Resto

Resto is a Belgian restaurant located in the Rose Hill section of Manhattan. Spoon came across this restaurant two years ago in an article in New York Magazine. We have been trying to get here, really we have, but something always stopped us.

Knowing we were soon to have a culinary adventure, Spoon sent me a link to Resto.  The Deviled Egg on Crispy Pork Toast and Spiced ‘Four Story Hill Farm’ Lamb Ribletss had me sold, not to mention the Frites with SIX dipping sauces.

Walking up the street, Spoon says, ‘I read on !$%^ that the restaurant isn’t so good anymore. It’s changed hands since the review.’ Information that would have been good BEFORE we were standing ourside!

Resto is a lovely little restaurant. French paned glass doors across the front, window full of flowring plants, smallish bar, wooden tables, and the most UNCOMFORTABLE metal chairs upon which you have ever had the misfortune to sit! Looking at the photographs that accompany the article in New York Magazine, one would think they would encounter a much larger, brighter space.  Still and all, it is lovely.

We were shown a table, tiny, and in a corner right in the pathway to a bar.  We stood at the table, not happy with the size or location, and looked at the menu. The menu had changed, but the website had not been updated!! We are now hemming and hawing. Maybe Houston’s has artichokes. We’re standing looking at the small table and changed menu not wanting to sit down when the hostess came over and indicated that she would be happy to move us to a bigger table. Oh, okay.

So we’ll order two appetizers, if we hate them we’ll go someplace else for entrees and dessert. This plan was foiled by our waitress who told us the kitchen would only take our full order and she would give us a few more minutes. Sigh. I am unhappy. I am going to dislike this place. Spoon is trying to convince me it will be fine. Fine. Fine. Fine. Just order.

As always, unsweetened iced tea. As those of you who follow our adventures know, good iced tea (and the cost or bottomless glass) is extremely important to our overall satisfaction.

Oh, and the bread? The bread is yummy! How could it be anything but, it’s from the Sullivan Street Bakery!

bread1

For starters we ordered the Deviled Eggs on Pork Toast and Hen of the Woods Mushrooms with Scallions, Ginger and Bacon.  It’s pork times two, how can it be bad? Well, it can’t!  deviled-eggs1

Three perfect little deviled eggs came sitting upon perfect squares of pork toast. The deviled eggs were creamy and not the deviled eggs everyone thinks of that some relative makes for every family picnic. The toasts were fried little pillows filled with pork and scallions.

The Hen of the Woods Mushrooms were so surprising and so delicious that words can nearly not explain. For those who watch Iron Chef, Hen of the Woods mushrooms are the Maitake mushrooms that are often used and adored in the battles and in Japan as a whole. The mushrooms were sauteed, and had a very light sauce of thinly sliced ginger, small cubes of ginger and bits of crispy pork, sprinkled with scallions. All Spoon could manage to say was ‘Boy, this chef knows his way around a pig!’

While we were happily eating our appetizers the manager, James, came over to apologize for the menu on the website being wrong, that he was sorry if we were dispappointed and he had already spoken to the web designer about the mistakes.  So maybe it’s not so bad.  Their concern with customer satisfaction is terrific so far.

As an aside, I like a place where no one attempts to remove a plate until everyone at the table has finished the course. They win points here as well.

On to entrees. One of the dishes that had been on the website was a pork belly dish. On the menu in the restaurant there was a lamb belly dish. The waitress assured us that lamb belly and pork belly are practically the same. It looked good. Small logs of crispy-ish lamb belly over lentils and yoghurt. Seriously, a miss.   Lamb belly is nothing like pork belly, and that was our fault for believing the waitress.  The lentils were partially overcooked and partially well cooked (Now how does that happen!?), the yoghurt was good, and a bite of each component was palatable, but lamb belly alone had a very gamey taste.

short-ribs1The other entree ordered was a Short Rib Carbonnade with Apple Conserves over Frites. All I can say about this dish is as Max Bialystock said in The Producers upon seeing Ulla for the first time, ‘Oooh wah weee wah wah wow wowie!’  This was so worth sitting in the obnoxious metal chairs. The short ribs were fall apart tender. The apple conserves were delicious. and the frites at the bottom of the small cast iron pot this dish was served in were soaked in the gravy from the short ribs. Truly a party in your mouth!

friesNaturally, having read all of the reviews about the Frites in Resto we had to have a side of frites WITH all the sauces! The sauces were mayo, mayo with onion (and unless everyone you are with eats this, don’t!), sweet chili, lime pickle (oh, yuck), lemon with smoked paprika, sriracha (very hot), yogurt, cumin and roasted garlic, gribiche, which is like a tartar sauce and a cocktail sauce. The frites were perfect (tell them to make them well done). The sauces were great. 

