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Maiden Voyage Report (Mamlouk, Balthazar, Artisanal, more) LONG!

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Maiden Voyage Report (Mamlouk, Balthazar, Artisanal, more) LONG!

MB (from Boston) | Jul 20, 2004 02:37 PM

Thanks for all of the advice offered last week. Here's where we ended up:

DUMPLING HOUSE, Eldridge below Broome
Jumping off the Chinatown bus starving, we scurried over for the sesame pancake with beef - just might be my favorite Chinatown snack.

MAMLOUK (211 E. 4th St., Between Avenues A and B).
Two of us had the multi-course tasting menu ($30) each, but add a couple of beers and turkish coffee and it’s not necessarily a cheap night out. It was a great experience and we adored most of the dishes (with only a couple of misses) but it sure was more food than we needed. It was hard to hear the descriptions of the dishes, even the second time, so surely I’ve missed a few things.

Course 1: A crudite and a mixed salad are delivered to the table immediately. The salad was fantastic, greens, veggies, mint, dressed wonderfully (perhaps some kind of nut oil? )

Course 2: served with mini pitas – plain and seasoned. The plain ones were great, others better to pass on. Hummus was creamy, topped with wonderful olive oil, but didn’t taste of any garlic. Baba ghanoush was overly smoky for me. A goat cheese/yogurt spread with herbs was wonderful, sweet at first, earth and goaty finish. Avocado salad that was just okay. There was also a tomato-based spread which I cannot identify, plus I believe there was one other dish that I’m missing.

Course 3: Sea bass topped with tomato sauce, rice (with saffron?). The flavors were a bit odd, the fish feeling very buttery and good with the acid of the tomato sauce. A bit bland. Curried pea pods were not a winner. Stewed chickpeas and tomatoes were fantastic.

Course 4: Very savory, well-seasoned lamb kebab, an amazing stewed black eyed peas and spinach that felt so rich, and one other dish that I’m missing.

Course 5: dessert of a cheese baklava was still a bit too cold, the cheese filling had hints of rosewater, the baklava topped w/ candied apricot. Turkish coffee was great.

Stuffed to the gills, we couldn’t resist NYC Icy. I had the mango-basil, friend had the pink grapefruit. $2 each for a small. Will certainly go back.

BALTHAZAR
Went for weekend brunch - what a disappointment. OUCH. The only thing that made it to the table hot was the café au lait. Entrees were lukewarm. After one being sent back, and gracious apologies from the server and manager, the second dish came out lukewarm as well?? The food came out too fast, so we guessed that it’s pre-made, not to order. OUCH. I ordered the eggs/asparagus/wild mushrooms in puff pastry. It came out barely warm and I couldn’t even cut through the pastry. Politely sent it back and asked for a replacement. Chose the Eggs Norwegian (Benedict but with smoked salmon). Great flavors in the dish, but lukewarm. Friend had the poached eggs and hash. Though the “hash” was just the regular breakfast potatoes with finely sliced bits of corned beef on top, which the eggs were served over. Service = good, food = bad. It’s a pretty room, though.

ARTISANAL
Went for the charcuterie/cheese plate mid-afternoon. Immediately had brunch envy after seeing that they’re still offering a 3-couse $20.04 brunch menu, which looked fantastic. The place was empty and did remind me of almost a Disney-esque themed restaurant. (Kind of like the French version of Paparazzi here in Boston.) Had good service, including table-side suggestions from the frommagier (sp?) that were spot-on for what we were after. The plate included grapes, apples, pear, quince paste, fig/almond paste, a salami/saucisson, dried beef, prosciutto, pate, olives and 4 cheeses. $35 I think. We were told that nearly all products are imported, not made in-house. Dried beef and prosciutto weren’t worth the calories, I enjoyed everything else. Olives had an interesting cure with fennel, cumin, coriander, lots of lemon. Disappointingly, the bread does not even slightly meet the quality of the cheese. It was also sliced much earlier in the day and had begun to dry out. We ate most of the cheese plain or with fruit. Don't really need to go back here for the cheese (luckily I've got a phenomenal cheese shop right down the street from my house), but I would go back for the brunch special.

POMMES FRITES
We had high hopes for dinner at Gramercy Tavern or Fleur de Sel but just weren’t hungry enough. Walking in the East Village we opted for a quick hot snack at Pomme Frites. Nothing so special, it is what it is, but the good service was a plus.

KATZ'S
What better way to top-off a fat-laden eating frenzy trip? Pastrami sandwich and a reuben. Pastrami was the winner hands-down, reuben was a little bland. Do pickles count as vegetables?

The Chinatown bus is far more tolerable during a food-induced coma.

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