Saturday, October 20, 2012

Vine Street Cafe in Shelter Island, NY

Good food, great service and comfortable setting. When visiting Shelter Island we decided to visit the Vine Street Cafe for dinner on a Saturday night. Reservations were easily available on OpenTable and they were also accommodating walk-ins.

Restaurant is split in to three dining rooms plus a small outdoor area with four tables which is located right by the entrance. It was busy and service occasionally lacked due to the volume of diners but servers were extremely polite and professional.

Wine list features a nice selection of moderately prices red and white wines including some of the local Long Island wineries. Cocktail menu offers some excellent choices so take a look before deciding on a wine.

Food options were plenty anywhere from fresh salads starting at $9 to a 22 oz. Chateaubriand for-two at $78. They also feature a daily dish; Saturday's special was the Crispy Duck Confit with Saffron Rice over Spinach which was good but thought it was a bit on the pricey side. Potato Crusted Tilefish is a must if you enjoy your seafood. Portion sizes were better than average for an upscale restaurant such as this.

Overall we enjoyed our meal but next time we may want to try some of the other restaurants in the area but if you hare having a special occasion or taking family/friends out for an upscale meal in Shelter Island then you can't go wrong with the Vine Street Cafe.

Vine Street Cafe
‎41 South Ferry Road
Shelter Island, NY 11964
(631) 749-3210‎

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Serra Mediterranean Bistro {CLOSED}

Had an amazing dinner at my new local favorite restaurant. Even though it happens to be located in a hotel, Vincci Hotel Avalon to be exact, chef and management found a way to deliver an impressive menu to go with wonderful service (minus the ambiance which I think needs a bit of work).

It seems like they tried to cover any type of food that originated from the Mediterranean region. Co-owners Cesare and Tio Alogn with chef Claude are serving fresh and tasty dishes influenced from Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Turkey and Northern Africa regions.

As I said they are still not officially open so few dishes are missing form the menu but the ones they are serving totally makes up for the four or five dishes that will be joining soon.

We walked into see if they were open and got greeted by one of the owners. He made sure we got a nice table to sit down and within minutes we were offered couple of glasses of fresh made Bellinis from the compliments of the bar. They only had two types of white wine so we went with the Washington state Sauvignon Blanc for $35 which was better than we hoped for. Then we started with the beets with grilled goat cheese, appetizer portion of green pea risotto and grilled calamari. When it came to the mains we picked the Branzini and the Black Sea bass. They all tastes amazing, it was like each dish tried to out do the last one. We did not leave a single crumb on the plates. Prices ranged from $10 to $15 for appetizers and $20 to $25 for mains and huge portions more than justify the cost.

We finished the meal with a delicious Tiramisu and two Turkish coffees. One of the owners was having a meal himself with his family next to us and they pretty much ordered the same dishes as we did but the tuna, salmon caviar, Cornish hen, duck and the grilled salmon looked incredible enough for us to put them in the next visit list.

We paid our check which came about to $126 without the tip so it was a great value. Chef himself made sure that we enjoyed every bit we ate and asked if we had any suggestions but we were completely satisfied with the service and the food and already look forward to our next visit.

This restaurant could be the next sleeper in this area so give it a try before it gets busy.
Serra Mediterranean Bistro
16 East 32nd St
(between 5th & Madison Avenues)
New York, NY 10016
(212) 532-5344

Friday, August 6, 2010

Aquavit - New York

I finally had the pleasure of dining at this famous Scandinavian establishment during their Herring Festival to celebrate the Summer Solstice which is a major event especially for the families and friends to get together to celebrate the Midsummer, the longest day of the year.

Herring Festival is being held at the front dining room which is the Aquavit Bistro. If you want to try dining at the Aquavit but you prefer to be more casual with somewhat lower price point menu items then Bistro is the right place for you. It is a smaller room, located by the entrance before you get to the lounge area.

We were offered the regular bistro menu along with the $35/per person Herring Festival self serve buffet option. It had an $11 option to get a shot glass of flavored aquavit (alcoholic drink distilled either from grain or, more commonly, potatoes) and a glass of Carlsberg beer.

We were there for the Herring Festival and the buffet looked incredible for the price they were offering at. It consisted of ten different types of pickled herring, salmon, meatballs, boiled potatoes, sliced cheese, tomato salad, dessert and more. You can't find a better deal than this at this type of a restaurant in New York City. Each dish was better than the next and after two trip to the buffet we were happily satisfied with the selection and quality of the food. We finished another set of aquavit from the selection of about dozen flavors. It's strong drink but depending on the flavor it goes down very smoothly.

