces of pork belly and tender pieces of oysters for a little surf and turf combination and was much lighter than other pan roasts.
Just in case you were in the mood for something more classic, there was a section in the middle of the menu featuring old favorites like pancakes and burgers and grilled cheese. Also included was a well executed patty melt with caramelized onion and swiss on rye. One bite and it made me wonder why is it that I can never get that amazing crunch on my grilled sandwiches at home.
During both visits, only one vegetable graced our tables. That’s right, the overexposed brussels sprouts. But who cares about overexposure when it tasted this good glazed with chili jam?
What sealed both of my meals here so nicely were the desserts. The lighter of the two that I was able to sample was the freshly made doughnut holes. Light and airy, these were tossed with powdered sugar and came with a beautifully rich yet light caramel sauce that I wanted to lap up with a spoon.
The impossible cake was definitely the most unique dessert on the menu. Flan and chocolate cake were merged into one dense yet light bundt cake that was in parts dense and chocolatey and in other parts light and creamy. Just looking at that beautiful marbled slice made me wonder how this was possible – impossible perhaps indeed!
Even though Amanda Freitag’s Empire Diner might share its name and location with the old classic, the menu has clearly a few fabulous standouts that makes it worthwhile to revisit time after time again. Who knows, this new kid on the block might just turn into a classic in its own right one day very soon with its modern takes on classic comfort foods.
Empire Diner | 210 Tenth Ave, New York, NY 10011 | http://www.empire-diner.com/
There aren’t many good sushi spots in Chelsea, a major deficit if you ask me. I like Momoya but just one look at the line out the door will make you think twice about having sushi for dinner. Such was the sad state of sushi in Chelsea until Sushi Seki, a well known Upper East Side favorite, decided to settle down in the neighborhood and brought the game to a whole new level.
Located between a sports bar that has been there forever and another favorite of mine, The Doughnut Plant, Sushi Seki sports a very modern minimalist look inside and out. Another sign of a place that takes sushi seriously if you ask me.
The menu here is very simple with an appetizer section that is relatively standard for a sushi restaurant. A plate of snow pea salad in a ginger dressing…
A bowl of fresh tuna and avocado with a soy ginger dressing…
And a negimaki roll with a sweet soy glaze are good ways to start a meal at Sushi Seki but I highly recommend saving your stomach and money for the sushi instead.
For when you are in the mood for something fancy, go with the Three Golden Flowers rolls, a collection of tekka maki rolls. Included is a spicy tuna topped with tuna and tofu sauce…
An eel roll…
And a salmon roll with tomato slices on top. These three rolls go a long way for two people or a great start for three to share.
The chirashi bowl is always a great addition with simple beautiful pieces of fish in a lacquered box with a side of fabulous sushi rice.
If you are more in the mood for some more classic and subtle flavors, I highly recommend the sushi set for 2 which comes with 9 pieces of nigiri and two rolls. This platter gives a great sampling of some of the best of Sushi Seki, including their salmon with torched tomatoes – an unusual combination of hot and cold that is unexpected but absolutely fabulous.
The surprising hit of the platter was a piece of marinated eggplant nigiri, flavorful and meaty without any hint of eggplant.
Two of my favorite bites are the finely chopped buttery toro and light hamachi with jalapeno.
Another memorable bite is the lightly ginger scented snapper. The flavor is subtle and fantastically refreshing.
Of course, in addition to the tuna with tofu sauce and salmon with tomatoes, there are a few other rolls that you must order at Sushi Seki in addition to either the platter or the Three Golden Flowers rolls. Don’t bother looking for them on the simple menu – instead pointedly ask the waiter. Be specific, they will know what you are referring to even though it might take a few tries. For the eel lover, the hand chopped unagi on top of creamy avocado is a must.
And for those who are fans of a little bit of spicy, the hamachi (baby yellowtail) with jalapeno sauce is hits the spot. The jalapeno sauce does not overwhelm the sweetness of the hamachi and starts off herbaceous fading into the background seamlessly.
And of course, a hand roll is always a great way to end any sushi meal. The spicy scallop roll here is a signature and must be eaten right away in order to keep the seaweed nice and crunchy.
