I generally think that all Mario Batali restaurants are overly-inflated, much like his giant belly :-). Del Posto is always a disappointment (one of the biggest gaps in critic ratings vs. actual food served that I’ve experienced in recent years), and even Babbo, while good, doesn’t live up to its hype (why it is so difficult to snag a reservation is beyond me). (Otto and Lupa are fine, but not in that same category of restaurant). And even though Dave Pasternack is the chef at Esca (Mr. Batali is the co-restuauranteur), after two luke-warm tries, I have to throw Esca in that category as well. Don’t get me wrong, Esca is definitely not bad (in fact it’s pretty tasty!) but to say, as NYMag says, that Esca has done for “Southern Italian seafood what Le Bernardin has done for French”…. gimme a break! And 3 stars from the esteemed Frank Bruni, who refers to Chef Pasternack as a “fish whisperer”? Whaaaa???
I started with an appetizer of baked Jonah crab tossed with fiddlehead ferns, baked in a layer of buttery crumbled Ritz crackers, all served in the shell. The crab itself, juicy and flavorful, was delicious and contained a whole slew of crab parts. However, I found myself picking out crab shell from every bite, which greatly disturbed my enjoyment of the dish.
ATO’s appetizer: the house-made guitar cut spaghetti with sea urchin and crabmeat. Creamy and good, but sheisty on the crab and lacking in sea urchin taste.
Grilled halibut with asparagus. The asparagus was the best part of the dish! So fresh and tasty. The fish, while nicely charred, was a bit dry.
Scallops with fresh green peas. Mario Batali was recently on The Morning Show demonstrating a pea recipe. The hosts were raving. Well, if those peas tasted anything like these peas, I can see why. Super simple in preparation, but the pork bits mixed in added a great savory note, while the addition of mint lent some necessary brightness. The scallops - while not the most tender - had an awesome crisp top which really hit the spot.
Banana pudding to end. Fine, but no Magnolia Bakery.
Overall, a pretty satisfying meal but definitely nothing to go nuts over. By the way, last time we came, we had the restaurant’s “famed” dishes (the branzino for two and the tasting of crudo), so this was not a case of ordering wrong!
Sadly, I just think the fish whisperer has lost his voice….
I know, I know, I used to complain incessantly about having to make the trek out to Brooklyn, but these days it seems as if I’m here almost every week. Truth be told, I still complain incessantly (especially when taking public transportation)… but I’ve seen the light. Once I’m actually settled into my final Brooklyn destination, I’m blissfully happy and that whole traumatic experience of riding the subway for 30+ minutes is forgotten (kinda like childbirth, or so I’m told).
So after another fun excursion rock climbing, ATO, EW and I met up with JA and headed over to Littleneck for a late-night dinner.
We split an order of the special appetizer of the day: beets with hay ash. These beets were da bomb! Sweet and savory and smoky. I loved the cruchy crumble served alongside it, and the fried paper-thin greens that sat on top.
I love simple and fresh seafood done right. I imagine myself sitting at a wood picnic table on an outdoor deck by the water, salty breeze blowing through my hair. Sigh. Above were EW’s mussels with Thai basil and curry. Not too heavy on the curry; the brininess and natural flavors of the mussels still shone through. Yum.
Maine lobster roll. If you’re an anti-mayo and pro-butter lobster roll type person, this little sandwich is definitely for you! The lobster was fresh, plump and sweet. My only complaint: too small!! Although to be fair, at $18 per pop, it is on the cheaper side in this city….
But the best sandwich of the night was definitely the fried ipswich sandwich with tartar, pickles and shredded lettuce. My dad talks about ipswich clams with such reverence that you’d think they held the key to the universe. Ipswich clams are soft-shelled salt-water clams. They are ridiculously good and can be fried whole. Which is just how they were served in this delicious combo! Perfectly hot and crispy on the outside, but soft and clammy and juicy on the inside. Mmmmm.
Each night there is a pie of the day. This one was super dense and super sweet and gluttonous. Like cookie dough in a pie crust.
This place is seriously good. Definitely come for the seafood!
