IJustWantToEat's Recent Reviews

posted 
    • 5.0

Please note that the meal was complimentary. However, the opinions expressed in my blog are 100% my own!

Roki Le Izakaya

Last Friday, I was invited at ROKI Le Izakaya a new Japanese brasserie just opened 2 weeks ago by Keiko Ono Aoki and Executive Chef Koji Hagihara. This is a spin off of Benihana, Keiko being the wife of late founder of that famous Japanese chain, Hiroaki Aoki, known in the US as Rocky Aoki. I had the chance to meet with Keiko and Chef Koji who welcomed us in this incredible space where the main attraction is the kitchen in the middle where one can admire the Chef and his crew not only cook delicious food, but also present it in a beautiful way.

Roki Le Izakaya

Yes, this is not your regular Japanese joint: of course, you can have some sushi and sashimi, but they also propose other choices that will satisfy a larger crowd, some of the dishes definitely showing some creativity and with an elegant flair as you will see later in this post.

Back to the restaurant first: big, with two rows of tables at the entrance, the main dining room in the center, with its central kitchen that you can face if you sit at the counter, that I highly recommend. I also noticed a large painting of Marilyn Monroe on one side as well as large communal tables and a private dining room further back. It has an elegant but casual feel and I truly appreciated that the lights were not dimmed, so I could admire the aesthetics of the dishes.

Roki Le Izakaya

I should mention that at the time we went, they did not have their liquor license, but you can bring your own bottle(s) if you wish...So, food wise, we tried quite a lot of items from their menu. Here is what we tried:

Japanese canapés: in cooking, canapé is a slice of bread that can be toasted, topped with various savory items. At ROKI, the bread is replaced by crispy rice that gave an incredible texture to the whole thing, being both crunchy and chewy at the same time.

Roki Le Izakaya

They propose 9 different types, three being vegetarian. We chose:

Uni - Sea urchin and flying fish roe:

Roki Le Izakaya

Kani - Snow crab and avocado:

Roki Le Izakaya

Unagi - eel and Japanese pepper:

Roki Le Izakaya

 

Spicy maguro - tuna and spicy mayonnaise:

Roki Le Izakaya

Truffle and mushroom:

Roki Le Izakaya

Guacamole - avocado, mountain caviar and tomato.
Roki Le Izakaya

 

I could then not miss the next dish considering my French roots: powdered foie gras over duck chasiu. Basically, it is a two components dish: on one hand is the duck that was delicious on its own, perfectly cooked with some nice fat. On the other hand, you have a bloc of foie gras that will be grated like you would parmesan on a pasta dish. I am not sure if I got a special treatment, but when the Chef grated the foes gras, I was really wondering when he would stop, although, let's be honest, I did not want him to stop anyway! It was really good, rich, delightfully fatty, a perfect dish if, like me, you love duck.

 

 

Roki Le Izakaya

Roki Le Izakaya

Roki Le Izakaya

Roki Le Izakaya

The next dish was beautifully presented on a bed of crushed ice: kanpachi carpaccio. Kanpachi, also called yellow tail or amberjack, is a leaner fish than tuna (they also propose a tuna carpaccio with goji berries) and has a pink color with lines that look like grapefruit. This carpaccio was delicious: the fish was soft and the dish had a nice acidity thanks to the ponzu sauce. I recommend it if you like raw fish.

Roki Le Izakaya

Roki Le Izakaya

Roki Le Izakaya

 

 

Then came a classic: pork belly buns. But I admit that the presentation was great: first of all, the buns had a different shape than the classic round one. Then, it is a "do it yourself", a bit messy, but still nice, as Jodi enjoyed one of the buns without the pork belly that she does not like. On my side,...Read more at: http://www.ijustwanttoeat.com/post/restaurant-review/roki-le-izakaya-japanese-brasserie-nyc-ny-new-york

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posted 
    • 4.0

Please note that the meal was complimentary. However, the opinions expressed in my blog are 100% my own!
Haru Sushi

 

Haru is not unknown to me: I remember the first time I went there was at their location in Gramercy with our friends Jen and Chris, before this blog even existed. I was blown away by the original meal I had, thinking at first that it was a classic Japanese place. The meal went beyond my expectations and it was probably my first step into Japanese fusion. And this week, I got to try their new location in Hell's Kitchen, that just opened a week ago, the crowd definitely getting the word of it as it was packed from the moment we arrived to the moment we left.
Haru Sushi

 

I like many things besides food there. First is the elegant decor and the light that is not dimmed, allowing dinners to not only see their food, but also what is being served to other tables. Because yes, this is the kind of place where your head will turn in many directions, trying to see what others ordered, sometimes with envy.