And for dessert? I haven’t really had much room after my meals here but for some reason, I do magically find room the second I step out the door and find myself next door in line for a doughnut at The Doughnut Plant. Slowly but surely, the 23rd street block between 7th and 8th is becoming one of my favorite blocks in Chelsea.
Sushi Seki | 208 West 23rd Street, New York, NY 10011
I have always been a westside girl, from Midtown West all the way down to Chelsea. Perhaps that’s why it took me so long to visit the Cannibal, located in Murray Hill despite an enticing menu featuring an entire section full of tartares and sausages.
The Cannibal is located right next door to its sister restaurant Resto, connected by a single door in the back. The restaurant is a tight squeeze with most of the seats around the bar with a few more tables in the back garden. During the middle of a harsh winter we were all huddled indoors, taking the noise level up inside quite a few notches.
My visit to the original location started off with a light crudo of basil cured hamachi with thinly shaved cucumbers and a creme fraiche. It was a great way to ease into dinner.
Continuing with the raw theme, we followed up the hamachi with a plate of lamb tartare. The fine chopped lamb was perfectly tender but with a great bite and the harissa aioli was a classic flavor pairing. DC was less of a tartare enthusiast so I happily devoured the entire bowl by myself.
The merguez sausage with mint yogurt and roasted carrots are a great substitute if you are craving the lamb flavor but not ready for raw meat. Word of warning though, this is one spicy sausage that will make you reaching for some ice cold beer.
From the small plates section, we chose a lovely poached egg with shaved brussels sprouts and country ham gremolata. The tiny bowl was full of flavor and was delicious nestled on top of a piece of chewy country bread.
From the vegetable section, the spicy treviso radicchio with beef tendons, calabrian chili, green onion, white raisin in a lemon vinaigrette caught my eye. I loved seeing parts of an animal making an appearance in all sorts of unexpected places.
Instead of ending with a heavy meat dish, we went with a lighter fare of grilled quail and marmalade smeared toast. Simply prepared, this dish was flavorful but left me craving for a few more bites.
Since we had a relatively light dinner, we had a little bit of room for dessert and boy were we glad we did. A slice of their housemade peanut butter banana mousse cream pie with a graham cookie crust with crumbled bacon on top was something of that I am sure Elvis would have loved. The classic combination of peanut butter and banana was elevated in an airy light mousse and that hint of salty from the bacon was perfect.
I was such a convert after just one meal that I immediately followed up my dinner at the Cannibal with a visit to the Cannibal stand at Gotham Market West.
A stark contrast to the dark rowdy atmosphere of Cannibal Murray Hill, the location on the west side was airier and brighter. On a random Wednesday night, only a few were perched at the stainless steel bar, catching up with coworkers after work.
The menu here shared quite a few similarities with its sibling but they had a few twists and turns of their own. Instead of a crudo, we started with spicy pork kimchi scallion rillette.
We then supplemented the meaty rillette with a bowl of roasted brussels sprout with a sprinkling of mint and ham gremolata. Everything tastes better with bacon or ham doesn’t it?
A hot chewy stick of warm pretzel with beer cheddar and a salt roasted Japanese sweet potato followed. I absolutely loved the simplicity of the sweet potato, dressed with a light touch of melted butter and a sprinkling of coarse sea salt.
Next up was a wheel of spicy Italian sausage with broccoli rabe and parmesan cream. This time, the heat was much easier to temper with a dab of the parmesan cream.
And finally, the piece de resistance of the night, the Cannibal dog 2.0. One order comes with two juicy hot dogs on a soft bun loaded with spicy tripe chili and a sprinkling of scallions and fried shallots. Finished off with a zing of Chinese mustard, these were just what I have been craving lately – chili on everything.
I really don’t know who would win if the two Cannibal came to a head. My meals at both were so delicious that I would have quite a difficult time being the arbiter. The honest truth is that I am just really happy to have finally tried not only one but both locations of Cannibal and will know where to go for my random tartare and chili dog cravings from now on.
Cannibal | 113 East 29th Street, New York, NY 10016 or 600 11th Avenue, New York, NY 10036 | http://www.cannibalnyc.com/
Momofuku Milk Bar’s cakes are a labor of love but for the right occasion it is all so worthwhile. I have been eyeing the banana cake recipe for some time now and finally, I was able to take a stab at this showstopper for SB’s birthday.