Kaupé (Ushuaia, Argentina)
We had our best meal in Patagonia at Kaupé…. or I should say, our two best meals. Because we came here twice. Back to back nights. We really don’t do that often. The food and atmosphere here were just so d*mn good that we knew we couldn’t top it; to avoid the disappointment of eating elsewhere on our last night in Ushuaia, we happily made a reservation for the following night even before our dinner the first night had ended. It was that good.
Above was our view! They even reserved the same table for us the next night. How sweet.
Keep in the mind that the photos below cover two dinners…. dang, we don’t eat THAT much!
Warm bread to start, with a delightfully green and herby butter. Mmmmm. The first night I think I took down 5 rolls even before the mains came out.
King crab natural. Served with lemon and house-made tartar sauce. Absolutely scrumptious. So sweet, so juicy and SO FRESH! Blew Kuar (see previous post) out of the water!
We had not had our fill of crab yet (not even close!). We were in king crab territory, and we were going to fill ourselves sick with king crab! Above is the king crab and spinach chowder. Salty like the sea and filling, but not as heavy and buttery as it looks. I loved the wilted spinach. Fantastic.
King crab isn’t the only specialty at the end of the earth. Above are the Antarctic scallops lyonnaise, sauteed with onion, lemon and parsley. So delicate and small, with not a trace of toughness. The sauce was subtle but tasty, and great for dipping bread in. YUM.
But if you were only to order one scallop dish, I’d suggest you get them ceviche style, served cold with onion, lemon, olive oil and parsley vinaigrette. Ridiculous! Holy crap, these were so amazing. We had never had whole scallops served ceviche style (usually they are all chopped up). But they remained incredibly tender, totally melting in your mouth. The accoutrements lent a nice citrusy, tart counter to the smooth, oceanic little suckers.
My favorite dish of the whole two nights (which I had twice): king crab wrapped in crepes with a warm saffron sauce. Heaven. The most perfect dish. The crab was stunning - the preparation wasn’t overpowering, and really put the crab on a pedestal. The sauce was rich and decadent and basically orgasmic, and the crepes were like paper-thin clouds. This dish made me nostalgic. When I was little and my mom had to travel somewhere for a few days, I’d start missing her even before she left, and I’d follow her around with a lump in my throat and tears welling in my eyes. This is how I felt before my final bites of this dish; I missed it before it was even gone. I know - I’m totally over-hyping this and being a complete drama queen (I often am)! But I seriously started feeling so sad just thinking about how I’d probably never make it back down to Ushuaia to have this dish again. That’s just me getting senile and old. And being bat-sh*t crazy about food.
The sea bass in sage and lemon, accompanied by potatoes in cream, was a lovely dish - so simple, straight-forward and honest. Cooked with a very light hand, really emphasizing the wonderful quality and natural flavors of the product itself. The only thing we found wanting was a nice crisp char.
The special both nights was the octopus. It was expensive, so we avoided it the first night. The second night, after we had confirmed this place was legit, we caved in and ordered it. While it wasn’t our favorite flavor profile, the texture of the octopus was worth the hefty price tag, and was really quite shocking to us both. Never in our lives had we had octopus cooked to this consistency - it was soft and yielding without being gummy or chewy. ATO blabbered on and on about the incredible texture… I tuned him out after a while ;-).
Finally, another crab entree: the king crab kaupe, cooked with cream, tomato sauce, onion, mustard and pepper. The sauce was surprisingly not overwhelming with the crab (although I liked it better in the chowder and crepe formats, which just had more going on). This dang crab could stand up to anything! Delicious, especially when paired with the warm, soft bread. Happy sigh.
Despite all the crab and sea-creature intake, we saved room for dessert! Having discovered how good the crepes were, I had to have them again. Above is the crepe kaupe - a warm crepe served with apples, bananas, oranges, cream, strawberry sauce and liquor. Sweet, fruity, and yummy, but not my favorite dessert. And it certainly ain’t pretty.
ATO’s favorite dessert was the lemon ice cream in warm champagne sauce. Soooo good. Subtle, soothing and generally all-around pleasant.
My favorite dessert: the crepes with dulce de leche and a touch of cognac. YES!! The dulce de leche was luscious and thick and not cloyingly sweet and the slightly biting, noticeably alcoholic cognac resonated on the palate and warmed the body.
Finally, with a bright smile, our waiter arrived with our complimentary glasses of house-made limoncello. The perfect end to two wonderful meals. We love this place!!!
