Tag Archives: Food

A Source of Inspiration: LumDimSum!

16 Dec

For the past two months or so since we’ve launched our website, Anthony and I have been overwhelmed by the amount of love you have all shown to us.  We’ve gotten emails, Facebook messages, Tweets, handshakes, phone calls, and even toasts to how the website is developing and how everybody can’t wait until our restaurant is open.  First and foremost, thank you for that kindness, and thank you for reading our website!

Now, I really love giving credit where credit is due, and so I must tell where one of the biggest sources of inspiration for the website came from.

When I worked for Alan at Hatsune Restaurant Group in Beijing and Shanghai in the summer of 2008, he had this girl Kristen as his Director of PR.  Talk about somebody who truly knew everybody – she couldn’t walk into a restaurant or club in the city without knowing the people at at least three different tables.  A Cali girl – very cool and collected by her nature – but also very smart, outgoing, and a great communicator.  Alan struck gold with her, and not only have they become dear friends, but they still work together to this day.

Kristen leveraged her connections and her bright smile and branched out to direct the PR campaigns for a few other restaurant/nightlife groups throughout Beijing, and in doing so, started to brand herself in the process.  Kristen now runs a website dedicated to food, drink, restaurants, nightlife, fashion, charity, art, and the wonderful city of Beijing.

And so every time a new post would appear on Facebook, I’d go to her website and read all about what she had to say.  I kept coming back for more because, for me, it was so fun to read about new restaurants and the new happenings in a city that I love.  I realized that food is fun.  Food is worth reading about, when written the right way.  In some of Kristen’s restaurant reviews I can actually taste the dishes as I read them off the screen.  They’re colorful, they’re driven by images, and they spark the imagination.

That’s what we wanted to get out of this website.  We want to chronicle the opening of The Vaulted Door, we want to share sneak peak menu items with you all, we want to involve you in the opening of the restaurant through contests and competitions, and finally we want you to get as excited about this restaurant as we are – because once we open we certainly want to see you there.

So thank you to Kristen for the inspiration to create our own website – and one more thank you to her for writing some awesome material that really brings me back to a city that I love.  If you’re at all interested in Beijing, food, drink, or anything else that I mentioned, be sure to check out Kristen @ http://www.LumDimSum.com – really great stuff!

And finally, I really believe that Alan hit a gold mine with Kristen.  I think any restaurant that wants to be successful has to have a person like her.  Lots of restaurants and restaurant groups have PR and marketing people that sit in offices and do a very good job – but Kristen is different because she is literally on the street level, eating at the restaurants every night, meeting new people, bringing guests in, and showing them the magic of all of Alan’s restaurants.  She has become one of the faces of Hatsune Restaurant Group – one that Alan certainly appreciates and is thankful for.  Anthony and I will be lucky to find somebody with Kristen’s caliber of personality, intelligence, drive, and passion for what she does.

…we’re now accepting resumes.  Anybody think they can do it? 😉

Beer Review: Magic Hat #9

14 Dec

This review is a few weeks overdue, but I have a logical explanation for why that is the case.  You see, I went over to Anthony’s house about 4 weeks ago to watch the NY Football Giants take on the lowly scoundrel Dallas Cowgirls (were we supposed to remain unbiased on this website, because I didn’t get that memo).  While watching the game, I indulged in two beverages, both of which happened to be the beer we’re reviewing today.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to fully enjoy the beers because the Giants took a beating at the hands of the wimps from Texas.

It wasn’t until today that I was able to brush off the bitterness from the game and adequately enjoy Magic Hat #9.  And enjoy I did, folks.

A little bit about the brewery itself, now.  Magic Hat Brewery has been producing delicious beers since 1994 and is located in Burlington, Vermont — right next to the coat factory(!!).  It is a microbrewery that has grown substantially since its inception – from only a few employees at the time of the brewery’s birth to over 150 today.  They produce 4 year-round beers (#9 being one of them) and typically have 4 seasonal beers in the rotation at any given time.

Variety: Not Quite Pale Ale

Color: Burnt orange & gold

Nose: Apricot

Palate: Subtle peach and wheat notes; apricot

ABV: 5.1%

Hops: Cascade (originally developed in Oregon and named for the Cascade Mountains, this hop is typically used in pale ales and IPAs); Apollo (less commonly-known, developed in 2000 in California)

Malts: Pale (basis of pale ales, very cheap and mass-produced); Crystal (also used in pale ales and produce strong, sweet, toffee-like flavors)

Finish: Smooth malt middle with a tinge of tangy, sweet hops in the finish

Now, what the heck do I mean by ‘Not Quite Pale Ale’???  Actually, that is the term that the company uses to describe this beer, and it is pretty spot on.  Pale ales are typically defined by their hops, and this beer is not particularly hoppy.

To tell you the truth, I really enjoyed this beer (when I wasn’t pairing it with a Giants loss).  There’s an almost light richness to it, and in that I mean that the flavors are certainly complex, but they shine through in an easy, clean beer.  One of the things that hit me most was the color of this beer – the orange hue that it had was inviting and warm and almost telling of a caramel sweetness – which is present then in the fruity nose.

