Tag Archives: Midtown

Take my Breath Away

Sometimes, a restaurant comes along and really takes my breath away.  Okay, not really my breath per say, cause then I wouldn’t be able to breath let alone write.  But it takes me by surprise.  And I’m not going to bore you with more neighborhood nonsense, because you already know how I feel about restaurants in Midtown compared to restaurants, well, anywhere else.  But this is a tale of a terrific restaurant in midtown.

Vitae is like a needle in a haystack, like one shiny star in a dark night sky, like one fabulous pair of shoes in a sea of ugly shoes.  Why such high praise for the midtown eatery? Because it freakin rocks, that’s why.  The restaurant features contemporary American cuisine in a space that feels so American retro and yet so chic. So so chic.  I love it when you walk into a restaurant and feel important, and that’s exactly how I felt walking into Vitae.  And no, I don’t think anyone let them know in advance the Bite-Sized Blonde was coming in.   From the moment I sat down, to the agonizing moment I left, I was treated like the most important customer in the restaurant.  And let me reiterate, they don’t know about the power of my pen.  The service at Vitae was some of the best I have experienced in, well, let’s just call it a long time.  The waiters know their stuff, down to every last ingredient in a dish and even how the food is prepared.  This is the service that other restaurants should strive to have.

To be honest, I might have even liked the restaurant if the food was mediocre.  Especially since I did happen to eat there a few short weeks after it opened.  But alas, the food was f*^&ing awesome.  No, seriously, it was divine.

I can usually maneuver around a bread basket.  Now, don’t get it twisted, I love me some bread.  But I also know my priorities, and they are often deterred by that menacing bread basket.   Well, the bread basket got me at Vitae.  Probably because it wasn’t a basket; it was served in a cast iron dish.  The bread looked like four supple pillows of doughy heaven.  It had a natural, and quite dazzling sheen if I do say so myself,  and was then dusted in large flakes of sea salt.  I don’t care who you are, there is no denying the power of bread perfuming the air, especially when it looks like this.

Unfortunately for both me and you, I started with something that is no longer on the menu.  A poached egg, garnished with mushrooms, frissee, chips and chives and served alongside golden toast points.  In three words, I can describe this dish…come to mama.  The mushrooms brought an element of earthiness to this rich dish, and the chips were such an unexpected pop of crunch.  Breakfast, lunch, dinner, you name it, I’d eat it.

I also ordered the Pulled Pork Tacos.  The miniature shells were made of polenta – so they were sweet and crunchy and the ultimate vehicle for buttery soft pork.  Each bite was better than the last.  Had it not been for the rest of the food on the way, I might have told the waiter to keep ‘em coming.

I have an outrageous love for beets which I can only attribute to too many hours of watching Doug Funny.  So, I couldn’t pass up the Roasted Beet Salad.  It was served with Asian Pears and pistachio covered goat cheese.  This was good, but so much of the menu is a stand out, I would forgo the beets for something a little more, dare I say, original.

Hanger steak is one of my favorite cuts of meat because it is so flavorful.  And the hanger steak at Vitae was just that.  It was charred and then sliced to display its soft pink center and served alongside a watercress salad and a mound of salty French fries.  Damn, that’s one fineee piece of meat.

And we all know you cannot eat a steak without a side dish, and no that does not include the French fries.  So, I ordered the Brussels Sprouts & Bacon and boy did it hit the spot.  This dish was a pleasant surprise from start to finish.  The leaves of the sprouts were removed and left whole, then blanched and tossed in bits of bacon and lots of bacon grease.  Sounds indulgent, but it was light as can be.  It was reminiscent of a salad – if salad tasted like bacon.

And last, but certainly not least, we finished with a soufflé that must have been made in heaven because it was godlike.  Served in a tall mug with a shot of freshly whipped cream, this dish was everything I needed and more.   Chocolate can be such a heavy dessert, especially in the middle of the day, but soufflé by nature, is the exact opposite.  I told myself I was only going to eat one bite, and then the next thing I remember is trying to lick the mug.  Sorry Mom. 