As with all of Milk Bar’s cakes, this one is another multiple step recipe that includes a banana cake as a base, hazelnut crunch, chocolate hazelnut ganache, banana cream and hazelnut frosting. This all might sound daunting at first but so many of these components are actually quite simple to make and can be done a few days ahead of time. The most difficult part of this recipe was actually trying to locate all the ingredients. It took me a few tries but I was finally able to find the banana extract and illusive gianduja chocolates (and no I did not order the 11 lbs blocks available on Amazon although it was tempting).
I am not a fan of bananas but for some reason, I go bananas for banana flavored desserts. The base for this recipe is a dense buttery banana cake that resembles a pound cake. Using the ripest bananas will result in the best flavors. And even though at first I resisted using banana extract, I gave in and added the clear liquid and came out with a lovely moist base.
In true Milk Bar fashion, there was a recipe within a recipe. In order to make the chocolate hazelnut ganache, you need to make Milk Bar’s fudge sauce. Even though this is an extra step, it’s so worth it because you will find yourself eating the fudge sauce by the spoonful. Just make sure to save at least 1/4 of the recipe for the ganache though.
And speaking of things you can’t stop eating, the hazelnut crunch is also extremely addicting. My friends and I pretty much devoured the 1/2 of the recipe that you don’t need to use for the cake by the fistful. They were fantastic on basically anything. And oh yes, feuilletine was also another extremely difficult item to find. I was actually never able to locate plain feuilletine but used chocolate covered feuilletine instead. There’s nothing wrong with more chocolate.
Another crucial layer in the cake was the banana cream. Another fantastic stand alone recipe that you will be devouring. One key note, I am not sure why but the yellow food coloring that I used failed pretty miserably at giving me that lovely cartoon yellow color that was pictured. What I was left with was instead a mustard colored cream. Disappointed, I eliminated that minor ingredient from the recipe and can safely say that it didn’t really affect the end result that much.
A more layers and finally – voila, we are done! I chose to top the cake with a mixture of the hazelnut crunch and chocolate shavings that I found at the NY Cake and Supply Store.
At least 12 hours in the freezer to set and another 3 to thaw, the cake was finally ready to be part of the party! This is one dense cake so don’t be fooled by its small diameter (only 6 inches across). This banana cake will easily feed 6 to 8 people and I present you the step by step recipe following the cut.
Ma Peche in Midtown has gone through so many changes in its five years that I sometimes don’t know how to describe it. The good thing is that every transformation has been equally impressive that I don’t mind the changes. Gone are the beef seven ways tastings and the French Vietnamese inspired dishes and in its place are a fabulous feast of lamb and chicken rice for a large group and a dim sum style small plates a la carte.
As soon as you sit down, the carts will start to wheel your way. The first to arrive at our table was the raw bar full of crudos and freshly shucked oysters and other cold plates.
We chose to start with the pickled plate, made with a medley of cucumbers, beets, lotus roots and mixed mushrooms. The beets were pickled with a fragrant pepper mix and the mushrooms were so refreshing and wonderful that I couldn’t stop eating them.
The pork buns were wheeled by our table in a separate cart and served in traditional dim sum fashion.
Each little basket contained only one soft bun filled with fatty pieces of pork belly so unless you want to share, make sure to order more than just one. As one of the dishes that the Momofuku empire is so well known for, this is a must order. A dab of house made hot sauce made it even better.
Other dim sum dishes came around on an available basis and since we didn’t have all the time in the world, we went with two larger plates from the specialty menu. I have always gone with Ma Peche’s toasted rice cakes which has always been a part of the menu from the very start of the restaurant. This time though, the lamb noodles caught my eyes.
Served with braised lamb, cabbage and chili jam and a soft egg, the chewy noodles were hearty and filling. The egg made a fabulous sauce that coated every strand of the spicy noodles. I would be happy with a bowl of this on any given day.
And lastly, a plate of the fried brussels sprouts of course, another signature of Momofuku. The version here as served with ginger scallion, cherry and calabrian chili. The sweetness of the cherries were fantastic against the smokiness of the brussel sprouts and the hint of heat from the chili.
