Sadelle’s (NYC) – Some Great Options

SadellesGo for the experience, stay for a few of the selections.

NYC is not void of smoked fish options, so how do you choose. Other than go everywhere, there are some that are better than others. Since we have never been to Sadelles, it was a chance to check the box on the must-do list. We made a reservation for a cold Saturday morning and were seated within 5 minutes of our time.

The tables are designed to maximize the number of people that can be served, smallish but they use every square inch plus the air rights above. They place a “tower” that you have seen used for cold seafood or two-tiers of pizza in the middle, and they place your plates on them. They also give each diner their own plate.

Latke Royale w Black Caviar

The four of us started with a “Latke Royale with caviar.” This is an “order with your eyes wide open” since the price for one is $80 with the black caviar. The single palm sized latke is first topped with crème, then slices of smoked salmon, a good amount of black caviar and chives, dill and cucumber juliennes. One is plenty for four people to enjoy a sample, and enjoy we did. The combination of the components was unbelievable. One member of the party suggested a second but we all decided against since we had more food on its way.

House, Scottish, SableOur table ordered the house smoked salmon, the smoked Scottish salmon and the sable. Here is where I have an issue with Sadelles. When you order three $24 smoked fish platter, limiting the diner to a single palm-sized bagel is an affront. For a table of four, please bring a half a dozen bagels.

The favorite was of the two salmons was the Scottish. This was perfectly smoked, delivered a healthy dose of salmon flavor and the texture was fantastic. The other two fishes were a distant second and third behind the Scottish. The house smoked salmon was barely smoked, if at all. I would best describe it a cold poached, there was no flavor other than cold salmon. While I did not like this one, one member of the table did, so it is a personal preference. The sable was not to my liking at all. This succulent fish was served much too salty, in fact I do not remember a saltier version anywhere. I would highly recommend tasting yours to see if it acceptable.

We also ordered the cheese blintzes. The wrappers were delicious, with a mild sweetness and the filling was luscious, albeit a little scant. Again, I am always surprised when the server and the kitchen are not “out of the box” thinkers with customers. We had a table of 4, they serve three blitzes to an order. Why not ask if the table would like four blintzes for an addition $5-7 dollars. A perfect win-win.

 

The bagels, although small, were delicious. They are made on site, in the middle of the restaurant and you can watch the process as you wait for your meal. I wish I had the option to enjoy more than one.

Service was spot on throughout the meal.

Overall, as much as I wanted to love Sadelles, but it just did not get all my love. The Scottish salmon and latke were spectacular, the cheese blintzes delicious, but the House-Smoked and sable were not in the same league.

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Incredible Chicken @Le Coq Rico (NYC)

Whole Plymouth ChickenThe simple roasted chicken is elevated to new heights at Le Coq Rico. But expect to pay heavily for the experience.

While other restaurants add chicken to accompany other items on the menu, Le Coq Rico adds other menu items to complement the chicken. This is the epitome of take a concept, a Roasted Chicken, and do it perfectly again and again.

The dining room at Le Coq Rico is airy, relaxed and filled with reminders of the purpose of the restaurant, there are feather murals adorning the walls and each canister light on the ceiling is adorned with a descending single feather. The two-sided menu devotes an entire side to the variety of chickens available, each poached and roasted. The server is trained to offer a detailed description of each, guide you through the ordering process and instruct the table on the quantity that would satisfy.

We ordered two appetizers to share and two different chickens.

The Leek Vinaigrette with Hollandaise was divine. We were told that it won a cooking competition in Ireland and we were sold. The first surprise was the presentation. I originally envisioned horizontal logs with Hollandaise atop. But, it was served with the leeks vertically aligned in the center of the plate with the sauce. The leeks were perfection and the Hollandaise was a great accompaniment.

Terrine en Croûte of Duck Foie Gras was excellent as well. It was a decent slice, served with a jam. While this was a delicious rendition, the value for this option was a little expensive.

The Plymouth Chicken ($82) (above) is raised by Marlin Moyer from New Holland in Lancaster, PA. A whole chicken was served in a Staub cast iron pan, cut into eight pieces, plus the breast bone and spine. We chose to include the morel sauce and the coq au vin sauce in addition to the chicken jus that is included. This might have been the best chicken I have ever eaten. The flavors and texture were mild and soft, respectively, the skin was crispy without being burnt and the moistness of the entire chicken was heavenly. I highly recommend this one. All of the sauces were perfect, each different. If there are any morels left in the cruet, make sure someone eats them.