Vitae
4 East 46th Street
New York City 10017
212.682.3562

My Not So Strange Addition

Hi, I am the Bite-Sized Blonde and I am addicted to Crack. Well, I’m addicted to Crack Pie, which just so happens to get its name from the addiction it is sure to bring on.  If you are not intrigued, you should be.  Crack Pie is what can only be referred to as the ingenious love child of Christina Tosi, the unbelievably talented and deliciously inclined Pastry Chef at Momofuku Milk Bar.  So, back to the crack.  This is the pie that all pies aspire to be.  The crust is unlike any you have tried before, it is crunchy enough to balance out the gooey center but it maintains an element of chewiness that will pleasantly surprise your textural taste buds.  This crust won’t fall apart either – so say goodbye to your pie anxiety – which will forever be known as anxpiety, because you don’t have to worry about a messy pie, which I think we can all agree is a major buzz kill.

Not only does this pie come equipped with the most serious crust in town, it is filled with pure heaven.  The filling is made of butter, cream and sugar and resembles the inside of a pecan pie, minus the pecans.  It is sweet and creamy with a subtle hint of saltiness that will have you screaming.  Think Harry met Sally, but less acting.

As if the pie wasn’t reason enough to visit Momofuku Milk Bar, they make some of the best cookies in Manhattan.  Take it from a Cookie Connoisseur.  The cookies are out of this world.  I have three favorites; I know you aren’t surprised I couldn’t pick just one.  The Corn Cookie is totally unexpected, but that’s not what makes it so good.  It’s the perfect combination of a corn muffin and a sugar cookie.  It’s light and airy but oh so substantial, and needless to say, it’s chew-chew-chewy.  This cookie might be unexpected, but after one bite, you won’t have any idea why.

Another unexpectedly awesome cookie is the Cornflake Marshmallow Cookie.  The cornflakes add an unanticipated element of crunchiness to the cookie and the marshmallows melt into the cookie batter so beautifully.  The cookie is flecked with chocolate chips to round out the flavors.  This cookie is unparalleled, even up against the Compost Cookie.

The Compost Cookie, which is trademarked obviously, is an addictive combination of all things delicious, including coffee beans and chocolate chips, and lots of butter and sugar.  Of course, if cookies aren’t your thing – well, you should go see a doctor.  But, in the meantime you can still enjoy some of Christina Tosi’s delicacies, including Cereal Milk Ice Cream and Cake Truffles.

Christina Tosi is the Queen of Chewy.  Chewy pies, chewy cookies.  Chew Chew!! All Aboard.  First stop Chewy-Ville, next stop…well probably rehab? Someone is going to have to pry that Crack Pie right out of my hands.

Momofuku Milk Bar
milk bar east village
251 E 13th St.
New York, NY

milk bar midtown
15 W 56th St.
New York, NY

milk bar upper west side
561 Columbus Ave.
New York, NY

milk bar brooklyn
382 Metropolitan Ave.
Brooklyn, NY

Rolling in the Deep

I was uber excited to hear about Sushi Shop opening.  This sleek and modern French import planted itself onto Madison Avenue a few short weeks ago.   Well known throughout France, this fast food sushi chain boasts over 90 stores in Europe.  With an extensive menu accompanied by mouthwatering glamour shots of fresh fish, this place had me more than intrigued; it had me anxiously awaiting its opening.  So, with high expectations, and an empty stomach, I made my first, and last, trip to Sushi Shop.

Let’s see, how can I explain the disappointment that is Sushi Shop? I got it.  Have you ever gotten a gift, wrapped so beautifully, that you were expecting something spectacular, and I mean really freaking awesome?  But, then when you opened it, you realized it was just kind of average, like an ill-fitting cotton t-shirt.  Well, that’s kind of like what Sushi Shop was for me.  A present wrapped so beautifully I was expecting magic.   Those damn glamour shots.

It wasn’t my high expectations that had me disappointed though.  Even if I hadn’t read about this place weeks ago, studied the menu intensively, and drooled over the pictures, I would have been less than thrilled with lunch.  The sushi was average at best.  I sampled much of the menu, from the pre-packaged platters to the a la carte pieces.   Yes, I did just say pre-packaged sushi.  But it’s more complicated than you think.  During the day, Sushi Shop is a self-serve restaurant.  Okay, okay, the more I think about it, I’m beginning to question my original excitement too.  You can choose from pre-packaged platters, supposedly made moments before you arrive or you can order a la carte, which is made on the spot and brought to your table.  The good thing about the pre-packaged platters:  they come with sides and you get your food immediately.  The bad thing: they totally lose their appeal of fresh sushi.  It might be the freshest sushi in the world, but put it in a paper box with wasabi in ketchup packets, and you lose me too.

