Parlour Burger (MSP) – Not as Great as the Hype

img_0407Thrillist recently announced its Best Burgers in America, and Parlour, the pubby sibling to Borough restaurant, was the sole winner from Minneapolis. Those are strong words given some of the great burgers in the Twin Ciries, and being a burger devotee I was incredibly excited that I would enjoy another great Twin Cities’ burger. I am also a fan of Borough and if the kitchen could channel the talent of my previous visit into its burger, I was all-in.

img_0406Parlour is located below Borough on Washington. The space has an urban vibe, with eclectic seating that includes high back semi-wingback chairs, a few banquettes and a fabric-covered wall in the rear with more funky tables and chairs. There is also a long wood topped bar that seats twelve. At 6PM on a Tuesday evening, all the tables were occupied and there were only three vacant seats at the bar.

img_0409The menu is somewhat limited with several small plates and a fair number of desserts. The menu description of the burger was “ground sirloin, ribeye, brisket, American cheese” served with a few slices of pickles, fries are a separate order.  I asked for my burger medium-rare and an order of fries. As I waited I watched as burger after burger were delivered to over 75% of the waiting guests, this was a very good sign.

The burger and fries arrived quickly, the burger on a single salad plate and the large mound of fries on an oblong dinner plate. I first tasted a few fries and the level of salt made my head snap back, it was absolutely overwhelming. This was not a good start. I hoped the burger was better. I pulled a little piece of meat that was dangling over the bun and tasted. Like the fries the kitchen overwhelmed the meat with salt, I was hoping this was isolated to that little piece. I cut the burger in half and it was prepared well-done, not to my requested medium-rare. I asked the bartender and she said she input “medium-rare” and would I like a new burger. I agreed and the first burger and fries were removed from the table. A couple of minutes passed and a manager approached and asked about the burger. I told her it was delivered well-done and she explained all of them are because “of the amount of butter” in the patty. No worries, now that I know to expect it well-done. I asked if she could tell the kitchen to take it easy on the salt.

Burger #2 arrived and the mound of fries #2 were smaller and also served on a smaller plate, but still a good sized portion. I cut the burger in half and it was well-done, but glistened with juices. I pulled a little piece of the meat to taste and it had good flavor and the kitchen was more prudent with the salt. There were two patties, each topped with melted cheese. In total, I would estimate over a half pound of meat, it was a substantial burger. The cheese was perfectly melted and the bun was buttered and griddled, both on the interior and exterior. The grind was medium and there was good sear on the exterior. This had the makings of a great burger, just meat, cheese on a buttered and grilled bun. I took my first bite…

And then a few more bites before I decided I knew that I was in the minority. I thought it was a very good burger but not to the level as some of the great grass-fed meats in other places in Minneapolis. It was very juicy but was this from the meat or the addition of the butter, I do not know. I thought the cheese and the bun were outstanding, two of the best I have ever tasted. The cheese was rich, creamy, with great flavor. The bun was fantastic and even better with the additional buttery goodness and mild crunch from the grilling. I tasted a few of the fries and the kitchen was less aggressive on the salt, thankfully, but they were very substandard. They lacked the textural contrast of a crispy exterior paired with the soft interior, a one dimensional product.

As much as I entered Parlour with high expectations, the burger was very disappointing and the fries were very mediocre. Given the recent inclusion in Thrillist, the number of orders leaving the kitchen and the other meal I previously ate upstairs at Borough, I was expecting better.

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Nick & Toni’s (East Hampton) – Still One of the Best

img_0400The evening started with our traditional zucchini chips. These lightly coated, thinly sliced orbs were delicious. All they required was a squirt of lemon to elevate the natural goodness of the zucchini.

img_0401For my appetizer I ordered the beets with goat cheese and pistachios. The dish consisted of several quarters of various beets over greens with a slice of pistachio crusted goat cheese. The beets were perfectly roasted to maintain a terrific firmness but fell a little short on flavor, somewhat lacking that deep earthiness. Likewise the sliver of goat cheese was a little meager compared to the ampleness of the beet portion.

img_0402For my entree I opted for one of the night’s specials, tilefish served over pole beans with an heirloom tomato sauce. One word can describe this dish…spectacular. It was my introduction to tilefish and I am now a huge fan of this sweet, firm white fleshed fish. Two fillets sat atop a mound of mixed pole beans, all swimming in a pool of light tomato juice with segments of the tomatoes. The filets were exquisitely prepared with a crisp skin and succulent flesh. The tomatoes and juice added additional sweetness with a smidgen of capers contributing a little saltiness. The pole beans were crunchy and a perfect complement. This was a fantastic and light rendition.

To relax after the meal I ordered an espresso. It was one if the deepest flavored espresso I have ever enjoyed.

Service was exceptional, professional and spot on in every aspect. Even on a busy Saturday night in August we were not rushed and treated with incredible professionalism throughout the evening. Nick & Toni’s has been a centerpiece of Hampton’s dining for years and there is a reason for it. On this latest visit it proved how great a restaurant can be.

