Category Archives: French

FOOD - "The Delicious" - French

Dominique Bistro in the West Village

March 8, 2016

I’ve been cooking so much, it’s been a while since I’ve even been out to a restaurant (never thought I’d see the day…). But I was invited to check out a new French spot in the West Village, Dominique Bistro.

Dominique Bistro

Dominique Bistro

I haven’t tried too many French restaurants in the city but this one proved to be one definitely worth checking out. The restaurant is on a cozy Christopher street corner, and focuses on quintessential classics like souffles, bouillabaisse, and beef bourguignon to name a few. I even got to meet the head chef and owner, Dominick Pepe, briefly who emphasized the use of fresh, seasonal vegetables in every dish. The place itself is dimly-lit, small and intimate but every corner is put to use with plenty of table space so you don’t feel on top of each other. We tried a good selection from the menu:

Beet salad

Beet salad

The beet salad with heirloom beets, candied walnuts, and goat cheese is a good balance of all the ingredients with the candied walnuts being a nice treat.

Ahi tuna tartare

Ahi tuna tartare


Their ahi tuna tartare with avocado and lemon oil brings out the flavors of the fish with uncomplicated ingredients that lets the fresh tuna speak for itself.
Fettuccine

Fettuccine

The fettuccine has a swish of perfect flavors (mushroom lovers, pay attention) with its portelini mushrooms, black truffles, brown butter, and parmesan. A super tasty pasta that was one of my favorites.

Scallops

Scallops


.

.


We also ordered scallops that normally comes with smoked lardons. I had it without, but the mix of truffle potato puree, potatoes, and black truffle was satisfying in itself (Pepe said they salted it a bit more to compensate for its missing ingredient). They also base it in butter seasoning that gives way to a soft, succulent goodness and a delicately mild, sweet flavor. The truffle only enhances it without overpowering the flavor. A definite must-try.
Fries

Fries


I know this sounds strange considering it follows the mention of elegant dishes like the scallops, but don’t miss ordering the french fries (trust me!). Their fries are thick but still have crisp and cooked with a perfect blend of herbs like lavender, rosemary, salt, and sage. Consider it the grown up version of your usual fries that you can still enjoy like a kid.


Restaurant Info:
Dominique Bistro

14 Christopher St.
New York, NY 10014
(646) 756-4145
West Village
REPORT CARD
Meal: Dinner
Occasion: Checking out a new restaurant
Price: $$$
(Out of three stars)
Ambiance: ***
Food: ***
Service: ***
Would I go back?: Yes



x
Shy
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American - Breakfast/Brunch - FOOD - "The Delicious" - French

Monikas Cafe Bar in Astoria

September 24, 2013

First of all, I’m not entirely sure what the correct name for this place is — on Yelp, it’s Cafe Bar, on their website it says Monikas and Monicas, but that’s a moot point. We were on our way to check out The Queens Kickshaw for brunch last Sunday, and while the menu looked great, we felt like we wouldn’t be taking advantage of the crisp, gorgeous Fall day by sitting inside a dimly-lit restaurant. Instead, we walked a few blocks over to Cafe Bar. Or Monikas Cafe Bar. Monicas? Whatever.

Monikas Cafe Bar in Astoria


Cafe Bar


Inside Cafe Bar (photo: Cafe Bar website)


Photo: Cafe Bar website


The place had lovely outdoor and breezy indoor seating, and the menu looked promising (huevos rancheros, poached eggs, ricotta pancakes, organic granola), so we decided to give it a go. We shared the Cypriot (fried eggs, grilled halloumi, olives, tomato, country fries and whole grain toast) and a Tsoureki French Toast (comes with blueberry compote and maple syrup, but we opted to get it with the Nutella and banana).

Cypriot


French Toast

Eggs were amazing (by the way, it also comes with Greek sausage but we ordered it without). The grilled halloumi mixed with the eggs and country fries were a perfect combo. We wiped it clean with the lightly toasted bread it came with.

The French Toast was a little more disappointing. The toast has a slightly citrus and herb taste that didn’t mesh that great with the nutella and banana. And I thought the syrup also tasted a little off (more toasted?). Maybe I was hoping for something a tad sweeter after my eggs, because it wasn’t horrible. Just probably wouldn’t go for it again. There are plenty of other items I’d want to try first.

Also: order a latte. They’re pretty good here too!


