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Not so brief notes on: Daniel, 71 Clinton, Next Door Nobu, Veritas, Lupa, and Aquavit

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Not so brief notes on: Daniel, 71 Clinton, Next Door Nobu, Veritas, Lupa, and Aquavit

Porthos | Sep 11, 2001 12:25 AM

Being in medical school, you basically take advantage of all the free time you have. I was fortunate enough to have the past few weeks free and since I’ll be starting my surgery rotations in a mere 2 weeks (where 36 hour shifts are common), I took full advantage of all the free time I had and ate like there was no tomorrow…because in 2 weeks, there won’t be. I finally had the time to compile a not so brief summary of these places. Please pardon any gross mistakes, grammatical or otherwise. It was getting late.

Daniel:

Appetizers: Lobster Salad and Seviche of Hamachi with Fennel Custard.
Though I only had a taste of the lobster salad, it was so bright and vibrant that I swear to god, it tasted like sunshine. It was like no lobster I’ve ever tasted. The hamachi with fennel custard by contrast was very sensuous. The silky hamachi and the cool custard seduced and enchanted me.

Entrée: Paupiette of Seabass and John Dory (I believe) with Braised Oxtail.
The signature Paupiette of bass consisted of nothing but perfectly cooked fish wrapped with thinly sliced sheets of potato. The syrah sauce was also excellent, but I wouldn’t call it the best entrée on the menu (it could easily be the best at anything less than Daniel). The John Dory with oxtail was a beautiful combination. Matching the delicate white flesh of the sea with the musky, heady aroma of the earth is nothing short of sheer genius.

Desserts: Chocolate Bombe and Warm Almond Cake.
As amazing as any other dessert on the menu.

71 Clinton Freshfood

Appetizers: Shrimp Stuffed Squid and Hamachi with Duck Cracklings
I nearly attacked my dinner date when she took the infamous shrimp stuffed squid (after asking me what was good here). The squid was exquisitely tender and the shrimp combined with the squid to take you and the dish to another plane of existence. The hamachi with duck cracklings and a touch of citrus was excellent. Love Hamachi. Love duck cracklings. Makes you wonder why it’s not as ubiquitous as foie gras.

Entrees: Edamamme encrusted bass and something else.
Again, after asking me what was good here, my dinner date took the king of dishes. I ordered something else but for the life of me can’t remember anything except eyeing my companion enviously all night long. Why? Because she proffered me a tiny taste of something so amazing that words (or at least, my words) would bastardize the dish. Let’s just say that the edammame and rye crust imparts both wonderful flavor and exquisite texture to the perfect succulence of the bass.

Desserts: Warm chocolate cake and figs stuffed with marscapone and peanuts.
Very good desserts but I’d rather have a slab of that bass…

Next Door Nobu:
We both went with the $120 omakase. I told them that I had been there before and they offered me an entirely new set of dishes. Honestly, I liked the 1st set better.

1. Toro tartar with wasabe cream, minced scallions, and sevruga caviar
2. New style sashimi: kampachi and wild juvenile salmon. The salmon was firmer in texture and a darker orange
3. Ayu riverfish: fried while threaded on a skewer so the fish looks like it’s swimming. The entire fish is crispy and edible. It was also served with fried bones (very iron chef-esque) that was also superlative. The exotic standout of the night.
4. Lobster in spicy creamy sauce. Lots of perfectly cooked tender lobster.
5. Lamb chops. Boring and nothing exciting. It would have been the worse dish of the night if it weren’t for the horrible sushi
6. Horrible sushi: downright vile if you consider that this is Nobu. I wouldn’t even compare it to Karuma Zushi. It was pretty much the same level as Planet Sushi or equivalent. Not only was the fish selection boring (usual suspects of yellow tail, tuna, salmon, shrimp…I can’t go on), but some of the pieces looked a little dried out—as if they’d been prepared some time in advance and allowed to sit.
I’ve forgotten 2 other dishes, which must have been the boring forgettable dishes that you wouldn’t want to hear about anyway.

