Westville – West Village

It was a pretty chilly day so I was seriously craving some tomato soup and grilled cheese. We usually head to Bouchon Bakery when I get this craving – their combo is one of the best I’ve ever had. But since it’s a bit of a trek now since we’re no longer going to school in midtown, the Boyfriend found Westville, which serves up some delicious grilled sandwiches. We arrived around 1:30pm on a weekday and there were three other parties waiting in front of us for a table. We came at a opportune time though because we only waited about 15 minutes – several parties left at the same time. The place is pretty small so definitely be prepared for a wait! Their soup of the day was a creamy tomato soup so we decided to get that to split. It was pretty tasty – definitely not Bouchon or Juliette status for me, but it was pretty good. It definitely fulfilled the craving that I had! IMG_5538 We also split their Smokey Mac & Cheese ($8.00). It was done with huge spirals, which was a new one for me. The bottom was really, really creamy while the top layer was crispy and smokey. It really did taste like smoked cheese! I’d come back for this mac & cheese alone. IMG_5539 We’re huge piggies so we each also got a sandwich after we split the first two. The Boyfriend had the Beer Battered Po’Boy Sandwich with homemade tartar sauce and fries ($10.00). It was a lot bigger portion than we both expected but it was definitely good. The po’boy was crunchy and well seasoned. I only wish there was more tartar sauce cause I’m a fiend for it! IMG_5541 I went with their Grilled Cheese ($8.00), which features a blend of cheddar and gouda on a Portuguese muffin with bacon. The Portuguese muffin is sweet so it was a nice contrast of sweet and salty. It was definitely very well grilled and the cheeses mixed well together. Throw in some bacon and you’re in grilled cheese heaven. Everything is better with bacon! You also get your choice of fries or salad with this sandwich so it definitely makes a hearty meal. IMG_5540 We were definitely too full by the end for dessert but I was definitely eying their pies a la mode. Maybe next time I shall save some room for a piece of pie! Quick tip: Their bathroom is a super tiny closet in the back of the kitchen area so be very careful when you’re going back and forth!

Aureole

For our second Restaurant Week meal of the Winter season, we decided to have dinner at Aureole’s Liberty Room ($38 for three courses). Aureole, located just a little off of Times Square in the Bank of America Tower, boosts one Michelin star. We arrived just on time for our reservation and was ushered to their coat check area. This was a very quick and painless process and we were seated soon after.

The restaurant is very well-lit, which I appreciated very much. I understand that it can be romantic and it gives ambiance, but if the restaurant is so dark that I can’t see my menu, I will not be a happy camper! We were presented the Restaurant Week menu along with their regular menu.

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I decided to start with the Foie Gras Torchon with Toasted Brioche and Citrus Marmalade. The menu said grapefruit, but I’m pretty sure I had a clementine marmalade. The foie gras was divine! It was super creamy and very buttery. I actually ran out of brioche and started smearing the foie gras on bread from the bread bowl, which was kind of limitless. When we polished off our first bowl, one of the waiters popped over and offered us another one.

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The Boyfriend started with Bucatini Pasta with Ruby Red Shrimp, Spicy Tomato and Herb Gremolata. I had a bite of his pasta and it was a tad on the spicy side. I liked the texture of the pasta – it was cooked to a perfect al dente. But I think we both agree that our favorite pasta dishes belong to the Altamarea Group.

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For my main, I ordered the Olive Oil Poached Scottish Salmon with Watercress Veloute and Yukon Potato Mash. I really enjoyed my main! The salmon was cooked perfectly to a mid-rare with the pink hue in the middle and melt-in-your-mouth smoothness. The potatoes was a nice combo with the watercress veloute since the potatoes were otherwise flavorless.

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The Boyfriend had the Braised Short Ribs with Red Cabbage, Broccoli, and Pickled Fresno Peppers. The short ribs were pretty tasty but not as tender as we had hoped. It didn’t quite melt in our mouths – until we got to the fattier side. It was a good piece of short rib, just not the best we’ve had.

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My dessert was the Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Mousse, Caramelized Walnuts, and Crème Anglaise. The carrot cake pretty tasty – the crème anglaise really made the dish. But the cake itself was a bit on the stiff side. I wish it was a bit softer!