Another thing I really liked about drinking this beer was the story behind the brewery itself.  I’m a huge fan of microbreweries that tell a story with their beer.  I can totally imagine the workers at Magic Hat being really friendly, down-to-earth, rocker-types.

Fun Fact: They name a lot of their beers after music, and it is suspected (though never has been admitted) that the #9 beer is a tribute to The Beatles song, ‘Revolution #9.’

Keys To Tasting: Drink this beer in a frosty mug, and no other way.  It is good out of the bottle.  But put this bad boy in a frosty mug and enjoy the heavenly delights of ice cold brewed ‘magic’.

Food Pairings: I think the ideal food pairing for this beer would be something with a little bit of spice but not too overwhelming.  For instance, a mild Indian or Thai dish, or even some good old fashioned American BBQ with a tinge of spiciness.

A very good beer, certainly worth drinking.  Sippable and pleasant, shrouded in a bit of mysterious fruity and hoppy flavor.

 

 

Sushi Roll Contest: Finalists Announced!!!

12 Dec

After much ado and some wild, rampant speculation (!!), the results are in.  Anthony and I sat down today and put our creative caps on to sort through the many wonderful submissions that all of you so artfully crafted.

The finalists for the creative sushi contest are as follows:

-Maki roll with steak tartar, mixed with sriracha hot sauce and bits of scallion.  Sear both sides after the roll is cut and drizzle with teriyaki sauce (Cat Chenkus)

-Thin sliced beef cooked in Chinese hot pot, fresh coriander and sesame seeds, with a dipping sauce of sesame oil, fresh chopped garlic, and oyster sauce (Yuxi Liu)

-Deep-fried mini sliced potatoes (mini French fries) inside of maki roll with flavored cream cheese (Joe Mongeluzzi)

-Hamburger roll (Steve Mizrahi)

And even though it was supposed to be a Final 4, we wanted to add one more, a delicious-sounding dessert roll with tons of originality!

-Maki roll with the sushi rice sugared and drizzled in chocolate.  The inside of the roll is fresh seasonal fruit (blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, mango, banana).  Deep fry the roll, tempura style, and serve with two garnishes – mint-infused white chocolate as wasabi, and super-thin sliced cantaloupe as ginger (Corey Dineen)

We were overwhelmed with the amount of submissions we received.  For a restaurant that hasn’t opened yet, we have a lot of really good people that are pulling for us and following our every move!  We sincerely appreciate those of you who bravely submitted rolls, and for that we’re rewarding everybody who did not reach the finals a $20 gift certificate. Thank you all!!!

As for the finalists, Anthony and I truly believe that we have 5 really great looking rolls that will vie for a shot on the menu.  We’ll post an update on when the final tasting competition will be within the next week.  Until then, just picture those rolls – if you know what’s good for you, you’ll be licking your lips just thinking about them!

Sushi Roll Contest Update

3 Dec

The rolls are in!  Even though it is just getting started, I can tell that this contest is going to be even better than Anthony or I anticipated.  The rolls that you all submitted have made me SO HUNGRY for sushi!  Such creativity too!  Traditional Japanese rolls, rolls with fruit, dessert rolls, Chinese-inspired rolls, Italian rolls (if that one wins, we’re going to have to call it ‘The Never Fugghedaboutit’).  You guys reached out into the universe of creative food and thought up some really awesome dishes – one roll even had a Milky Way in it!

Now you don’t really care about all that jibber-jabber – you want to know who the Final 4 are!  Well, wait one second for that, because we got so many submissions that Anthony and I are going to take about a week to figure this all out.

Stay tuned for pictures, finalists, reviews, and much more on this great competition.  And remember, the winner will get a spot on our opening menu!

Thanks again to all of you who participated – we really appreciate the love!

 

 

Menu Item #2: Baked French Breast Chicken with Potato Pancakes and a Cipolinni Onion, Tomato, Sherry Wine Sauce and Crispy Parsnip Chips

15 Nov

Welcome back for our second cooking demonstration!  Our second menu item is absolutely delicious, and is very accessible.  By that, I mean that not many people would shy away from it.  There is nothing in this dish (like raw fish or some crazy veggies) that would deter people from eating it.  It is straightforward, but the flavors are explosive, layered, and rich.


This dish was especially delicious.  The chicken was cooked to perfection – it had a crispy, baked outer layer (almost a baked crust) and a moist, tender, juicy body.  Potato pancakes are one of my favorite dishes – the consistency complimented the chicken very well (the fried, golden outside played nicely with the softer center).  The absolute best part of this dish – no doubt in my mind – was the sauce.  It started with the aromas racing through the kitchen when Anthony sauteed the already-baked cipollini onions.  They are semi-sweet onions and a fairly new found gem of modern cooking.  They’ve been around forever, but have found a place in mainstream cooking somewhat recently.  I’m glad they have – they are delicious.  When Anthony hit the mix with the sherry wine, the entire pan went on fire as it burned the alcohol out of the sauce.  What a site to see – and you can see it just below!

