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!