Sunday, November 16, 2014

Kyo Ya

Kyo Ya is one of NYC restaurants that offers kaiseki menu (9, 10 or 11 course). I came with high expectation as it received many good reviews from both food critics and review sites. Kyo Ya distinguishes itself from most restaurants as it is 'hidden'–located below street level and does not put any restaurant sign (hidden similar to Zenkichi), even their restrooms are hidden. They also do not advertise itself in internet–no restaurant website or post menu online (their menu changes occasionally).

We opted for 10 course which is the most popular and priced at $120. From what I understand, the  primary difference with the 9 course is the addition of the sashimi course (a must try), while the 11 course has the addition of a variety of appetizer, grilled dish and sashimi course.

Overall, there are 3 memorable courses while others are decent. Therefore, I gave it a 3.5/5 rating. Perhaps I need to try the ala carte menu as I noticed that many of the Japanese patrons did not order the kaiseki courses.

Our 10 course kaiseki menu was already placed when we arrived at our chef table. You need to reserve in advance for Kaiseki.

Below are series of ala carte menu that I took for future references.

 Even though I am six feet tall, I can't see much of what the chef was doing. However, you will have better chance if you asked for the chef table's corner.

Two restrooms are hidden in the wall. Many patrons walked all the way to the back and found themselves looking at the kitchen.

They allowed you to smell their tea choices before you ordered

First course- Hokkaido Sanma Arimani with crispy rice puff
It reminded me of a fancier version of a canned dish. Flavor is good but not memorable.

Second course: spaghetti squash carbonara with smoked shrimp and pine nuts
One of the course highlights. The waitress sprinkled fish roes on top of the dish and on a side for me to try separately. The smoke amplified the flavor.

 Third course: Maki sushi tempura
Made of tuna and snapper. Since it's lightly fried, it had a crunchy texture. After consuming them, my throat was a little dry and has an acidic aftertaste (perhaps from vinegar). Decent enough.

 Fourth course: Tetsubin mushi
Iron pot soup with hamo pike eel, matsutake and onion. 
Each item are cooked and seasoned separately before added to the broth.

The iron pot was initially covered with the lid. The waitress then gave us a small serving bowl so that we can pour the soup into, and a slice of lemon. This meal is comforting and definitely helped warm ourselves from the cold weather. My advice is not to put too much lemon.

Fifth course: Fresh Oyster of the day (Hood canal)
Looked so inducing that I didn't take too much pictures. The oyster is indeed fresh and enjoyable.

Part of the fifth course: sashimi of the day
Never would I expect that I will have the best sashimi experience in this restaurant. I would attribute it to the fact that apart from the fresh sashimi, I had fun eating those leaves and flower that I thought was for decorative purpose. Even the white layer was edible (daikon) which we only learned at the end of the course when the chef told us about it. 

Top right was scallop from Nantucket which was very soft and sweet. Bottom right was the octopus from Hokkaido which we added a sprinkle of seaweed salt (if i remember correctly) based on the chef's recommendation. It was a little chewy and I might have put too much salt on it. The chef also recommended to pluck and scattered the salty fingers leaves (between octopus and scallop) which were very suprising as they were juicy. Also in the pictures are saba mackarel from Boston, shimaji from Japan and shisho green flowers (very flavorful) and oyster leaves. We basically wiped out everything, leaving nothing except the ice.
This is seasonal uni from Maine. The serving was pretty generous and they gave several nori for us to roll it with the uni.

Sixth course: Amadi tile fish tsubu miso yaki
The fish was cured with miso yaki before it was grilled. Flavor was there although the fish was a little overcooked and dry. The two round balls are satoimo potato enclosed with mochi skin, which are enjoyable. 

Seventh course: Dried persimmon, fresh persimmon and ebishinjo agedashi
Before eating, we broke apart the shaved daikon to thicken the broth. Most enjoyable items were the dried persimmon (left fried stuff) and the shrimp ball which was full of flavor.

Eight course: umi somen, oroshi hosui pear with dashi vinegar (not shown)
 The palate cleanser before the rice dish. Decent dish

Ninth course: maitake mushroom and Jidori kamadaki rice
First presented in the pot

The waitress first opened the pot to show us the inside before they took it away on the side.

Red miso soup and watermelon pickle as accompaniment.  

The rice was served in a smaller bowl. It was pretty mild in flavor and seasoning. We had the waitress packed the remaining dish to go. It was wrapped nicely in some type of leaves.

Random ala carte dishes that other ordered

Oh boy, so tempting

Last course: red bean and green tea bavarois cake and hojicha ice cream
Then the dessert course arrived with the waitress and chef singing happy birthday. Funny thing was there was another girl celebrating birthday right beside us. 

