Sunday, April 27, 2008

Bar Boulud a Brasserie in New York City

Oh how I do love my charcuterie, on a recent trip to New York City I had the chance to imbibe in some of the best charcuterie I have had in years. Bar Boulud is one of Daniel Boulud's newest restaurant in New York City that specializes in classical brasserie cuisine in a casual environment. On the day I went, we arrived early so we were the first people in the dining room. It was clear after an hour though, that if we had not mad a reservation we would of been waiting at the door for quite some time as the restaurant filled up quickly and a crowd was soon gathered at the door waiting for open tables.

The entrance the the restaurant is simple, a full glass windowed wall, with a barrel sign with the name of the restaurant on it. After going through two heavy glass doors we were welcomed by a beutiful restaurant, narrow but with considerable depth to the room. There are a number of traditional tables in the front of the dining room with a long bay of booths running the length of the dining room. Toward the back of the room was a large round communal table with a wine display in the center. To the left of the dining room is a charcuterie bar where diners can sit in front of the impressive selection of charcuterie with the chefs and cooks working behind. On the left wall above the booths are a number of framed wine stains each labeled from which bottle of wine they came from, all very impressive wines.

The menu is very classical brasserie cuisine which seems hot right now in the restaurant scene. Classics like Croque Monsieur (grilled ham and greyure cheese with bechamel), Boudin Blanc, Boudin Noir (blood sausage), Frisee Lyonnaise (frisee salad with bacon lardons, sourdough croutons, chicken liver and poached egg), Steak Frites, along with an impressive variety of charcuterie.

The charcuterie may be ordered individually with selection like Pate Grand-Mere, Lapin De La Garrigue (pulled rabbit and vegetable terrine), Fromage de Tete (head cheese terrine), Compote De Joue De Boeuf (shredded slow-braised beef cheek with onion confit and pistachio), Terrine de Poularde Au Citron et Coriandre (chicken terrine with lemon and cilantro), amongst others. The selection is slightly larger for dinner than is available for lunch. If you want to try a little of everything there are two options for a Degustation de Charcuterie, the small offering is $22 while the large selection is $46. Traditional accompaniments come along with the charcuterie, selections included carrots with coriander, beets with horseradish, celery root and apple remoulade, and potatoes with fennel and olives.

To round out the menu is a beutiful assortment of cheeses offered in a selection of three ($14), five ($21), or seven ($28). The dessert selection is classic French as well with a selection of petit fours ($8), Floating Islands ($8), and a selection of pastries like the classical Gateau Basque. There is also a selection of in-house made ice creams and a tropical fruit salad for those watching the calories, but if you are eating here why go for fruit, just make the sacrifice and try something truly amazing like the petit fours and Gateau Basque like we did.

I obviously tried the charcuterie, which was amazing. We also went with the Boudin Noir and Boudin Blanc, both very light in texture and perfect in flavor. It was truly hard to just go with the selection we did but it was lunch and there were more meals planned for later in the day. The wine list is simple but with exquisite selections. The only draw back to the meal might be the prices, but honestly you pay for what you get. The total meal with two glasses of wine each came to about $200 with tip, worth every penny or dollar I should say. I will certainly be back to Bar Boulud again.

Bar Boulud Website

Telephone 1-212-595-0303

1900 Broadway (between 63rd and 64th)
New York, NY 10023

Brunch: Saturday-Sunday 11:00am - 2:30pm
Lunch: Monday-Friday Noon - 2:30pm
Dinner: Sunday 5:00pm - 10:00pm
Monday-Thursday 5:00pm - 11:00pm
Friday & Saturday 5:00pm - Midnight

Late Night Charcuterie and Cheese Menu
Friday & Saturday Midnight - 1:00am
Sunday 10:00pm - 11:00pm

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Chez Pierre Restaurant

In my last blog I talked about being impressed by a restaurant that has been open for over 30 years, but the results of the meal were not hot. Yesterday though, I went to a restaurant in Ganesvorrt, NY just outside of Saratoga Springs that has been open for 44 years and I had one a meal that showed the positive side of 44 years of experience.

Chez Pierre is a classical French restaurant that certainly makes no apoligies for being old-school French. The dishes remind one of French cuisine promoted in Escoffier's Le Guide Culinaire. If you want to remember the haute cuisine that I love, you must go here.

Located off of route 9 in Ganesvoort, NY Chez Pierre is an easy restaurant to get to. For some it may be too far out of Saratoga, but on the Friday night I went in, it was obvious that the location was not an issue to many as after 7 pm the place was packed. The restaurant is located in a cute mid-size building with a small Eiffel tower outside to let the diners know where to stop when driving by.