On the way out our waiter notified us about their on going prix-fix lunch $25 and dinner $35 menus which gave us another reason to come back to this great place. Of course one of these days I would like to dine in the back, main dining room but we can save that for a special occasion. By the way long time chef Marcus Samuelson left the helm to the new executive chef Marcus Jernmark who we had the delight of briefly meeting after our superb meal. Some of his dishes like the Venison Tartar, Hot-Smoked Brook Trout, Seared Arctic Char, Chatham Cod Confit, etc. looked so tempting that we could have easily stayed if our full stomachs allowed us. Also to top that of Chef Jernmark offers an amazing tasting menu.

Update: August 9-14 & 16-21 ~ Annual Crayfish Festival featuring Peel and East Crayfish alongside a buffet that includes various crayfish preparations and signature classics. $28 Lunch and $35 Dinner:


65 East 55th Street
(between Madison & Park Avenues) 
New York, NY 10022
(212) 307-7311

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Sushi Sennin Japanese Restaurant - NYC

Another great neighborhood restaurant with excellent menu of sushi, sashimi, yakitori and other Japanese delicacies in one place with friendly service.

Sushi Sen-Nin is another one of my favorite restaurants within five minutes of where I live so we tried to visit as often as we can. We always enjoy a wonderful selection of daily fish selection with some hot and cold appetizers to go with a bottle of sake.

This place has been around for years. It used to be located on 34th street up until they lost their lease. Then they closed the place and it remained in limbo until they opened up an Upper East Side location. After that they found the current location which moved the operation and closed the Upper East location.

Restaurant is pretty large considering some others in this area. As soon as you walk in there is a bar area with full selection of cocktails, wine, beer, sake and special drinks.After the bar area there are two tatami rooms for small parties but these rooms are open so you don't get much privacy. If you are looking for privacy they do have a private room upstairs which most people don't even know about it but trust me, it's there and they will show it to you if you are planning a private party.

Main dining room is a one large square with small tables in the center, long sushi bar on the right and few small banquette tables on the left hand side.

Their menu is quiet extensive and covers almost every angle of Japanese cuisine. We normally start with few appetizers like Izuzukuri - thinly sliced fluke, sweet shrimp tempura, Tokyo spicy wings, avocado salad, few yakitori selection with a large bottle of cold sake. They don't have a large selection of sake but they are carefully selected for anyone to find a bottle they like. After the appetizers we normally leave the sashimi selection to our server,. after few years of visiting most of the staff already know what we like and decide on our behalf from the daily list of fish from all over the world. After that we finish with a special roll if we are still hungry.

They are not the cheapest option in the area but I always say cheap and raw fish should not be in the same sentence... For the quality of the fish and the attentiveness of the service justifies the cost of the meal. Don't get me wrong they are no where as expensive as Yasuda or Gari or even Haru so you don't need to empty your bank account before going over. Also if you stick with the regulars instead of the exotic daily fish then there is nothing you need to be concerned about.

Next time in the area give them a try and see for yourself. They are a nice bunch of people and always take care of you with a smile. Don't forget about the mini chocolates on the way out...

Sushi Sennin Japanese Restaurant

30 East 33rd Street
(between Madison & Park Avenues) 
New York, NY 10016
(212) 889-2208

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Madeleine Patisserie

While on the way to do some shopping we discovered the Madeleine Patisserie on 23rd Street. Their display looked attractive enough to made us walk in to investigate.

Place it bigger than it looks from the outside. Up front is where you drool over the display, order your food, coffee, etc. then pay. In the back there is a large seating area with comfortable arm chairs, couches, communal table and more. It must be so comfortable that there were signs all over the place about not having any business business during the work week. I could see coming in here for a coffee and a macaron then staying for few hours relaxing. In the back of the seating area there is a very large kitchen, too large for this type of operation but looked nice and clean through the glass doors.

Anyway we ordered four macarons, two large cappuccinos and a plain meringue to share, they also had a coconut one but plain looked much better.

They offer a really exotic selection of macaroons. Looked like their selection changed frequently because there was the daily menu. It had some options like the Champagne-Apricot, Passion Fruit, Vanilla, Chocolate, Violet Lavender, Pistachio, Caramel and more... They vary in sizes some are larger then others, not sure why. They were nice and fresh and really tasty.