Stuffed Brune LandaiseWe also order a Stuffed Brune Landaise ($72). This was very different from the Plymouth. It was definitely more gamey and with the addition of the stuffing created a totally different experience. It was a much richer, denser dish. If it was not sitting next to its perfect partner, I would have enjoyed it much more. It suffered a bit from sitting aside the Plymouth.

Fries – All I can say is order them. The are absolutely perfect, maybe the best anywhere. Quarter-inch in size and long, the were flash fried to create a thin crispy exterior and a fluffy interior. Above perfection.

Overall, it was a perfect meal at Le Coq Rico. The food was fantastic, the room relaxing and the service spot on.

B’s Cracklin’ BBQ (ATL) – Sets a New Standard

B’s Cracklin’ has received accolades from Bon Appetit to Eater (full disclosure, I was a former Eater reviewer) and the pull of great BBQ was too much to resist. It was time to try what many on-line sites have called the best BBQ in Atlanta.

While driving west on Bolton a sign appeared telling me I was one mile from ground zero, and when I made the left turn onto Main Street I saw the unassuming building with the neon “OPEN” and the smokiness in the air told me I was about to have a great meal.

The parking is in the rear, picnic tables are assembled on the porch and you walk between two structures, each containing multiple smokers. This was once serious BBQ joint. The interior is completed with football logos, flags, shirts emblazoned with past SEC mega-games and a staff that can only be described as accommodating, friendly and proud to be part of B’s Cracklin’. There is enough seating for 50-60 patrons.

It was time to move onto the food; the menu was straightforward. It was a pretty easy decision what to order…I wanted to try everything that emerged from those smokers. The Sampler Plate let me do just that and contained chicken, ribs, and pulled pork, two sides and some corn bread, and for $4 you can add the brisket.

As you wait, you need to sit back, relax and have one of their beers or sweet tea (my choice) and enjoy conversation with your friends and family as it takes a while for the kitchen to assemble and deliver. Lots of orders between the in-house and numerous take-away orders. As I sat there watching an SEC football game, I sampled the three sauces on the table, a delicious tomato based which was sweet-tangy, a mustard based with just a hint of earthiness, and the spicy addition with vinegar. I would try each of these with the various meats.

My plate arrived, with a large mound of pulled pork, two ribs, two slices of brisket and a breast quarter of chicken. The mac & cheese and the baked beans (my two sides) arrived in very small plastic cups, not aligned with the large size of the meat portions.

Let’s start with what might be the best smoked meat I have ever eaten. The Brisket is life-changing for a carnivore. It was absolutely perfect. It was incredibly moist and the smokiness was just enough to tingle the palate. And then the seasoning kicked in and a huge smile cam across my face. There is no need for any sauce for these slices of heaven. It was a perfect 10+.

The other BBQ-nirvana were the ribs. The meat pulled easily from the bone, was succulent, smoky and beautifully seasoned. There is no need for sauce, if you are a traditionalist, but if you want even more flavor the sauces were fantastic accompaniments for the ribs. I have to give the ribs a perfect 10+.

The next stop was the pulled pork. As I looked at my mound I was a little concerned that the bark to meat ratio was a little too bark-heavy, and after one bite that concern was confirmed. The deep rich, crispiness and seasoning of the exterior was a little overwhelming to the succulent interior. The smokiness was great and some may think it was a little too smoky. Again, I added each of the sauces and each added a different profile, I really liked each. The meat was not quite in the league as the brisket and ribs and I can only give the pork an 8.

I am always concerned with how chicken handles smoke and was really impressed with the wings, they were delicious. Then I sliced into the breast itself and I knew this was not in the same league as the other meats. While the white meat was able to absorbed a moderate level of smoke, it was borderline dry, not to my liking. I would have to give the wings a 10, but the breast itself as an underwhelming 4.

Sides are always important with BBQ and baked beans have to be great. B’s Cracklin’s baked beans are spectacular. Great flavor and a few little tidbits of meat added a nice touch. Another 10. The Mac & Cheese was creamy and delicious. Almost as perfect as the beans and I would give them a 9. The cornbread was more a cornbread pancake, it was good, not great.