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The Boyfriend had the Warm Chocolate Ganache with Oreo Cookie, Caramel, and Espresso Ice Cream. I really liked his dessert (and so did he)! The chocolate wasn’t too sweet at all. The espresso ice cream was so good that I wish there was more. The ice cream had a nice bitter kick but with a creamy, sweet aftertaste.

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All in all, you can count on Aureole for a solid meal. The food was good and the endless bread bowl didn’t hurt. I had their signature cocktail, the Aureole, and it was amazing. It tasted like passionfruit bubble tea without the bubbles. So good!

My major complaint with Aureole was how rushed our dinner was. We barely had any time between courses to digest. I think we finished dinner in less than an hour. About a few seconds after our desserts arrived, our waiter dropped off our check. He accompanied it with a “no rush!”, but the damage was pretty much done. I have strong feelings about waiters who bring over checks before we ask for them. It’s a very passive aggressive way of telling your customers to hurry up and get out. They even asked if we had to make a show (they offer a pre-theatre prix fixe) and we told them no. There should’ve been no reason to rush us. I understand it is Restaurant Week, but I have never gotten rushed at any other restaurant during RW. And I’ve been to a few other Michelin starred ones! I think I wouldn’t mind coming to Aureole again, but only if I’m in the area. No special trips for me.

August Gatherings

Chinese New Years always means a family dinner with the Boyfriend and his group of childhood friends and family. We’ve hopped around various Chinese restaurants in both Chinatown, Manhattan and on 8th Avenue, Brooklyn – usually eating somewhere new every year. This year, one of his family friends suggested August Gatherings on Canal Street. We’ve been to the previous restaurant before but it has now been revamped with new management and a new cook lineup.

I had brought two bottles of wine for dinner and the servers were super nice about helping us open them and providing wine glasses. The tiny snacks on the table – kimchi cucumbers, pickled turnips, and peanuts were all pretty tasty. We were all still munching on the delicious cucumbers when the food started arriving – our menu was already decided for us by management and the cooks since the Boyfriend’s family friend is a regular customer at August Gatherings.

First to arrive was their take on a Chinese dinner staple – Walnut Shrimp. The shrimp was lightly glazed with a dallop of wasabi cream. Instead of walnuts, they used Spanish almonds. I really liked how they brought out the shrimp on an individual plate for each person – the presentation was very nice. The shrimp was even better! There was a zesty and limey taste to it, which really helped open up the palate. The wasabi cream wasn’t too spicy either.

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Next up was the Kabocha Seafood Bisque, which was served in a pumpkin – fitting since Kabocha is typically known as a Japanese squash. The bisque was absolutely delicious – I ended up drinking two bowls of it! The bisque was very creamy – the pumpkin was sweet while the seafood was salty so there was a nice contrast in each spoonful.

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Next is the Lettuce Wraps, which the servers helped each person assemble. I thought that was a super nice touch since we probably would’ve made a mess – I know I would’ve! They even came back a little later to help assemble seconds for the people who wanted another one. The meat was tender, but the mushrooms in the wrap filling was definitely my favorite.

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Our next item was another personal dish – one plate for each person. Wild Scallop with applewood smoked bacon and truffle cream paired with bamboo infused sticky rice topped with Hawaiian black salt. This dish was my clear favorite the night – the scallop was seared to perfection and the truffle cream was one of the most fragrant things I’ve ever eaten. I used the sticky rice to soak up the truffle cream and it was literally one of the most perfect bites of the night.

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The follow up dish was a family style dish, much like the lettuce wraps – Broccoflower with Spanish Chorizo. Broccoflower, or Romanesco broccoli, is a sort of broccoli-cauliflower crossbreed. I highly enjoyed this dish as I’ve never had Broccoflower before. It tasted a bit more like broccoli than cauliflower but I liked how it was softer. The chorizo was a tad spicy and paired well with the otherwise flavorless vegetables.

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Next was another personal dish – dry aged steak with mushrooms and a foie gras topping. The steak was very tender despite the fact that it was cooked past my usually medium rare. The foie gras gave a creaminess to the dish – I love foie gras!