A really fantastic dish – and something that you can probably bring yourself to cooking at your house!  As I said, this is an accessible dish.  It takes the artistry and creative mind of a chef to develop and imagine the dish, but any ordinary cook can recreate it and bring it to life in their own kitchen.  So do it!  And take a picture, make a video, or leave a comment about how it tastes!

Without further ado…

Recipe

Chicken Preparation

2 French Breast of Chicken

Season with salt and pepper

Saute skin side down in two tablespoons of olive oil

Roast in oven 20 minutes at 350 degrees

Sauce Preparation

8oz cippolini onions (peeled)

1/2 pint grape tomatoes (halved)

1/2 cup julienne carrots

1/8 cup toasted pine nuts

1/2 cup sherry wine

4oz brown chicken stock

2 tbsp butter (cold diced)

Roast cippolini onions in oven for 10 minutes

Add julienne carrots, cherry tomato – saute 3 minutes

Add sherry wine and allow one minute for alcohol to burn off

Add dark chicken stock

Add toasted pine nuts and butter

Potato Pancake Preparation

2 Idaho potatoes (peeled)

10 leaves of basil (chiffonade)

2 eggs

1/2 cup flour

1 tbsp salt and pepper mix

Shred potato with cheese grader and squeeze out all water

Add eggs, flower, basil, salt, and pepper and mix thoroughly

Strain out excess liquid

Hand-form and pan fry until golden brown; flip and cook through

Parsnip Garnish Preparation

3 parsnips (peeled)

1 tsp salt

With peeler, cut strips lengthwise

Deep fry until golden brown

Season with salt immediately

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We sincerely hope that you enjoy these demonstrations – and we want you to bring them to life in your own kitchens!

Until next time, fellow eaters…

Menu Item # 1: Grilled Skirt Steak with Potato-Squash Hash and Fire-Roasted Red Peppers

10 Nov

Welcome back to The Vaulted Door.  Actually, we can finally say welcoming INTO The Vaulted Door.  Every week we’re going to bring you one or two of our menu items so you can salivate a little before we actually open our doors.

A few disclaimers:

1. I stink at filming, and add to that that I’m using an iPhone.  Quality isn’t Emmy-deserving, but look beyond that into the ingredients and the food, you’ll be happy.

2. Volume is a little iffy at some points.

3. I tend to think I am a lot funnier than I actually am, so please ignore my corny jokes and interjections.

Now we bring you our first dish: Grilled Skirt Steak with Potato-Squash Hash and Fire-Roasted Red Peppers.  It is very seasonal, very Thanksgiving/Halloweeny, and can I tell you that it was absolutely delicious??

We want you to take this recipe and make it your own – internalize it and see what you can make of it!  Film videos, take pictures, even just leave a comment that you tried this type of dish – you will be very happy that you did!

Enjoy!

Recipe!

Pre-Cooking:

5 pieces of skirt steak (peeled and trimmed of excess fat)

1 Spanish onion sliced

1 bunch scallions

1 cup Teriyaki sauce

1 cup soy sauce

1 cup sweet mirin sauce

1 cup blended canola oil

Combine all ingredients and marinate for 8-24 hours in refrigerator

When ready to cook:

1 small onion diced fine

8 pieces of garlic sliced thin

1 cup diced butternut squash

1 cup diced Idaho potato

4 slices of cooked bacon (diced)

1 large Portobello mushroom (grilled and diced)

3 tbsp olive oil

4 stalks chopped scallions

2 red peppers

1 lemon

Demi Glace: Red wine reduction, chicken stock, salt, pepper (Anthony’s demi glace is a secret recipe, but these are the main components; try to create your own – the key is the reduction of the wine — good luck!)

Instructions:

Roast red peppers over open flame, rotate occasionally to blacken all sides equally

When peppers are completely blackened, remove from flame, place in metal bowl and cover, steaming for 10 minutes

After steaming peppers, add water to bowl to soften peppers; remove black outer layer as well as seeds

Dice potatoes and squash into equal size cubes

Saute squash over medium heat and butter until golden brown

Fry potato cubes in oil until slightly crispy and then place in oven at 350 for 10 minutes

Saute onion and garlic until translucent in olive oil

Add bacon, potatoes, and remaining ingredients – sauté together 5 minutes until softened

Squeeze one half a lemon’s worth of juice into hash and demi glace

Grill skirt steak 5-8 minutes per side until desired temperature (5 minutes for medium rare; 8 minutes for medium)

After grilling, let rest 8 minutes and slice on a bias against the grain for best texture

Plate hash in center of plate and flank the side with fire-roasted red peppers

Fan grilled steak around the hash and drizzle with demi glace

Garnish with cut scallions

Enjoy!