Usually I would have followed up the fabulous lunch with a cookie or two… or three from the Milk Bar upstairs on my way out. This time though, I sped through and resisted the temptation. There will be another time of course…
Ma Peche | 15 West 56th Street, New York, NY 10019 | http://momofuku.com/new-york/ma-peche/
I took a detour from my Saturday morning run to stop by Russ and Daughters to pick up a few bites for brunch with the girls.
Russ and Daughters offer quite a list of premade breakfast sandwiches featuring some of their best smoked fish but I wanted to make my own. Half an hour later, I walked out with a bag full of goodies. Included with two bagels and a bialy were smoked pastrami salmon, smoked sable and tuna belly with a trio of smears including a horseradish dill cream cheese and goat cream cheese. Of course, I didn’t forget the classic scallion cream cheese. I also threw in a few fresh pickles and wasabi infused tobiko to spice things up.
Instead of making sandwiches, I maximized the bagels by making my bites open faced. A little smoked pastrami salmon with goat cream cheese here…
… and a few bites of horseradish dill cream cheese with smoked tuna belly and wasabi tobiko there. This fabulous spread was completely worth the wait in the tiny cramped store front.
Russ and Daughters | 179 E Houston St, New York, NY 10002 | http://www.russanddaughters.com/
I never thought there would be a day when I would hop on the Path for dinner n Jersey City. But there we were, trekking through the quiet streets off of the Grove Street stop eagerly, in one of the numerous steadily falling snow storms of this winter nonetheless. Our destination was Thirty Acres, a new hot spot in Jersey City with a former chef de cuisine from Momofuku Noodle Bar at its helm.
Finally, after a brisk 15 minute walk which would have been shorter had we not gotten a little lost, we found Thirty Acres and ducked inside quickly. The four of us were seated by a bay window warmly lit by the street light. The restaurant was quiet with a handful of tables of patrons enjoying an early dinner but it was a rather snowy Sunday night after all. We were famished and didn’t waste much time debating what to order from the short menu that meandered all cuisines and continents for inspiration.
The starter section of the menu made up almost half of the dishes offered so we started there with a beautiful plate of kombu cured mackerel with blood orange, seven spice and beets.
Followed by a bowl of scallop ceviche dressed with celery, serranos, and grinnel caviar. The spicy serrano peppers play off the sweetness of the scallop creating a dish that makes you pay attention.
From the raw dishes we ventured into the offal section with the pig’s ear salad with chili oil and celery. I am so glad that I have such adventurous eaters as friends. Honestly, I don’t know that many others who would have let me order this let alone fight me for bites of this spicy salad.
The next offal dish we ordered was a spicy bowl of tripe stew. The tripe had been stewed into a tender delicious mess hidden beneath a bed of finely shredded napa cabbage, rye croutons, country ham and a soft poached egg. I could have been easily satisfied with a big bowl of this on the cold day and a piece of bread to grab every little bit of the sauce.
Just to make sure we ate our vegetables, we added on an order of the roasted carrots. Served in a hot and sour broth, the sweet roasted carrots contrasted with the shaved cauliflower and tender watercress.
Feeling like we have fully explored the smaller plates, we moved onto the pasta section. The menu included three and since we wanted to save some room for an entree, one had to be trimmed. With that, we were left with a bowl of tender fogli di pasta with earthy buttery trumpet mushrooms, thyme and a flurry of stravecchio.
What was even better than a big bowl of buttery cheesy mushroom pasta? The delicate and rich agnolotti filled with chicken liver and ricotta in a cranberry, mint and wakame sauce of course. For someone who usually prefer spaghetti or linguine, I was won over by Thirty Acres’ chicken liver agnolotti heart and soul.
Finally, our last savory course of the night. I normally would never order chicken as the only entree but Thirty Acres’ roasted chicken came so highly recommended that I could not ignore it. A half piece of perfectly roasted moist chicken with crispy skin came with a spicy lobster sauce and rye berries. Who would have thought to pair lobster sauce with chicken? The result is absolutely fabulous and had me scooping up every last bit of the rye berries which were soaked in the sauce.
The dessert menu at Thirty Acres is short so we decided what the heck and ordered all three items since we were already indulging. The first on the list was Kevin’s Mom’s lemon bar. I don’t know who Kevin is but his Mom does make one deliciously tangy lemon bar.