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Our next dish was another adaptation to a Chinese staple – longevity noodles. Longevity noodles are always eaten during major celebrations – Chinese New Years, weddings, birthdays, etc. Instead of the standard chow mein version, they served us a Black Bass and grape tomato version in a spicy sauce. The noodles were al dente and not mushy at all, which is usually the case with other Chinese restaurants. I was almost too full to eat anymore but I finished all my noodles!

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Our last savory dish of the night was a Pork Shank with two sauces – a raspberry yogurt sauce and a bonito stock on top of purple yams. I ended up eating the pork shank with a mixture of the yogurt sauce and bonito stock – it was surprisingly good together. The best part, however, was the purple yams – they were so sweet!!

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To finish up our meal, we had a “sweets” platter with egg tarts, almond cookies and their signature bun, a sweet pork bun with a pineapple bun topping. The almond cookies were delicious, the egg tarts were flaky but the best was the bun! I have no idea why no one didn’t think of this combination sooner but it was amazing – the best parts of two favorite buns in one. I love the crust of pineapple buns but usually don’t eat it because of the lack of filling. This completely solved the problem!

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Service was attentive throughout and I give huge props to our host, Henry, and the amazing woman at the counter (I didn’t catch her name) for an amazing meal. Also props to the cook because I never expected to have such an unique meal in a Chinese restaurant in Chinatown. I literally cannot wait to be back for more sweets and delicious food!

Dieci

Since Valentine’s Day fell on a Saturday this year, we opted to skip the crowds and the price hikes and dine on a Friday instead. After some research, I stumbled upon Dieci. Dieci, located in the East Village, serves up Japanese-inspired Italian dishes. Like most authentic Japanese restaurants in NYC, the restaurant is super tiny and only has about 4 small tables-for-two and one long bar table that seats about 10.

We arrived before our 6:15pm reservation and was able to be seated early – it was too cold to wait outside! We were offered menus and water right away – but we wanted some tea to warm up. They have quite a nice selection of teas but we both opted for some Hojicha. They make their tea in French presses and serve them in small teacups – I didn’t mind the smaller cups at all though because our waitress always made sure your teacups were full!

We started off with one of their specials of the day – the Enoki Mushroom Soup with Truffle Oil ($9.00). It’s sort of textured like a cream of mushroom soup but much lighter and more fragrant. I really liked it – especially since we were both freezing from the 10 degree weather outside and it warmed us up instantly.

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We decided to split a second appetizer since I’ve heard such good things about their Uni Scrambled Egg with sturgeon caviar ($18.00). I actually liked the combination of scrambled egg with caviar better but the uni was definitely fresh and not fishy. The caviar gave just the right amount of saltiness with the otherwise pretty tasteless scrambled egg. The dish size is pretty small but packs a punch in taste. SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

I had the Gnocchi with cod roe and crab cream sauce ($18.00) for my entree. It was so good! The cream sauce was salty from the cod roe and a bit sweet from the crab. The gnocchi was soft and pillowy, which made for a perfect combo with the light sauce. I absolutely love gnocchi with light and fragrant sauces!

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The Boyfriend went with the Tagliolini with squid ink, tomato sauce and calamari ($16.00). The picture definitely does not do this dish justice at all! The tomato sauce was very sweet, which I really liked. But the highlight of the dish was the pasta – it didn’t taste or have the texture of your traditional pasta. It was bouncier and had much more mouth-feel.

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For dessert, we decided on the Strawberry Compote ($8.00) with marscapone mousse and balsamic vinegar since every other dessert involved ice cream. It’s too cold for ice cream! The mousse was very smooth and the strawberries were super sweet. A great way to end an otherwise savory meal!

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Service was super attentive and our teacups were always refilled with hot tea. We got new cutlery for every single course, which was a nice touch. The restaurant was consistently full during our stay and we heard they were fully booked that night and Valentine’s Day as well. I’m not surprised because the food was delicious and service was superb. I can’t wait to come back for more pillowy gnocchi and savory uni!

