Category Archives: food

Restaurant review: Momofuku Ko

On Friday night I had dinner at Momofuku Ko, an amazing restaurant in New York City.

The place is tiny with ~10 seats at a small counter across from the 3 chefs, and that’s it.  No tables, no other areas.  It’s behind a barred-looking door on 1st Avenue in the East Village.  Everyone walks past the door since it looks so closed, but you just need to open it and walk inside.

There is no menu, as the chefs just make up whatever they feel like that day.  It’s one fixed price, and they are not the most friendly towards dietary restrictions, which I think is great.  There are tons of restaurants out there, and most of them are very accommodating, so it’s nice to see a place that makes a point.

The food features many small dishes, comprising a great variety of ingredients, cooking techniques, and flavor combinations.  There is no discernible theme, just excellent, delicious, brilliantly-executed work.

At the beginning of the meal, I started taking pictures of each dish, but they kindly ask that I stop, so I did.  I have a couple of pics of the first entrees, but they were the least interesting visually.

There is a beverage pairing offered, and we (I was with a good friend) took advantage.  It was fascinating and intelligent in and of itself.  Besides some excellent wine, there was a variety of sakes, beers, liquors, and combinations thereof.  Everything matched the food perfectly, pours were generous, and service timely without being intrusive.

Intrusive is not really an applicable concept in this small a place, anyways.  It’s designed for you to converse with the chefs and your (very few) fellow diners.  Everyone is a serious foodie, and people were comparing notes about dishes, restaurants, techniques.  I really enjoyed that.

One of the highlights were a Gruyere cheese soup mixed with burnt onion and bone marrow, matched to a local craft beer, the Albino Python Lager.  Great combination.

Another highlight was home-made, hand-torn pappardelle with chicken and snail sausage, over which the chef shaved frozen foie gras.  Yeah.  Everything’s temperature was perfectly calibrated, and the foie gras melted over the pasta, creating an amazing combination.  At first we all thought he was shaving cheese, but no…

All in all, it was a great meal at a great restaurant.  Getting a reservation there is far from easy, as Frank Bruni noted in the New York Times, but it’s worth it.  Just leave food allergies at home.


Restaurant review: Cognac Bistro

I’m so happy to have this place, Cognac Bistro, right in my neighborhood, a few steps from my house.  An actual really good French bistro with authentic execution, a homey feeling, a raw bar, and great cocktails?  It’s like a wish came true.

I’ve been to Cognac three times now, including last night with my parents, and each time has been great.  The bistro classics like steak frites are well done, as are some more interesting takes on fish (particularly the monkfish).  The cocktails are really nice and well-mixed, and the atmosphere is great.

Go there.  You won’t regret it.  Plus you’ll be supporting a local, family-owned-and-operated restaurant.  There’s free parking 😉  It’s just a tiny place, so make a reservation.

Restaurant review: Aragosta

This past weekend Alli and I checked out Aragosta, a bar / bistro in the Fairmont Battery Wharf hotel, as part of my birthday celebrations.

We both enjoyed the location and view.  You can sit outside on the patio, or inside, and both are right on the water.  It’s looking at the water and at a pier where big Coast Guard boats are parked, so that was cool.

The food was pretty interesting, with some things much better than others.  The lobster crostini appetizer was excellent, and the paste were pretty good as well.  We didn’t have room for dessert, but we had some excellent wine (a Ca’Marcanda “Magari”from 2004, highly recommended).

Service was nice and friendly, too.  Overall, a fun place.

A couple of quick reviews: Forum, Cafeteria, Harry Potter, and The Scarecrowd

Getting in a couple of quick reviews in the middle of a long Labor Day weekend.

On August 23rd, Alli and I went to Forum, a new restaurant in Boston’s Back Bay, for our monthly date night, aka “the 23rd.”  Forum is the replacement for Vox Populi, a restaurant / bar we both liked.

You could tell the restaurant is new and still working on its operations.  Our server was friendly and well-intentioned, but did not know the menu or cocktails very well.  The food itself was pretty good, featuring beautiful presentations and interesting ingredients, but the flavors themselves were underwhelming.  The decor was beautiful, and the location cannot be beat, so hopefully as the restaurant tweaks and improves, it will become great.

Yesterday we had a quick brunch at Cafeteria, on Newbury Street.  It was a beautiful summer Saturday, and we ate outside, which was great.  I had the crab roll, which was delicious, and Alli had the greek salad which was decent.  The place has a broad menu that aims to please, with nothing too crazy or inventive, and a lot of comfort food.  Service was friendly, if a bit slow.  All in all, a fun place to sit outside and watch the crowds, but not a foodie destination.

