I always approach a restaurant that I love with trepidation. The memory of a great meal past might be entirely replaced by the reality of a subsequent bad meal, and the nostalgia, the lingering memory of the first experience, the one that made your mouth water, is forever gone.
Well, that was a bit dramatic. But it’s a real disappointment to go to a place that you thought was wonderful and get a meal that was just ok.
I became a fan of Mercato in Red Hook, up the Hudson River in Dutchess County in August last year. We went there after an ill-conceived visit to the Dutchess County Fair, where we had spaghetti and meatballs on a stick and fried ravioli, among other “specialties”. Nowhere to be seen were the prize-winning pies and jams. It was just, well. Hot and ugly. There. I said it. So our dinner at Mercato that night was beautiful. I can’t remember what we ate, but it was beautiful, and the impression stayed with me and made me excited.
We revisited Mercato last weekend — it was the one restaurant I had to go to during a short trip to the area. I was going to just enjoy my meal, but then I read in the special’s board that chef Francesco Buitoni was a semi-finalist for a James Beard award this year (under Best Chef: Northeast category), so I decided to take pictures as well.
And to report. I am not giving up on Mercato. Yet. Our meal was not bad, just not great. I will go back soon enough as we’ll be summering (and springing) in the area.
Financier Patisserie is amazing because it really manages to produce good quality (if not super high…) French pastries at affordable prices. The difference between Financier and, say, Bouchon, is less in the variety or execution and perhaps much more in the quality of ingredients — the edge, the margin that separates the great from the good.
After class today I decided to skip my Otto series research and try something different. After all, I work in the heart of the Village and there should be plenty of places to try or revisit.
Last week when I went to Lupa I passed in front of an old favorite of mine, Tomoe Sushi. I used to go to Tomoe right when moved to New York, because it was cheap, and because they had something that most Japanese restaurants don’t have: Korokke. In addition to karee-raisu, yakisoba, udon and sashimi, korokke (Japanese-style potato croquette) was a mainstay in my home when I was growing up, and thus it conjures childhood memories. My father would make them from scratch, with potatoes and ground beef, and lots of grated onions.
Stern is magically situated a couple of blocks away from each of Mario Batali’s Greenwich Village restaurant trifecta — Lupa, Babbo and Otto. So just to add variety to my Otto series and to take advantage of Restaurant Week, I went to Lupa and had the lunch special.
The "Orata con Cardi"
Now, I am not a fan of lunch specials, at least not those during Restaurant Week. Sure, it’s an opportunity to sample a famous restaurants at a low price, but the sampling they offer often makes me not want to go there and pay full price for it. For the current rate of $24.07 you get a choice of the lowest priced appetizers and entrees, plus dessert. The rooms are crowded, service is grumpy. Continue reading