Nougatine

Every year for our birthdays, we always go out to eat as a family a couple of days before our actual birthdays to celebrate. This year for my sister’s birthday, we decided on Nougatine, Jean Georges’ sister restaurant. I made reservations on OpenTable for 7:30pm the day after Christmas, since we would be out shopping that day. We actually arrived at Nougatine around 6:30 because I overestimated the amount of time it would take for us to make our way up to Columbus Circle. Even though we were an hour early, they were able to seat us and it was a pretty big table too! Once our coats and bags were checked, we were led to our seats and given menus to look over.

After we ordered they brought over a tiny cup of apple cider and something that resembled a tater tot. Our waiter had described the “tater tot” to us, but I didn’t quite catch it since I was too busy with the wine list. They offer champagne, white and red wines for tasting, by the glass and by the bottle, which I thought was a nice touch. My mother ordered a taste of their Merlot since she isn’t a heavy drinker. I ordered a glass of Riesling (Von Hovel Scharzholberg 2008), which was just the way I like my whites – sweet and dry.

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As my appetizer, I ordered their Foie Gras and Strawberry Brulee ($21.00), which was amazing! The thick layer of foie gras with a brioche bottom was so good! There was surprisingly a lot of foie gras and everyone kept stealing bites of it. The burnt sugar topping was a nice sweet compliment to the otherwise salty dish.

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My mother went with their Tuna Tartare ($21.00), which had an avocado bottom and a spicy radish topping. This is exactly how I’ve always thought tuna tartare should taste like. The tuna was untampered with – it was just pure tuna chunks, which I loved. I personally dislike it when tuna tartars incorporate radish or onion chunks inside the mixture because I feel like it takes away from the natural flavor of the tuna. This tuna tartare was superb!

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My sister went with Salmon Sashimi, which lies on crispy rice and chipotle mayo ($19.00). I had one bite of this and I was very surprised by the crispy rice bottom. I was expecting a potato croquette type of bottom but the rice was a nice surprise.

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For my entrée, I went with their Lobster Burger ($22.00), which comes with fries and spicy pickles. I didn’t care too much for the pickles but the burger and fries were amazing. The lobster patty was filled with lobster and I felt like I had huge chunks of it in every bite. The fries were also crunchy and not oily at all. So good!

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My sister ordered their Prosciutto wrapped Pork Chop ($36.00), which is nestled over a bed of mushrooms. The mushrooms were a bit salty if you eat too much of it at once, but I still liked them. The pork chop was very tender and juicy and my sister almost wished she could pick up the bone and finish off all the extra meat!

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My mother went with their Baked Salmon, which is nestled atop bak choy and mashed potatoes ($25.00). The salmon was baked to perfection – the insides were still a little uncooked and the outside was very tender. In the words of my sister, “This is how salmon is meant to be cooked”.

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For dessert, I had the Warm Pear and Sour Cherry Crumble ($10.00), which comes with a scoop of almond crusted ice cream. The bowl the crumble came in made it a bit hard to scoop into the thick crumble crust but otherwise it was delicious! The crumble was very crisp and crunchy and paired with the ice cream it was both hot and cold.

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My sister ordered the signature Jean Georges’ Warm Chocolate Cake ($10.00), which is paired with vanilla bean ice cream. This is basically their version of a lava cake and boy, was it good. The moment you stick your spoon into the cake, liquid chocolate flows out and mixes with the ice cream. Both hot and cold went together perfectly. I couldn’t have asked for a better finish to the night.

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Our entire dinner took over 2 hours, which is standard for a place like Nougatine. The fact that our entire section was only seen to by one headwaiter made dish clearing and additional ordering a bit hard but overall the service was adequate. I thoroughly enjoyed my dinner at Nougatine and didn’t feel like I didn’t get my money’s worth at all. Definitely a must try if you’re in the mood to splurge!

