For the 5th installment of my Michelin Star Challenge, I decided to go somewhere different. How different, you may wonder? Well… for starters I picked a place where they did not serve any meat! Yes, folks, a vegetarian restaurant!
Kajitsu is located in the East Village and is a vegetarian 2 Michelin star rated restaurant. They serve shojin cuisine which is an ancient Japanese culinary practiced in Zen Buddhist monasteries.
This time around I dined with my friend, David. When I first moved to New York he was the only person I knew. I met him on a previous trip to the Big Apple and we’ve been friends ever since. We haven’t hung out in awhile so dining with him was a great way to catch up.
David and I were very lucky to get a chance to dine at the Chef’s Counter. Especially, since it was Masato Nishihara, the executive chef’s, last month at Kajitsu.
We decided to have the Hana (8 course) tasting menu along with the sake pairing.
Kajitsu is known for their well crafted tableware and pottery pieces that were created by master Japanese potters over 200 years ago.
Chef Masato Nishihara, himself, serving us our first course.
Nagaimo Hishimochi with Spring Vegetables and Sweet Soy Gelée
Matsuno Midori (Junmai Dai Ginjo)
Grated Kohlrabi Soup with Grilled Gomadofu
Smoked Satoimo with Tofu-yo Sauce,Brussels Sprout with Fukinoto Paste, Spring Scallions with White Wood Ear Mushrooms and Mustard Miso, Peach Flower Nama-Fu
Born Gold (Muroka Junmai Dai Ginjo)
Simmered Young Bamboo Shoots with Artichoke Tempura
Fava Beans, Mitsuba, Wakame
Shredded Phyllo Wrapped Yomogi Nama-Fu with House-Made Worcester Sauce Grilled Cabbage, Arugula Sprouts and Watermelon Radish Snap Peas with Parsnip Puree Sautéed Glass Noodles, Kinugasa Mushrooms and Leeks in Corn Husk
Steamed Rice with Chaju Mushrooms, Yuba and Grilled Water Chestnuts, House-Made Pickles
Salted Cherry Leaf
Chef Ryota Ueshima, who will take over as Executive Chef once Nishihara, serves us matcha with…
Candies by Kyoto Suetomi
The place has a minimalistic and elegant feel to it and although it was booked for the evening the ambiance maintained a quiet and intimate feeling.
This dining experience was one that was exceptional. For being a meat lover, I was pleasantly surprised that the vegetarian tasting adventure was completely satisfying. With its soothing and muted decor along with the tasty and artfully decorated courses; I was left feeling enlightened.
Japanese Shojin Cuisine in the East Village
414 E 9th St New York, NY 10009
Apparently, 2011 was a very generous year in the work realm. Not only did I receive a bonus, I was also a recipient of the CEO award (as well as a couple of minor awards). The CEO award goes to a few individuals who were part of a team that contributed to a project that directly impacted the company’s ability to deliver the best investing experience to the customers. Innovation and measurable results… blah… blah… blah… I could go on, but I’ll spare you, dear reader. The award was monetary so this month I got to reap the rewards and go to, yet another, 3 star Michelin restaurant.
This time I decided on Le Bernardin.
The space was well lit - as you will soon see in the food pictures below. It wasn’t a palatial space but it had a subtle elegance. The formal ambiance sometimes felt a bit on the corporate side, though. In the main dining area, a beautiful painting of a stormy sea by a local artist set the mood for what was going to be eaten.
I figured I’d go with the Chef’s tasting menu that was set at $190. If it were the weekend and I weren’t watching my alcohol intake I would’ve gotten the wine pairing but instead, I started off with a white and ended the tasting with a red.
To start: Sauvignon Blanc, “Winkl”, Kellerei Terlan, Alto-Adige, Italy, 2010
To finish: Rioja Reserva,Viña Bosconia, Lopez de Heredia, Spain 2003
Before the courses began, an amuse-bouche trio was served: Smoked salmon, tuna tartare and finally a lobster bisque.
