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Trip Report: Jean Georges, Locanda Verde, Minetta Tavern, and Eleven Madison...

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Trip Report: Jean Georges, Locanda Verde, Minetta Tavern, and Eleven Madison...

eviemichael | Dec 29, 2009 06:12 AM

Hello everyone! Thanks again for the help and advice you offered in the months before our long anticipated trip to NY. It is a little embarrassing to describe how much we ate and indulged, but I figure fellow chowhounders will understand. Ive been eating pretty healthily for a while and decided to make this trip an indulgence-fest.

Well, my boyfriend and I only had 3 days, and we certainly made the most of it. We got in Saturday afternoon and immediately had several slices of pizza at patzeria perfect pizza on 46th st. I know it hasnt been brought up here at all on the board, but a NY friend of mine told me it was a very good option close to our hotel that would satisfy an immediate craving without much travel. I had the tomato basil pizza which had a nice crispy crust, and the tomatoes and fresh basil tasted vibrant. I was pleased, although I know it probably isn't the best the city has to offer pizza-wise.

After settling in, we were off to an early dinner at Jean Georges and then to see the Marcus Roberts Trio (i know, off topic- but they were amaaaazing) at Dizzys club coca cola nearby. Jean Georges was very disappointing. It was our only disappointing food experience in NY. We were seated side by side at a table inside a kind of rectangular cove in the wall, overlooking the dining room. That was nice. But there seemed to be so many tables cramped together in the dining area. The server we had was cold and every exchange with us seemed scripted and forced, not at all warm. I was jealous of the other diners who seemed to have friendlier servers, chatting and smiling...We had the winter tasting menu. The caviar egg toast was divine and so was the second course of raw scallops. The rest was forgettable-(Risotto, Lobster, and Venison) We added a supplement of foie gras brulee, which was wonderful though! The desserts were just awful. As part of the winter tasting menu, we were served four small apple desserts. The only part I remember was a lovely, intense pistachio ice cream. Other than that...I honestly can't remember anything
about it. I read someone describe the desserts at Jean Georges as no more special than starbucks desserts, and I agree.
The little chocolates and marshmallows served after were wonderful but the macaroons were disgusting. They tasted like they were 3 weeks old.
I apologize if I sound incredibly picky, but when you plan and pay so much for a nice dinner at one of the top restaurants...I just expected more. I would go back maybe for a two course lunch to order the foie gras brulee and try the duck with almonds or sweetbreads or something...but dinner- never again.

Onto happier experiences! Locanda Verde brunch the next morning with friends was phenomenal. I really wasn't expecting it to be so good. I had a few different choices for brunch and my friends helped me narrow it down to there because they had been wanting to try it. We drank prosecco and pear cocktails. Wow- the pear drink was perfection. Not to sweet or sour, had the most intensely fragrant aroma of pear (everyone probably thought I was nuts- I kept smelling my drink every few minutes!) :) I can't remember what was in it, but I'm sure its on the website- I really recommend it.
The food really was awesome- I wasn't happy just because I was tipsy! It really was good! We ordered the famed pastry chef's basket of pastries- There was a lemon rosemary scone, pumpkin bread, and cinnamon raisin donut. The icing, cinnamon, raisins just melted in your mouth...We ordered 2 more donuts to share! Also, I usually hate scones, but this scone was moist and flavorful. The sweet butter spread was also luxurious and smooth.
We were just getting started! Niko and I got a special of the day- Blue Crab Hash...sigh*** The lump crab meat mingled perfectly with small bites of crisp potato under medium cooked eggs. I found the bread unnecessary, but Niko ate each bite with a piece of bread and loved it that way.

I had the pumpkin ravioli next and Niko had the sausage broccoli sandwich. The sausage was another explosion of flavor. I enjoyed my ravioli, but it was just a touch too sweet for me. I like sweet dishes, but I think the dish would have been more complex if there was more of a tart edge.
For the first time in my life I did not order dessert after a meal- but we ate dessert first, right?
The espresso we had before leaving was good and took me out of my buzzed stupor to face the rest of the day. We didn't have much time to waste.

After spending the afternoon with more friends in tribeca, we went to Minetta Tavern for dinner. I tried to ignore my full belly and resolved to pull through the meal. :)
I was surprised at how kind the hosts and servers were. I assumed because it was a trendy place, their manner may have been aloof or snooty. I loved the atmosphere: deep colors, tight space, historical pics on the wall. We had great conversation with our server, she helped us discern the menu. We started with a special pate of foie gras with lingonberry sauce. It was luscious. I admit that we ordered both the black label burger AND the cote de boef for two...yes we did. And I didn't regret it. Both meals lived up to the hype. The steak was basically beef butter. Incredibly tender and flavorful. The burger had an almost game-y taste...does that make sense? The caramelized onions were the perfect touch, and I agree with others that it does not need cheese or mustard, etc. The fries were way too greasy for both of us though. But we could have cared less.
And as if that wasn't enough...we finished with the grand marnier souffle. !!!!!!!!!! It was so good. The warm orange flavor was comforting and just so tasty. The citrus aroma was strong. Before leaving one of the managers struck up a conversation and asked us about living in Greece. He was really nice. We left Minetta extremely happy.

The next day after I dragged my poor boyfriend shopping, we ended our visit on a very very high note with lunch at Eleven Madison Park. This restaurant also lived up to the hype. I loved the decor more than I thought- for some reason it felt different from the pictures I've seen. The winter decor of dark branches and deep red roses was striking. The space maintains a nice balance of modern chic with warmth. Of course, all the hosts and servers were great- totally welcoming, friendly and helpful. We decided immediately to get the gourmand menu. After the first taste of sea urchin soup with crab...well, we died and went to heaven- and I wished wished wished that we had done the gourmand dinner there our first night instead of Jean George...there is always next year!
We were served two butters- one high fat, silky butter from Vermont, and a goats milk butter that tasted very similar to the butter from our family's village in Greece, which was interesting. The butter was just orgasmic. I think I ingested 1years worth of calories in one sitting with that bread and butter.
The precision and artfulness of each plate was stunning- We had mozzarella salad, foie gras with tuna, boulliabase (sp?), braised veal cheek and chocolate peanut butter dessert. Each dish was excellent. My favorites though were the sea urchin soup and the mozzarella salad- the piece of mozzarella though could have been bigger than the nickel size it was...:)

I ordered a tray of macaroons as well, and they were nice, but weren't amazing.

Eleven Madison was also the only restaurant where Niko found a beer that he thought was really excellent. I forget the name, but I'll look at our pictures and report back.

I'll also post a link here later to my blog where I will describe the food in much more detail with pictures.

We are back in northern VA with my parents and I am planning on eating great korean and thai food, but I will certainly miss NY restaurants!! We will definitely return next year.

Happy New Year everyone!

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