Overall, this is a fantastic BBQ place serving a variety of smoked meats. The brisket was phenomenal, the ribs perfection and the wings and baked beans were outstanding. The pulled pork needs a re-do and if I were to order the chicken I would definitely opt for the thigh quarter over the breast.

Bacchanalia (ATL) -Great Food Intertwined with Upsells

I heard so much about Bacchanalia that we decided to spend my birthday. On a Monday evening we drove what felt like to the middle of nowhere and then pulled into the parking lot. The building was a star oasis in the middle of the desert and the name Star Provisions was apt. The rear of this building houses Bacchanalia.

The room is light, airy and large tables throughout the back of the space. A long bar occupies the front. With only two tables occupied I was surprised that the hostess sat us right next to the front door and the hostess station. This was not a gracious welcoming. We asked for a much quieter table in the main part of the room.

The menu is fixed at $95 for four courses (there are many more served with all of the mini-tastings from the kitchen). My wife chose the Nantucket Scallops to start and the NY Strip for her entrée, plus the Turtle for dessert. I chose the Foie Gras…wait the server interrupted and told me the foie gras for the evening was a pate, not a piece of foie gras as stated on the menu. I asked if they could prepare as a piece as the menu stated and he checked with the kitchen. “They can but there will be a $15 supplement before it is a large piece of foie.” My antenna should have gone full 100% “upsell” but I stayed with that option, it was my birthday. For my entrée I ordered the Rohan Duck Breast.

Prior to the receipt of the first course, we received and enjoyed several nibbles. When the appetizers arrived the first item I noticed was the “large piece” of foie was smaller than my thumb, probably less than half an ounce, yes, less than half an ounce. And it was very seared on the exterior, very close to burnt. It was pretty good, not excellent and absolutely not justified in charging $15 more for an item that was EXACTLY as described on the menu.

Moving to the entrée, the evening reached deliciousness. The duck breast was phenomenal, albeit also on the smallish side. In this case the size was absolutely acceptable and the flavors were perfect. The honey and lavender were great complements. This is highly recommended.

Dessert continued the winning streak with the Apple Tart and the Turtle. The tart was delicious and the turtle was excellent.

Service was excellent but forced. Everything was “my favorite.” Even with our mentioning a food allergy, a dish arrived with that ingredient prominent in the presentation.

I think Bacchanalia is an excellent choice for a special, relaxed evening. The supplement for the dish exactly described on the menu is bad, telling me the reason for the surcharge was the large size of the foie and then the miniscule size set a bad tone. I would say that 75% of me loves the place and 25% of me place “emperor’s new clothes” status.

Dorsia (Boca) – Still the Best in the Neighborhood

16-chicken-saparielloWe returned to Dorsia and this is still one of my favorite restaurants in the area. From the minute you enter, the owners are welcoming, friendly and have a personal interest in all of the guests. It is like eating at a friend’s house. The service was flawless, prompt and knowledgeable on both of our visits.

16-eggplant-meatball-2

On the first visit the server mentioned that the special for the evening was an Eggplant Ball. I did not completely understand the server when he stated the dish and I thought it was strips of fried eggplant with sauce and cheese. When it was delivered in a bowl versus a plate I was not sure what it was until I took a forkful and saw it was an eggplant meatball minus the meat. It was soft and full of great flavor. The sauce was fantastic, great deep rich tomato flavor. The eggplant ball was a great choice; it is a little heavy for the start of a meal, but it was fantastic.

16-cannelloni-2

My entrée on the first visit was the Ricotta and Spinach Cannelloni. Make sure you have a hearty appetite if you order this dish. I struggle calling it cannelloni versus manicotti since it was a spinach-ricotta cheese stuffed pasta tubes topped with a tomato-meat sauce. Call it whatever you would like, I call it delicious. The spinach was fresh, not frozen, and when combined with the cheeses was delicious inside the pasta cylinders that were the perfect thickness and texture. The sauce was more a meat sauce Ragu with a small smattering of meat versus a thick and meaty Bolognese, but again, call it what you like it was superb.