Muk Eun Ji

Every semester, the club that I am in at school holds three dinner outings to different Asian restaurants around the city. For this semester, we had agreed on a Korean restaurant. We had been to two restaurants in KoreaTown in the previous semesters so we wanted to try a new one – Muk Eun Ji. Making reservations was extremely easy – even for our large group of 20 people. We arrived about 20 minutes early but they were able to seat us. The outside might look small but it’s actually pretty large on the inside. There is a second floor, which was where we were seated. The prices are pretty reasonable for the portion sizes. We decided to start off with some appetizers for the table. We ordered their Fried Dumplings ($9.99), which were hot and crispy. Our waitress gave us the recommendation for them since they were homemade. We also ordered some seafood pancakes and kimchi pancakes for the table, which came out crunchy and piping hot. The kimchi pancakes weren’t too spicy at all, which I appreciated. IMG_2655 We also ordered a plate of Ddukbokki to share ($15.99). The Ddukbokki was spicy, but not overly so. The spice was just enough to give your taste buds a kick without requiring an obscene amount of water to cool down your tongue. I thoroughly enjoyed this dish – the dduk was soft and chewy while the fishcakes were well cooked. IMG_2658 The Boyfriend ordered their Kimchi Soon Doo Bo, or kimchi tofu soup ($11.99). They crack an egg into the soup for you before they serve it to you, which is perfect. The egg has extra time to cook inside the soup – unlike the restaurants that allow you to crack the egg into the soup yourself. The tofu soup wasn’t too spicy despite its bright red color. The Boyfriend finished his entire bowl of rice before he even finished his tofu soup, which just goes to show how delish the soup tasted. IMG_2656 I went with the Kalbi Bibimbap ($14.99), which was unbelievably delicious. I have only ever had bibimbap with ground beef before so this was a pleasant surprise. The juicy kalbi gave the rice a lot of flavor. I didn’t even really need to red pepper paste in order to give the rice flavoring. Since the bibimbap was served in a stone pot, the rice and toppings remained warm throughout the entire dinner. The egg was also nicely cooked due to the stone pot’s heat. IMG_2657 The service was fast and we all received our orders in a timely manner. In fact, we were all astonished how fast they got all our orders to us since we were such a large party. The banchans were a plenty and they were more than willing to provide us with more kimchi when asked. In fact, we had to keep asking for more kimchi because it was so good. We were all in agreement when we said that we would definitely be back for dinner here. Everything went incredibly smoothly and all the dishes that we ordered was delicious.

Columbus Circle Holiday Market 2012

Every winter, the entrance to Central Park turns into a festive fair and I’m always super excited when it does. Every winter, new vendors come to fill the tiny white and red-stripped tents. I love browsing around the tents to see all the things that are on sale – jewelry, winter gear, chocolates, candles, and other knickknacks. My favorite part of the market though, is the food section. The food is always concentrated in the middle of the tents and each year someone new always comes. This year, the standard German Delights and Wafels & Dinges were there. Sonrisa Empanadas were also there. I had tried those last year and they were pretty good. This year, I noticed Bar Suzette, known for their crepes, and Mexicue, who has 2 storefronts and a truck. The first we tried was Mexicue, since I’ve been hearing so much about their Green Chili Mac and Cheese from various foodie websites ($4.00 per cup). I thought the green chili was a bit weird but boy was I wrong. The mac and cheese had a tiny taste of chili but not too much. It was so cheesy! The noodles weren’t mushy at all, despite the fact that it’s premade and not cooked on the spot. I wish there was a little more cheese topping though! We also tried their Brisket Topped Green Chili Mac and Cheese as well (extra $2 per topping) and it was just as good. The brisket was soft and tender and the juices leaked down into the mac and cheese. My only gripe with this was the fact that it was a bit difficult to get to the mac and cheese with so much brisket on top! IMG_2635 IMG_2633IMG_2652 Next up was Bar Suzette, who is known for their crepes. But surprise! This Bar Suzette stand was selling burgers! We weren’t too upset though, because we noticed another stand that was selling crepes. We were happy with burgers too! I left the deciding up to the Boyfriend because I was sitting down on one of the yellow benches nursing my mac and cheese from Mexicue. The Boyfriend came back with their Bistro Burger ($6), which comes with an organic beef patty, cheese, arugula and tomato. He opted to add on mushrooms for an extra $1. And boy, was that burger good. The patty had just a little bit of pink left in the middle, which is just the way I like my burgers. The mushrooms and cheese melted perfectly into each other and all the juices were leaking out. I didn’t even need ketchup for this burger – it was so juicy! IMG_2637IMG_2641