We tried to figure out a way to run out with the big boards they use to serve the sauces AND the cast iron serving pot from the short ribs, but we were sure we wouldn’t get too far!!

We are happy. We have been fed. All we need is dessert.

Now here is where Resto needs some work. Their dessert menu is truly lacking. We ordered the Liege Waffle with Creme Fraiche and Chocolate Sauce and cookies. Tea for Spoon.

HUGE cup of tea. Water very hot. Loose tea in a tea ball steeping.

The waffle was great. Not sweet. Not thick and doughy. A thin, crispy waffle sprinkled with sugar and two yummy things to dip it in.

The cookies. Oh, save us from the cookies! Two spice cookies, two linzer cookies, two biscotti, two chocolate chip cookies, and one pizzelle type, half dipped in chocoalte.  Spice cookies – yum. Cut the pizzelle-type cookie in half – we tried not to spit it out. Damp cardboard with some chocolate. Okay, let’s try the biscotti. Tasteless. Maybe the chocoalte chip won’t be bad. I mean, what can you really do to a chocolate chip cookie? I think the Rangers were sending their used pucks to Resto to pass as chocoalte chip cookies. ‘Nuf said. The linzer cookies were good, but I am a sucker for linzer cookies!  We pushed the cookies away.  I wanted to cover them with a napkin so we didn’t even have to look at them, but Spoon discouraged me from doing this.

cookies2

We asked for the check. Once the check came a waitress passing our table – and not our waitress mind you – saw the uneaten cookies and asked if we’d like to take them home!  HOME!? With Spoon’s face, she asked if there was a problem.  We nicely, but honestly told her the problems we encountered. She took the check and the cookies ($10 for these cookies, BTW!) and left. She came back and agreed that the cookies were gross. They weren’t being stored correctly in the kitchen and how very sorry she was, and she removed the cookies from the menu.

All in all we were very satisfied. The customer service is outstanding. The wait staff is terrific. The place has terrible accoustics! It is SO noisy, couple that with the chairs and it’s nearly maddening. The bathrooms have sliding doors -very cool. It is the only quiet, cool room. There is actually music playing in the restaurant, but it can’t be heard over the din.

Iced tea is in large glasses, $4, and you pay for each one. Considering the size of the glass, not so bad.

The beer menu is extensive, as is the wine list.  They even have beer tasting classes. I would go back just to have abeer sampling and more deviled eggs!!

Resto is located at 111 East 29th Street in Manhattan.

Rao’s

One of the most coveted things for any New York foodie is a reservation for dinner at New York’s famous Rao’s Restaurant. Fork was lucky enough to not only land a reservation for two, but a gift certificate for dinner as well!  The natural thought was to take Spoon there for her birthday! The downside to all of this happiness was waiting 6 months for our reservation!

Rao's

Rao's

We found out while waiting to sit…that you cannot make reservations by phone, there simply aren’t any; the phenomenon of Rao’s began with Mimi Sheraton writing a review of the restaurant and their famous Lemon Chicken (they begged her not to); there really are only 10 tables; there is no menu; and they do make the best meatballs the Fork and Spoon have ever had!

It is quite a trek up to 114th Street and the East River! But, once you walk through the doors of family owned and operated Rao’s Restaurant you are transported to a restaurant that has not changed much from 1896 when Charles Rao first opened the doors, and you are part of the Rao’s family. Rao’s has been family owned and operated from that time.

We had a drink at the bar until they were ready to seat the 10 tables for the one and only seating at 7:00 – occasionally they have a 9:30 seating for a few select friends and family members.  From where we were seated we were able to watch the diners come in and out and the dynamic of a place that really could never exist again – or anywhere else but Rao’s.

A casually dressed fellow grabbed a chair, pulled it up to our table and said “So, what do you want to eat tonight? Are you having a good time yet?’  He asked if we wanted appetizers, we said yes, and he told us what they had and told us to stop him when we heard something we liked. We went through the same routine for the pasta, main and dessert courses. Naturally, we wanted one of everything!

In order to try as many things as humanly possible on this once in a lifetime trip,Fork and Spoon ordered different things for our appetizers – we ordered mozzarella en corrozza and roasted peppers! MAN OH MAN are the roasted peppers good!! Smokey, pine nuts, raisins, melt in your mouth good. (Personally, I would add a little balsamic or a squeeze of lemon but the plate was empty!).