Veritas:
Wine list was so intimidating that we went with wine by the glass instead. Maybe 1/4 of the list is under the $100 level and the reserve section quickly takes the game to new heights.

Appetizers: Rabbit ravioli with truffles and warm skate salad
This was my revenge for that stunt that my dinner companion pulled at 71 Clinton. Again, she asked me what looked good. Knowing that she had a weakness for truffles, I pretended to eye the truffle dish. When the waitress came to take the orders, surely enough, my companion took the rabbit ravioli. Giggling inside, I took the skate. My ruse worked. The rabbit ravioli was nice but it didn’t hold a candle to the aggressively seasoned skate that was seared with a beautiful crust without sapping an ounce of moisture from the luscious skate.

Entrées: Halibut in a strong “stew” of beans and legumes and Panko crusted Cod in a lemon broth with summer vegetables.
The waitress recommended the halibut because she said the “stew” was stronger in flavor, but I much preferred the decadent taste of the cod and the perfect crust. The lemon broth was laced with basil—delicate so the cod remained center stage, but not weak as to be lost in the fray.

Desserts: Good but forgotten

Lupa:
Only the 7th or 8th time I’ve been back. This time, the manager caught me recommending the tartuffo to the table next to us and offered me a job.

To Start: - a sampling of house cured meats which consited of excellent proscuitto, braseola, mordatella, salami, etc. (pardon my atrocious spelling).
- Salmon crudo: raw salmon transformed by olive oil, coarse salt, a touch of lemon, and fresh herbs.
- Jonah crab: sweet, light, and utterly wonderful
- Cured cooked tuna: only disappointment out of the appetizers
Primi: Ricotta gnocchi and Calves liver ravioli in cream topped with truffles
I always recommend the ricotta gnocchi to people going to Lupa for the first time 1) because it never fails to please and 2) so I can sneak a little taste. They’re soft, pillowy, rich with just the right amout of meat sauce to give you that warm fuzzy feeling inside. The calves liver ravioli was also excellent.

(Actually, on a more recent visit to Lupa, we had a train of winners. The fried pork, hanger steak (which my friend cut with his fork), and the duck confit with roasted grapes all garnered oohs and aaahs. Especially the duck confit. My Sicilian roommate also said that the pappardelle with “overcooked meat” tasted like grandma’s cooking…in my opinion, one of the highest praises you can bestow on a dish.)

Dessert: Tartuffo and Panna Cotta with Wild Fennel Pollen and Braised Sweet Fennel.
The Panna Cotta was good and the fennel pollen had a nutty taste which was quite interesting indeed…however, that tartuffo is still the undisputed king.

Aquavit:
This was my first time back since Mr. Samuelsson revamped his menu.

Pre-Amuse: A salmon “fondue” with fried wonton skins. Fun and yummy too.

Amuse: House cured salmon with sprouts

Appetizers: Warm Foie Gras Ganache and Lobster Roll
The foie gras ganache was amazing. The warm oozing center was so rich and so beautiful that it made me fall in love with foie gras all over again. The lobster roll was different from the previous version. The newer version is more slender, rolled up in thin potato slices, and served with a shot of homemade ginger ale.

Entrees: Arctic Char with Nettle Risotto and “Seafood Bouillabaisse”
The Arctic Char was spectacular--so tender, so moist, and so flavorful in that rich magical broth which was poured from a coffee pot. I must take back a previous comment a while back where I claimed that the char was not as good as it could be. Hands down the best char I’ve had. The “bouillabaisse” is in quotes because the individual components are served separately. You get a bowl of fish (I forget what) lying in a lake of bouillabaisse broth and a separate elongated plate containing something like 8 different seafood components cooked individually and served apart from the broth (eg. curried oysters). Basically it was like a mini seafood tasting. Very fun to eat. Which basically sums up how I feel about the place. Not only is the food amazing, but I get the impression that Mr. Samuelsson has an inner child that’s always showing through in his food.

Desserts: Cheesecake and something else
The cheesecake was excellent—I think marscapone between layers of wafer-like pastry. The something else was good too, but by then I was in painfully full and didn’t concentrate entirely on my companion’s dessert.

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