Legacy Records – review

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Perpetually groovy Manhattan hotspots Charlie Bird and Pasquale Jones have a new baby brother. Chef Ryan Hardy of the Delicious Hospitality Group birthed his newest Italo-Seafood supper club Legacy Records in early March. The restaurant is visionary in many respects. Not only did San Francisco designer Ken Fulk do an absolute number on the new space, with a high-end tribute to art deco and mid-century luxury using liberal helpings of emerald green, gold and mahogany, but the far west location somewhere between the Javitz Convention Center and DHL’s distribution hub at the base of a condo tower is definitely out there – that is until Hudson Yards becomes the city’s newest it neighborhood.

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Legacy Records

Being able to snag a table at one of New York’s newest establishments delivers more than just bragging rights. First month jitters, growing pains and teething troubles often yield their own uniquely entertaining take-out stories, and Legacy Records is not immune. As we tried to gain access via the very masculine brick-and-steel Henry Hall condo lobby, a sign directed us to a side entrance, 50 feet away. Once there, a contradictory sign directed us back to the condo lobby. Then just as we marveled at the magnificently clubby, yet airy crescent bar and the staggering array of multi-leveled brass trumpet flower arrangements decorating the all-day dining café, we were suddenly immobilized by the instantaneous ambience destruction of a smoke alarm with intermittent deafening sirens and a pulsating cascade of flashing lights. Not exactly the tribute I had in mind for a former recording studio.

Screen Shot 2018-04-15 at 6.26.00 PMAs you circumnavigate the bar, a series of bold and funky artworks by Mickalene Thomas adorn the walls that lead to a somewhat less formal dining area flanked by a row of windows looking out onto a concrete wall as high as a prison yard. My hunch, hope or suggestion might be for a vertical garden to slightly diminish the claustrophobia.

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Razor Clam Crudo, Legacy Records

The service has also not quite found its groove yet. After our waiter bragged that the butter was “especially imported”, a server seemed to think that it just came from “uptown”. (Turns out he clears tables at a different location for lunch and got his butter origins confused.) The only reason I’m making such a big deal about the butter is because it is indeed imported from France, and is accompanied by a cocoon-shaped dollop of rosemary-infused lard which collectively transforms the house-baked sprouted seed bread into a sublime and decadent feast. But the kicker came later in the meal when one of the bussers who was so intent on replacing our plates and flatware mid-course, that one of our table guests – who had 4 remaining mouthfuls to go – found himself at the defensive end of a tug-of-war.

“New plates,” the busser kept insisting.

“Not finished,” we kept replying.

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Diver Scallop Crudo, Legacy Records

But the kitchen is indisputably pitch-perfect. The highly recommended Crudo for the table arrives in a multi-level ceramic sculpture resembling an architectural model of a Santorini cliffside villa. It includes a Razor Clam in a wonderfully tart and tangy saffron espellette, a delectable lime-yogurt flavored Diver Scallop – diced but still in the shell, and sweet but heat-loaded, sashimi-smooth slithers of Fluke, thanks to some citrusy jalapeno. I felt a little sorry for the Japanese Sea Urchin that got drowned out by a blasting chorus of Dungeness crab under a shellfish-flavored aioli.

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Japanese Sea Urchin Crudo, Legacy Records

Some of the other small plates included San Daniele Prosciutto, hand-pulled Mozzarella and a charcoal grilled Pigeon, but we unanimously went for the seasonally appropriate and utterly rewarding Sunchokes. I cannot ever recall ever enjoying such dark and crispy lobes of sunchoke that gave way to soft and tender artichoke hearts and anchovies in a leafy, mushroomy salad.

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Sunchoke Salad, Legacy Records

The half dozen pasta options are also more intriguing than your Italian go-to staples. We had to skip the pea and leak Raviolo Doppio and the cuttlefish Spaghetti in favor of the wondrous chestnut Tagliatelle with shards of duck ragu in a rich rosemary and liver sauce. And I hereby commit to trying the über-popular shellfish Risotto next time.

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Honey lacquered Duck for Two, Legacy Records

The mains are the usual carousel of Italian RCB’s (Ribeye, Chicken, Branzino) with a Duck for Two as the absolute showstopper. The honey-lacquered roasted bird gets paraded around in her birthday suit featuring a dark mahogany crust with a rosemary plume before being whisked away for dissection and plating. “Our” duck made 2 separate appearances by 2 separate waiters, revealing that she was perhaps selected for objectification and exhibition purposes only. Regardless, I predict that the duo of super tender breast slices bordered by a nutty, spicy and delectably sweet skin are sure to elevate this dish to billboard status before the summer is over.

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Gelatos, Legacy Records

Desserts include a Rum cake and other equally odd bits and bobs, but the popular must-haves are the Gelatos served in cracker-crispy house-made cones. Right now, flavors like Bananas foster, Chocolate fudge and Yoghurt rhubarb were all she wrote, but I have a strong feeling that this repertoire will continue to grow as the temperature rises.

What better way to usher in the spring than a fresh new hit in a hip, new hood.

https://www.legacyrecordsnyc.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/

El Quinto Piño review

El Quinto Piño

El Quinto Piño

The mere expression “Spanish tapas bar” instantly conjures up a very familiar expectation of a Spanish inspired, small-plates snack bar. It is therefore brave and admirable for Alex Raij and Eder Montero to create a derivative in their Chelsea slither of a bistro – El Quinto Piño, that’s just as traditional as it is bold and quirky. The charming comedor room off of the curved bar feels familiar and intimate in its simple understated design, with mismatched chairs, interesting lighting and a large sound-absorptive woven tapestry.