The mozzarella en corrozza was crispy fried, with creamy mozzarella oozing out. Grilled cheese brought to a new height. A squeeze of lemon a dip into luscious tomato sauce and you are on a wonderful culinary adventure!

We both had pasta bolognese. Their tomato sauce base is so good, slightly smokey, and very fresh tasting. Once you add in the bonuses of the beef and perfect seasonings and you think it can’t get better!!

Pasta Bolognese

Pasta Bolognese

And as we tucked into our wonderful pasta, there suddenly appeared two of the BIGGEST meatballs we had ever seen! So incredibly tender and soft, well seasoned and truly the size of tennis balls. Even with the cookbook, I could never hope to achieve anything this good! They are drenched in sauce. We sat next to the kitchen, trying to peer in to see how these beauties are made. They definitely are cooked in the sauce – at least partially – they are so moist that mere baking or frying could never retain that much tenderness and moistness. If you eat nothing else at Rao’s, EAT THE MEATBALLS! If stuck on a dessert island, a pot of Rao’s meatballs, a loaf of great bread  – I would be a happy fork!

Meatballs

Meatballs

The first obvious choice for a main course was Rao’sLemon Chicken. The sauce is so tangy with a nice bite of garlic and the chicken so tender! The chicken broiled and then coated with the lemony, garlicy sauce and broiled again. Now, you can follow the recipe in Rao’s cookbook and make it yourself, or you can go to Rao’s website and order it by the bottle or the case if your local supermarket does not carry it. The bottled sauce is great. You actually stand there trying to figure out what else you can add it too!

As an aside about the website – order the canned tomatoes! They are fabulous! All the products are fantastic. Many that you have never seen in your local supermarket. As with the restaurant, Rao’s Specialty Foods is family run and operated. Go to the website, try their products, you won’t be sorry.

Lemon Chicken

Lemon Chicken

The other main dish that we ordered was a veal chop with sweet and hot vinegar peppers. Again a HUGE portion! Beautifully cooked veal chop smothered in sweet and hot vinegar peppers. No bite too hot and no bite too sweet. Such a gigantic portion, even Fred Flintstone would have trouble finishing this chop! The cutlery at Spoon’s drawer were very happy with the leftovers!

Veal Chop with Sweet and Hot Vinegar Peppers

Veal Chop with Sweet and Hot Vinegar Peppers

Sadly, our favorite part of the meal – dessert -was not as exciting as the rest of our meal. We ordered cheesecake. But by this point, it could have been us. The portions throughout dinner were so huge that there wasn’t much room, or desire, for dessert! A tea and a limoncello and sadly our grand adventure was over.

For those of us who can never hope for a reservation (or another reservation), there is a Rao’s Cookbook.  Most of the recipes for the dishes served regularly in Rao’s are in the cookbook and it should be added to your collection. As we said earlier, the cookbook says the meatballs are fried and the Spoon and I agree those meatballs could never have touched oil and been that moist, they had to be cooked straight in the sauce!  Tell us your secret!!

Spoon and I loved that the owners are ever present, going from table to table to say hello, welcome people, and truly make every guest whether a regular, a one time visitor, or newbie, feel like they have become a member of the Rao’s family.

Rao’s is located 455 East 114th Street in Manhattan AND now in Ceasar’s Palace in Las Vegas.

You can make reservations in Vegas. And while reservations in New York are scarcer than hen’s teeth, you are welcome any time to have a drink at the bar!

La Portena

Fork and Spoon love steak. At times we CRAVE steak.  One of the places this craving is satiated – and extremely well – is La Portena Restaurant located in Jackson Heights, Queens.

La Portena

La Portena

This unassuming storefront in the heart of Jackson Heights,  gives way to a to a wonderfully noisy, family run, fun restaurant.  Sometimes in our adventures it is necessary to bring our other halves along – if for no other reason that to be able to try more dishes!! In this case though, it was just for more company as we all ate the same thing!

There is nothing pretentious or fancy about this neighborhood restaurant.  The tablecloths are covered in white paper because this is serious eating and serious Argentinian BBQ! 

Bottomless iced tea and soda, fantastic sangria, fresh bread and their freshly made CHIMICHURRI sauce. Now, I wanted a steak, and their delicious salad and empanadas, but the chimichurri and bread is some serious eating.  I put it on everything  – the emapnadas, steak, potatoes, bread – everything but the salad!

We started our field trip with the La Portena salad especial and empanadas. 

