Cote Korean Steakhouse – review

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If the definition of an enigma is a mysterious or puzzling riddle, chef Simon Kim has whipped the term up to a whole new frenzy at Cote, his dynamo of a Flatiron grill house. While it might be much more of a Korean barbecue than a regular steakhouse, the one thing this recently crowned Michelin hotspot is super-dooper serious about – is meat.

 

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The mysteriously dark and borderline somber interior (thanks to the dark walls, concrete floors and granite table-tops) feels less like the place you’d find wood-handled serrated knives, paper napkins and sticky bottles of dark-red sauce, and more like the set of a tragic opera titled “The Temple of Contrasts”. It’s way too mellow for a fine dining experience, and yet way too serious for a steakhouse. When you stand up it feels expensive, but when you sit down at the rows of shared tables, it’s not. Let’s call it a hybrid. Just like their American Wagyu steak – which is a byproduct of a mixed marriage from a Japanese Wagyu father and an American Black Angus mother. Is it the best of both? Absolutely. We’re talking unparalleled mecca of meat in Manhattan here.

 

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Dry aging room, Cote Korean Steakhouse

The wait staff are as delightful and helpful as kindergarten teachers, who just want you to enjoy yourselves as you wade your way through the 2-foot long laminated menu with built-in bovine anatomy lesson on the back. But no-one would dare upstage the real stars of the show who are all resting and aging quietly downstairs on a series of comfortable racks for about 2 to 20 weeks. Brief sightings are permitted via a window into their neon red chamber of patience as you pass by on your way to the sub-level lounge.

 

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Chef’s Feast, Cote Korean Steakhouse

The perfect way to dive into this heady list of options is via the Chef’s Feast, which serves as a primer for various Korean sides, salads and accoutrements plus a dealer’s choice of 4 different ages and cuts of marbled prime for $45.

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Korean Bacon, Cote Korean Steakhouse

We supplemented our order with a couple of appetizers, like the Korean Bacon – a wondrously crispy cumin and paprika rubbed, twice-smoked pork belly punctuated with pickled Jalapeno’s, and the hand-sliced (or rather – diced) top-round Steak Tartare flavored with chunks of pear and pickled mustard seeds. Uber-delectable in so many ways, even if the fluffy tendon crisps fell short in their duty of transporting every delicious scarlet morsel of flesh from plate to mouth.

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Kimchi Wagyu Paella, Cote Korean Steakhouse

And from the Savory dish section we ordered something deep and delicious called Kimchi Wagyu Paella. A rather curious name given that it didn’t much taste of Kimchi, nor did the mini-morsels of Wagyu beef get any spotlight, and I’d hardly describe it as a paella either. But who cares? The “chili-fried rice with nori flakes and a soft poached egg thing” got crispier and crispier and tastier and tastier as it waited patiently in a sizzling cast-iron pan, while the waitress sprinkled a trio of salts onto 8 bite-sized dominoes of wet-aged Hangar steak before lowering them onto the table-top grill.

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Hangar steak, Cote Korean Steakhouse

Various wait staff rotated in and out to turn the meat to ensure that it delivered the house-recommended medium-rare doneness. Meanwhile in the foreground, side dishes materialized from out of the darkness and transformed the table into a carousel of colors and flavors. Pickled cauliflower with jalapeno’s. Scallion salad with a tart dressing. Red leaf lettuces to wrap around the meat. A nice and crispy Radish kimchi. A soft and salty Savoy cabbage kimchi. A single leaf of Sesame kimchi (which despite many attempts proved un-tearable and therefore un-shareable.) Spicy kimchi stew with pork belly and rice. A rather pale and shy Savory egg soufflé, and an ochre-colored, spicy, fermented soy bean paste called Ssamjang that could transform anything – even the rear-end of a Hyundai Elantra – into something delectable.

Despite our trepidation about making a culinary faux pas, we were assured that there were no rules. You can group the steak bites together with a chorus of kimchi and paste inside a lettuce leaf for extra backup, or you can force each bite into its own solo act. Either way, the heavenly meat succumbed without resistance for a moist mouthful of umami, with hints of sear and salt in perfect unison. We certainly weren’t in Kansas anymore.