On Friday night, we met up with friends from work and saw the last Harry Potter movie.  We wanted to go see it on opening weekend, but that didn’t work out.  We both enjoyed the movie a lot.  I’ve read all the books, but Alli has not, and yet we both liked the movies.  Great cinematography, great stories, a pretty fun movie.

Finally for this quick review roundup, a book I just finished: The Scarecrow, by Michael Connelly.  I read the Hebrew translation of this book, not the original in English, but I imagine they’re similar.  It’s a good, captivating story about seriali killers.  I like that genre in general, but this one is well-told and features some cybercrime and cyberespionage to make it even more interesting.  Highly recommended, and a great beach book.

That’s it for this quick review roundup.  Happy Labor Day everyone, and remember, my birthday is tomorrow 😉  (September 5th…)

Restaurant review: Deuxave

Deuxave is a new-ish restaurant in Boston’s Back Bay.  We’ve driven past it many times on our way to/from work, and it looked good.  So this past weekend, Alli and I celebrated our monthly date night, aka “the 23rd,” at Deuxave.

We had a good time.  The restaurant is beautifully-decorated, and service was friendly.  The food was very good.  Not incredible, but not bad at all.

Possibly the best dish was one of the appetizers, a duo of wagyu beef carpaccio with steak tartare.  The tartare had a quail egg on top, which was an amazing combination.  It looked great and tasted amazing.  Awesome plate.

My steak was good, and Alli’s pasta was pretty good, as was the “variations on chocolate and raspberry” dessert.  Nice presentation on all of them, good portion sizes.

We had a couple of good drinks from the bar, and a glass of wine, but weren’t in a huge wine mood, so not much to write about this time.

All in all, a nice place, a good addition to the neighborhood.

Restaurant review: Lineage (again)

Lineage is a small local seafood (primarily) restaurant in Brookline, near where I live.  I’ve reviewed it before, but had not been there in a year or so.

Last week Alli and I took my mom for dinner there, and it was great.  Awesome food, good service, good atmosphere, good wine selection, all in a local neighborhood place.

I really liked it.  And this didn’t fit in 140 characters on Twitter, so it’s a blog post 😉

Memorial Day weekend in NYC (2011)

Last weekend was the long Memorial Day weekend. Alli and I spent it in New York City (NYC), partially hanging out with friends and partially roaming the town by ourselves.

We both enjoy visiting NYC a lot. We often consider moving there.  Maybe not permanently, but for a few months or a year.  The energy of the city is really uplifting.  I love the positive vibe, the 24/7 hours, and even some of the dirt, the grime, the noise, and the strange people.

This weekend I went down there on Thursday morning for the Percona MySQL Live conference.  The conference took the whole day, but it was pretty good.  There was a good DTrace talk by Brendan Gregg, author of the DTrace book.  Ori from Akiban Technologies spoke about their product, which I think is pretty interesting.   There was also an interesting talk about the Tungsten Replicator product.  Overall, the conference was a relative bargain ($130 per person).

That evening I watched The Hangover Part II, on its opening night.  It was a riot, and highly recommended.

On Friday I had a couple of work-related and networking meetings, and then Alli arrived in the late afternoon.  We checked into our hotel, the Andaz 5th Avenue, which was great.  Awesome location, big rooms, cool decor, everything clean and functional, friendly service, no complaints at all.

That night we had a great dinner with a group of friends, mostly Alli’s fellow Harvard Kennedy School alumni.  We went to a cute little local place on the Upper East Side, where one of them knows the owner, so that was fun.  After dinner we went to a bar in the area, and hung out until about 2am.

On Saturday we did a bunch of shopping, mostly on the Upper West Side, and then in Chelsea.  In the evening we met another couple of friends for dinner at Le Bernardin.  I’ve wanted to go to this restaurant for years, and it’s been the last NYC 3-Michelin-Star restaurant on my list for a while.

Yellow fin tuna with foie gras
(Photo by worleyx, not me.)

The restaurant was awesome.  We really enjoyed it.  Nice, high-energy room, but not too loud.  We all had the tasting menu, naturally, and two of us (J and myself) had the wine pairings.  The women had a bit of the wine as well, and everyone had a great time.

The tuna with foie gras was highly popular, as were a number of other dishes, including a variety of amuses bouche and desserts.  Service was excellent, as you’d expect, with good pacing and friendliness and flexibility.  All-in-all, an awesome place, in my top 10 all-time, but not above Alinea nor Per Se.