We love taking you into our world of food.  This is the first item on our menu that we wanted to share with you.  It was an absolutely delicious creation.  The aromas raced through the kitchen as soon as Anthony started cooking, and I was in heaven until the very last bite.  We challenge you to make this dish – and make sure you do it well!  Please comment, email, send pictures, videos, anything!

We appreciate the love, and can’t wait to have you into the restaurant to try our delicious menu.

Next up: Friday and Saturday we’ll have a few new dishes for you to see!

Special thanks to my good friend Joe Mongeluzzi for not only supplying the iPhone but also hanging around to help in the filming (and tasting) of the dish.

Restaurant Review: Union Square Cafe

28 Oct

I was sitting at my computer about ten days ago and a thought popped into my head: why haven’t I been to Union Square Cafe?  I’ve been to most of the restaurants that are part of Union Square Hospitality Group – Danny Meyer’s select and diverse portfolio of restaurants that all compete for ‘best in class’ awards.  After all, I did work for Danny’s restaurant Blue Smoke for some time.  As an employee we had tremendous incentive to go eat at the other restaurants – discounts through the EDP, or employee dining program.  Why, then, had I never chosen to go to Union Square Cafe – a restaurant that, for the past 25 years, has consistently vied for top honors on Zagat’s list of ‘favorite’ restaurants?

My good friend Joseph joined me on our Tuesday night excursion into the city to eat what I was anticipating to be a phenomenal meal.  We got to the restaurant just in time for our 9pm reservation and were warmly greeted at the front door by the welcoming maitre d’.  Our table was upstairs, so the host walked us past the bar, through a small back dining room, up the rustic, Colonial-feeling stairs, and seated us along the balcony overlooking the beautiful artwork adorning the wall.  We were quickly greeted by our server Jen – who turned out to be a true gem – but weren’t nearly ready to order anything.  While we were looking over the menu we devoured the delicious bread that Jen had given us.  The bread was pretty ordinary, but there was a butter spread that was drizzled with a pinch of seasoning and set our meal off on the right foot.

Right after we placed our order we were visited by Michael, one of Union Square Cafe’s managers.  I had met Michael over a year ago at Union Square Hospitality Group’s New Manager Orientation, which is an all-day event at three different venues where the new managers in the company get to know about Danny and his partners and also learn about and get to meet their colleagues from the other restaurants.  Michael welcomed us to his restaurant and assured us that we would have an enjoyable experience.  It was nice to catch up with him for a little bit; it had been a while since I had seen him last.

Our appetizers came and 3 distinct, beautiful aromas hit our noses just as the plates touched the table.  We were sharing the appetizers so we could get a taste of each, and that was definitely the best idea of the night.  Not sure if I had a favorite because all three were so delectable.

The first appetizer we ate was USC’s take on fried calamari.  Instead of being heavily-battered as is traditionally seen, the calamari here was a little bit lighter than usual.  The sauce is what made this dish: a spicy anchovy mayonnaise that was texturally hardened with the consistency of cold butter.  It was so rich that even a dab of it on the calamari provided a salty, creamy taste that made the dish jump.

Our next appetizer was a pasta dish: housemade whole wheat pappardelle with Tuscan tomato sauce, walnuts and rosemary.  I love the concept of homemade pastas, especially when it is in the form of ravioli, pappardelle, or lasagna.  Something about having everything on a plate be fresh is so appealing to me, and USC certainly stood out to me because of that very quality.  Typically I’m not a huge fan of whole wheat pasta, but it added a certain amount of heartiness to this dish.  The pasta was cooked to perfection: al dente with the perfect coming together of crunch and preparedness.  The sauce was simple yet elegant – very representative of the service style and overall culinary mission of the restaurant.  The grated cheese topped it off; this was one of the top 10 pasta dishes I’ve had in my life.

Our final appetizer was compliments of Michael’s and the restaurant’s generosity and hospitality.  We were sent a dish of seared yellowfin tuna tartare with Pantelleria capers, lemon, celery, and fennel cracker.  There’s not much explaining to do here.  Simply put, my compatriot at the table had never eaten raw fish (or any form of tuna, for that matter) in his life and he thought it was delicious.  It seemed to have a component of sea salt that gave it a crunch and a wonderful explosion of flavor.  The best part of the dish, though, was the sear.  As somebody who has (tried to) sear sashimi-grade tuna and also seen it done very well, I have to say that this was the nicest, cleanest sear that I have ever tasted.  The sear was especially crispy and taut for only being about 2 millimeters deep, and the way it complimented the meaty, soft tuna was impeccable.

For our entrees, Joe and I each ordered one, knowing full well that we were going to be trying the others for our second bite.  I ordered the day’s special: a roasted red snapper dish with a chickpea puree and a tri-color carrot salad.  I was choosing between that and the striped bass when our server told me that I had to try the snapper.  Goodness was she right!  It’s not fair to judge against the bass because I didn’t get to taste it, but I was extremely happy with the decision I had made (or that Jen had made for me).  I’m typically not a lover of chickpeas, but that is mostly because of the texture of them.  As a pureed dressing for the snapper, the saltiness and almost thick earthiness of the chickpeas was a perfect compliment.  The tri-color carrot salad was sweet and garnished with little bits of dried fruit.