Kuar (Ushuaia, Argentina)
The reviews of Kuar on Tripadvisor are stellar, so I put this on my “must-go” list while in Ushuaia. Well, the food didn’t quite live up to our high expectations, but the view and ambiance sure are worth the cab ride there! Set a bit farther from the center of town, overlooking a cliff and the blue green waters of the Beagle Canal, this place was quite stunning. And very rustic and cozy inside, with stone walls, warm wood floors and beams and a welcoming crackling fireplace. Lovely. (Above was a little amuse of watermelon soup - it was delicious).
The bread was some of the best we had on our entire trip. Warm and soft and served with a tart and light ricotta dip dotted with poppy seeds for texture, we couldn’t keep our greedy little mitts off of these!
King crab!!! You’ll be hard pressed to find “centolla” (king crab) anywhere in the world more fresh than you’ll find in Ushuaia (fine, maybe Alaska). The cold, deep sea waters are the perfect breeding ground for these giant crustacean gems. Unfortunately, if you ordered the king crab natural (just a ton of crab served with tartar sauce on the side) at Kuar, you wouldn’t know that. It didn’t taste fresh. To be honest, it didn’t taste like much at all. Bland. My dad orders frozen king crab from Alaska and ships it to our house for special occasions, and even that stuff is better than this was.
Another specialty in the southern-most city in the world: black hake, served here with black risotto. The fish was so tender it made me want to cry, it just fell apart at the touch of a fork. All of its juiciness was sealed in with a perfect char. The risotto, however, was sadly overcooked and lacked any sort of flavor.
The lamb. A tragic tale that was, unfortunately, repeated meal after meal in Patagonia: overcooked meat. Lamb from “Tierra del Fuego” with veggies, potatoes and a Malbec wine sauce. All the flavors were great - homey and comforting and filling. The lamb had that amazing grass-fed non-US meat taste. But it was cooked to well done. Booooooooo! Altho the very crunchy nubbins on the corners were amazing. Like lamb jerky.
We ended with a slice of cheesecake covered with red berries. I think we’re too spoiled by NY cheesecake, because this texture was too foamy, and not nearly rich enough.
Go for the view - have a glass of wine while overlooking the gentle waves beneath you - but don’t expect a gastronomical delight!
Joe’s Stone Crab (Miami)
For months I had been planning our big two-week trip to Patagonia. The night before we were scheduled to fly out, our flight was cancelled due to Winter Storm Nemo. Noooooo! We spent hours on the phone that night (mostly on hold) with airlines and travel agents and, to our relief, were able to book an early morning flight out of the disaster zone and to Miami, where we would have an 8-hour layover before our flight to Buenos Aires. Crisis averted - yay!
Our minor hurdle might actually have been a blessing in disguise, because we were able to get out into the city and visit one of our favorite spots in Miami: Joe’s Stone Crab. While the restaurant itself was closed by the time we got there, they have a casual take-out joint next door that stays open between lunch and dinner service, and a nice outdoor area where you can enjoy your crustacean grub. Perfect.
No point yapping about the sides (they’re fine, typical steakhouse-type sides), let’s move on to the crab! ATO ordered the soft-shell crab sandwich, and we should have known based on the price that it wouldn’t be anything special. Just a whole lotta friedness, and just OK.
My crab cakes were much better (but also much more expensive). Very little carby filling and a lot of crab. But I like my crab in crab cakes nice and big and chunky (it keeps the moisture in!); the crab here was a bit too shredded up for my taste, and I found the outer seasoning a bit overpowering. Better, but still not amazing.
And so we come to the famed stone crab itself. These are the medium sized claws. And yes, they are worth coming here for. Tender, juicy, sweet and with a hint of the ocean. Absolutely delectable. And doesn’t require nearly the amount of work that a Maryland blue crab requires. In fact, they are a little too easy to pop down, especially at the exorbitant prices!
Gratuitous close-up shot. Just look at that big white chunk of crab calling your name! It sure is making me salivate…
ATO’s sister and brother-in-law were coming to town, and they were looking for some R&R and some delicious NY food (with a 3- and 1-year old at home, it’s hard to enjoy a nice meal out!). No matter how hot and bothered New Yorkers have become over certain new, hip places, only certain tried and true classics hold that same kind of cache and pull for out-of-towners. Le Bernardin is certainly one of them. It was on AU and TU’s shortlist, and so we happily accompanied them last Friday evening.
