After weeks of research and days of earger anticipation, we finally started our NYC culinary adventure two days ago by having meals at some of Chowhounders' favourites - Aquavit, Babbo and Sushi Yasuda....We chose to avoid the 'French' because both Fourseasons and myself have eaten in Per Se, Daniel, Le Bernadin......etc
At Aquavit, though the Smorgasbord appertizer and the Venison loin with white asparagus and Lingonberry sauce entree were both fantastic, however, the meal was marred by a 'way-way-way' too salty Scandinavian potato and leek soup, which I was forced to complain and returned to the kitchen. With Chef Samuelson vying for a coveted Michelin star, this type of mishap should never be allowed to leave the kitchen! Strike One!
At Babbo, our party of five was met by a 'borderline hostile' Maitre D'. The reason being, he had to rearrange their 'even' number seating table to accommadate our 'odd' number party!! Thus, our evening started off with one big dose of 'atitude' . For food, we ordered almost all the favourite dishes mentioned on CH - Lamb's tongue, grilled octopus, crispy pig's foot, goose liver and beef cheeks ravioli, mint love letters, spaghetti Bolognese, sweetbread...etc. When we told our waiter that we would like extra side plates since we wish to share the dishes amongst ourselves a la ' Chinese' style, we were given another dose of 'atitude'. As for the food, sorry to say, none of the aforementioned dishes was good enough to 'wow' us, though a couple like the goose liver ravioli with its thick balsamic reduction and the Bolognese ragu with its sensational aroma did come close. Unfortunately, these were not enough to offset the overly charred and dry octopus, the heavily battered and bland sweetbread, the undersauced and lack of filling beef cheek ravioli and the mediocre tasting mint love letters. Based on these calibre food, why Michelin actually awarded the restaurant a star really puzzled us?!!! ( Both 'Fourseasons' and myself ate at three Michelin one star Italian restaurants in Tokyo - Aso, Honda and Suzuki, a few months back and every single one of the Japanese establishments produced far better executed and superior tasting Italian food and the service was much much better! ) Strke two!
Seriously looking to avoid a strike three, we all went to Sushi Yasuda for an Omakase sushi meal the next day. Thank God for Yasuda San, we finally have a meal to remember! Though not as good as the Michelin 3 star Jiro or Mizutani of Tokyo, however, the sushi was the best we have sampled in North America. The variety, freshness of the fish and seafood and most importantly, the quality of the rice were all top notch. We had at least 22 miscellaneous nigiri pieces each. The most interesting being a side by side tasting of Russian vs American Uni ( sea urchins ), Floridian vs Chinese vs Japanese anago ( sea eel ) and the first time sampling of an Alaskan ' white' salmon as well as Sea of Japan cuttle fish tentacles! Once again, service was only so-so! A definite hit thats just shy of a home run!
Lastly, a steak dinner at Keens was disappointing whilst an oyster/clams luncheon was pretty good. I'll let Fourseasons fill in the detail if and when he's got some free time!
Next time we'll give Grammercy Park and Eleven Madison-Park a try. BTW, has anyone tried Ducasse's Adour yet?