Restaurant Info:
Monikas Cafe Bar

3290 36th St
Astoria, NY 11106
(718) 204-5273
Queens

REPORT CARD
Meal: Brunch

Occasion: Good weather
Price: $$
(Out of three stars)
Ambiance: *** (lovely outdoor seating and pretty inside too!)
Food: **
Service: **1/2 (they were busy and our waitress was nice, but wasn’t always the fastest service. To their credit, they didn’t rush us out when we took a while to get up, like most places do in Manhattan)
Would I go back?: Yes.


x
Shy
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Breakfast/Brunch - FOOD - "The Delicious" - French

A Gentlemen’s Brunch at Amélie

July 31, 2013

By Bilal Mohammad

Said Gentlemen

I’m fasting this month in observance of Ramadan, so I’ve had to forgo my favorite my meal of the day: brunch. In remembrance of the glorious days when I could meet up with my boys for a midday feast following a 12-hour slumber, I will review one of our favorite spots, Amélie, which is located on 8th street between 5th avenue and MacDougal Street.

Ginger lemonade

I was surprised to arrive at the spot around noon on a Sunday and be seated immediately. The décor was definitely retro (our chairs were movie theater seats that had obviously been uprooted from their original locations). After we were done marveling at the duck breast and chicken liver on the menu (the place is definitely French), we decided upon the following: Eggs Norwegian, French Toast with Berries, Amélie Omelet with Homefries, and Homemade Ginger Lemonade.

Eggs Norwegian


French Toast with Berries


Amélie Omelet with Homefries

The food is as delicious as it looks. The eggs were seasoned perfectly and all the fruit was fresh (I hate when places serve you bad fruit!) The meal was prepared extremely well and we left full, happy, and satisfied. The real treat of the meal was definitely the ginger lemonade. The fizzy, sour-sweet concoction was very refreshing and definitely unique. I also think that going to this place won us some brownie points with all the hipster girls at NYU who cite Amélie as their favorite movie, ever.


Restaurant info:
Amélie

22 West 8th Street
New York, NY 10011
(212) 533-2962
West Village


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American - FOOD - "The Delicious" - French

Dining in the Dark at Dans Le Noir? in Midtown

August 9, 2012

A couple of years ago when my friend, Priya, and I were planning our trip to Prague and Berlin, she mentioned we should try to check out a “dark restaurant.” It was the first I had ever heard of its kind. These pitch-black restaurants (many with a blind wait staff) were a completely different approach to dining. I read more about them recently: “The concept of purposefully eating in complete pitch-black dark originated with Jorge Spielmann, a blind clergyman from Zurich. When guests ate dinner at the Spielmann house some would wear blindfolds during their meal to show solidarity with their host and to better understand his world. What Spielmann’s sighted guests found was that the blindfolds heightened their sense of taste and smell and made their dining experience more enjoyable. That gave Spielmann the idea to open a dark restaurant, which he did in 1999.

Dans le Noir

And similar restaurants began popping up around the world. Unfortunately, Priyers and I didn’t get a chance to check one out in Germany as planned in our short trip, but we always talked about how we wished we had. That’s why when Dans le Noir? opened in NYC, we were psyched to check it out together. The chain (which means “In the Dark?” in French), first opened in Paris in 2004, and grew to be so popular, it opened up more branches in London, St. Petersburg, Barcelona, and now NYC. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the restaurant, but I was hoping it would do the experience justice to what I pictured in my head…it went even beyond that

The first order of business is picking from four genres of pri-fixe menus: Vegetarian, Meat, Seafood, or Chef’s Surprise (which is a variation of all three menus). This is also the time you tell them about any food allergies and restrictions so they can make necessary adjustments. Since you’re dining in the dark and not supposed to know what you’re eating, they don’t tell you exactly what you’re getting in your three-course meal. Next, you sign a waiver which basically says you understand you’ll be in total darkness and seated by others you might not know, and they’re not liable for any injuries you incur as a result (I know, scary).

Priya signing the waiver

Then we were taken downstairs to a locker room where we had to put all our belongings — purses, watches, phones. Everything. I’m just realizing how creepy this sounds — being stripped of your belongings before eating a mystery meal in the dark. There’s more…

Lockers downstairs

This is one of those places where it’s imperative that you’re on time (brown people, I’m looking at you). We are to be led into the dining area as a group, so when everyone’s ready, we are lined up in two rows and you have to place your hand on the shoulder of the person in front of you (which is most likely someone you never met, since you’re standing the opposite row of the person you came with). Then our waiter (who is blind, by the way, as most of the wait staff here), adroitly guides the pack to the dark room.