 

Costata

Ever since the Boyfriend had his graduation dinner at Marea, we’ve been on an Altamarea Group quest. We ate at Ai Fiori during Summer Restaurant Week last year and now we’re trying out its sister restaurant, Costata. I managed to plan a weekday lunch since it’s just a few minutes away from my office. We arrived earlier than our reservation time, but they were able to seat us right away.

Costata doesn’t normally open for lunch so their a la carte menu for lunch is a bit limited. Their Restaurant Week menu, however, doesn’t lack for options. There are three choices for both appetizers and entrees and two choices for dessert. Plenty of options for even the pickiest eater!

For our appetizer, we both went with the Beef Carpaccio with crema di funghi, artichokes, pickled turnip and parmigiano. This was amazing and one of my favorite dishes of the day. The artichokes and pickled turnip were tart and just a bit sour, which really helped open up our palates and appetites.

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We decided to pop our Restaurant Week a la carte cherry and split their Garganelli with alla fiamma, speck, radicchio and truffle cream ($23.00). Our waiter suggested we have this as a “2nd course” and have it between the appetizer and entree. This was a great idea since we were able to space out our dishes and thoroughly enjoy each of them. Now, back to the pasta! The garganelli was cooked to a perfect al dente and tasted so good! It was super light and fragrant – not heavy at all. The speck and truffle cream together was danced nicely on our tastebuds. I highly recommend this dish!

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For my entree, I chose the Pappardelle with short rib ragu. The portion size looks small but it’s actually pretty filling! The short rib was very tender and gave a hearty feel to the dish. I didn’t much care for the carrots but the pasta itself was cooked perfectly and was super bouncy.

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The Boyfriend went with the Sirloin Flap with bearnaise, arugula and fries. I had a piece of his sirloin and it was pretty tasty. It was cooked perfectly to his requested medium rare and wasn’t chewy at all. I also really enjoyed the fries – they were semi-thick cut and very crunchy on the outside. The fries were very evenly salted – so nicely done that I didn’t even need ketchup!

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For dessert, the Boyfriend decided on the Vanilla Panna Cotta with citrus, sicilian pistachio and blood orange sorbet. The panna cotta was very nicely done but I really liked the blood orange sorbet – just the right amount of tart and sweetness combined.

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I had the Torta di Mascarpone with marscapone mousse, lady fingers, amaretto and coffee crema. It’s basically a neater version of a classic tiramisu. In my honest opinion, it’s an even better version of a tiramisu. It was refined, neat and tasted so good! It had just the right amount of bitterness from the coffee and just the right amount of sweetness from the lady fingers and marscapone mousse. It might have been the best dish that I had the entire lunch!

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Service was attentive without being intrusive. Our water glasses were consistently refilled and we received new cutlery for every course – no taste mixing at all! I thoroughly enjoyed my lunch and definitely plan on returning for dinner to try their regular menu.

Onomea

When I first heard about Onomea opening in Williamsburg, I quickly put it on my “To-Go” list. I’ve been to Hawaii two times now and I love everything about the cuisine and lifestyle there. I’m always craving Longboards, Hawaiian Sun POG, Loco Moco and Poke – especially the Loco Moco. I’ve even tried to recreate it myself but my beef patties never end up as good!

After months of saying we were going pay a visit to Onomea, we finally set a date and went through with it. We ended up inviting a friend to come along since he’s never had Hawaiian food before. We arrived around 6:30pm and was seated right away with menus. It’s a pretty small menu with just a few options in each category but don’t let that fool you! The food here is delicious!

They have three beer options – it’s not much but I was seriously conflicted. I’ve had both Longboard and Big Wave before in Hawaii so it was really a matter of which I missed more! We all decided to go with Longboards ($7.00 each) though because it is Kona Brewing Company’s most popular beer.

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I ordered the Poke ($13.00), which is Ahi Tuna with white onions, seaweed, green onions and sesame. I’ve had tons of Poke before and I thought this one was pretty good. It was a decent sized serving and the seasoning was on point.

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A friend ordered the Spam Musubi ($5.00), which is spam and rice wrapped in seaweed. Spam Musubi is a super common snack in Hawaii and I’ve tried to replicate it without any success. This one was a very tasty version. The spam was nicely seasoned and served warm. I just wish there was a little bit more rice like the Hawaii versions!