For his entree, Joseph ordered the oven-roasted chicken with sunchokes, 24k nugget potatoes, spinach, and smoked oyster mushrooms.  The only thing I could say to Joseph after I tried his chicken was that I don’t typically order chicken when I go to a restaurant anymore, but this dish was one of the best tasting chicken dishes I had ever had.  The flavor was exploding in every bite, the chicken was moist and the crispy skin added a crunch that took the dish from great to extraordinary.  The side component of those four unique ingredients worked so well together, and complimented the chicken beautifully.  There was a glazed sweetness to the potatoes, almost as if they had been sauteed in a touch of honey.  When combined with the savory flavor of the chicken, this dish had everything one could hope for.

Joseph and I each enjoyed a glass of wine with our entrees.  He drank a 2003 Fihl Merlot and I had a 2008 Von Buhl Riesling Kabinett.  As soon as I took the nose on the wine I knew that it was going to be deliciously sweet – and I was right.  It complimented my snapper perfectly, not to mention the fact that I could sip that wine for days…weeks?

When it came time to decide on dessert, Joseph and I were faced with our toughest decision of the night.  Each dish sounded tasty beyond belief.  Jen first recommended a dish that I found intriguing, but I wasn’t sure about how it would taste: fresh panna cotta with raspberries and aged balsamic.  I declined because two others caught my eye and I still wasn’t sure I’d like her recommendation.  I couldn’t decide between a dessert featuring a pear and one with mint, and Jen said, with no equivocations, “You’re going to have the pear.”

The gentleman running food arrived at our table with two desserts: my Greenmarket pear upside down cake with spiced rum ice cream and Joe’s brioche French toast with roasted apples and brown sugar ice cream.  Jen followed closely behind him with the fresh panna cotta dish and told us that we couldn’t leave without trying it.  My expectations for dessert here were already through the roof, but one bite in and I was floating so high above anything that I had ever dreamed that it took a while to get back down.  How would I begin to describe these three dishes: they were creations of brilliance in flavor profile, texture combinations, sheer richness, and presentation.  We legitimately considered licking the plates and bowls after we were done as part of the “No Morsel Left Behind Act.”  Not to mention, Jen was spot on with her recommendation of the panna cotta.

Upside Down Pear Cake

Brioche French Toast

Panna Cotta

Eat and Drink This!

The homemade pastas are to die for.  Simple yet elegant and more than delicious.  Terrific wines by the glass that you most certainly should consume with your meal.  Ask your server for the best pairing.  Dessert!  You cannot leave without eating at least two desserts; I don’t care how full you are.  Also, you’ve got to try the oven-roasted chicken dish – it will be your favorite chicken dish…ever.

Skip It

There was legitimately no part of my meal that I would have wanted to skip.  It was an incredible meal; a truly memorable dining experience.  If I could do it over again, I would not eat lunch the day of my reservation and order more pasta dishes – USC has a long heritage and history of Italian chefs, including current Executive Chef Carmen Quagliata.  Take advantage of it as much as you can and try the Italian-inspired dishes.

Where To Sit & When To Go

I loved sitting upstairs.  It was quiet and our server was able to devote so much attention to us, even though she had a full section.  We didn’t get to sit in the main dining room, but it seems that that would be a terrific experience as well.  The restaurant was brimming with people even at 10pm.  A late reservation is nice, it is more laid back and relaxed.  It would definitely be interesting to see how they maintain that smoothness of their operations at 7pm on a Friday.  I’m sure they don’t bat an eye.

Special Events

USC recently (within weeks) celebrated their 25th Anniversary.  Congratulations on that!  Additionally, one great thing to see is the chef and his cooks as the Union Square Greenmarket picking out their fresh produce for the day.

Overall

I rate the dining experience as a whole.  When I got home and thought of how to describe how I felt, I decided, without a doubt, that this was a top 10 dining experience of my life.  Early in the meal I said to our server Jen that she was ‘on point’ – her service was flawless and her confidence was attractive.  She knew exactly how our meal should go and she delivered accordingly.  She took us on a culinary adventure for those two hours, and when we emerged, we were better men for having been through it.  Who am I kidding using terms like ‘been through it’ and ’emerged’?  It was a privilege and an honor to eat Chef Quagliata’s food in Danny Meyer’s restaurant being served by Jen and greeted by Michael.  Joseph and I were the lucky ones.

Rating

An overall excellent experience.  46 points.  3 Stars.


Restaurant Review: Ruth’s Chris Garden City

25 Oct

When my Dad called me a few days ago and asked if I wanted to have a steak dinner this weekend my mouth began to water and I could already smell the butter sizzling on top of my Ruth’s Chris filet mignon.  One great thing about Long Island is that there is definitely not a shortage of great steakhouses – the there is a strip on the north shore that is lined with one on literally every corner.  I wasn’t in the mood for a production, and I was really craving their signature sizzling butter, so we decided that it would be Ruth’s Chris in Garden City.