One of the rolls I was most excited for was the Foie Gras; I know, I know, another obvious lapse in judgment.  The foie gross was rolled in preserves, then seaweed and rice, and then nuts for crunch.  It was exactly what I would imagine the love child of peanut butter and jelly and sushi to taste like, minus the love.  Not only were the flavors were in disagreeable contrast, the pieces were too large.  Halfway through one piece I almost lost my lunch.  If you decide to ignore this warning and try the foie gras sushi, do not, and I repeat, do not, use the soy sauce.  Seriously, don’t.

The a la carte pieces made a better impression.  The spicy scallop roll was petite.  And sure it was good.  But was it great? No, no it was not.

I also order the TNT roll, which was a combination of tuna, cucumbers and other tired sushi ingredients.  Another average roll.    Last, and definitely least of the a la carte sushi, was the tuna on crispy rice.  If you have ever eaten this dish at a good restaurant, like Nobu or Koi, you know that the rice is supposed to be warm and actually crunchy, as opposed to room temperature and slightly tough.

The side dish was noteworthy, I guess.  Carrot, orange and cilantro salad.  Yes, this is as boring as it sounds.  Oh the poor person who had to peel all those damn carrots.  Note to self – never serve carrot salad.

The entire experience wasn’t a bust though.  The service was truly fantastic.  From the faux-hostess who greets you upon arrival to the bussers, each and every person wants you to enjoy your experience dining at the Sushi Shop, and you feel that.  Unfortunately, service isn’t enough to impress this Bite-Sized Blonde.

And so another one bites the dust…

Sushi Shop
536 Madison Avenue
New York, NY

Mmm Noodle Soup

Ohh you know that feeling when you are full? Like really, full. Make that really, really full.  But you know it’s all worth it because your belly is happy.  Truly happy.  Like I just won the lotto, never need to work again, going to travel the world and have a million puppies happy.  Yea, that’s what I feel right now.  And it’s all because of Udon West.

Food is a priority, but on a rainy day, convenience can often trump deliciousness.  Sad but true.  But, today, I found my favorite rainy day spot for lunch, and not because it’s convenient, but because it is convenient and delicious.  Udon West is a Japanese Noodle Shop in Midtown.  It’s not hidden, but it’s certainly not a standout either.  Unless you know the awesomeness that awaits you, you are probably going to pass it by.  I know I have a million times.  But today, I changed what a rainy day work lunch means to me forever.

Udon West is all about the udon, a thick flour based noodle.  The noodles take on a form of noodle unknown to the Italians.  Udon noodles are thick and doughy and so silky they are almost sexy.   These sexy noodles are not so sexy to eat though, as they are usually served as a hot noodle soup.  But this is no ordinary soup; it’s a sea of complex flavors that is a salty and satisfying expression of comfort.  Topped with scallions and a thin slice of egg, this soup is a meal in itself.  But, you know there’s more right? Of course there is.  Udon is usually topped with tempura, vegetables or meat.  When it comes to soup, this Bite-Sized Blonde is all about the veggies.

The Vegetable Tempura Udon was everything I wanted it to be and more.  The hot soup was the perfect counterpoint to this dreary day.  One sip of the warm broth and I was an Udon lover.  The noodles were velvety and slurp-tastic and the crispy tempura was music to my ears and tastebuds.  Can you think of anything better on a cool, rainy afternoon? I can’t.   This namesake restaurant brought the heat on a cold day.  There’s really nothing left to say, so I’ll leave you with an all-important quote.  In the wise words of Joey Tribiani…”mmm noodle soup…”

Udon West
150 E 46th St
New York NY
(212) 922-9677

Dime Piece

Real estate is all about location, location, location.  This is especially true for restaurants in New York.  I mean, midtown isn’t exactly known as the hub of great restaurants for New York City.  Probably because it’s made up of mediocre steakhouses and overpriced salads.   Looking for a great restaurant in midtown is as useless as finding meaning in a Pauly Shore movie.  Well not really, but you get my drift.  The great ones are few and far between, which is why I was surprised to find myself dining at a great midtown restaurant.  Tenpenny, located in the Gotham Hotel, was a refreshing breeze on a hot summer’s day, despite the fact that it is winter and the restaurant isn’t breezy at all.  But it was indeed a pleasant surprise.