Le Bernardin is obviously an old fashioned New York classic. I had benefited from working within a 2 block radius for 6 years, and so had frequented Le Bernardin for closing, partner and summer lunches. And despite the fact that seafood is not my forte, I have to admit that even after all of these years, this establishment still has that golden touch (unlike stuffy old places like Le Cirque or La Grenouille who had clearly fallen from their high pedestals). And to support my feelings, Michelin Guide again reaffirmed Le Bernardin’s 3-star Michelin status just last week. Perhaps the recent renovations and facelift have prevented this place from feeling dated and stodgy. I actually found myself thinking in awe at dinner: “this place isn’t really stuffy at all!” Sure, there’s a jacket requirement for men, but other than that, the dining room was full of movement, a not-so-low buzz of conversation filled the air (at one point a table even broke out into singing happy birthday) and the atmosphere was much more relaxed than I expected from the dinner crowd. It was surely less intimidating and stiff than Daniel, Jean-Georges, or even Corton, and certainly Picholine (the most stuffy restaurant I’ve ever been to by far far far - yuck!). I was definitely comfortable here using the wrong silverware, cleaning my plates with bread and taking lots of pics ;-).
Let’s start with the complimentary bread, which arrived first. Their bread offerings included very unique pretzel rolls. Awesome! In an effort to carb load for the next day’s long run, I took down 3 (ATO had 5, although he sampled from a more varied assortment of breads). Getting our money’s worth! The butter they bring out is perfectly soft and spreadable. They even replace it halfway through the night when it starts getting a little too melty. Now that’s 3 Michelin star attention to detail!
For the amuses, from bottom to top: (1) cured salmon with honey mustard on pumpernickel toast (this is also on their bar menu), (2) uni with togarashi and caviar and (3) celery root soup garnished with a parmesan crisp. Of these, the uni stood out the most. AU proclaimed it the best uni she’d ever had. Even I had to admit that it was way less fishy and more enjoyable than most uni’s.
A sampling of our dishes. The regular menu is broken out into 3 savory courses and 1 dessert. You chose 1 from each category of “Almost Raw”, “Barely Touched” and “Lightly Cooked,” although they let me chose 2 from “Barely Touched” since raw fish generally grosses me out. Or, if you’re looking for some non-seafood fare, there’s a section of “Upon Request” (but why would you do that at Le Bernardin?). Above, from the ”Almost Raw” section, is the wild striped bass tartare, dressed with baby fennel, zucchini, crispy artichoke and a parmesan sauce vierge. Nothing special but tasty nonetheless.
From the “Barely Touched” section, this was my first course: a chilled peekytoe crab salad topped with baby radish and avocado, sitting in an unexpected but wonderful green apple-lemongrass nage. Fantastic. This dish exemplifies what I love best about Le Bernardin: the subtlety of their flavors, the lightness of their touch, the quality of their product and the precision of their execution.
ATO’s 2nd course, also from the “Barely Touched” section: an interesting warm scallop carpaccio garnished with snowpeas and shiitakes, in a lime-shiso broth. Again, an excellent dish: each ingredient struck a different note but together weaved a beautiful harmony. And the scallops were so silky smooth amazing.
But perhaps the most resplendent 2nd course goes to AU, who took a chance and ordered the medley of caviar and shellfish, served over a yuzu-scented custard and sitting in a smoked bonito broth. Holy moly. Mesmerizing. AU hit it dead on when she remarked, what’s great about this quality of restaurant is that you’ll always find a dish that will just be absolutely unforgettable. This dish was the star of the night…well, for my 3 dining companions at least….
Cos my personal favorite was my 2nd dish, the sauteed langoustine, embraced by shaved truffle and chanterelles and surrounded by aged balsamic vinaigrette. Now this is 3 star Michelin food!! Best langoustine of my life. I’ve never had langoustine that just melted in your mouth like butter… seriously, I probably didn’t even need my teeth! The truffles weren’t overwhelming and the heavenly cream sauce paired with the balsamic was out of this world!