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(Clockwise) 45-day aged Ribeye, Wet-aged Hangar steak, American Wagyu, Galbi Marinated Shortrib, Cote Korean Steakhouse

Next on the grill was the aforementioned American Wagyu. No other way to describe it than utterly conversation-stoppingly sensational. And climbing yet another notch in tenderness – the 45-day aged Ribeye. No funky mushroomy flavors here. Just the purest, moistest, most salivatingly wonderful bite of beef ever. And finally, the popular Galbi Marinated Shortrib rounded out the quartet. Finger-thin striplets of tender meat still barely attached after bathing in a marvelously sweet and salty soy, apple, pear and mandarin juice all day. Sheer heaven. We were offered a staggering 145-day aged T-bone as the Chef’s special but heeded the warning that it can taste a little like blue-cheese on a good day.

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Steak Tartare, Cote Korean Steakhouse

Eating a steak has never been an exercise in patience for me. Quite the opposite. But I do have to confess to a certain enjoyment as I watched each morsel slowly cook in front of me, and then thoughtfully masticated and savored each bite. But once the flavor serenade burst into my mouth, I would have given anything to gobble up every last bite in sight in under a minute.

https://www.cotenyc.com/

 

 

 

Narcissa review

From the quiet – yet determined success at his Upper West Side boutique bistro Dovetail, Michelin star chef John Fraser has solidly joined the farm-to-table sprint with his new-ish East village sensation Narcissa. The buzz surrounding the opening of a lobby floor restaurant in the Standard Hotel has been squarely centered around his reinterpretation of vegetables as the main event – and with good reason. Sure, the menu is rampant with options for the omnivore in all of us. You’re very likely to find a wonderfully fruit flavored Lacquered Duck Breast with cranberries calling your name, or perhaps the whole Baby Chicken roasted with spicy sausage and oats will make you weak at the knees, or maybe tonight’s the night you’re going to surrender to that 24-oz perfectly marbled Bone-in Prime Ribeye that pushes all your buttons – but if you feel like thinking outside of your knee-jerk safe zone, this is the place to do it.

Just as the menu has two strong forces at opposing ends, the restaurant itself is also at odds with two very different dining spaces. The more socially expected, hotel bar/lounge/lodge that spills out onto a terrace, and the behind-the-scenes collection of chefs tables anchored by a white-clad team of toques prepping, stirring and plating with hardly a single glance above the horizon of their stations. There are a few instant giveaways that this ain’t no ordinary kitchen. Could it be the open-faced multi-skewer grill with what looks like lumps of coal twisting and turning before a blue flame? Turns out these are the Rotisserie-Crisped Beets that are being tortuously roasted for hours until they yield the texture of a sirloin steak – not to mention a heavenly flavor that beats any beets you have ever tasted. There’s a certain salty-sweet smokiness that combines magnificently with the creamed horseradish and Granny Smith apple chunks.

Rotisserie-Crisped Beets - Narcissa

Rotisserie-Crisped Beets

There’s probably at least one risotto on most menu’s in the tri-state area, and the quality of “riso” can range from hyper-dry to über-soupy, but instead Fraser uses barley for his Little Neck Clam Risotto, which is nuttier, creamier and immensely delightful thanks to the abundance of fresh oregano.

Barley Risotto - Narcissa

Barley Risotto

While the flavors were all there, the texture of the Potato Gnocchi with butternut squash and sweet chestnuts was either slightly over-worked or over-boiled, calling into question my table manners and my sense of balance required to elevate a single doughy knob out of the plate and into my mouth in (at least) one journey – but the real reason everyone is here (and the reason the city is still hard at work widening the streets around Cooper Square), is because of the magnetic appeal of Frasers’ Carrots Wellington.

Carrots Wellington - Narcissa

Carrots Wellington

In a David Copperfieldian feat, inside the traditional puff pastry log, a bunch of slender carrots occupies the same cavity where the filet mignon used to be! The texture is uncannily familiar and there are no flavor compromises either. The additions of bluefoot mushrooms with crispy sunchokes and a heavenly gremolata work so harmoniously, that it’s worth considering renaming the first Duke of Wellington’s favorite dish forever.

http://www.narcissarestaurant.com/

Bestia, Los Angeles review

If landing a table at Bestia wasn’t challenging enough (I could teach a puppy to play chess in less time), when you arrive at the graveyard of derelict factories on the darkest of alleys in the so-called “Arts District” of downtown Los Angeles – a mere Molotov cocktail away from skid row – that uncomfortable lump that you feel in the pit of your stomach is a curious mixture of anticipation and regret: The thrill and satisfaction of finally being able to sample one of LA’s white-hot “it” places, diluted by the frightening realization that this might very well be your “last supper!” But you surrender your car keys to the shadowy figure emerging from the darkness anyway, realizing that there’s just no going back.