I love rice pudding of all kinds and the one here was no exception. Served with a coffee salty caramel sauce, the rice pudding tasted almost as if the rice kernels were folded into a soft pillowy bowl of pudding. I loved how bitterness of the sauce cuts through the sweet rice pudding and how each kernel still retained a nice bite.
And finally, the last dessert to grace our table was a lovely apple cake that came highly recommended by our waitress. The warm cake was drizzled with a delicious walnut maple syrup that sunk deep into the crumbs making it unbelievably moist. Topped with crunchy walnuts and little tiny pearls of apple, cake was made even more lovely by the whipped mascarpone.
By the time we devoured all three of our desserts, we were plenty full and quite happy might I add. The meal had been so charming and unique that I could have sworn that we were in the heart of Manhattan instead of in Jersey City. That illusion unfortunately disappeared when we ventured outside onto the streets that are now fully coated with fresh snow making our way to the Path. Despite the slight commute, I was happy to find a restaurant worthy of the short ride on the Path on the other side of the Hudson. After all, a little adventure never hurts anyone, especially not when there is such delicious creations awaiting at the end of it.
Thirty Acres | 500 Jersey Avenue, Jersey City, NJ | http://thirtyacres.tumblr.com/
I have been waiting a very long time for the opening of the second location of Laduree. After so many months of anticipation, the colorful wood boards on the front of the West Broadway store front finally came down and so start many future trips to Soho to fulfill my macaron cravings. What makes the Soho location of the French classic even better than its UES sister location is the addition of a restaurant and tea salon to properly enjoy macarons and desserts with a pot tea.
Such a special spot calls for a ladies’ Sunday tea with JL, DC and SB. We made a reservation only a week or so ahead of time so were able to skip the rather lengthy wait on a busy Sunday afternoon.
The elegant dining area is divided up into two sections, one cozy and dark and another bright and light filled in the back. We were luckily seated in the center of the back room which faces an outdoor garden that is still a work in progress so for now, only a large board depicting a sketch of Paris.
We all started with our very own pot of tea from an extensive list filled with varieties on the classic black tea such as a rose and citrus The Marie Antoinette and a cinnamon and cardamom The Othello. Each were steeped in a personal silver pot and poured carefully by our waiter.
Because it was around lunch time, we decided to start with a few savory bites before diving into the desserts. SB and DC split the smoked salmon club sandwich and the leafy kale salad with grilled chicken and red onions. The sandwich was cut into adorable rounds and served with four thick cut fries that were crunchy on the outside and creamy on the inside.
I had a hard time making up my mind and after much debate, I settled on grilled duck foie gras with a sweet apple puree and a balsamic reduction. The rich foie gras was beautifully seared and so rich that I was glad that the portion was on the smaller side.
JL had a head start on us with the desserts and was already well into her Mille-feuille Praliné while the rest of us were working on our savory dishes. Delicate caramelized puff pastry was layered with praline cream, almond pralines and crunchy hazelnut. A single bite delivered so many different varieties of hazelnut and caramel that you had slowly savor the dessert.
SB was also in a hazelnut state of mind but since they had just run out of the mille-feuille praline, she settled on a tiny bar of the Plaisir Sucré. This might look small but it was packed with even more layers than the mille-feuille praline! Dense and creamy, the hazelnut meringue sandwich cake had crushed hazelnuts, crusty praline, thin milk chocolate leaves, chantilly cream and milk chocolate.
DC stayed on the chocolate theme and chose the Carre Chocolat, a dense and rich square of chocolate layers upon chocolate layers. Chocolate mousse, chocolate fondant, bitter chocolate ganache, and chocolate cookies, there is really nothing more a chocolate-holic can ask for in a dessert.
Since we were already overloaded with chocolate and hazelnut desserts, I went with the Ispahan. Ever since I had this dessert in Paris three years ago, I have been dreaming about it. The Ispahan combines lychee, rose and raspberries in a light floral scented pastry. There is really nothing like it and one bite, I traveled across the Atlantic back into Paris.
One last final bite to accompany the last few drops of tea. Now this is the right way to do a ladies’ Sunday tea, holding conversations leisurely over cups of fragrant tea with delicate desserts and pastries in an elegant setting.
Laduree Soho | 396 West Broadway, New York, NY 10012 | http://www.ladureeus.com/