Bar area outside the dark room

I don’t know about you, but I can’t remember the last time I was in a room that was pitch black. Even at night when I turn the lights off in my room in my room, there are still remnants of lights peeking through my window from the streets. So the immediate feeling is a lot of things: a little bit scared, strangely claustrophobic, even vulnerable (it’s New York City, how am I supposed to be sure we’re not going to be locked in here and/or taken hostage at some point??). Plus, my hand is resting on someone I don’t even know (I learned later, his name was Michael, and he was celebrating his birthday with his wife). And how am I supposed to trust this guy I just met in the dark to not lead me into a ditch because clearly this place is meant to kidnap people, not feed them. Right?!

But I did instantly smell the aroma of cooking which almost warms the place as you walk in. Soon Michael is led to his seat, and since I’m the last in line this meant I’m temporarily left alone in the dark until our waitress, Maria’s, soft hands lead me to my seat. When I sit down, I feel around for my plate, my napkin, my utensils, and glass. And for the first time I feel a little comfortable. I felt odd calling out to Priya — I had no idea where she was — but soon realize she was sitting right across me. We were passed a pitcher of water, and Maria tells us the way to pour our water was to stick our finger into our glass to make sure it doesn’t overflow. I get pretty good at this.

Now I told you about all the somewhat frightening parts of the experience, but there were easily many fun parts about it to. For one, all your insecurities and shyness are thrown out the door. It’s easy to talk to everyone, and chime in on other conversations without getting a weird look (well, maybe you are but you won’t be able to see so who cares?) and it very much becomes a communal meal. At Priya’s mention of my blog to the nice couple next to us, I would usually find myself squirming in my seat, but didn’t even flinch. “Oh did you say you’re a food blogger?” a man asked us from seemingly a few seats away, “You should try Armani’s brunch — it’s amazing!”

People make jokes (“Guys, wouldn’t it be funny if we’re really just in a Febreeze commercial?”), people break and spill things, some say they can’t keep their eyes open and might have — they’re not sure — even taken a brief nap, and most agree that if this was life, there would probably be no wars. Think about it: you’re practically dependent on other people to help you get around (or pass the pitcher), and you can’t see anyone, only talk to them about yourself instead of finding reasons to disagree on at least superficial levels.

And the food! We first get a basket of warm bread, and on to the appetizers. I’m not sure what I’m biting into and ten seconds in, I put my utensils down and try feeling for my food. Hey, no one can see me eating with my hands so why not? I taste all the parts to my food, a hint of rosemary, something I think is a samosa, roasted potatoes, another our new friends guess is fried green tomatoes and mozzarella. Our waitress asks us after if anyone used our hands (how does she know?!). People start slowly mumbling confessions and I’m surprised I’m not the only one! “Ninety-five percent of people use their hands to eat in the dark.” I guess without our sense of sight, we rely heavily on all our other ones, including touch.

Our entree and dessert is just as splendid as the apps. I notice how much focus is on taste and textures (and thanking the Dans le Noir chefs for not dousing anything in messy sauces). Of course, I wish I could have taken pics, but obviously I couldn’t, and although we were shown a menu of everything we ate at the end, I wouldn’t want to spoil it for the rest of you ;).

This is a one-and-a-half hour adventure I think everyone should do at least once in their life. It’s really not just dinner, it’s an experience and a fun way to “look” at the world if you really couldn’t.


Restaurant Info:
Dans le Noir?

246 West 38th St.,
New York, NY 10018
(212) 575-1671
Midtown


REPORT CARD

Meal: Dinner
Price: $$$ (Our meal would have cost us $124 plus tip — that’s total for 2 people for a 3 course meal, but we found a voucher on Bloomspot for $84 that we paid before hand and tipped at the restaurant)
(Out of three stars)
Ambiance: This is kinda hard to rate when you couldn’t see anything…
Food: ***
Service: ***
Would I go back?: I think everyone should go at least once…I probably couldn’t often or regularly have meals in the dark like this but I wouldn’t mind going back for more.


x
Shy


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Breakfast/Brunch - FOOD - "The Delicious" - French

The Bluebell Cafe in Gramercy

April 12, 2012

By Sabrina Enayatulla

On an early Sunday afternoon the wait for brunch at The Bluebell Cafe in Gramercy is literally spilling onto the sidewalk. Of course a busy restaurant is always a good sign, but on a weekend with afternoon plans already in place, the Best Friend and I decided to reschedule. Since Bluebell serves breakfast (the meal with our most favorite food choices!) until 11 a.m. during the week, we returned to enjoy the French cuisine fused with traditional American home-style cooking the following day, Monday morning.

