Monthly Archives: June 2012

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

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Diner, Dive In and Drive Away Happy

So it’s been a while, but I’m backkk!!! I sure hope you missed me, because I missed you!…and that you are wondering what food is bringing me back to the blog.…what restaurant could have been so noteworthy that the writer in me is ready to, well, write again? Ohh hold on tight cause this is a good one…

I was almost tempted to bury this information because, let’s be honest, I’m just not sure if I want this restaurant blowing up.  Sure, it might be selfish, but it also might be brilliant.  Keep this to myself and avoid having a hard time getting in when you all flock like seagulls to this place, sounds like the smart thing to do.   But, I wouldn’t be the Bite-Sized Blonde if I kept information this meaningful from you, now would I?

Is the suspense killing you? Okay okay, here it is…drumroll please…the restaurant so good I had to start writing immediately is…DinerDiner is well, an old diner from almost a century ago – resurrected and brought way above it’s former glory to become a superstar restaurant.   Of course, the food is the star here, but it seems rather silly not to mention the décor, because in this case, it’s what makes the atmosphere so freaking awesome.  Diner looks like a diner you would see on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives if the wrong person bought this place.  You totally could have found chicken fried gravy on this menu or something equally as “comforting” and by comforting I mean just kind of ineffectual.  But, this place is so much more that a triple D joint.  It’s seriously cool, and not just in a BK hipster too cool for school kind of a way.  It’s like cool, man.  The diner is illuminated by votives that take the usual space and make it into something so unusual people are clambering to come in.   The space might be small, but nothing else here is.

Okay, so there’s one more thing that’s small, and that’s the menu.  But remember what I’ve taught you, good things come in small packages.  Or Bite-Sized packages really. But you get the point.   If you take after your favorite Bite-Sized Blonde, then you probably want to see the menu right now.  But you can’t, because it changes daily.  Pain in the ass to reprint the menu everyday, right? Wrong! The waitress sits down at your table to write the menu on the paper tablecloth.  So casual, so cool.

We shared several dishes, because how could we not.  So, I sampled about half of the menu.  We started with the Fried Green Tomatoes.  OMG, these FGTs were SG – so good, so so good.  Green tomatoes are different than your run-of-the-mill red tomatoes.  They are denser and a little sour almost.  Which is why they are great to fry.  They maintain their integrity even under high heat.  These FGTs were something special though.  Lightly breaded and fried to a golden perfection, they were served with a side salad of watercress and mint and moisturized in aioli.  Yes, moisturized – because they had a thin layer of creamy goodness on them to keep them moist.

We also shared the Romaine Salad, which kind of sounds boring, but it was anything but.  The crispy leaves were left in rather big pieces and combined with roasted beets and finely shaved red onion and then showered in love, otherwise known as creamy basil vinaigrette.   A simple salad elevated to awesomeness is a salad you could find me eating everyday.

As a treat, the kitchen sent us a plate of crostini.  Thin slices of sourdough bread, toasted on the grill, and covered in a garlicky spread and marinated green tomatoes is anything but your ordinary crostini, and man, was this good.  Of course, it only had me begging for more…

You know how I feel about burgers – so I couldn’t resist the Special House Burger at Diner since it is the one thing that is always on their menu.  And after eating it, I know why.  This burger is so good, I’m sure the Diner regulars would be up in arms if it disappeared from the menu.  A thick juicy patty of blended meat rests comfortably on a doughy brioche bun and is then adorned with lettuce and pickled onions and served with homemade ketchup.  The pickled onions take on a cabbage-like flavor that elevates the burger so subtly.  And the ketchup is thick and sweet with a hint of cinnamon; it is truly unlike any ketchup you have ever had.  Which is why it’s the only choice in condiments for the fries.

Fries are important to a burger like a bikini top is to the bottom.  Sure, they are separate entities, but if you have one without the other, you are just half naked.   The fries are thick cut and double fried in flavorful and greasy oil and then dusted with salt to create a crunchy, salty snack that is impossible to resist.  Even after I had finished my meal, and all of my fries, I still wanted more.  Not because I didn’t have enough, but because every time a plate of fries was brought near my table, and that incredible scent perfumed the air, I found myself salivating.

Diner is more than burgers though.   We also shared a Sirloin.  It was grilled, so it had beautiful char marks, and then was sliced and plated with grilled spinach and an heirloom tomato salad.  I’m not sure who the genius is that decided to grill spinach but I need to meet this person ASAP.  Spinach takes on a whole new level of deliciousness when it is grilled.  It was so intensely flavorful but light, which made it the perfect addition to one buttery soft piece of meat.

We also shared the Pork Chop, which was grilled and served on top of a garlicy sauce.  It was juicy and hearty and so insanely delicious, I was surprised no one at the table picked up the bone to salvage the last, impossibly small pieces of meat left.

Diner’s food is comforting, but it’s not comfort food.  I would eat here when I’m sad, when I’m celebrating, when I’m starving, or when I’m totally full.  This is the food you cannot pass up.  This place is so cool, that if someone took me here on a date and I didn’t know about this place beforehand, I might just be getting undressed at the table.  Clearly the way to my heart is through my stomach, but you already know that…

Diner
85 Broadway
Williamsburg
Brooklyn, NY
718.486.3077