I dream about this salad.  All of the ingredients are very, very cold, salty, and dressed in a tangy, citrus vinaigrette. Watercress, tomatoes, hearts of palm, broad beans, hard boiled eggs, and this time avocado. You just can’t stop eating it.

Salad La Portena Especial

Salad La Portena Especial

The empanadas are in a light flaky dough and filled with beef or chicken. Not being able to decide which we would prefer, we ordered two of each.  (And so good with the chimichurri)

Empanadas

Empanadas

The potatoes Spanish style – thinly sliced and fried with lots of garlic (everyone had to eat them otherwise we would not have been able to continue speaking to each other!) and parsley are so good they could be a meal unto themselves! We were virtually fighting over the last bits of them! So much so that we ordered a second plate of them! (And so good with the chimichurri!)

Potaotes

Potaotes

All having a craving for steak we all had the same entree, the Entrana, skirt steak. Beautifully grilled and so big that it hangs off the sides of the plate. Skirt steak if not treated right can get stringy and chewy. This was tender and perfect. And such a good accompaniment to the chimichurri! 

Entrana

Entrana

Now, those of you who have visited before all know we cannot have an adventure without dessert and with four people the possibilities were even better. Sadly the ‘others’ do not like to play share and are not exactly adventurous so we had Peach Sherbet in a peach, Tartufo, and for the Spoon and I, Sweet Caramel Crepe. The crepes were great! Then again, anything filled with Dulce de Leche can’t possibly be bad!! 

Crepes with dulce de leche

Crepes with dulce de leche

The chimichurri sauce is now sold in bottles!  I know people who have spent years trying to achieve the same balance of sweet, garlic, parslied perfection.  Thank goodness I can just take it home with me!! You want to dip everything in it! You want to eat more just to dip more!

 La Portena, for the past 14 years, has been located at 74-25 37th Avenue, Jackson Heights, Queens, New York.

Want a great steak? This place is a MUST!!

Del Posto

Restaurant Week! Restaurant Week! Two words that put New York foodies into a tizzy! Where shall we go? Where can we get in?

The wishes of Fork and Spoon were granted this year by very coveted reservation for two for lunch at Del Posto, the oppulent Meat Packing District restaurant owned by Joe Bastianich, Lidia Bastianich and Mario Batali.

Del Posto

Del Posto

Del Posto is beautiful….beautiful may not correctly describe it…..grand. Del Posto is grand. The interior is warm and inviting, marble floors and staircase, warmed by mahoghany colored walls, all with a charming Italian ambiance. Their flowers are exquisite.

Flowers at Del Posto

Flowers at Del Posto

The staff is mostly lovely and attentive and informative.

olive-oilWe were seated promptly. Bread and olive oil brought over, and because of Restaurant Week, bellinis were poured. On the down side, we were not asked whether we would like the regular lunch menu or the Restaurant Week menu.

The maitre d’ was gracious, and as you would expect from an Italian maitre d’, just the right amount of flirty. Our waiter, however, was very brusque, the busboys hustling to make you eat faster. Heaven forbid you put your fork down for a moment, they were swooping in to take your plate away.

After the bellini, we ordered iced tea to drink.  As an aside, these turned out to be about 5 ounces of tea jam-packed with ice, and at an insulting $6 a glass.  But once done, the glass was taken away without asking if, perhaps, we would like another. 

The menu was simple. Which, when it comes to Italian cuisine, is fine.  Sadly, the portions were very small, which was not condusive to sharing – but the Fork and Spoon always manage!

Insalata di Tri Colore

Insalata di Tri Colore

 

For antipasti I had Insalata de Tri Colore.  The salad was good. But, quite frankly, it was a salad, and a tiny salad at that!  There was nothing terrible about it, but there was nothing spectacular about it either.

Affetati Misti

Affetati Misti

Spoon had Affetati Misti for the antipasti.  As you can see, a piece of salami, a piece of dried sausage,  two very small pieces of prosciutto. This was accompanied by an overly toasted, 1 1/2″ in diameter piece of baguette.  Oh, wait, let’s not forget the three leaves of baby arugula.

 

Garganelli Bolognese

Garganelli Bolognese

For primi Spoon had Garganelli Bolognese.  The spinach garganelli, little quill shaped pasta, were perfectly cooked, and the Bolognese sauce good (this is supposedly Mario’s favorite sauce).  The only problem with this dish was that there were, perhaps, 20 garganelli on the plate. 

Pork Arista with Artichoke

Pork Arista with Artichoke

For the primi I had Pork Arista with Artichoke. So far this was the best dish. Delicious pork, covered in shaved artichokes.   I am not sure if the pork was cooked in the true Tuscan Arista style, that is on a spit in a coal stove, but it was very tender and very good. The saute of artichoke was seriously good.