Now on to the start of the Chef’s Tasting Menu…
CAVIAR - WAGYU
Nebraska Wagyu Beef; Langoustine and Osetra Caviar Tartare
Black Pepper-Vodka Crème Fraîche, Pomme Gaufrette
Charred Octopus “a la plancha”; Green Olive and Black Garlic Emulsion, Sundried Tomato Sauce Vierge
Butter Poached Lobster Tail; Urchin, Scallops, Earl Grey-Citrus Sauce
Baked Cod; Artichoke “Barigoule” Perigord Truffle Butter
Lacquered Grouper; Chayote Squash, Sofrito Broth
Roasted Monkfish; Brussels Sprouts, Pata Negra Emulsion
Seville Orange Sorbet, Plive Oil and Basil
Madagascan Chocolate Ganache, Peanut Mousse, Salted Caramel Ice Cream
Lastly, petit fours: salted caramel chocolate, a citrus gelée with sponge cake, burned sugar tart, almond macaroon.
The seafood was amazing and probably the freshest fish I’ve ever tasted in my life. However, I don’t see a need to go to back to Le Bernardin again. It was merely a check mark on my list. If I were to recommend a top notch, 3 Star Michelin restaurant, I would automatically suggest Eleven Madison Park. Le B wasn’t an exceptional or magical experience for me. The service was superb and the staff very professional. But perhaps, that was just it. They came off a bit on the pretentious side and were not engaging. It wasn’t a very warm or inviting dining experience. Did I mention that the waiter took my bread plate before I even finished it? I don’t know what the proper etiquette is but I can’t recall when or if I’ve ever had that happen to me before. Strange.
On a side note, the two older investment bankers at the next table were pretty entertaining. I’m not sure if they intentionally were trying to make me feel uncomfortable but I found their dinner discussion quite amusing. Banker A was telling Banker B of his recent trip to Las Vegas. It entailed gambling, drinking and buying a hooker all on the company dime. Banker A told Banker B that the hooker was great and faked it like she really enjoyed it. According to Banker A, she also gave amazing head. He offered Banker B her telephone number if he should find himself in Vegas. I’ve noticed that the more prestigious the restaurant, the more pompous and/or obnoxious clientele it attracts. Could there be a correlation?
The Financial Industry can be evil but I’m not complaining. It certainly pays for the food.
What better way to start the New Year than to dine at a fine establishment like Eleven Madison Park?
That’s precisely what Lily and I did on January, Friday the 13th!
When we first started the Michelin Star Challenge back last Fall, we wanted the first restaurant to be Eleven Madison Park. Boy… was I overzealous. It took me nearly 3 months to get a reservation for 2 at the newly donned 3 Michelin Star rated restaurant.
And it was well worth the wait!
Before the big day we had already agreed that we would go all out and order their dinner tasting menu. We wanted to start off 2012 with a bang and little did we know what more was in store for us…
The restaurant itself is located on the ground floor of an art deco building right across from the famous Madison Square Park. As soon as you enter through the revolving doors it feels a bit like you’re going into a train station. But once you are on the other side you’re overcome by an impressive and grand space. In the middle of the dining area you immediately take notice of the white bouquet, center piece.
When we sat down we were greeted by Kevin, our main man, who along with a team of 5 others took care of us the whole evening. The staff was not pretentious and all were warm and friendly. The sommelier was cheerful and made suggestions on what to pair with what. Our dishes were brought to us in a timely manner and they gave us detailed information on each dish. For a couple of the entrees, a story was even included (clambake, egg cream, etc.). Being such a prestigious restaurant you would think that the service would be stuffy. But it was anything but that; extremely attentive but not over bearing, and charming at times.