Haru Sushi

This dinner was also the opportunity to meet with Chef Ben Dodaro who crafted some seasonal dishes on the menu that we got to try. Some, because some other dishes have been on the menu for years. Smartly, they gave us a wide preview of what they offer, with tasting portions of appetizers, sushi, entrées and desserts. When asked after each plate what I liked the most, I admit that I was not sure what to answer, everything being different and so good. Here is what we got:
Haru Sushi

 

Appetizers:
Haru Sushi

 

Short rib yakitori, marinated in a yuzu miso marinade. The meat was delicious, tender and flavorful. Under was a green apple salad that at first I disregarded, considering it more like a presentation item, but then, when I tried it, I could not believe how good it was.
Haru Sushi

 

Bluefin crab and corn fritter. This was definitely not what I expected and I was for sure not disappointed: the crab was definitely the star and was not at all overpowered by some fillers as you often see with crab cakes.
Haru Sushi

 

Lobster taco: made with Maine lobster, this is the perfect example of a fusion dish. What was interesting was the shell made with gyoza shell! It was a bit spicy, thanks to the jalapeño-ponzu dressing, and had a nice crunch given by the cucumber. It is for sure hard to say which one of these dishes were my favorite.

 

Haru Sushi

Haru Sushi

Then was the sushi, served with Sho Chiku Bai Nigori, an unfiltered sake (hence the milky color) that was quite good (more restaurants and bars should propose sake).
Haru Sushi

 

As well as a cucumber gimlet that was quite refreshing and could be drunken like milk...

Haru Sushi

The selection for the sushi was:
Haru Sushi

 

California king crab roll:
Haru Sushi

 

Hell's Kitchen roll made with crunchy salmon, cucumber, lemon-chili mayo, topped with salmon, avocado, tobiko caviar and sriracha. It was served with a lemon-chili and sriracha mayo.

Haru Sushi

Haru Sushi

Mandarin and fennel tuna sashimi:
Haru Sushi

 Haru Sushi

Toro (fatty part of the tuna belly):

Read more at: http://www.ijustwanttoeat.com/post/restaurant-review/haru-japanese-fusion-hells-kitchen-nyc-new-york

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posted 
Sel & PoivreSel & Poivre
French / Mediterranean / Brasseries
    • 4.0

Sel & Poivre

Going to Sel et Poivre (salt and pepper in French) is so refreshing: there, you get not only to taste some great French cuisine, but the dining room is worked on by Chef Christian Schienle who prepares classic French bistro dishes, some of them with a refined flair. What amuses me is that Chef Schienle (that you can see on the photo above paying for parking) is not French, but succeeds to serve delicious dishes. To the point that I went twice this week: on Tuesday for a blog dinner and on Friday, simply because I wanted to try one of their specials only served that day: cassoulet.
Sel & Poivre

 

I like the atmosphere of the restaurant and the charm that all the black and white photos on the wall give to the room. In fact, these photos are vacation photos, adding a personal touch to an intimate setting (this photo was taken earlier in the evening).

Sel & PoivreSel & Poivre

 

Food wise, it was fantastic and if you go there, you may want to wear stretch pants, because you will not want to stop eating, even if you are full...like I did! So here is what I got:

 

Episode 1 - Tuesday Blog Dinner:

 

Note that the portions below were tasting size, except for the soup, snails and desserts.

 

Wine: I went for a Beaujolais, Brouilly Bonne Neige, 2011 that was light and perfumed, perfect with the meal I was going to have.
Sel & Poivre

 

Of course, the meal started off with some baguette that was served warm, with butter. Yes, you cannot have a French meal without bread.
Sel & Poivre

 

Then, every year, during this period, they serve a game menu and so, some grilled venison sausage and a wild boar sausage. I think it is a good idea to propose some game as a special as not that common in restaurant, and, when well done, it can be fantastic.
Sel & Poivre

 

Followed escargots. I was really looking forward to it, but was a little apprehensive because I went to few restaurants were they put too much of a twist into it, simply ruining the dish. No, these were the classic ones, served with a sauce made of butter, garlic and parsley, sauce so good that I dipped my bread into it...
Sel & Poivre

 

The next dish is not what comes to mind when thinking about French cuisine. It was a red pepper bisque, perfect for the season. It was light and had just a tad of cream in it (it is a bisque), and you could definitely taste the red pepper.
Sel & Poivre

 

After that was cod fish with creamy lentils. That dish was succulent! The fish was perfectly cooked, not dry and flakey. But then, the lentils were amazing, drenched in a cream made with mustard seeds and horseradish.
Sel & Poivre

 

The last entree was also something I was looking forward to. It was a quail stuffed with goat cheese in a port wine reduction. I do not see quail that often on restaurant menus and sometimes, when I get it, it is overcooked and therefore dry. At Sel et Poivre, it was perfect and I was surprised how the combination between the quail and the cheese worked well.
Sel & Poivre

 

Last was dessert, to finish this delicious meal on a high note. There was first a creme brûlée that was perfectly set:
Sel & Poivre

 

And an Apricot crepe that was sublime, the crepe being well made.
Sel & Poivre

 

So, it is discussing with Chef Schienle that I realized that he was serving cassoulet on Fridays and I persuaded Jodi to go back the same week to try it.