When we arrived we were quickly and warmly greeted by the maitre d’ who began to show us to our table.  When the phone at the host stand rang she turned around and asked us to hold on.  While on the phone she handed the menus to a server who seated us.  The situation wasn’t off-putting, but it certainly wasn’t a stellar welcome that I would expect of such a highly-rated steakhouse.

We were greeted pretty quickly by our server.  He would prove to be very kind and certainly knowledgeable, but something about him didn’t click well with me.  He didn’t try to connect on a personal level.  It seemed to be strictly business.  Not once did he smile!  Technically he did a very respectable job, and he certainly wasn’t mean or rude, but on a personal level I didn’t feel that he made the attempt to connect to us as his guests.

I enjoyed his selling of the specials; for our appetizer we started with a barbecued shrimp scampi.  I didn’t really know what to expect because the two styles are very different in my mind.  He assured us that the shrimp were barbecued but not slathered in traditional bbq sauce – instead they were then sauteed, scampi style.  I was impressed with how quickly the five meaty tiger shrimp came out to our table.  My Dad took one and left four to me – heavenly!  The garlic butter sauce was proportioned excellently to the shrimp.  The problem I often face with shrimp scampi is that the sauce is far too overpowering for the meat; tonight’s dish mastered the delicate balance of the savory sauce and the meaty shrimp.

Barbecued Shrimp Scampi

The entree course was just as good-tasting as the appetizer.  I ordered a filet mignon and my Dad ordered a T-Bone, both cooked medium.  I really enjoyed our servers suggestive selling skills when we were ordering entrees – he suggested my Dad get his steak cooked medium instead of medium-well because the steaks were served on 500 degree plates so he could literally sear it a bit on the hot plate if he wanted it cooked further.  The steaks arrived a perfect temperature and were accompanied by a 1-pound baked potato and a dish of garlic mashed potatoes.  With the entrees I also had a glass of wine – a Spanish Tempranillo Rioja.  The flavor of both steaks was excellent.  As noted, Ruth’s Chris’s signature is serving all steaks on a very hot plate with butter sizzling on top.  The aroma I had hoped for filled our enclosed booth and created our own wonderful world of steak.  Eating it, tasting it, smelling it; the aura was magical, even if only for a minute or two.  I was very upset with the presentation of both steak dishes – as seen in the pictures below, they were simply strewn on the plate.  There was grease all over the rim of the plate and no side dishes to mask the running steak juices.  It did make up for that in flavor, though.  Additionally, the sides were great – two types of potatoes cooked with an equally tasty technique.  My wine was a perfect pairing to the steak: dark berries, plum, and dark chocolate.  It was well-structured and very tannic and held up well to the juicy steak.

Filet Mignon

T-Bone

After dinner was cleared and I was already over-stuffed, I thought what better way to relax than to enjoy a nice rich dessert?  I was impressed with their selections of after dinner drinks – it was a much more in depth menu than even their wine or cocktail lists.  Though I passed on having another drink, I did indulge in a warm apple crumb tart with vanilla bean ice cream.  The flavor was extraordinary – a beautiful pairing of Granny Smith apples, crumby crust, and refreshing ice cream.  Apple pie is one of my favorites, and though this was excellent in flavor, it was lacking identity.  I actually sat for what had to have been three minutes inspecting my dish before I took my first bite.  It almost looked like a purchased dessert.  By that I mean that it looked too perfect – maybe bought in bulk at Costco or BJ’s and microwaved for 30 seconds before being sent out to my table.  I highly doubt that is the case from such an established, well-regarded restaurant, but for me to even question that is a bit of a problem.

Warm Apple Crumb Tart with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

Eat and Drink This!

If you’re going to Ruth’s Chris, you’re going for the steak.  I’m always a big fan of filet mignon, but if you want a challenge, go for the Porterhouse for 2.  Like most steakhouses, they serve this behemoth expecting their guests not to finish, so don’t eat lunch and come prepared!  Also,  if you’re a shrimp lover, you’ll be thrilled – though maybe not with the presentation – with the taste of the barbecued shrimp scampi dish.

Skip It

I was very upset with the beverage menu.  For such a well-known, established steakhouse, I would imagine the wine list to be phenomenal, there to be a selection of beers that pair well with their dishes, and a cocktail menu worth even mentioning.  They had none of that.  I was shocked to see Relax Riesling offered by the glass – one of my favorite, cheap rieslings to buy at my local wine shop for a Friday night at home with friends, but certainly not what I would expect at Ruth’s Chris.

Where To Sit & When To Go

I have been to this location quite a few times and have always sat in the main dining room.  I was never a fan of the main dining room because it was carpeted and open and too living-room-esque.  Today we sat adjacent to the bar in a secluded booth for two.  Great place to bring a date, have a business meeting, or even have a great steak with a friend or family member.   The booths were very versatile and could be a good setting for many types of occasions, so if you’re a party of two, I would certainly recommend checking it out.  In terms of when to go, Sunday night at 6:30pm was fairly crowded, so unless you have a reservation, I would recommend going on a week night.  If you’re an OpenTable user, book a 1,000 Point table on Sunday-Wednesday.