Each entree was creatively plated and perfectly delicious. It was as if we were eating works of art. Lily and I both agreed that the squab was the best piece of foul that we had ever tasted in our lives! Everything was flavorful and was exquisite. The meal was a sensory over load in the most positive sense… just looking at the plates, hearing what each dish was made of, consuming the savory, sweet, multi-layered tastes; it was all mind blowing.
Click below to see the Tasting Menu
*** TASTING MENU ***
CHICKEN Velouté with Parsley Oil, Liver Mousse and Brioche
HAMACHI AND SCALLOP Pickled Ginger and Lemon; Ceviche with Tangerine
YOGURT AND CHICKPEAS Lollipops with Curry; Panisse with Yogurt
APPLE Gelée with Sea Urchin, Caviar, and Foie Gras
CLAM Clambake with Chorizo, Apple, and Potato
PUNTARELLA Salad with Tardivo, Anchovies, and Garlic
FOIE GRAS Smoked Terrine with Black Truffle, Potato, and Rye
CAULIFLOWER Roasted with Raisins, Brown Butter, and Madras Curry
LOBSTER Poached with Meyer Lemon, Burnt Leeks, and Shellfish Bisque
SQUAB Roasted with Beets, Onions, and Chocolate Jus
TRIPLE CREME With Pumpkin, Apple, and Rye Crisps
EGG CREAM Orange, Cocoa Nib, and Seltzer
CHEESECAKE Goat Cheese, Cranberry, and Lime
CHOCOLATE Mousse with Malt Sorbet, Olive Oil, and Meyer Lemon
Our enthusiasm regarding the food must have been obvious. Towards the end of our meal we were greeted by Daniel, the restaurant manager. He asked us how our evening was going and invited us to tour the kitchen! We were excited and felt as if we won some fine dining lottery.
The tour was like a field trip! The pastry chef made us special apple cocktails that were made from pomegranate syrup, diced apples, liquid nitrogen frozen apple brandy and foam.
The kitchen was spacious and immaculate. Everyone was wearing their chef whites and there were no stains on the uniforms; spotless! The kitchen was like a well-functioning time piece; huge, pristine with everything in order.
We got to meet James Kent, the chef de cuisine and signed their guest book!
Afterwards, Daniel led us to the VIP guest/lounge where we were served a complimentary bottle of cognac champagne along with more delicious desserts.
Before we left, we parted with gifts. A card with listing all the entrees from the tasting menu, complimentary homemade granola, magazines. They really thought of every little thing!
The whole experience was truly magical. I’m not sure if any other dining experience will compare to this one.
Thank you Eleven Madison Park for kicking off 2012 to a great start!
For the second restaurant on the Michelin Star Challenge, I booked a reservation for 2 at Veritas in the Gramercy District. It has been a one star rated restaurant for several years and is known world round for their wine collection. The cellar boasts an inventory of 75,000 bottles and the wine list has over 3,000 selections.
Veritas serves Contemporary American cuisine that is exquisite to look at as well as comforting to eat. Lily and I were impressed with the space. As you walk into the restaurant you enter the bar area where you can also dine. Then through the bar and into the dining room. The walls are covered with racks of bottles of wine. The lighting is low which gives to the mellow and warm ambience.
When we were seated it seemed as if our waiter took a while to get back to us after the sommelier informed us of the wines. At first I wasn’t sure if it was because they were busy but it didn’t really seem like it since the dining room wasn’t full. When the waiter finally came, he was very attentive and informed us of the dishes we were curious about.
This is what we had:
Started off with a morsel of Lobster Salad.
Beef in Transition, Beef Tartare, Peppered Sirloin, Short Ribs
Foie Gras, Heirloom Squash, Housemade Cranberry Chutney
The foie gras was to die for! It was like slicing through butter. Creamy and full of flavor. The cranberry and squash were a complimentary pairing for this appetizer.