However, the intense fun seemed to have stopped at the entrees. They were mostly still delicious, but just not as wildly successful. Above is ATO’s entree: the roasted monkfish with a wilted mustard greens-daikon sandwich in adobo sauce. His fish was awesome: nice, crisp, flavorful skin and light, tender fish cooked to perfection with not a hint of fishiness. This was probably the best entree of the night.
Unfortunately, AU’s fish was not as great. Above was her sautéed sole, drowned in a brown-butter tamarind vinaigrette and served alongside an “almond-pistachio-barberry” golden basmati rice. Perhaps the most disappointing thing about this dish was the fact that it required an $18 supplement, which only set expectations that much higher. While I kinda liked it all cos it tasted like chicken and gravy, it was a fail for anyone who likes fish and actually wants to taste it. And the heavy-handedness was so un-Le Bernardin like.
Maybe the $18 was to cover the actual gold leaf used in the rice…. does gold leaf ever even taste good, or is it just a luxury that makes rich people feel that much richer?
Finally, above is my baked lobster served with a stuffed zucchini flower, in a sake-miso sauce. That little lobster sure was tough! I almost sent it back cos I thought it was over-cooked. Although the more you chewed it, the more flavor you got. Maybe it was intentional?
Which reminds me…. we actually did have to send back TU’s fish because it actually was over-cooked. Not good. As ATO stated, “when you go to Le Bernardin, you don’t expect to be blown away by new, crazy flavors, but you do expect amazing product that is perfectly executed.” So it was particularly troublesome to receive such a clearly over-cooked piece of fish!
Desserts - all tasty, but none too memorable. Top left we have the plum parfait with ginger foam and shiso and sake sorbet. I have to say, I think shiso always kinda tastes like soap…. Top right we have the banana bread drizzled in caramel sauce with chocolate mousse and a scoop of Vietnamese cinnamon ice cream.
Top left is the dark chocolate cremeux with kirsch bavaroise and Belgian kriek beer sorbet. Finally, as a consolation for bringing out a f*cked up piece of fish…. a free dessert. Madagascan chocolate ganache with candied peanuts and popcorn ice cream! That one hit the spot in terms of pure gluttonous fun.
And to end the night, our pretty little petite fours: a ginger chocolate truffle, lemon poppy seed cake topped with gelee, hibiscus macaron and a pear financier.
Overall, a wonderful evening (especially the company!). But if you ask me, next time I’d rather spend that $500+ on another tasting menu meal at a chef’s open kitchen!
I was just in Boston for my sister’s wedding. And to my complete and utter disappointment and devastation, we didn’t have the chance to snag a lobster roll. Since then, my mind was all about lobster, like a pubescent boy is all about…. you know. I had it baaaaddd. But on Wednesday night of last week, the stars aligned! We were able to get out of work early, and we were headed to the UES to watch the presidential debate with some friends…. leaving us time to grab dinner at Flex Mussels!!!
Above is my absolute favorite dish on the menu: the mussels served “bisque” style with tender chunks of lobster, brandy, tomato, garlic and cream. I really really have been meaning to try some of the other 20+ variations of mussels at Flex, but I can’t tear myself away from this one. I, very predictably, order it every single time. Soooo freakin good. And all my friends agreed, because towards the end of the meal, it was all hands (and bread) in my giant pot. YUMMMMM.
Flex Mussels also happens to be ATO’s favorite lobster roll in the city! All 4 of my dining companions fell victim to its charm this time around. ATO is a very strange boy. He doesn’t like mayo. Which is why he doesn’t like many of the lobster rolls offered by this city. However, Flex Mussels offers a very un-mayo-y lobster roll. And bonus points: the coleslaw isn’t mayo-y either! Instead it’s got a yogurty/curry like consistency and taste. Perfect for my strange boy. Only downside: it’s too small!
Fresh catch! (Indian River Inlet, DE)
There’s nothing like reaping the rewards of a hard day’s work (of someone else) and eating food freshly caught with your own two hands (or the two hands of one of your friends). The highly anticipated, long awaited “Living with Wife Party” had finally arrived, and we drove down to Seaford, DE to celebrate with our friends LS and SS. We took a ride down to the Indian River Inlet, hopped on a boat, found a sandbar, and started digging for clams!