The former warehouse is a crowded hive of exposed light bulbs, raw bricks, time-weathered steel girders and industrial doors. And in stark contrast to all the old wood, antique bric-a-brac and semi-middle-aged crowd, there is youthful electricity oozing from the asymmetrical hairdos of the gaggle of handsome, black T-shirted twentysomethings, whose charm and hospitality are only eclipsed by their cocky confidence as they rattle off recommendations from the exhaustively prolific menu. Even the open kitchen, running the length of the room, exposes more than just the hearty preparations of 41 items – it reveals an even cockier bandana-clad cooking crew of even more twentysomethings. The kids have clearly taken control of the ship – and they’re teaching the grownups a thing or two about a thing or two! Not that we tried to or anything, but there wasn’t a single query that could stump our waiter. Even the origin of the stemware was just another aspect of his limitless lexicon of information.

Executive chef Ori Menashe has created far more than just an eclecto-rustic Italian test kitchen. His prowess as a truly gifted salumiere, pizza & pasta maker, and his uncanny ability to sidestep conventional ingredients to give his hearty dishes an unpretentious reinvention, will inspire future snout-to-tail toques, who from hereon out will be referred to as the “Post-Bestia Generation”.

Sea Urchin Crostino - Bestia

Sea Urchin Crostino

The plates grow in sharability as you move down the page. Things start timidly enough with Homemade Country Bread (Menashe grows his own yeast), which reappears toasted under a variety of Crostinos, from Chicken Livers with herbs to Sea Urchin (the latter having to regrettably yield its briny flavor to the garlic and chilies).

Farro Salad - Bestia

Farro Salad

But then there’s a noisy explosion of options, building from the delightfully sweet and tangy Farro Salad in a pickled chili and avocado dressing, to the much-blogged-about Roasted Marrow Bone, and of course the adorably photogenic aged-wood plank of 4 or 5 impeccably house-cured Salumi (including duck), with sour pickled vegetables and a mild, mermaid-green mustard for company. Thanks to the revocation of the California law, Foie Gras Terrine has returned to the menu, and the spreadable ‘Nduja sausage makes a number of spicy appearances – as the flavor driver for Mussels and Clams and as a feature in one of the three San Marzano tomato-based pizzas.

Salumi - Bestia

Salumi

I’m always a bit weary that an octopod can become mushy when tossed in a dressing. But chef Menashe keeps his cheerful Grilled Octopus and Calamari moist, tangy and shatter crisp, with a refreshing and citrusy chili vinaigrette. His pastas aren’t just house made, they’re house leavened! The melt-in-your-mouth worm-shaped Pici with hearty chunks of deliciously salty lamb ragu and crunchy breadcrumbs will emit a sigh of delight from even the staunchest of Italian die-hards.

Pici with lamb ragu - Bestia

Pici with lamb ragu

Given that Bestia means beast, the selection of land animals is surprisingly short, but the family style Prime Aged Ribeye, fileted to boast a succulent pink interior that tears apart effortlessly, delivers a simple, salty, fire-grilled, tender morsel of umami heaven.

Aspen Ridge Prime Aged Ribeye - Bestia

Aspen Ridge Prime Aged Ribeye

Pastry chef Genevieve Gergis (Menashe’s wife) peppers her half dozen desserts with seasonal fruits like persimmons, tangerines, winter lemons or pink lady apples, but the olive oil and salted caramel Valrhona Chocolate Budino is by far the strongest contender.

Grilled Octopus and Calamari - Bestia

Grilled Octopus and Calamari

Bestia might well be LA’s turning point in defiance of convention, categorization, expectation and formality, heralding a brand new genre of dining on the left coast.

http://www.bestiala.com/