The Bluebell Cafe

Bluebell can be best described as a place that’s reminiscent of a relative’s house where you might go for Thanksgiving. It’s warm and cozy and has the feel of being a favorite local small town drop-in. For breakfast we ordered to share: over-easy eggs, buttermilk biscuits, wheat toast, buttermilk pancakes and blueberry pancakes served with maple syrup and dusted with powdered sugar, and Brioche French toast served with berry compote and lemon curd.

Breakfast

I can be a bit indecisive at times so I almost always ask to mix up the offerings on restaurant menus because I want a little bit of everything. At Bluebell, this started as soon as I saw the pancake menu. Like that pack of butterfly-and-hearts covered cotton undies that your mom left on your bed after a Kmart run back in the ’90s, the pancakes at Bluebell come in a set of three. Problem was, I had to choose between buttermilk and the day’s special: blueberry.

Pancakes

The Libra in me couldn’t decide so I asked the waitress for two blueberry pancakes and one buttermilk pancake, which would still make a serving of three pancakes offered on the menu. She stepped away for a moment and came back with good news. Wonderful news, actually because they were willing to make the adjustment.

Biscuits


Eggs and toast


Everything we ordered was cooked to perfection. Our eggs were the perfect combination of over (whites cooked just right) and easy (the exact amount of runny yolk I like) and the pancakes were sprinkled with just enough powdered sugar for a hint of sweetness that didn’t turn into rock candy when mixed with saliva. The biscuits tasted like they’d been made with simple ingredients and love, and the syrup had a little bite to it without being too strong.

French toast


The most interesting component of our breakfast for me was the French toast with lemon curd and the berry compote. The French toast was a giant square of goodness with a delicious outer crust and spongy middle and the lemon curd wasn’t too creamy or too tart. I’m generally not a fan of compote as it’s overly sweet but the berry compote at Bluebell was obviously freshly made and reminded me of the homemade jam that my mom’s friend from Norway makes every year around the holidays.


Restaurant Info
The Bluebell Cafe


293 Third Avenue
(btwn 22nd and 23rd Sts.)
New York, NY 10010

(646) 649-2389

Gramercy

All photos by Sabrina Enayatulla


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FOOD - "The Delicious" - French

Almond in Gramercy

March 21, 2012

Our family dinners are always kind of…a mess. Let me explain: try to get a group of 10 or so of the cousins to a specific place (in this case, Almond) at a specific time (7:15 PM), and the ones who do make it at the right place will do so at the wrong time (a very generous window between 7 and 9:30 PM). If you can imagine, making reservations is not the easiest of tasks. But cousin-Safia bravely took on that challenge and picked the restaurant where a couple of us have dined often enough to know that A) the food would be delicious; and B) the staff knows some of us personally to be understanding about our inability to be punctual. What ensued was exactly what was expected — everyone was late, and the food was great.

Brussels Sprouts Two Ways

The appetizers are the easiest way to ruin your dinner here. Well, this is basically how I ruined my dinner: eating so much of them, I didn’t even end up ordering an entree. I ended up taking cousin-Heba’s recommendations which did not fail (she’s one of the said regulars here!). Take their “Brussels Sprouts Two Ways”…heaven. Grilled to perfection over a bed of light caesar salad with parmesan. I actually ordered two of these…and finished two of these. I guess that would count as my dinner?

Cheese Fries

Cheese fries. That is dangerous enough on its own until you get a choice of garlic, saffron, and ranch (I think the third one was ranch) dipping sauces:

Dipping sauces

And after dinner, do not miss their Sticky Toffee Date Cake with creme fraiche ice cream!

Sticky Toffee Date Cake

I’m such a fan of sticky date cakes (the other place in the city I love for them is Ruby’s). Thanks to the friendly staff for baring with our unorganized-selves!


REPORT CARD

Meal: Dinner
Occasion: A-cousins-almost-fail-but-not-quite attempt to get together
Price: $$$$
(Out of three stars)
Ambiance: *** (very classy, dimly lit and spacious)
Food: ***
Service: ***
Would I go back?: Yes!

Restaurant Info:
Almond

12 East 22nd Street
(between Broadway and Park Ave.)
New York, NY 10010
(212) 228-7557
Gramercy

x
Shy


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