Tenpenny is totally unassuming but has this innate charm that draws you in the way a loveable nerd can grab hold of your heart.  Except, there is really nothing uncool about this place.  The bright red wall in sea of distressed brick is pretty awesome.  But, you know this Foodie is obviously more concerned with the interior of menu then the décor.  So, it’s time to get down to the nitty gritty.

We started with a plate of artisanal cheeses which were served with a generous dollop of fig jam and cranberry walnut bread.  I love cheese, so much so, that I am no longer lactose intolerant.  True Story.  And a plate full of cheese is as good as gold to me.  Forget flowers on Valentine’s Day, just get me cheese.  The cheeses varied in texture and flavor, but they all played wonderfully off the sweet fig jam.

When House Cured Bacon is listed as an appetizer, you order it.  Like if Landry Fields called me and asked me to hang out, I’d say yes.  You don’t question good things; you just go with them, which is exactly what I did.   This bacon was outrageous.  The savory bacon was intensified with the addition of soy, scallions and cinnamon.  It was served with nutmeg custard and toasted bread.  Did that just blow your mind? Imagine how your taste buds would feel.   That’s alright, you can take a minute to regain your composure before you continue…

In true winter food fashion, I also ordered the crostini with sweet potato and marshmallow.  Totally reminiscent of Thanksgiving.  But sometimes the classics are classics for a reason.  Let’s just say, you won’t find this dish on my Thanksgiving menu next year.

I know I’ve told you before, and I don’t want to get all senile on you, like weird Uncle Jack.  But I could eat a cheeseburger for the rest of my life and be a happy girl.  With that said, I’m a tough burger critic; don’t let the blonde hair and big smile fool you.  Although the Double Cheeseburger wasn’t the Burger at the Dutch, it was kind of great.  Not one, but two blended patties sit comfortably on a toasted potato bun, topped with tomato, provolone and homemade mayo.  I know, I didn’t think this meal could get better after the bacon either.  But it did.  The burgers were grilled perfectly and the sweet potato bun absorbed all of the drippy burger juices.  As if that wasn’t enough, it also came with homemade bbq chips.  Now, that’s what I’m talking about midtown.  Way to step up your game.

I sampled a good amount of the menu, and it just left me wanting more.  Although, I don’t know how much more I could have eaten.  There’s ways next time.  Til then, Tenpenny.

Tenpenny
16 East 46th Street
New York, NY
212.490.8300

Know of another stellar midtown restaurant? Comment below!

F-ing Sunday

Sunday is about one thing and one thing only and it starts with an F.  Foo…Foo…Food…Chinese food to be exact.   Probably not the F word you were thinking of, but I already told you, football isn’t my sport of choice.

Sunday and Chinese food are two terms that are interchangeable to me.  It is the way I say goodbye to the week, physically and mentally because without Chinese food, there is no end in sight.  If the week doesn’t end, then what you have is just one big long run-on week and that is enough to make anyone crazy.

One of my favorite Chinese restaurants in New York is Mr. K’s.  Located in midtown, this Chinese restaurant is anything but ordinary.  The restaurant is fit for Chinese royalty, or really New York royalty.  It is elegantly decorated, with oversized couches and glass tables.  The restaurant is also adorned with jade and silver as well as fine art.  You know the moment you walk in you are going to be treated like a King and enjoy a seriously delicious meal.

Chinese cooking is all about the Ying and Yang, which is a well-balanced meal in texture, color, flavor and temperature.  Using fresh ingredients, Mr. K’s establishes this level of Ying and Yang in all of their dishes.

I like to start with the Crispy Beef, which is shredded and then fried to perfection and covered in a soy-scallion glaze.  These little bites are just enough to get your palate going without filling you up.