DE fishing license regulations limited our intake to 400 clams in total, so of course we left with no less than 400 clams. You might think, “WTF, why would 7 people ever need 400 clams?”. Good question. Cos we care so deeply about sustainable fishing? (JK - but we did send half the clams to SS’s mom whose clam chowder is the talk of the town). All I know is the boys got super into this easy little “hunting” game and could stop at no less than our statutory max. A couple of hours in, all the girls were lounging on the boat, taking down beers and gossip, and the boys were digging away, hands pruney and blisters forming on all of their thumbs. For the rest of the weekend, we kept hearing about SS’s “clam back” whenever he made quick movements or bent down.
But the hard work wasn’t over yet! Before consumption, the clams must be scrubbed and cleaned….a dirty, exhausting and painstakingly monotonous job. Although I wouldn’t really know, cos JS and ATO took care of it all (I got to shower and put out dip and chips and veggies). Thanks JS and ATO for taking one for the team!
Steamed clams….finally ready to eat! The little ones were the best!
Everything is better when dipped in butter. And with the naturally salty taste of the clams, everything was simple but seasoned just right.
The sides…. super sweet corn on the cob, fresh veggies with a thick, creamy ranch dip, fruit salad on skewers and salsa and chips!
But those were just the starters. The main dish was the freshly-caught crabs. Just set the traps, lounge for a few hours, and come back to find your meal awaiting!
Steaming in a pot with some Old Bay. Can never go wrong with crabs and Old Bay.
Beer and mallets and you’re set!
Fun bonus fact: Did you know a soft-shell crab is not a different species of crab from the regular blue crab? Apparently I was misguided for the past 31 years of my life! Turns out soft-shell crabs are in fact just plain ordinary blue crabs that have recently molted their old shells in order to grow, and are therefore still soft. A crab goes through several cycles of this growing process in its lifetime (well, unless it’s eaten first - ha) and timing is everything; the crabs are only soft for a few hours after they’ve molted. Photo Hungry! = science class today ;-). Above are our soft-shell crabs lightly battered and fried.
And served with some Old Bay between two slices of white bread. (I couldn’t bring myself to eat it, but I had a juicy cheeseburger and nicely grilled hot dog in its stead!)
A delicious, fun and informative weekend. Thanks LS and SS!!
PS - SS definitely gets drafted first in our post-apocalyptic island league for his skills in driving a boat, finding food, catching food and cooking food!
Son of a Gun (Los Angeles)
Going into the last and final meal of our trip, ATO and I were just about to give up on the LA food scene. Not to say it wasn’t good… but ATO was convinced that cheap eats (like Tito’s Tacos) were the way to go when heading out west. Then came Son of a Gun. From the owners of Animal, Son of a Gun is their spin on seafood, and it was well worth the effort to sneak in for a meal (tip – go early and get the first seating at the communal table to guarantee a seat (thanks SK!)). Similar to The Bazaar, the restaurant serves small plates to be shared, so we were able to taste a lot. But first, the drinks! I started out with the Sidewinder Fang, a rum-based snow cone (pictured above). Fun, but the cone was more frozen ice than powdery snow and a tiny bit too sweet for my palate. ATO had the house fermented shandy (not pictured), a refreshing brew for a hot summer day.
Now onto the grub….