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I ordered the Loco Moco ($14.00), which featured a Teriyaki burger served on a bed of rice with a sunnyside egg and topped with gravy. Loco Moco is also super popular and common on Hawaii so I’ve had plenty of these too. It’s one of the top foods that I miss from Hawaii because it’s just so tasty and hearty. It’s comfort food at it’s finest and this one really hit the spot. The burger patty was cooked nicely and wasn’t tough at all. The gravy was on point! I really liked that it was sweet and salty at the same time – there was a nice tang to it.

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Our friend ordered the “Hawaiian Size It” option for an extra $5.00 and I have to say it’s a great deal. For an extra $5.00 you get an extra order! He managed to finish all of it – I have no idea how but he really enjoyed the gravy and patty!

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The Boyfriend went with the Teri Burger ($11.00), just to try something else. The Teri Burger is a Teriyaki beef patty on a toasted bun with mayo and lettuce with your choice of fries or salad. I had a few bites and it was pretty good. The burger was juicy and flavorful.

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We were all pretty full but you know me, I always have room for dessert! They had two gelato flavors as well as a Coconut Custard with toasted coconut shavings. It’s a big dessert so definitely more than enough for sharing. There’s a nice layer of jelly on the bottom, which I really liked.

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Service was attentive and we were constantly asked if we needed anything else. The vibe is really nice too – everything is all blue and earthy. The music is constant island jams and it just feels very laid back. I can’t wait to be back again to satisfy my Hawaiian food cravings! Now if only they could get some Dole Whip!

Buvette

I was looking for a new breakfast spot to try out when I stumbled on Buvette, located in the West Village. Buvette is a quaint little French restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s pretty hard to find if you’re not familiar with the West Village – both the Boyfriend and I actually went the wrong way twice!

We arrived around 11:15am and the Boyfriend ordered lunch while I ordered breakfast.  I like that they offer the breakfast menu with the lunch menu so we can get both at the same time. I went with their most popular dish – Steamed Scrambled Eggs with Prosciutto ($12.00). They offer a smoked salmon option as well but I opted for the less traditional breakfast combo. The dish comes with the fluffiest eggs I have ever eaten and three slabs of bread drizzled with olive oil. The result is a build-your-own egg bruschetta dish that was pleasantly filling.

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The Boyfriend with with the Steak Tartare ($16.00), which features chopped beef with capers and cornichons. The steak tartare was also served with toast. The tartare was very good – fresh and seasoned perfectly. I’m used to the beef being chopped a little more finely than the one here but it was still pretty good. The Boyfriend quickly gobbled up all the tartare and was left full but not too much.

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The Boyfriend ordered an Americano with milk on the side while I ordered a Latte. Both were extremely good – the coffee was strong without being bitter. There’s seriously nothing better in the morning than a fresh cup of good coffee. The service was good – there was nothing amazing about it. The dishes did take a bit longer than usual to come – I’m chopping it up to the fact that their eggs are steamed and scrambled in an espresso pot. Overall, great dishes but a bit pricey for a normal breakfast.

Cantine Parisienne

The Boyfriend and I were looking for somewhere close to Chinatown to have a quick meal before heading up to 34th street to catch an afternoon movie. We were bouncing a few places back and forth until I remembered that I had a BlackBoard Eats deal for Cantine Parisienne, located in the Nolita/Little Italy area. We arrived around 2:00pm and was seated immediately.

I opted for the Croque Maison ($14.00) with a sunnyside up egg on top of the ham and caramelized cheese sandwich. It’s a classy French version of a grilled cheese so there was a lot of melty gooeyness involved. It comes with a side of mixed greens so it’s definitely a pretty big portion. I normally love Croque Monsieurs so the added egg was so delicious!

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The Boyfriend went with the Cantine Burger ($14.00), which is a blended patty burger topped with caramelized onions and mixed greens. I took a bite of the burger and it was super juicy. The table next to us even stopped mid-meal to stare at the burger! It comes with a side of fries which were crunchy and crispy. I’m not normally a hamburger fan (I prefer cheeseburgers) but this one was pretty good.