Special Events

I didn’t dive too far into this, but on my way to the bathroom I did see that they have a fairly large private dining room which would be excellent for corporate events, holiday parties, or even upscale, large family gatherings.

Overall

Both my Dad and I enjoyed myself at Ruth’s Chris.  The food and wine were very tasty.  The main bone of contention that I have is that the restaurant felt ‘corporate’ to me.  It was present in our interaction with the server, with the maitre d’, and with the manager.  About 3/4 of the way through our entrees the manager came to ask if we had enjoyed our meal.  Her coming to our table felt very forced, very unnatural.  It was by no means smooth, and she too did not smile at us.  It was as if she was trained at corporate HQ that she had to touch tables – as well she should – but her execution and intent seemed to lack a genuine, personal touch.

Rating

An overall very good experience.  37 points.  2 Stars.


The Vaulted Door Sushi Roll Competition

21 Oct

Do you have what it takes to get onto The Vaulted Door’s sushi menu?  We’re challenging you – all of our friends, colleagues, readers, and fans – to come up with the most creative and best tasting roll for a chance to make it onto our opening menu.  We’re going to do this with all of our menu categories, so we wanted to start off with the most fun and imaginative one of them all: sushi rolls.

Who? Anybody!  I promise you that there will be no partiality granted towards close friends – this is really to see who is the best!

What? A competition to see who can tell us how to make the best-tasting, most creative roll they can imagine

When? The competition has been extended.  The due date for all roll submissions will be December 1, 2010.  During the week following the deadline, Anthony and I will narrow the rolls down to 4 finalists: ‘The Final Four.’  We will then invite all four finalists to the tasting  and judging of the rolls.  We will have guests there to watch the competition.  Chef Anthony will then prepare all of the rolls and our panel of judges will choose the best roll.

Where? This competition is all about creativity.  It all comes from your brain, from your heart, from your palette.  Think of what you would love to see in a roll and make sure it is something that has never been done.  Create, imagine, innovate.  At home, at a restaurant, at school – anywhere!  Our competition will take place at a secret location that will be announced as the date draws nearer.

Why? We are all about our guests, and we want to be able to feature your creations on our menu.  That way, every time you come to the best restaurant on Long Island, you’ll be able to say that you have been part of it.

I want to stress one thing: CREATIVITY above all.  As of now, we have 10 rolls on our menu and they are all creative masterpieces from Anthony and Ryan’s minds.  We’re looking to make it 11 rolls; help us finish our sushi menu with the most imaginative, artistic, and inspired roll of all.  Remember – sushi is not only about ingredients, but also how it is plated (get crazy with this one) and what it is garnished with.

DEADLINE FOR SUBMISSION: December 1, 2010

Email Submissions Directly to Ryan @ rperlowin@gmail.com

Best of luck!

What a Cool Presentation!

Seared Kobe Beef, Avocado, Red Onion, Chimichurri sauce

Ryan’s Sushi Journey; Hatsune’s Moto-Roll-Ah Roll; Sneak Peak at Sushi Competition

21 Oct

It was sometime around 3 o’clock in the afternoon and I was eating a chicken roll from The Gallery Four.  As the sauce dripped from the side of my mouth onto the paper plate, I got to thinking about how it has been exactly one month since I got back from China.  The past month has really flown, and I haven’t had much time to reminisce on my time there, and so on my drive over to Anthony’s house (10 minutes after I finished the chicken roll), I attempted to somewhat relive my two-week journey that saw nothing but the best that China had to offer in terms of food, champagne, wine, traveling, hospitality, and most of all: friends.  That’s a lot to relive and replay in a twenty-four minute drive, and there was one piece of the journey that stood out to me along the way: the Moto-Roll-Ah Roll at Hatsune.

I consider myself pretty well-versed in the world of sushi despite the fact that I only allowed myself to start eating it about five years ago.  Like many non-sushi-eaters, I was stuck on the fact that I didn’t want to eat ‘raw fish.’  Needless to say, I got over that as soon as I tried my first piece.  In those past five years of my sushi indulgence, I have eaten the freshest sashimi and sushi in Tokyo, worked in the top-rated Japanese restaurants in Beijing and Shanghai, eaten my fair-though-not-Jeremy-Piven-level share of sushi in New York and North Carolina, hosted sushi parties featuring my homemade, handcrafted rolls, and been GM of a Japanese restaurant.  I would definitely say that I have been immersed in the world of sushi more than most for the past 5 years.

That being said, one would think it would be tough to pick a most memorable sushi experience or a favorite dish.  It is not.  At all.  There is one roll that stands far above anything I have ever tasted.  But before we get to that, I want to discuss the three types of sushi eaters.