The dining room was quaint, nothing ultra modern, kinda plain maybe a little dated but perhaps some might say the cuisine is as well but I also love that about this place. It screams "local French bistro." Make sure you watch out for the floor when you walk in, there are multiple levels that could trip you up as it did to me.

The dining room was covered in white linen with pink cloth napkins and antique -type etched crystal water glasses. The bar seemed very classic French, one might think that Van Gogh was going to come sit next to you with a bottle of Absinthe. Sadly, the bar did not have any Pastis, which is the modern legal version of Absinthe, just without the wormwood.

As mentioned, the menu is very old-school French. Escargots with garlic and herbs, Beef Wellington, Veal Oscar, Tournados Henri IV, Chateaubriand, Steak Diane, Frogs Legs Provencal, Couquille Saint Jacques, Supreme De Poulet "Valdostana", Paupiette de Veau, Filet of Sole Marguery, and I could continue with dishes that excited me.

With our bread was delivered a nice slice of Pate Grand Mere. A nice pork terrine with liver added to it. It had a good texture to it and a wonderful flavor. The bread seemed a bit "white breadish, not very classical baguette in my opinion. The accompaniment of packaged crackers detracted from the quality of the bread course to me as well.

It was really hard for me to choose what to order. I wanted frog's legs and escargot, but my dining companion didn't want either, so I we got the Couquille Saint Jacques and the escargot, both were by-God amazing. The escargot came in these small ceramic mock snail shells and the Couquille was served in an actual scallop shell with some beautiful swiss cheese browned on top.

For entree, I went with the Paupiette de Veau, (veal pounded out thin and rolled with cheese and ham). Cooked perfectly and served with a beautiful sauce. A bit heavy for a summer night, as were most items on the menu, but one does not goto this restaurant to eat seasonally, you dine here to eat the food of La Varenne, Antoine Careme and Escoffier. The sides were orange glazed carrots which were perfectly cooked until soft and Potato Dauphinoise. Both sides were very flavorful.

If that was not enough, I had to go for dessert, I usually don't go for the basic desserts like chocolate mousse, but if there was a place to get mousse, this was it, it was phenomenal, like airy and rich with chocolate and lacking in graininess. My espresso was served in a percolator, it was disappointing, cold and as such lacking in flavor. The Grand Marnier at the end of the meal made up for the espresso though.

Our server was great, it was obvious she had been working there for some years and knew her stuff. The service was a bit slow at times in the meal as the room was packed and they were a little understaffed, but the timing didn't make me uncomfortable, she preformed well for the issues dealt to her.

If there was to be a restaurant in the area I live in now that I had a standing order for a weekly dining reservation, this would be the place. It made me feel like I was at a local French restaurant that I should know everyone's name as well as their family member's names. I may not be back weekly, but I will certainly be a regular.

Website -

Hours -
Serving Dinner Tuesday - Friday, 5:30pm - 10:00pm
Saturday, 5:00pm - 10:00pm
and Sunday 5:00pm - 9:00pm
Racing Season Schedule - 7 Days, 5:00pm - 10:00pm

Chez Pierre Restaurant
979 Route 9
Gansevoort NY, 12831
(518) 793-3350 or (800) 672-0666

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Hiro's Japanese Restaurant In Albany, NY

It's not often one sees a restaurant that has been around for thirty-plus years. It is even less often one sees a Japanese restaurant around for that long, but there is one in Albany, NY that has the unique distinction. Hiro's Japanese Restaurant on Central Avenue is a main-stay that has been brining in patrons far and wide from the New York Capital District since 1972.

I have driven by this restaurant for many years and I am ashamed to say that I have only recently taken the time to go in for a meal. Seeing the restaurant from the road I have always remembered people telling me that I needed to have reservations in order to visit so I think this kept me at bay. I just happened to be driving by this past week and decided on a whim to stop by when I saw the "open" light on.

Having an early dinner is usually odd to me, even on a Sunday, but on this particular day dinner was to be had at 3:00pm which luckily was their opening time on Sundays which is a great thing for an early dinner or a late lunch. Their sign upon entering also stated that they serve lunch Tuesday-Saturday earlier in the day.