Besides the macarons they also have fresh madelines, croissants, various quiche and croque monsieur in the menu. There was a line of about five people ordering and one of them ordered a box of twenty-four macarons in a gift box so there was a bit of wait time involved but the seating area was pretty much empty on a Sunday afternoon. I could see this place getting packed during the week with lunch crowds...

Madeleine Patisserie

132 West 23rd Street
(Between 7th Avenue & Avenue Of The Americas) 
New York, NY 10011
(212) 243-2757

Monday, June 21, 2010

Tia Pol - NYC

I ended up at the Tia Pol on a Saturday evening and I can tell you that it was the best meal I had for a while. Of course this is not your usual sit-down, course by course meal but a night of eating, drinking and having fun with friends.

We got to Tia Pol after walking around the Highline. It was about 5:30 so there were still plenty of tables available but that changed very quickly. In about twenty to thirty minutes the place was full. We were lucky to grab a table at the back for three so we were away from the action of the bar area. Tia Pol is not a large restaurant, its quiet small with a long, narrow dining room with high chairs and stools lined up by the wall. Bar is right up front where most eats and drinks here. There is also a small counter for people just doing the drinking part.

I wish I could say that it would be great to go with a large group but the only large table they have is in the back and it can only handle eight people in a tight quarter. All the other tables are for two to three people and there aren't many of those either. If I say a dozen tables that could be pushing it.

Pass the space restrictions the vibe of this place is fun, fun and more fun with great tapas and other dishes. We started with a bottle of Spanish Jorge Ordonez Botani Moscatel Blanc Dry at $49 which was a bit overpriced when compared to retail prices but it went very well even after the second bottle. After the second bottle we continued with the best white Sangria (at $30) I had in NYC.

Apart from the drinks we had a great tasting of "all the daily specials dishes" they offered that day. I like to think of the daily specials chef's way of saying these are the dishes I want people to eat because they are fresh, in season and I felt good making them apart from the regular menu. Daily specials included the Chanquetes (hard to describe but they are small fish similar to whitebait, deep fried like French-fries and they are some of the most perfect drinking food), pimientos estilo gernika which were seared /charred small green peppers, most of them being mild but few hot ones escaped the selection process, then the sepia cooked in the small earthen tapas dish in the oven.

Now if I had to pick the highlight of the night, it had to be the "Cochinillo Asado" or Roast Suckling Pig. This was the best! I had this in Puerto Rico, Guavate / Cayey and they are known to be the best on this side of the world but did not even come close to the one from Tia Pol. It was large enough for three, even four people to eat. It was a bit pricey for $29 but no matter, I would get it again in a second. Other daily specials included the Calcots which are the ramps and they are in season only for few weeks at a year, they nicely grilled with oil and garlic. Last dish from the daily special was the pea shoots with Serrano ham salad.

Besides the daily specials we also ordered from the regular menu; Morunos, two small skewers of grilled lamb with a small piece of bread - street-cart style, navajas y almejas which as razor clams and cockles in a light tomato broth. We finished this great night with couple of desserts, leche frita and the torta. If we had nay more room I would have liked to try the chorizo with chocolate but that's something for the next time. I could only hope that the daily specials they will be as good if not better than the ones we enjoyed.

Tia Pol

205 10th Avenue
(Between 22nd & 23rd Streets) 
New York, NY 10011
(212) 675-8805

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Fort Defiance - Brooklyn, NY

After visiting Fort Defiance I felt like I should be living near this restaurant so I can go there for breakfast, lunch and dinner... After visiting that famous build-your-own-furniture store in Red Hook we decided to get late lunch / early dinner before taking the water taxi back to the South Street Seaport. After a ten minute walk we were front of the Fort Defiance around 4:30 in the afternoon but at that time they already finished their brunch (which is a great deal $20) service and they were getting ready to start their dinner service at 5:30 but they were still serving the cheese/meat platter with drinks from the bar so that's what we settled for.

Fort Defiance offer some great drink combinations made with premium and exotic brands around the world as well as fresh juices. We went with the Breakfast Martini, Barbados Buck (variation of the Dark and Stormy) and the Cucumber Collins. at $8, $8 and $9 each. They drink menu changes for brunch and dinner but there are always some amazing concoctions for any taste.