Sushi eaters can be divided up into three categories.  We’ll call them: the Japanese, the Californians, and the Hybrids.

  • The Japanese diet is known for being very healthy.  Most of their cuisine is consumed fresh or steamed.  So you can imagine, even if you’ve never been there, what a typical meal would be like.  If you were to go to a sushi restaurant in Tokyo – or anywhere in the country, for that matter – the emphasis would be on the freshness of the fish, the flavor profile of the fish and rice, and the texture of the rice.  That being said, a lot of Japanese don’t even eat rice with their fish.  Side note for everyone to get straight: the definition of the word ‘sushi’ is cooked vinegared rice. They often prefer to eat sashimi, which is delicate slices of raw fish.  But when they do eat sushi, it is in the form of nigiri, which is a hand-pressed ball of sushi rice with a dab of wasabi and a piece of raw fish.  Nobody eats what we as Americans have come to know as sushi, which are those delicious rolls.
  • The Californians are really all of us westerners who love sushi rolls.  A sushi roll consists, typically, of a few main ingredients: sushi rice, nori (dried seaweed), and some type of raw fish/vegetables.  There are a lot of variables, sauces, garnishes, and ways to play around here to really dress a roll up, but those three ingredients are usually the main substance of the roll.  California style sushi gave birth to the – yes, you guessed it – California Roll,’ which is simply imitation crab stick, avocado, and cucumber wrapped inside-out (rice on the outside) with nori and sushi rice.  That is usually the non-sushi-eater’s first step into trying their first bite of heaven here in America.  The Californians cover their rolls in artistically-drizzled sauces, sesame seeds, and layers upon layers of mouthwatering fish and vegetables.  They won’t mess with sashimi or nigiri – usually people are strictly California style sushi eaters when they believe that what they don’t know can’t hurt them, seeing as most of the raw fish is inside the sauce-laden roll.
  • The Hybrids are the people who like both.  They’ll go fresh with sashimi and nigiri, but they’ll also stray away from traditionalism with a deliciously-drizzled roll of pure ecstasy.

What am I?  You probably guessed it, but I am a Hybrid sushi eater. I could sit on a fishing boat, watch a blue fin tuna or red snapper get caught and filleted and eat a piece of sashimi right off the cutting board.  I could also sit down at a restaurant and indulge in the most fantastically-presented, beautifully-arranged, wildly unique-tasting sushi roll and love every second of it.

Now to the main event: my favorite sushi ever.  I certainly have eaten meritorious sushi that I remember clear as day – the homemade, freshly cut sashimi and nigiri on New Year’s morning at Aya’s house in Tokyo is the experience that comes close to dethroning my favorite, but nothing I have ever tasted has been as good as the Moto-Roll-Ah Roll.

The setting is Hatsune, Alan’s Japanese restaurant in Beijing that, for the past 9 years, has been rated as the top Japanese restaurant in the city.  It is the first California-style sushi restaurant of its kind in all of Beijing, and as upheld the highest standards of excellence and delicious food since its opening in 2001.  The setting certainly helps the cause for me, because Hatsune is my favorite restaurant that I have ever been to.  It is not necessarily the best, but it is my favorite because I feel the best when I am there compared to any restaurant I have ever been to.  Simple as that.

A brief history: the Moto-Roll-Ah was created a short time after Alan opened Hatsune.  It wasn’t on the original menu, but when Alan saw how many guests he had coming daily from Motorola’s corporate office down the road, he decided to dedicate a roll to them.  Little did he know that nine years later it would be the best-selling menu item in Hatsune’s storied history.  It literally melts in your mouth as you begin to chew, and the combination of flavors is unlike anything I’ve ever tasted before in sushi.

Now, if you’ve read this far, you definitely want to know what this roll is all about.  Without further ado, here it goes:

The Moto-Roll-Ah Roll

Deep-Fried Spicy Tuna and Snow Crab Covered in Blue Fin Maguro Tuna,

Layers of Rich Avocado, Scallions, Tobiko, and a

Special Sauce with a Hint of Wasabi and Tinges of Sweetness

 

The Meritorious 2nd Place

New Year’s Morning at Ayako’s House in Tokyo, Japan

 

I know Nemo told us that ‘Fish are friends, not food,’ but it is truly inexplicable what non-sushi eaters are missing out on.  Sushi is a world of exploration.  There are so many flavors, so many categories, so many creations to be made.  Imagine a world of sushi where roll-holding chopsticks dangled from trees and you had your choice any time and every time you wanted some?

At The Vaulted Door we’re going to bring a modern flare to our sushi – we’re planning on introducing a menu of 11 rolls that are unparalleled not only in freshness and flavor, but also in creativity.  However, we only have 10 set rolls.  Sharpen your knife, roll your bamboo and get to work.  Whoever creates the most unique, special, funky, delicious, creative roll in the next month *by November 20* will get a spot on our opening menu.  This is the first mention of this competition.  Full details to be disclosed tomorrow.  This your chance to get your creativity working a day in advance before the rules are announced!  Good luck!

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