Nuestras Bravas - El Quinto Piño

Nuestras Bravas

The large menu features sufficient “usual-suspect” dishes to satisfy the purists intent on reliving that distant Spanish vacation (or the opportunity to show off their international-ness to their less-travelled friends). In addition there are a few bold spinoffs that improve on the original, and a couple of quirky creations to bolster interest (and stars) amongst the food critic literati. While most of the menu undergoes periodic regional rotation to retain freshness and an element of the unexpected, there are a few permanent staples that are mentioned on a variety of must-try lists.

Croquetas - El Quinto Piño

Croquetas

No tapas bar in its right mind would ever dare open its doors without the mandatory Nuestras Bravas (fried potatoes trickled with spicy aioli), Pan amb Tomaca (tomato and garlic rubbed bread with salt and olive oil) and those crusty shelled, delightfully creamy potato and Serrano ham Croquetas – all of which are as reliably delicious as they are popular and more than make up for the somewhat bashfully-flavored and under-toasted shrimp and squid Fideúa (Valencia short noodle paella).

Uni Panini - El Quinto Piño

Uni Panini

On the bold side, creating a po’ boy styled Bocadillo de Calamar has all the best flavors of delicately fried and exquisitely crispy squid legs, adding crunch and sweetness to a tightly wrapped vegetable sandwich. I would also have to concur that the Uni Panini deserves its position as one of Eater.com’s Top 20 sandwiches in all of New York. But while I adore the flavor of sea urchin, I wish someone could have warned me about the lightning-bolt shock of sinus-clearing mustard!

Fideúa - El Quinto Piño

Fideúa

And finally some of the quirkier options that include the Arroz Brut de Conejo, which is a cabbage stuffed with rabbit meat and rice, or the crispy and rather harshly intense ocean-floor surprise taste of sea anemones cooked into soft scrambled eggs known as Revuelto de Ortigulla.  The proof that Raij and Montero have solidly catered to just about everyone’s culinary comfort zone is directly proportional to the persistence required to snag a table.

 

http://elquintopinonyc.com/reservations

Obicá review

Obicá. The Grand Palace of Mozz

Obicá. The Grand Palace of Mozz

Silvio Ursini is probably not a household name amongst New York foodies, but one of Bulgari’s top creative executives for their Hotels and Resorts division just so happens to have also founded the world’s first Mozzarella bar a decade ago. The concept behind Obika was to create a restaurant around several different varieties of fresh gourmet Mozzarella, milked exclusively from water buffalo in the Campania region of Italy, and thereby earning the much coveted, but seldom seen, “Protected Designation of Origin” certification.

Obicá - Caprese Classica

Caprese Classica

I vividly remember been blown away on my first visit to the bar in Rome’s Parlamento district, by the creamy sweetness of each of the four cheeses, complemented by their feather-soft texture from skin to center. (I should have a penny for every time I’ve had to plough through “so called” Mozzarella di Buffala, that was either tight, runny, hard, crumbly, sour, chalky or ho-hum.)

Ursini’s little idea turned into a global brand with eighteen mozzarella bars worldwide. To celebrate their tenth anniversary, they just opened their newest location and renamed the brand Obicá, which means “here it is” in a Neapolitan dialect. And so if you stand just off the northeast corner of Broadway and 21st, you too can say “Obica!”

Obicá - Bufala Beet Salad

Bufala Beet Salad

The battleship gray, sleek interior with mirrored surfaces and discreet lighting feels more like a Japanese designer boutique than the Grand Palace of Mozz, but the four brine-filled tanks housing the baseball-white puffs of goodness flown in twice a week is unmistakably why the place is so crowded. The “Classica” is what all mozzarella dreams it could be: sweet, smooth, silky, light and ever-so-slightly salty. The almost caramel colored “Affumicata” has a sharp and distinctive hay-smoke bite to it. The “Burrata” is the runnier, cream-centered version of the classic, and it’s brother “Tartufo” is infused with black summer truffles.

Obicá - Bufala in Carrozza

Bufala in Carrozza

You can order them solo, with Salumi or Antipasti, on Bruschetti, deep fried (In Carrozza), on pizzas or in several salads (the Caprese Classica is a cheerful collage of multi-colored tomatoes, and the Beet salad has roasted pine-nuts and string beans for crunch).

Obicá - Pappardelle al Ragú di Anatra e Arancina

Pappardelle al Ragú di Anatra e Arancina

Unlike their lunchtime bar in the IBM building on 56th street, chef Enzo Neri’s menu elaborates way beyond the Mozz to include more substantial dishes like his signature homemade pastas, pizzas, seafood and vegetables. The Rosemary flavored Pappardelle al Ragú di Anatra e Arancina has an incredible Tuscan-style duck ragú spiked with a surprising zest of orange, and the Taglierini di Botarga e Granchio is like an enchantment-under-the-sea dance with a blend of crab ragú with roe from Sardinian mullet, topped with fresh sea-urchins.

Obicá - Ananas Carpaccio

Ananas Carpaccio

The desserts are a very fresh respite from the usual institutional suspects. Three guesses what cheese the Crema de Ricotta comes from…Mmm!

And what better way to walk home than with the crisp and lingering taste of Ananas Carpaccio – X-ray-thin, mint syrup marinated Pineapple slices with lemon sorbet and pink peppercorns.

http://obica.com/