I judge a Chinese restaurant by their Peking duck, and I think Mr. K’s makes one of the best Peking Ducks in all of New York City.  Bold statement, but totally true.  The pancake is warm and doughy, but light enough so it doesn’t overpower the rich duck.  The skin is crispy and the meat is juicy.  Paired with cucumbers and scallions, and complimented with sweet and tangy Hoisin sauce, this duck is one of the best dishes in all of New York; forget that we are just talking Chinese food here.

Another one of my favorite dishes at Mr. K’s is the Hunan Shrimp.  These gargantuan shellfish are sautéed with peppers and mushrooms in a tangy Szechuan sauce.   The shrimp are always perfectly tender.  The peppers maintain their crunchiness to balance this dish.

If you like shrimp, but crave something on the spicier side, the Prawns in Garlic Sauce is going to be your dish of choice.  The soy-garlic sauce that envelopes these succulent shrimp has a hint of heat, just enough to warm you up, but not too much to make you sweat.

Of course, you cannot eat Chinese food without a little fried rice and the fried rice at Mr. K’s is great.  This Bite-Sized Blonde prefers brown rice in her fried rice.  Does it make this dish any healthier? Probably not, but I feel better about eating fried rice when it’s brown rice.  The brown rice gives the dish a nutty flavor, which compliments the veggies so well.

If lo mein is more your speed than fried rice, then you are in the right place.  Mr. K’s makes a noteworthy Vegetable Lo mein.  The noodles are al dente and served warm with assorted crunchy vegetables.

It’s not all about the carbs though – the vegetables are also delectable.  My favorite veggie dish is the Bok Choy, which light but packed with flavor.

I almost forgot to mention a very important part of Mr. K’s.  They bring you lemon sorbet in between courses to cleanse your palate.  Any restaurant that pays attention to your palate, so much so they cleanse it in between courses, is a fine dining establishment.  And so, with a full belly, and a smile across my face, I proudly give Mr. K’s two Bite-Sized Thumbs up.

Mr. K’s Restaurant
570 Lexington Ave. (51st Street)
New York, NY
212.583.1668

B is for Bad

Unless you are out to lunch, figuratively, not literally, you’ve probably noticed the grades being posted in restaurants all over NYC…because literally you would have to be blind not to notice.  The grades are seemingly meaningless as they don’t appear to have affected business at all, probably because diners are in the dark as to what these grades mean.  Eaters, it’s time to get educated, before you wake up and realize one of your favorite lunch time spots has a B for all the wrong reasons!

The Health Department is rating restaurants based on sanitary conditions to help consumers make better decisions.  It’s also kind of genius as it works to
incentivize restaurants to keep it clean. Looks like someone is looking out for us, so thank you to the HD of NYC.  But what do these grades actually mean? Grades are given out based on the number of violations a restaurant receives.  Unlike basketball, points are the enemy here, not the goal, but what does the NBA know about points these days anyway?  The more violations you have, the more points you get.  Points are based on just how gross bad the violation is; expect a violation such as mice or roaches to carry more than let’s say, not properly sanitizing utensils.

Taking a note from Tosh.O, in this week’s breakdown, here’s how the grades work:

Grade A. 0 to 13 points for sanitary violations.

Grade B. 14 to 27 points for sanitary violations.

Grade C. 28 or more points for sanitary violations.

If a restaurant has a sign that says “grade pending”, that means they didn’t get an A the first time around.  So, the restaurant is contesting the violations, aka stay tuned…

Of course, the Health Department wouldn’t let a restaurant operate if the violations were fatal.  But, do you really want to knowingly eat at a restaurant that has a mouse problem? Unless I’m visiting Disney, I don’t need to eat lunch with Mickey.

Not only does this post serves as a little nip of knowledge, it’s also my official declaration of a lockout.  A lockout from what you say? Glaze, a former favorite lunch spot.  After further inspection, I learned the reason for their B rating was live roaches and mice.  So, Glaze, unless you can give me what I want, a clean restaurant, I’m walking out.

Wanna know how you can check your favorite restaurants? Click here.  Be forewarned, you might be upset with the results, since it’s basically the same as Facebook stalking your boyfriend to find out if he is cheating on you.