After finishing our drinks and cheese/meat platter and couple of cappuccinos we were still hungry for more but it was still not the dinner time so we decided to go and explore the neighborhood and come back for dinner in about half an hour.

This is a really nice area of the Brooklyn and it still quickly developing to be the next Williamsburg or Dumbo with old warehouses being converted to residential lofts, new cafes, bars and restaurants popping up around the area.

We returned for dinner at 5:30 and even at that time half of the restaurant was full. It looked like crowd was half and half with locals and those made the trip from Manhattan. When you are at the door daily specials are marked on the outside with chalk which was kind of cool and unusual at the same time. We were seated in the back of the small dining room which holds about twenty tables. There is also the bar area which is the main attraction of the restaurant.

Menu changes weekly but there are few items seem to remain like the side dishes, desserts, etc. From what we were told chef always picks out what's fresh, local and in season. That day's special was roasted red snapper, pork chop and a steak dish so we both picked the red snapper at $21 which was a generous portion along with a side of Hen-of-the-woods mushrooms, with bottle of Alsace at $26 to go with our meal. We finish the dinner with chocolate pudding with home made whipped cream on top which I thought it was the best pudding I've ever had for a long time.

I am looking for reasons to go back to Red Hook either for lunch, brunch or dinner so we can try some of the other options in the menu. This is such a great place that once you go, you want to keep going back because of the comfortable atmosphere, friendly service, delicious food at very reasonable prices and amazing cocktails.

Fort Defiance

365 Van Brunt Street
(Between Sullivan & Wolcott Streets) 
Brooklyn, NY 11231
(347) 453-6672

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Sushi Yasuda - NYC

This how sushi supposed to be served and enjoyed, at least that's what I think. Sushi Yasuda has always been my special occasion destination. I normally make a reservation about a two to three weeks in advance and so far they always had my desired time and always, always ask for the counter seating. I would rather change the date of the reservation than sit at a table. At this restaurant show is at the counter, you have to see how these chefs under the leadership of the Yasuda San create these tasty little morsels of deliciousness.

They offer two menus; one is for appetizers, entrees from the kitchen and drinks. The other menu is what you can order that day from the sushi bar. There is also a small menu of daily specials which we always order few appetizers from that to start the meal. Then we simply return the menu back to our server and tell them what we don't like and leave the rest up to the chef.

Chef starts preparing the sushi and leaves it on the your large banana leaf. There isn't any chopsticks, wasabi or so sauce unless chef think that you will need them with what he serves. Chef already dresses the fish with enough soy sauce, wasabi, lemon juice, etc depending on the fish so you don't need to add anything else to this perfection. There is a small wet towel so you can wipe your fingers after each time you enjoy your sushi. This how sushi meant to be consumed, held between the thumb and the index finger.

They offer a small but excellent selection of sake which is served in small carafes. For some reason they don't serve them in large bottles so if you drink a lot then make sure your server will bring fresh carafes as soon as they see you are running low. Sake is good and very reasonably priced and they are selected to complement the sushi. Talking about sushi they always have about forty to fifty types of fish in the Sushi Bar menu. Sometime they ran out of some but then they have other daily specials. According to Chef Yasuda most of the fish comes from Japan's Tsukiji Market via daily flights. Be prepared to be amazed with the taste, quality and the selection of the sushi. Last time they offered three types of Uni (Sea Urchin), five types of eel, seven types of salmon, five types of tuna and more...

They also have a point of differentiation from other Japanese sushi restaurants. Chef Yasuda believes sushi is 50% fish and 50% rice so the preparation of the daily rice is a process of its own. It needs to have the correct sweetness, stickiness, moisture, etc. So after doing this for over twenty years Chef Yasuda seems to perfected his trade. You have to try it once to appreciate it.

One thing you need to consider is that you only have one hour and thirty to forty-five minutes before you have to vacate your seats. This is the only drawback about the Sushi Yasuda. Because they are extremely popular they have a continuous flow of costumers from the opening to closing so they want to make sure that you are done with your meal within the allowed time which is not too bad when you consider that you are served non-stop with the bite size sushi. Prices are above your average sushi restaurant in New York. At our last visit our check came out to about $280.00 for two people with few carafes of sakes, few appetizers and the chef's selection of sushi. When we left we were pleasantly satisfied without being hungry or full.

We continue to keep Sushi Yasuda as our special occasion destination and we look forward to visiting few times a year to enjoy this unique experience in enjoying another aspect of sushi making and eating.