On the second visit I ordered the Chicken Scarpariello. The server asked if I would like cherry peppers on the side. I thought that was a great idea and agreed. The dish consisted of a half a bone-in chicken cut into several pieces with red peppers, sausage slices, roasted potatoes and onions. The flavors were delicious. I did add a small piece of cherry pepper to one bite and these were extremely hot peppers, be forewarned if you are thinking of ordering them in the dish. The only drawback was the white meat was a little overcooked. Likewise, to manage expectations, the size of the half chicken was more a size of a Cornish Hen, just a head’s up, but it was more than generous as an entrée with all of the additions.

For dessert, we ordered the Tartufo, vanilla and chocolate ice cream covered in a chocolate shell with a little chopped hazelnut in the core. It was pretty basic but a good ending to the meal with a really good and generous single espresso.

This is still one of my favorite restaurants in the Delray area.

Seasons 52 (Boca) -Stick with the Flatbreads and Desserts

dessertsOur annual pilgrimage to Seasons 52 was interesting and not in a positive manner. As in previous years, we arrived for our reservation and the hostess escorted us to the noisy bar area. I just do not understand why the hostess failed to ask if we had a preference for the bar or the dining room. We declined and asked to sit in one of the dining rooms, a quieter part of the restaurant.

We shared the tomato and Mozzarella flatbread and the chicken pesto flatbread. I really like their flatbreads, they are the best items on the menu. The tomatoes were super sweet and the crust was crispier than previous years, and did not crumble apart after each bite. This year the chicken was moist and the arugula was also a good topping.

The shrimp and grits is more aptly described a shrimp mish-mosh. Throw a little grits on a plate. Then over-season some shrimp and sauté with tomatoes, chorizo and pancetta and throw on top of the grits. Just a bunch of competing flavors, each too much for the others. Best part was the tomatoes. There is very little on the menu that is worth ordering.

Desserts were brought over. I chose one with a bunch of different chocolates and a little cake. I really like this approach to dessert, order one or two to finish the meal.

In addition, our utensils were dirty, as well as the napkins. Service was novice. The server was obviously very new and management failed to train him adequately, he was very unfocused, just going through the motions. When asked what the evening’s ravioli was filled with, he responded, “nothing.” Really? I mentioned this on the way out and they thanked me and gave a certificate for the next visit.

On the drive home, we discussed having a few flatbreads and dessert the next time we go. Not a bad idea.

J. Alexander’s (Boca) – Sleek Spot with Challenging Food

16-burgerFrom the outside, this restaurant looks like an upscale Florida version of a NJ diner. Once inside, the enormous four-sided bar separates two dining areas with more a pubby feeling than NJ red p-leather booths. The menu ranges from a few unappealing appetizers, many salads and sandwiches, plus entrees. All of the food is prepared in the large, open-viewed kitchen in the rear.

On the first visit I ordered a bacon-cheese burger medium-rare with tomato and pickles plus fries. The menu stressed hand formed chuck daily so I was expecting a very juicy burger. It arrived already cut in half to show it was prepared properly. The first item I noticed was the size of the bun; it was incredibly tall and overshadowed the exposed patty, tomato, pickle, and the single slice of melted cheese; the bacon was hidden under the bun. The second item was the lack of juice extruding from the burger, even though it was chuck and cut immediately after leaving the griddle.

A quick taste of the meat. It was OK but had a bitter aftertaste. It was medium in grind with decent richness. The folded and hidden slice of bacon was also pretty good; the bun was OK but much too large. The two slices of tomatoes were excellent. Overall it was an OK burger but should have been juicier if it was chuck. The fries were horrible. The shoestring variety were cooked a little too long and then the kitchen doused them with salt, head snapping back amounts.

16-tacosOn the second visit I ordered the steak tacos. A swath of sour cream sauce was first shmeared onto three large soft tortillas and topped with a slice of steak, shredded lettuce and Monterey Jack cheese and finished with a little pico de Gallo salsa. The steak was prepared to medium rare. After one bite, I knew this was not for me. The steak was covered with a seasoning package that was both overwhelmingly salty and incredibly spicy. The salsa was also spicy. My wife offered half of her burger and when I tasted it, it was not even as good as the OK burger from the first visit, with a spongier consistency than my first visit. The server and manager asked if I would like something else, and they did a good job, but I chose to call it a night.

Overall Alexander’s exterior of a NJ diner rang truer with the food than the decor. An OK burger, very over-seasoned tacos, but fries that would never be served in NJ.