On our next trip to the market, we tried out Mrs. Dorsey’s Kitchen, which sells grilled cheeses. They have three options for grilled cheese, all of which looked amazing. I decided to go with their Cheddar Grilled Cheese ($6), since it was the more original sandwich. The wait was a bit longer than I expected for a grilled cheese but they were also pretty popular since it was lunchtime. Each grilled cheese comes packed nicely in a folded box so there’s never any mess. Perfect for taking back to work or school! The grilled cheese was very cheesy and the Italian country bread was very crunchy as well. My one problem with it was the oil – it was a bit oily and I had to use a napkin to eat my half of the sandwich. IMG_2650IMG_2651 There’s a couple of more things that I haven’t gotten to yet but with all of December left, I know I will definitely attempt to try them all! But before I go, let me leave a tiny plug for Beurre & Sel’s cookies, which we discovered on our way out of the fair one-day. They have a variety of flavors and each batch of cookies comes inside these cute little plastic containers. I tried their Classic Jammers ($14), which features Blueberry Streusel and their Sable ($14), which is a shortbread sugar cookie. Both are very delicious – soft on the inside and crunchy on the outside. If you’re in the mood to splurge, definitely try them out! IMG_2643

Columbus Circle Holiday Market Pt. 2

Now it’s time for Columbus Circle Holiday Market Part Two! Since my last blog post, I was able to try two more food items from the Holiday Market. I repeated two food stands in this blog post, but they just looked too good to give up. I wanted desperately to try a new food stand but the moment I walked into the food section of the Holiday Market and walked by these food stands, I knew I had to try the rest of their menus.

First up is Mexicue, which serves up the most amazing mac and cheese. But this time I didn’t stop for mac and cheese. This time, I was here for their Tostilocos ($5.00), which is basically a bag of Fritos topped with their signature chili, lime paste and cotija cheese. This might sound a little weird, but let me tell you, it was delicious! Since they serve it inside the Fritos bag, it takes a little bit of Tetris-style maneuvering before you can mix the chili with the Fritos, but it is definitely worth it. The chili gives the Fritos a sweet and spicy flavor. Since the chili is poured in piping hot, the Fritos are a little warm as well. You’ll need a fork or a spoon for this, so make sure you grab one before you leave.

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Next up is Bar Suzette, which is another repeat. Last time I had their Bistro Burger. This time, I decided to try their hand-cut fries ($5.00) and their Park Royale Burger, which features a double patty and unlimited toppings ($10.00). I originally wanted their Bistro Burger with an egg and mushrooms but seeing as how egg + mushroom already cost $3 extra, I figured I might as well go with the Park Royale.

First off, the fries were super crunchy. They top their fries with enough salt and garlic that you do not even need ketchup for it. Each fry is long, slender and crunchy.

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Now onto the burger. This burger was a bit of a challenge to eat. I ordered mine with mushrooms, lettuce, tomato, bacon, and an organic egg. Add on two patties and my burger was piled so high that I couldn’t even fit the entire burger into my mouth. If you are hungry and in the mood for a delicious burger, you should definitely try Bar Suzette out. Get the egg – you won’t regret it.

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I usually get the wine (non-alcoholic) or apple cider from German Delights whenever I’m at the Holiday Market, but this time I decided to try the Thai Iced Tea ($2.00) from the Thai Kitchen. It was so good! It was definitely on par with some of the best Thai restaurants that I have been to. The color was just right and it was just the perfect amount of sweetness. We actually had three of these during our visit to the Holiday Market.

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And before I leave, I’m gong to drop a plug for Sweater Toys, one of the vendors at the market. Meet Walt, he’s a narwhal made out of soft recycled sweaters. Isn’t he cute?

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