Sushi Yasuda

204 East 43rd Street
(Between 3rd & 2nd Avenues) 
New York, NY 10017
(212) 972-1001

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

La Colombe Torrefaction

La Colombe Torrefaction  is a world-renowned Philadelphia- based coffee-roasting company.

I discovered La Colombe while I was spending a weekend in Philly. Right around the corner from the Rittenhouse Square, we happened to walk by this tiny, packed with Sunday morning clientèle coffee house with the amazing smell of fresh brewed coffee.

Since then I simply couldn't drink any other type of coffee without having to compared it to the coffee from La Colombe. Thankfully La Colombe had an online store so I could order pound-bags of beans every so often.

Then the unimaginable happened. La Colombe decided to open their own little coffee shop among the other hundreds of coffee shops in NYC. I believe now they have three locations in Manhattan which makes it very convenient to stop by to get my cappuccino or espresso fix and at the same time replenish the coffee beans for home use.

I try to make one or two trips a month here to sit down to have a nice cup of cappuccino with a fresh chocolate croissant while I restock the bean bags. If you are interested in coffee beans, they offer five main types; Corsica, Phocea, Nizza, Beaulieu and the Monte Carlo. They also had one limited edition called the Afrique which has some spicy tones to it.

La Colombe on Lafayette Street is pretty tiny. On the right hand side there is a counter so you can stand and have your coffee. On the left hand side there is a long bench, built in to the wall with small tables and stools.

Besides the usual coffee, espresso, cappuccino, latte, hot-chocolate, etc. they also serve a small selection of fresh pastries but that's all you are going to get here. Their focus is coffee and coffee only - no fancy coffee codes. If you are used to a Starbucks type of a coffee store this is not the place for you. There isn't a menu on the wall, no fridges with juices, sandwiches or fruit cups. Here you will find coffee aficionados having their fix with their morning newspaper and a pastry.

La Colombe
270 Lafayette St
(Between Prince & Spring Streets) 
New York, NY 10012
(212) 625-1717

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Serge French Restaurant {CLOSED}

Nice neighborhood French restaurant with delicious authentic dishes, friendly service and relaxing ambiance.

For the last three years or so I probably walked by this place at least ten times a week but never thought about walking in to have a meal. Even I heard nice comments from neighbors, friends, etc about how nice this restaurant was, for some weird reason I never managed to walk in.

Well, all that changed few days ago when on the way back home my wife and decided to walk in to see what happens. We were greeted by the chef/owner of the restaurant and we were quickly seated in the front dining room. Restaurant is split in to two distinct areas; front room which you walk in with a small bar area and about dozen tables and the back dining room if you prefer a bit more privacy and dimmer lighting. It did seem like there were few couples on a first-date at the back dining area ;-) "wink".

As soon as we sat down our server offered us bread and butter along with the menus and the wine list. Wine list offers a good selection of, mainly French wines costing from $25 to $90 with most within the $40-$50 range. Chef tends to hang out in the front dining room greeting customers, checking on the meals, serving dishes, pouring wine and every so often disappearing back in to the kitchen to bring out more food. I really like the way he makes sure everyone is happy and same goes for the servers, I thought they were polite, friendly and helpful.

When we looked at the menu we wanted to order half of the dishes, they all sounded amazingly delicious but we were good and started with the goat cheese salad with beets & frisee and the guacamole with grilled jumbo shrimp as starters. They also offer daily specials but there were already so many good things in the menu so we continued with the steak au poivre with pepper sauce and French fries and the coq au vin with red wine sauce, vegetables and penne pasta as the main courses. To finish our dinner we ordered the chocolate mousse and the profiteroles.

Everything was better than we expected and hoped for. We just sat there and wondered how come it took us so long to come here then we also thought how soon we can come back to eat the rest of the menu. Prices are not cheap but very reasonable to the quality of the dishes they serve. Also they offer dinner Prix-Fix at $26.95 for three generous courses. I noticed the French onion soup, Mussels with fries and the herb crusted salmon dished were very popular among the fellow diners.

Chef/Owner, who I did not get his name but I assume it is Serge, gave us a round of champagne on the house to welcome us and cheer to our first of many visits to come. It is my new favorite neighborhood restaurant and I can't wait to go back...
165 Madison Avenue
(Between 32nd & 33rd Streets)
New York, NY 10016
(212) 679-8077

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