On the recommendation of our waitress, we started with the smoked mahi mahi dip with celery and radishes. A great balance of smoke and cream (without being overly doused in mayo) on top of a salty cracker. Even the heirloom tomato salad, above, which sounds and looks straight-forward was surprisingly tasty and bright. Served with purslane, olive croutons and feta. Our third starter was freshly fried chips and pimento cheese dip. While not mind blowing, a great shared plate for the table to tame our growling bellies. Also, cheese dip - how could you go wrong? Yum. After scraping our starter plates clean, we were happily surprised by our first raw fish plate: fluke with strawberries, rhubarb and sesame and basil seeds. How pretty is this dish?? Amazingly fresh and bright with only a hint of sweetness from the fruit. At this point, I knew I wasn’t in “The Bazaar”-o land anymore (sorry, another dig on Jose Andres!). ATO always has to order uni; next up was the uni with burrata, button mushrooms and yuzu. The yuzu added a nice punch to the creamy uni/burrata mix. A good, non-generic poke is hard to find and Son of a Gun sure does a good poke. Amberjack served as the base and was paired with serrano chilies, yuzu, orange and white nectarine. The contrast of the chiles and the orange/nectarine was addictive and avoided the heavy soy sauce flavor of pokes past. Blood orange, avocado and spring onion salad. I would never order this for myself but thanks to EY’s vegetarian palate, it was a welcome surprise! The avocado added a nice creamy balance to the sweet and citrusy orange, and was a refreshing change of pace. NL: “Santa Barbara spot prawns are bomb…I’m gonna get me one of those.” ATO: “One prawn for $9…seriously?” Winner: NL. The spot prawn was simply prepared with a light dash of yuzu and butter (ok, maybe more than a dash). It was sweet like a lobster but had a softer, melt-in-your-mouth texture. Above is the octopus confit salad with mirepoix, chick peas, chiles, dill and parsley. Very similar to the octopus at The John Dory (previously reviewed) and a similar complaint…cut the herbs up smaller! The Chinese contingency at our table could not pass up shrimp toast and it didn’t disappoint. Awe inspiring? No. Buttery, spicy indulgence? Definite yes. If you’ve read prior posts, you know that I can’t pass up a lobster roll and some fries! The fries were served with a vinegar aioli, which had a strangely addictive tartness that cut through the richness of the mayo, but unfortunately it was the ugly stepchild to the delicious chips (above). The lobster roll was tiny, and as good and tasty as any old lobster roll should be, but it wasn’t anything special. A perfect tasting portion; I wouldn’t have wanted any more of it. The linguine and clams with uni aglio-olio, chili and breadcrumbs. A classic preparation with a mild uni twist. ATO: “I can’t say I’m going to remember this forever, but it filled my need for processed carbs.” Two people at the table ordered the local squid with Texas caviar (typically, a cold black-eyed pea salad with chilies, onions and peppers) served with corn butter and black garlic. To all of our surprise, it was served chilled. While the texture of the squid was great and the flavors were bold, not many could get over the lukewarm temperature acquired after sitting for 10 minutes. It was the only thing left unfinished at our table. ATO: “We need more food. I’m getting shishito peppers with bottarga” (salted, cured fish roe). NL: “Dude, get another spot prawn. It’s the same price.” ATO ordered the peppers. Winner: NL. No taste of bottarga was to be found and dreams of spot prawns overcame our table. Last, but not least, the fried chicken sandwich. While a seafood restaurant, anyone who’s been to Son of a Gun will demand that you order the fried chicken sandwich. I usually veer away from fried chicken (it’s on a bone!), but this fried, boneless sandwich of goodness, paired with perfectly tart and tangy pickles and cole slaw, really hit the spot.
On the recommendation of our waitress, we started with the smoked mahi mahi dip with celery and radishes. A great balance of smoke and cream (without being overly doused in mayo) on top of a salty cracker.
Even the heirloom tomato salad, above, which sounds and looks straight-forward was surprisingly tasty and bright. Served with purslane, olive croutons and feta.
Our third starter was freshly fried chips and pimento cheese dip. While not mind blowing, a great shared plate for the table to tame our growling bellies. Also, cheese dip - how could you go wrong? Yum.
After scraping our starter plates clean, we were happily surprised by our first raw fish plate: fluke with strawberries, rhubarb and sesame and basil seeds. How pretty is this dish?? Amazingly fresh and bright with only a hint of sweetness from the fruit. At this point, I knew I wasn’t in “The Bazaar”-o land anymore (sorry, another dig on Jose Andres!).
ATO always has to order uni; next up was the uni with burrata, button mushrooms and yuzu. The yuzu added a nice punch to the creamy uni/burrata mix.
A good, non-generic poke is hard to find and Son of a Gun sure does a good poke. Amberjack served as the base and was paired with serrano chilies, yuzu, orange and white nectarine. The contrast of the chiles and the orange/nectarine was addictive and avoided the heavy soy sauce flavor of pokes past.
Blood orange, avocado and spring onion salad. I would never order this for myself but thanks to EY’s vegetarian palate, it was a welcome surprise! The avocado added a nice creamy balance to the sweet and citrusy orange, and was a refreshing change of pace.
NL: “Santa Barbara spot prawns are bomb…I’m gonna get me one of those.” ATO: “One prawn for $9…seriously?” Winner: NL. The spot prawn was simply prepared with a light dash of yuzu and butter (ok, maybe more than a dash). It was sweet like a lobster but had a softer, melt-in-your-mouth texture.