And of course, what is an adventure with Fork and Spoon without dessert. There were a choice of three dolci on the menu and the decision to narrow it down to two was difficult.  Our very kind and flirty maitre d’ helped us in choosing two.

Amaretto Budino with Vanilla Crema

Amaretto Budino with Vanilla Crema

We had an Amaretto Budino with Vanilla Crema. Between the saltiness of the roasted almonds and the sweet caramle drizzled on top we were in heaven. The vanilla crema was sweet and a little sour at the same time.  I could have eaten a cup of the caramel and almonds alone, but I digress. 

Torta di Ricotta with Black Currant Marmellata

Torta di Ricotta with Black Currant Marmellata

The other dolci chosen was Torta di Ricotta with  Black Currant Marmelatta. The marmelatta was divine. The frosting on the cake was good, but the cake was merely a means to get more of the marmellata onto your fork!! 

The portion sizes on the dolci were perfect on any given day. They were so sweet and delicious that any more than what was on the plate would have ruined it.

I seriously hate being rushed while eating.  I really don’t care that it’s Restaurant Week and that we are eating at a discounted price.  The point of Restaurant Week is to allow people to try places they might not otherwise afford, and to allow them the same experience. If I had a very special occasion, I would definitely go to a restaurant I had a wonderful dining experience in during Restaurant Week. I am not sure I can say the same for Del Posto. 

Although the lovely little gold box with two chocolate truffles handed to us on the way out didn’t hurt our opinion! A little chocolate can fix anything!

All in all it was very nice. I might like to try it again when there isn’t a restaurant week menu. I am sure Spoon would as well.

Del Posto is located at 85 Tenth Avenue in Manhattan.

Sweet Melissa

One of the worst sounds on a Sunday night….even when you’re on vacation…..is ‘Mom, can you give me a ride?’ Do you say no, giving up a much coveted parking space, or do you send your child off on the subway?

Fortunately for me, at the same instant my cell phone rang and it was one of my foodie cohorts, Knife, looking for something to do while her own bundle of joy was off at a movie with a friend.  We dropped mine off, and thought….hmmmmm, a nice drink or perhaps a place for dessert……

As we drove around Park Slope, the word PATISSERIE beckoned to me, glistening in lovely gold letters from a window. It was the wonderful  Sweet Melissa Patisserie located on 1st Street and 7th Avenue in Park Slope, Brooklyn.

Sindows of Sweet Melissa

Windows of Sweet Melissa in Park Slope

I had read about this patisserie someplace in my travels and had even explored their website, so when a parking space miraculously opened up across the street, so did the opportunity for a little gastronomic exploring!

Walking into this lovely establishment you instantly feel welcome and part of the gang. The colors are warm and inviting, the cases with the goodies, chock full and leaving you confused as to what to eat first. Sweet Melissa seems a bit small upon first glance, but once you walk up the stairs you peer down a long halwway and find there is an entire back seating area and a garden.

Our lovely server, Talia, suggested that we look in the case to see what we would like to have before we sat down. Being a Saturday night, right after Christmas, she was worried that the sweet we might want to have would not be available.  Oh, I want one of those … and one of those … and a slice of that and definitely that……so hard to decide.

Coffee for Knife was necessary. The coffee cups are large and bottomless. I wanted a drink. and saw that they had wines on the menu. A couple of nice white and reds … and champagne! Once I ordered chamapgne, Knife who had ordered a coffee and a raspberry lemonade, also had to have champagne. WAIT! freshly made raspberry lemonade….I need one as well! The table was full and we hadn’t even gotten to the goodies!!

sweet-melisaa-tartlet2Knife ordered a strawberry tartlet and a single, lonely pistachio truffle. The crust on tartlet was buttery and tender, the custard creamy and sweet, and for the end of December the strawberries very large and sweet.

sweet-melissa-petit-fours-2I couldn’t have JUST one thing, could I? I ordered a florentine, a passionfruit tartlet, AND a Queens Cake. I mean, really, they’re just a bite or two each, how can that be bad?

 

Everything was just the right balance of sweet and not too sweet. Service was warm and comforting and the patisserie beckoning.

My only suggestion? A dessert wine! A Moscato, vin santo, port, something to go with the wonderful pastry!

Sweet Melissa is located at 175 7th Avenue, Park Slope, Brooklyn and a second location at 26 Court Street, Brooklyn. There’s even a book Sweet Melisss Baking Book!