After dinner, we went to 230 5th, a rooftop bar I’d wanted to visit for about a year.  It was packed, but we managed to get one of the last tables, and that proved to be a wise (if expensive) choice.  The main club / bar areas got very packed, but in the semi-private table area, we had space to dance, hang out, look around, and it was well-worth it.  We met a couple of friends from the previous day, and a mixture of folks hung out until about 3:30am.

(Photo from 230 5th web site above, not mine.)

Sunday was slower, as you might expect.  We had a nice small brunch, visited the High Line, did some more shopping, and grabbed burgers and shakes at The Shake Shack, which we love.  On Sunday evening we were still pretty tired, so we chilled out and went to bed relatively early.

Monday, Memorial Day, was a long day.  We spent most of it in Central Park, tossing some frisbee, roller-blading (Alli, not me), watching the beach volleyball courts (me, not Alli), and helping a young man do some illegal selling of water (me, not Alli) but watching his stash while he hawked his wares.

We also went to visit Ground Zero, since that seemed appropriate and interesting on Memorial Day.  We saw the preview and small-scale mockups of the memorial site which is supposed to open on 9/11/2011, 10 years after the attacks.  It looks like a good design choice.

We caught the Acela Express train back into town.  That was a fun ride.  Fairly quick, quiet, (slow) WiFi access, and friends to chat with.  The train left and arrived on time, which was nice, since our friends experienced a delay with it on Friday.

It was a great long weekend in the city.  Lots of fun, some alone and some with friends,  shopping, eating, drinking, and relaxing.  Can’t complain at all.

Restaurant review: Estragon

Earlier this week Alli and I had a nice tapas dinner at Estragon on the edge of Boston’s South End.

The restaurant was mostly empty since it was the middle of the week, but the atmosphere was still nice and romantic.  The decor is simple, and the menu has plenty of appetizing choices.

There were numerous options using less traditional parts of the pig and other meats.  The lamb sweetbreads special was excellent, as was the “Pringa” featuring some bone marrow and other offal.  Really good.

Service was excellent, and the drinks (a pineapple mojito and an elderflower sour) also superb.  All-in-all a fun experience, and we might well come back in the future.

Restaurant review: Village Smokehouse

Last night (before watching the movie Unknown, reviewed earlier), we grabbed dinner at The Village Smokehouse in Brookline.  I hadn’t been to that restaurant in at least a couple of years, and probably longer, but I was looking forward to it.

Surprisingly, the place was packed.  They don’t take reservations, and as we found out later, their table management is particularly poor.  In fact, that was my biggest knock on the place.  More on that shortly.  In the meanwhile, we had to wait nearly an hour to be seated, but thankfully the bar is right there and we had some nice conversations to fill the time.

Eventually we were seated, at a table for six.  There were four of us.  What’s worse, we saw a bunch of pairs / couples sitting at tables for four.  I think this was a consequence of the restaurant having fixed-side tables, as opposed to a lot of two-tops that can be combined into bigger sizes.  Later in the evening in got worse, with small parties occupying more big tables, and bigger parties being crammed into smaller tables.  No one appeared comfortable.

The food itself was pretty good.  I had the baby back ribs which were excellent, and Alli had OK BBQ shrimp.  (Unrelated aside: this BBC article about how the word “OK” came into popular usage is fascinating.)

The service, once we were seated, was good and quick.  The prices are OK.  The margarita I had was decent, not amazing.  All-in-all, the biggest bummer was having to wait so long and then see how badly the table space was managed.  I’m in no rush to come back here in a busy night, although on a half-empty weeknight it might be nice.

Restaurant review: Island Creek Oyster Bar

Island Creek Oyster Bar is a seafood-oriented restaurant in Kenmore Square, attached to the Commonwealth Hotel, where Great Bay used to be.  As its name suggests, the emphasis is on oysters, some of which are from Island Creek, and some aren’t.

Island Creek is also a commercial oyster fishing company, so having their own bar means that bar has the freshest oysters, presumably.  That was my assumption anyways.  And now, having gone three times, I think it’s totally true.

The oysters here, especially the Island Creek oysters themselves, but also other varieties, are all excellent.  They are super-fresh, flavorful, clean, and fun to eat.  I really like them.

I’ve also had some fish, eggs, and other appetizers at this place.  All were good or excellent.  The wine list is reasonable, the beer choices excellent (surprisingly so!), and service has been good every time.

Island Creek is rapidly rising in my book of favorite Boston places.  It’s not super-fancy, which is good.  The atmosphere is nice.  It’s packed and high-energy on Friday and Saturday nights, and calmer during the week and during Sunday brunch.  That’s a good mix.

Highly recommended.  Make sure to have some Island Creek oysters when you go.