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We opted for their White Chocolate Mousse ($8.00) for dessert and it was the perfect end to a very savory meal. Since it was white chocolate, it tasted less sweet than regular milk chocolate, which the Boyfriend really liked. I thoroughly enjoyed the caramelized white chocolate “cookie” on the top of the mousse – so crunchy!

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Service was nice and attentive throughout the meal despite the fact that we had a deal. I love that about places! I’d definitely be back in the future – even without a deal.

 

 

Tartinery

For my sister’s birthday dinner this year, she chose Tartinery, located in the Nolita area. We have both heard good things about Tartinery but never got a chance to go try them out. Since we were ending our post-Christmas shopping in Soho, she thought it would be a great place to grab her birthday dinner. Quick tip: you definitely need reservations if you plan on arriving later in the night. By the time we left at around 8pm, there were a few groups waiting outside.

We were a group of five so we ordered two appetizers to share. First up was the Pata Negra Plate, which consists of iberco ham and garlic & tomato paste served with toasts. The ham was very fragrant and tasted great when paired with the tomato paste. I wish there was more ham!

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Our second appetizer was the Burrata, served with grape tomatoes, olive oil and toasts as well. The burrata was pretty tasty – absolutely no complaints. The portion size was generous and we had more than enough to go around. Although, I have to say that the burrata was not as good as the divine one I had a Murray’s Cheese Bar.

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My sister, the birthday girl, went with the Croque Madame Tartine with ham chiffonade, gruyere cheese and a fried egg on top. I had a piece of her tartine and I thought it was one of the best Croque Madames I have ever had. The cheese was melty and gooey. And the leaky egg yolk really helped round the entire taste combination up to a perfect little package.

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I had the Steak Minute Tartine with filet steak, caramelized onion and horseradish mayo. I didn’t care too much for the caramelized onions but I really loved the horseradish mayo. It had a hint of pepper and spice, which was a nice compliment to the steak. I was really too full to finish the bread along with the steak but I did it because of the delicious mayo!

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For dessert, I split the Tarte Tartin, a warm, caramelized apple tart, served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. The warm apple tart was a nice, sweet finish to the otherwise savory meal. I only wish there was more ice cream!

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Service was pretty attentive throughout the entire dinner. Beer prices are pretty reasonable but some wines are definitely on the pricey side. My glass of Riesling, although good, was $11, which can buy me a whole bottle at Astor Wines. Come for the tartines, but skip the wine list if you’re on a budget!

Ed’s Lobster Bar

Every year for my mom’s birthday we always go out and have a nice dinner the week before. This year we opted to have dinner at Ed’s Lobster Bar since both my mom and sister have never been. We arrived around 6:30pm and was seated right away in the back area. While the menu at Ed’s isn’t large, it still has a fair amount of selection, which made it hard to choose since everything sounded so good!

We opted to have the Jumbo Shrimp to start along with two soups. I’ve written about both Ed’s Lobster Bisque and Clam Chowder before so I won’t rehash it here. The Jumbo Shrimp, though, was super sweet and huge! I kind of wished I could have another one!


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I opted for the Day Boat Scallops with Mashed Potatoes and fresh veggies. I actually ended up switching my dish with my sister, but more on that later! The Scallops were seared to perfection and tasted really buttery. The mashed potatoes weren’t as creamy as I’d like but was a nice compliment to the scallops. I dislike strong-flavored sides when I have scallops because I feel like they mask the taste of the scallops.

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My sister went with the Peekytoe Crab Fusilli with asparagus. I ended up eating this dish as my main (after a few bites of mashed potato and a scallop). I’ve had peekytoe crab pasta before so I’m used to the very particular taste the crab gives the dish. It’s a bit tart and very fragrant. I liked the dish, although I definitely don’t think it’s as good as the peekytoe pasta dish at All’onda.

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We opted out of dessert since we were so full. But they brought over tiny lobster-shaped chocolates! They were so cute that we almost didn’t want to eat them.

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The food was good and the service was attentive. It did get pretty loud near the end of our dinner because of the increasing crowd. The restaurant itself is pretty small so make sure you come early in order to snag a table!