Niman Ranch Loin of Lamb, Tarbais Beans, Minestrone Broth
Prosciutto Wrapped Scallops, Roasted Brussel Sprouts, Shallots
Warm Sticky Toffee Pudding, Spiced Ginger Ice Cream
Chocolate Cookies, Lemon squares & macaroons
Complimentary banana bread to go!
Our take aways for the evening:
Last weekend my partner in crime, Lily, and I started our Michelin Star Challenge. Our first choice was Eleven Madison. We tried several days to get a reservation but no luck. Who were we kidding? This place was recently donned 3 stars and just released their new book so how did we ever think we would get into this place for our first shot… even this year! I even called other 3 star rated restaurants in hopes that we could get started with a bang. No such luck.
We finally decided to bring it to our home borough of Brooklyn. We nabbed a reservation for 3 at Saul Restaurant in Cobble Hill. As the day neared… our 3rd had to bail.
Oh… the challenges that we’re facing already!
So it was just me and Lily.
We had met for an early dinner and decided to go for the tasting menu. The tasting menu is an 8 course meal that gives you a bit of everything great that Saul has to offer. We shared our desserts (as you’ll soon notice).
This is what we had:
Apple Sauce Soup
Crudo of Japanese Yellowtail
marinade of citrus extra virgin olive oil, cilantro, peppers
Homemade Ricotta Gnocchi
sugar snap peas, parmesan, prosciutto
Grilled Spanish Octopus
slow cooked pork belly, grilled scallion, kohlrabi, sriracha chili, honey, lime, sesame
Sautéed Striped Bass
spring vegetable ragout, smoky ham hock broth
Foie Gras Terrine
duck confit, brioche, cherry
Roasted Breast & Confit Leg of Squab
potato puree,brussel sprouts
Milk Thistle Farm Pannacotta
Warm Chocolate Cake Bread Pudding
squash, pear ice cream
The meal was really spectacular. Every dish was flavorful and was brought to us in a timely manner. The ambience of the restaurant, itself, was humble but posh. Not overwhelmingly huge but quaint. A lot of older couples and a few 30 somethings here and there- and my 20 something date.
Our take aways from our 1st restaurant adventure:
Last month for my 33rd birthday and for this blog, I decided that I wanted to pursue something challenging for the upcoming year. Challenging in the way of FOOD :)
Every month I will attempt to dine in a Michelin Star rated restaurant in New York CIty.
How is that a challenge you ask?
Well… for one, the COST. I’m low in the totem pole in the world of Finance and although I make a living being a number crunching whore… living in New York is financially draining. So budgeting for a nice fancy meal is definitely a challenge.
Another is RESERVATIONS. Trying to reserve a table for 3, 2 and even 1 in a three star restaurant is like trying to see the newest NY Broadway show or getting tickets to your favorite concert (Prince, Elton John, Ray Charles RIP). Do we have to make a deal with the devil or what?
And… SCHEDULING. This challenge is for me and my companion, Lily and for any of those who want to follow. Trying to coordinate different schedules of varying lifestyles is almost like herding cats!
Anyhow… here are the Michelin Star definitions:
* Very good cuisine in its category
** Excellent cuisine, worth a detour
*** Exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey
Wish me luck, ya’ll!
If any of you noticed the recent posts and photos… then you’ll know it was recently my 33rd Birthday. I can go on and on about what I want to improve for my next year of life and what I want to achieve but I’ll spare you, dear reader. I will, however, share with you what I want to accomplish in terms of dining.
As I was sitting around Ralf’s kitchen table discussing the recently rated Michelin restaurants with Lily, I came up with the idea of the Michelin Star Challenge. I will “attempt” to dine at the 12 restaurants listed below over the course of 12 months. Lily will be joining me on this journey and all are welcome to partake in the adventure with us.
Here is the Michelin Star Challenge list (in no particular order except by * rank):
1. Eleven Madison Park
2. Per Se
3. Le Bernardin
10. The Modern @ the MOMA
12. Ai Fiori