Episode 2 - The return...Read more at: http://www.ijustwanttoeat.com/post/2017/sel-et-poivre-authentic-french-cuisine-by-an-austrian-chef

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posted 
    • 3.5

Please note that the meal was complimentary. However, the opinions expressed in my blog are 100% my own!
ORO

 

Yesterday evening, I was invited at ORO, an Italian restaurant that opened last August in Long Island City, conveniently located five minutes from the Queensboro Plaza subway stop. I was really surprised when I entered this place as I did not expect a place so spacious, modern and elegant, but with a casual feel.

ORO

ORO

There, I got the chance to meet with the Chef, Scott Andriani, who crafted a very interesting menu.

ORO

I started off my meal with a cocktail, a mule sweet and bitter made with muddled strawberries, Russian vodka, campari, lime juice, topped with ginger beer and a strawberry. This was delicious, the taste of strawberry coming through and making it very refreshing. But, this is the type of drink that you would sip without realizing there is alcohol in it...

ORO

ORO

Then, they brought us some homemade bread, one was made with fennel and the second one with onions. It was quite good bread, the crust being crispy and not too thick, and quite light, cooked in their brick oven.

ORO

ORO

Then came the appetizers. We tried:

Butternut squash arancini made with aborio rice, aged parmesan cheese and served with a sage-lemon aioli. I thought it was an interesting dish as different from the classic rice balls. I really liked the sweetness the butternut squash added to the dish.

ORO

ORO

Meatball parmigiana served with a tomato basil sauce. These meatballs were delicious, not dry. There was a hint of lemon in that dish that I found unusual and surprising.
ORO

Charred octopus on top of a white bean ragout, charred peppers, roasted garlic and paprika aioli. The octopus was not rubbery and had a nice char. However, I found it a bit salty. The white bean ragout though was fantastic.
ORO

 

This was definitely a good start and I was looking forward to try the entrees. The first one was the squid ink linguini, served with mixed seafood and a tomato broth. I love squid ink pasta and was in heaven. Know that the pasta there is homemade. They were perfectly cooked and, with the sauce, were sublime. There was also a large amount of seafood, from mussels, to shrimp, squid and clams, all well cooked.
ORO

 

The second entree was the deep dish grandma pizza that was made with plum tomato, fresh mozzarella and herb oil (rosemary for sure). I admit that I was expected something different, like a fusion between the Chicago deep dish pizza and the Sicilian. It was good, but did not stand out for me.

ORO

ORO

 

With the entrees came...Read more at:http://www.ijustwanttoeat.com/post/restaurant-review/oro-italian-restaurant-in-long-island-city

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posted 
    • 3.5

Gaby

I was looking for a French restaurant Midtown and found Gaby, a place attached to the Sofitel Hotel, few steps from Bryant Park. Interesting place with its Art Deco decor, but with still the feel that it is the restaurant of a hotel.

Gaby

Gaby

Food wise, I was really surprised. They do have some classic dishes like foie gras au torchon, as well as French onion soup, but they also put some spin on some other dishes as you will see below. To follow the French tradition, they brought us a bread basket, bread being a must have in a French meal. I especially liked the walnut and olive bread that was there.

 

Gaby

Gaby

To start, I decided to go with the foie gras au torchon as the escargots were not the traditional garlic/butter. The foie gras, marinated in cognac, came with a salad, a ginger marmelade and a country bread. It was very good, the alcohol having a very subtle taste and not being overpowering at all. However, I did not really like the ginger marmelade that was anyway not necessary, the foie gras being delicious on its own.

Gaby

Gaby

Gaby

Gaby

Next, I ordered the duck breast that was served with red organic rice, baby spinach, carrots and an orange sauce. So, as you may have guessed, this was their take on canard (duck) à l'orange. I loved it, especially the duck that was well cooked, pink in the center, not dry. I loved the fact that it was not drenched in sauce, keeping it being the star of the dish.
Gaby

Gaby

 Gaby

Jodi decided to go with...Read more at: http://www.ijustwanttoeat.com/post/restaurant-review/gaby-french-bryant-park-in-nyc-ny

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I Just Want To Eat® is a personal blog that me, Jean-Philippe, decided to create back in July 2011. The idea came naturally: I love food, talking about food and experienced different types of cuisine during the years I traveled around the world. I do not know if it is because of my French palate and the different food I have been exposed to, but trust me: I can eat any type of food.
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