We were greated by a nice young lady who asked us if we were interested in the dining room or the cooking table. I had not known this, but Hiro's not only serves traditional sushi, but they also feature two Teppanyaki tables. Teppanyaki for the uninitiated is what many refer to as a habaci grill. It is pretty much a large flat-top grill where a "chef" puts on a show for the crowd. If you have ever seen a Bennihana, you have seen this style of cookery. As for myself I get little joy or excitement from watching this show-over-flavor American version of Japanese cookery, so we opted for a regular table.

The building and dining room have started to show their age a little bit and sitting near a window seat gave me a bit of a chill. I was a little put off by the vacuum cleaner that one of the servers kept trying to run when we first came in, but one of the other servers, probably more seasoned kept trying to stop him.

The menus at first look were nice, but limited compared to what is offered at many of the numerous Japanese restaurants now found in the Capital District. As with my personal tradition, I decided to order a couple cooked items from the (stained) menu as appetizers and go with a sushi/sashimi combination dinner. An interesting offering is the personal choice to add a multi-course experience to the meal. I suppose to some this might seem like an "extra" but in most Japanese restaurants these days this "option" is part of any dinner entree one might order. Usually one gets a crisp greens salad with a ginger dressing and miso soup and a piece of orange. This option included that, along with pork katsu and green tea ice cream.

The first appetizer was mushroom terriyaki, a dish of button mushrooms stir-fried with terriyaki sauce. Not all that exciting, but not bad. It could of had a variety of mushrooms, especially shitakes or something else in the Japanese realm along with some ginger/garlic and some green onions, instead of leaves of iceberg lettuce.

The second appetizer was a vegetable tempura, at first glance it was attractive, the batter looked light but then I took a few bites. The broccoli had a large amount of raw batter inside, and all of the pieces were pretty greasy which is odd for tempura. The final appetizer was stir-fried spinach with bonito flakes which I actually enjoyed except the portion size was absurdly small.

The pork katsu arrived next, it was nice in contrast to the other appetizers. Very crispy exterior with a contrasting softness of onions and pork on the interior. The sauce on the outside was a nice contrast to the fried texture. Again, presentation took a side seat here with the katsu sitting on a piece of iceberg lettuce. Perhaps some shredded shiso or daikon radish may of added to the dish.

The miso soup was OK, generic and lacking in the normal bites of tofu or shitake I am used to, there was however some wakame seaweed present. The salad was truly unexciting as it was a combination of shredded lettuce, celery, cucumber and a chunk of iceberg lettuce with an odd watery dressing on top.

My entree as I mentioned earlier was a sushi/sashimi combo. Four pieces of sushi along with 2 pieces of salmon sashimi, 2 pieces of tuna sashimi, 2 pieces of mackerel sashimi, and a piece of nondescript white fish along with a tuna roll. The fish was very fresh, the rice was properly cooked. The presentation was a bit plain but was not unappealing, again some shredded daikon or shiso would've been a nice touch instead of batons of cucumber and is pink pickled ginger popular anymore? The white ginger without coloring seems to be the more popular way to go over the odd looking pink stuff. My dining partner had the Salmonyaki, I'm guessing Salmon Terriyaki. It seemed very over cooked, again sitting on a bed of iceberg lettuce. Someone surely must have stock in iceberg lettuce in this place.

A great end to the meal though was the green tea ice cream, which ever brand Hiro's purchases should be purchased by everyone else in the area that serves it. The green tea they offered was hot and flavorful as well. A request for bottled water during the meal gained an odd look and a glass of tap water was brought to the table. In a day when there are so many warnings about drinking tap water thee should be the option, not to mention a loss of potential revenue for the restaurant for such a simple item to carry.

My server was excellent, she was attentive and cheerful. She had a smile on her face the entire time and any requests were fulfilled quickly. The woman behind the sushi bar who I assumed to be the owner came over and said hello to us and thought we were someone else from a local newspaper who ironically just happened to give a review for the restaurant a couple weeks ago.

The prices weren't all that bad for the average Japanese restaurant. Two people, with three appetizers (very small however) along with two entrees, soup, salad, pork katsu appetizer and ice cream came up to just around 75.00 with tip. It may seem a little high for lunch in the Capital District but sushi/ sashimi is always expensive no matter where you go and although the appetizers were a bit small, it was still quite a bit of food.

Hiro's Japanese Restaurant

1933 Central Ave
Albany, NY 12205
(518) 456-1180

Reservations suggested, especially for the teppanyaki tables as they only have two.

Hours: Lunch, 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Tuesday through Friday. Dinner, 3 to 9 p.m. Sunday, 5 to 9:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 5 to 10:30 p.m. Friday and 4:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Saturday; closed Monday.

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