Both desserts were great and was another highlight of the course.

The green tea cake reminded me of the one we had in Takahachi bakery.

The ice cream was flavorful of green tea. It was better than the Brushstroke's green tea pudding.

After the end of the course, the waitress gave a small bottle of salad dressing as birthday gift, which was a nice gesture

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Aquavit - 2 Michelin Stars

Aquavit offers modern Nordic cuisine and has a collective list of flavored spirit called aquavit. It used to be led by chef Marcus Samuelsson who often became the judge for TV shows such as Chopped and Top Chef. In 2015, it received two Michelin Stars for the first time, instead of one. We went for the $65 three course pre-fix, which was offered through Groupon.

Given that it's been a while, I was not able to provide much insight on this meal but overall, it was not memorable- decent course but it was not a WOW. My faint impression was that the chef liked to utilize smoke in her dishes, as the waiting room and dining room smelt of it occasionally. The good thing was that they were pretty generous by giving us four complimentary dishes, and they had a good butter and bread as accompaniment. I, however, left home feeling a little hungry.

Dining room

Stool to put your bag

Exclusive three course meal from Groupon

Snack made of grain, complimentary from Chef. Cruncy was the word.

Another complimentary set. The one in the middle was pretty good.

Delicate quail egg

Tried one of the aquavits. They have various fruit flavors and decently priced <$10. It was pretty strong.

Another complimentary was the 'smoked' soup. It was presented with a lid. You can see and smell the smoke once it was opened, revealing a potato or some sort. The soup was then poured into it.

My only impression was that it's pretty smoky.

Hay Smoked Gravlax (trout roe, horseradish and dill)
The dish was first covered in transparent dome filled with smoke. One of the better dishes in the whole course.

Kladesholmen Maties Herring(red onion, smetana, cheese)
It was lukewarm when I received it, not sure if it was deliberate. It was too salty and tasted cured for me. It reminded me of a canned fish but fancier.

Two flavors of butter for the warm bread. The brown one is the best. Creamy and foamy.

Icelandic Cod (swedish anchovies, quail egg, sugar snapped peas)
The cod was cooked perfectly, but lacking in flavor, which was a huge disappointment. Instead, the star was the fried stuff (no idea what was that).

Grass Fed Lamb (onion family, black potatoes, fig jus)
As you might agree from the picture, the lamb was a tad undercooked as it was a little chewy at the middle. The lamb was encrusted with herbs (perhaps). The sauce was a good accompaniment to the lamb. If I have to choose between the entree, I would go for the cod.

Corn Financier (blueberry compote, corn ice cream, caramelized popcorn)
I am a big fan of corn, but unfortunately, this dessert was not a winner. If you like corn, definitely try the corn brulee at General Assembly Restaurant.

Dulcey Ganache (blonde chocolate, basil sorbet, golden raspberries) 
The better dessert among the two. The sorbet was light and refreshing which helps to soothe the thick, creamy and sweet dulcey.

Almond biscuit to bring home. It was nice and almondy. However, it was soft when we ate it the next day. Technical error?

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Brushstroke Restaurant- 1 Michelin Star

Brushstroke is a one Michelin star restaurant and a joint venture between Bouley and Japan’s top culinary school, The Tsuji Culinary Institute. We went to try the lunch tasting menu, $55 for 4 course meal. Overall, strong start in appetizer and entree, but rice entree failed to impress. Dessert was not bad. Unlike Bouley tasting menu, I was still hungry at the end of the meal.

 Sakizuke of the day
Left is something with caviar. Middle is smoked salmon. Good appetizer to start

 Pacific Jumbo Oyster, Uni, Bay Scallop, Meyer Lemon Dressing 
Fresh and refreshing
Golden Crab Chawanmushi Truffle Ankake
Delightful truffly soup. Good dish for hangover

 Entree: Smoked Alaskan Black Cod Sesame Yaki
Tender Grilled Octopus & Black Sesame Squid Ink Purée

The softest octopus that I have ever eaten.
 Nice smoky cod and charred skin. Interesting squid ink

 Japanese Snapper Sashimi, Osetra Caviar & Uni with Summer Herbs. 
Marinade of Camelina Oil & Tasmanian Mustard Dressing 
Light entree. Good uni though

Rice Entree: Lobster & Chive Buds, Egg Don 
Lobster is cooked nicely but flavor wise is not as much

Miso Soup and  palate cleanser

Forgot to take picture of the dessert. However, we prefer the matcha ice cream over the Japanese Roasted Tea Pudding.