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Meet The New Culinary Team @ Vespa Restaurant in Westport

dsc_0276Vespa Restaurant recently introduced its new culinary team, Executive Chef David White and Pastry Chef Susanne Berne to create a vibrant menu to complement the relaxing décor and wonderful water view. The duo will collaborate in creating a menu for the full dining experience, from the first bite of Antipasti to the last bite of Dolci. In addition, the restaurant recently unveiled its lunch service, a new dessert menu and the commencement of “Apertivo Hour” from 4-6PM, offering half price beer, wine, $8 select cocktails and a small plates menu.

dsc_0259Chef David joins Vespa from The Inn at Pound Ridge, where he was the Chef de Cuisine. Prior to working with Chef Jean-Georges, he sharpened his skills in Europe before returning to the US to further refine his talents with award-winning Andrew Masciangelo at Savona. Chef Berne’s passion for the culinary arts was sparked by a pastry course in college before receiving her Grande Diploma in Pastry Arts in 1999. She subsequently won back-to-back ACF Florida Pastry Challenges in 2003 & 2005.

CTbites recently visited Vespa to sample a variety of the new culinary team’s Italian-inspired creations.

The highlight of the meal was the Spicy Lumache (pictured above). The house-made, snail-shell shaped lumache was perfect for Vespa’s chunky and robust heirloom tomato sauce, which included broccoli rabe, large chunks of spicy sausage, charred fennel, and sprinkled with sourdough breadcrumbs. The heirloom tomato sauce delivered a touch of spiciness from the addition of Calabrian chilies and included chunks of spicy sausage, with additional heat from a smidgen of red pepper flakes. The broccoli rabe was soft and void of all its inherent bitterness, and the fennel added a wonderful earthiness. This was an outstanding preparation and one of my favorite pasta combinations in a long time.

dsc_0266We sampled three dishes from the “Secondi” section, the best was the Short Rib Sandwich (seen above). A toasted, buttery brioche was filled with two good-sized pieces of short rib, a slice of lettuce and a mound of slaw served along with shoe-string fries. The meat was braised low and slow for over two hours, and was soft, delicious and incredibly flavorful. The slaw was creamy and delivered a surprise, a nice little kick from the inclusion of Calabrian chili and the brioche was a great choice for its butteriness. This was one of the most incredible sandwiches I have eaten in a long time.

dsc_0271The Crab Cake was excellent. Two large crab-laden patties were crispy on the exterior and soft and moist on the interior. It was almost exclusively crab meat, very little filler, with a bit of crunch and sweetness from a few finely diced peppers. The two crab cakes were covered with shredded vegetables that were lightly pickled to balance the dish.

dsc_0274The last Secondi was the Poached Eggs. Two poached eggs were joined on the plate with grilled asparagus, pancetta and finished with a few slices of smoked salmon. The poached eggs were cooked well and the grilled asparagus were tasty but the salmon was less than appealing in both texture and taste, and the pancetta was overwhelmed by the sherry and was too sour.

dsc_0282We next moved to a trio of desserts currently on the menu and one that will join shortly. My favorite of the current choices was the Peanut Butter Crunch Cake. This cylinder shaped extravaganza began with a layer of banana cake, topped with layers of milk chocolate peanut butter crunch, and peanut butter cremeaux, all encased in a chocolate glaze and served with a scoop of chocolate gelato from Gelatissimo in New Canaan. The soft banana cake was moist and delicious with the middle layer was reminiscent of a Butterfinger candy bar with a crunchy-gooey texture. The chocolate glaze was outstanding and the gelato was a great complement to the other ingredients. The cake was joined with a few slices of bruléed bananas to further accentuate the banana cake. This dessert delivered a balance of one of my favorite combinations…banana, chocolate and peanuts.

dsc_0279The Pistachio Opera Cake presented a completely different profile. Three layers of pistachio sponge cake were intermingled with a layer of pistachio meringue and a layer of chocolate ganache, finished with a pistachio cream. It was presented alongside sour cherry jam and a scoop of chocolate gelato. The meringue presented a textural contrast to the soft cake and the sour cherry jam was a great addition to balance the other delightful ingredients.

The last of the current desserts was a plate of Family style Zeppoles paired with chocolate, caramel and a white Sangria sauces. The warm ricotta donuts were crispy on the exterior and soft and moist on the interior. Although deep fried, these were virtually oil-free to the taste, but they were a bit bland. They were sprinkled with powdered sugar, which added a hint of sweetness before dipping into one of the sauces. The three sauces were all delicious and delivered the required sweetness.

dsc_0286Chef Berne saved the best for last with her Coconut Panna Cotta, a tribute to the Pina Colada. This delightfully refreshing dessert was served in a glass ramekin and began with a perfectly prepared coconut panna cotta, which was smooth and luxurious. The second layer was the Sangria gelée which added a wonderful sweet component with the inclusion of passion fruit and white peaches. The two layers were topped with chunks of spiced pineapple. This was a fantastic combinations of traditional tropical flavors that were outstanding.

Overall Vespa 2.0 has a wonderful cuisine to enjoy in the beautiful and low-key environment with a relaxing water view of Saugatuck River.

 

2A Post Road West – Westport, Connecticut.

 

(203) 557-9057

 

Really Liked

 

Spicy Lumache

Short Rib Sandwich

Peanut butter crunch cake

Coconut Panna Cotta

Liked

 

Crab Cake

Pistachio Opera Cake

Did Not Like

 

Poached Eggs

Zeppoles