Above is the octopus confit salad with mirepoix, chick peas, chiles, dill and parsley. Very similar to the octopus at The John Dory (previously reviewed) and a similar complaint…cut the herbs up smaller!
The Chinese contingency at our table could not pass up shrimp toast and it didn’t disappoint. Awe inspiring? No. Buttery, spicy indulgence? Definite yes.
If you’ve read prior posts, you know that I can’t pass up a lobster roll and some fries! The fries were served with a vinegar aioli, which had a strangely addictive tartness that cut through the richness of the mayo, but unfortunately it was the ugly stepchild to the delicious chips (above). The lobster roll was tiny, and as good and tasty as any old lobster roll should be, but it wasn’t anything special. A perfect tasting portion; I wouldn’t have wanted any more of it.
The linguine and clams with uni aglio-olio, chili and breadcrumbs. A classic preparation with a mild uni twist. ATO: “I can’t say I’m going to remember this forever, but it filled my need for processed carbs.”
Two people at the table ordered the local squid with Texas caviar (typically, a cold black-eyed pea salad with chilies, onions and peppers) served with corn butter and black garlic. To all of our surprise, it was served chilled. While the texture of the squid was great and the flavors were bold, not many could get over the lukewarm temperature acquired after sitting for 10 minutes. It was the only thing left unfinished at our table.
ATO: “We need more food. I’m getting shishito peppers with bottarga” (salted, cured fish roe). NL: “Dude, get another spot prawn. It’s the same price.” ATO ordered the peppers. Winner: NL. No taste of bottarga was to be found and dreams of spot prawns overcame our table.
Last, but not least, the fried chicken sandwich. While a seafood restaurant, anyone who’s been to Son of a Gun will demand that you order the fried chicken sandwich. I usually veer away from fried chicken (it’s on a bone!), but this fried, boneless sandwich of goodness, paired with perfectly tart and tangy pickles and cole slaw, really hit the spot.
Overall, Son of a Gun was The John Dory 2.0: new and improved. Oh yeah, and you can’t leave LA without a star sighting! Big ups to MT for spotting one of Modern Family’s favorites eyeing our table while he waited for a seat. Mitch, you wait your turn! You didn’t get to the restaurant at 5:40 pm (20 minutes before it opened) and stare longingly inside the door until they took pity and let you in!
Stalker photo credit to EY!
Our LA eating extravaganza complete (at least for now), ATO and I left on a high note.
Ghost writer credit to ATO!
Ferah (Kusadasi, Turkey)
We stayed in Kusadasi during our trip because it was close to Ephesus, not because of its charm. Our expectations were not high. But, surprisingly, we discovered Ferah, a gem of a seafood restaurant right on the water! It was actually recommended by Lonely Planet, so I suggested we go there. You might be thinking - why would you suggest a seafood place? You don’t eat fish! Well, EW had been talking all week about how she just wanted a fresh fish grilled in olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper…. And for some very strange, selflessly motivated reason, I really like fresh seafood places. There’s something very comforting and relaxing about them to me. Maybe cos I grew up going to them and watching everyone else eat. Turns out I still kinda like doing that….
So above is the fish counter, where you go and pick your catch! We (and by we I mean my 5 dining companions) just pointed at various things; didn’t even need a menu.
Zucchini fritters - yum! Hard to go wrong here; very tasty.
I ordered a Greek salad to supplement my meal. Fresh and good; the cheese was especially rich and creamy. The beets, below, were also simple but satisfying - nice pickled tanginess to them.
And here’s what I couldn’t partake in, but everyone else seemed happy enough! Octopus….
Fresh, head-on shrimp (ATO was a bit disappointed that the heads weren’t as juicy as he had hoped).
Fried (head-less/tail-less) shrimp for me! In a spicy vat of oil…
And of course the freshly grilled fish, which everyone seemed to agree was absolutely awesome. Moist and flavorful, fresh and tender. (I tried a potato and that was really good too!).
Some complimentary fruit to wash it all down (the cherries and apricots in Turkey are especially sweet and amazing).
To top off all the great food, a wonderful view: looking out from our table at sunset. Vacations are fantastic!