Sunday, November 21, 2010

Five Points

Last night, Jess & I went to Five Points with her parents, Ed & Val. Once again, BlackBoard Eats came through for us. This time with a 30% off coupon.. cha ching!

The restaurant reeks of Fall and as soon as you walk in, you feel like you're home. The mix of wood, exposed brick and pumpkins evokes a ski lodge vibe and warms your soul.

We got prime seating in the back of the restaurant right by the kitchen. We even got a few strong whiffs of truffle oil, which is always welcome.

The drink menu was both seasonally appropriate (hot spiked cider & Smuttynoses's winter ale) and unique (lavender gimlet & the unknown Flight of Martinis). Everyone was happy with the drinks that started our meal.

The appetizers were also all top notch - panchetta pizza (possibly the highlight of the meal), salad (dates + blue cheese + walnuts = yes sir!), and mezze (squash dip, wild rice, beets, & some other tasty dips served with warm pita-like bread). We all agreed that the pizza was phenomenal - caramelized onions FTW.

After a longer-than-normal break in between courses, we got served wreckfish (Jess), pasta (Val), steak (Ed), & chicken (Eric). If we are keeping score at home, we went .500. Val & I loved our main courses & didn't leave a trail on the plate. Ed & Jess... not so much. Ed felt the steak was too chewy and Jess thought her fish didn't have enough flavor. I thought the pumpkin chutney was delish but can't speak about the fish (somewhere between cod & trout?).

On the positive side, my portion of chicken was hearty (2 pieces - I think breast & thigh/wing), super moist, and juicy. Served alongside a handful of parsnips & a cooked-to-perfection potato gratin, this dish hit the spot. Dipping the chicken & parsnips in the juices made every bite flavorful. The only complaint I have is that the skin wasn't very crispy. A crunchy exterior would have texturally balanced the dish quite well & taken it/me to an even higher level.

For dessert, we decided on the honey apple cobbler with whipped cream. It was good, not great, and the four of us didn't even finish it. We all agreed that it was lacking that something something - cinnamon? more butter? vanilla ice cream? better "crumble"? Who knows... it just wasn't there.

What we all did agree on was that we had a fabulous night out and while some of the food wasn't out of this world, I think we'd all be happy to come back and try out some of the other cocktails and dishes (pizza as an entree, anyone?) on the menu.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

From the shores of Baltimore to our chops at Choptank:

What an appropriate day to write this review: last night, Eric and I just finished up the fifth and final season of The Wire, a show that stars Baltimore, "the game" on the streets, and the city institutions. And now I sit down to write about Choptank - a restaurant named after a river that runs from Baltimore across the Chesapeake Bay - conjuring up the complete opposite image of Maryland... preppy twenty-somethings, khakis, mallards, pink shirts and country clubs.

Choptank just opened this year and we were eager to take advantage of the BlackBoard Eats 3-course meal (nibble, entrée, desert) paired with either wine or beer (of Choptank’s choosing). We had heard good things and it’s located just a short jaunt away from our apartment. It was packed at 9:15 when we arrived – I guess the buzz hasn’t died down.

They serve up a basket of Old Bay chips, which is a nice little treat and a good way to dive into a Maryland seafood experience. Eric promptly dropped the basket all over the floor. Oops!

We started out with a "nibble" (aka "appy" or appetizer) of the crab dip and fried oysters. The crab dip was very rich…almost too rich and heavy…but it was quite tasty despite lacking in the crab meat department. It’s served with bread for dipping and wasn’t finished by us, which is rare. The fried oysters were delicious…hard to go wrong with this dish.

Along with each course came a very full glass of wine for me and a beer for Eric. We were both impressed with the drinks they brought to our table. We were expecting half-filled glasses of cheap wine & a "standard" beer. We were wrong, thankfully.

For the entrée, I went with the jumbo lump crab cake served with salad and sweet potatoes. Eric commented that there should have been two crab cakes, as it wasn’t a huge portion, but it was certainly delicious and full of crab meat, not mayo. I would order this again.

Eric had a hard time deciding between the fried chicken and the burger, two odd options for a seafood joint, but our waiter and the online reviews really pinpointed these two as signature dishes. He went with the fried chicken.. It was a heaping portion of goodness - crumbly fried batter & piping-hot chicken below. The pepper-honey dipping sauce brought it to another level and he was happy with the decision he made.

For dessert (which is a little hazy, after a drink before dinner and two large drinks at dinner), we got the Bailey’s ice cream and vanilla-coconut 7-layer cake. Both were good, but certainly nothing special.

So…to sum up, this restaurant is good, not great. It’s one of those times when the whole somehow doesn’t add up to the sum of its parts. Each dish was good but after the meal was over, I didn’t get the I-have-to-go-back-and-recommend-this-place feeling like you can get at so many NYC establishments – post-meal glow, if you will.

As Sam Sifton says in his New York Times review of Choptank (I guess any mention of Baltimore allows people to draw upon

New Yorkers probably deserve better. Certainly better is available. But as Snoop once said on “The Wire,” a stone-cold gangster making sense of the Baltimore night, “Deserve got nothin’ to do with it.”

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

10 Downing

We've gotten some comments from a few of our loyal readers that all of our posts are positive. For the most part, this is true. There are a few reasons: 1) we do research before deciding where to eat; 2) we do research on the best dishes at the places we choose to eat at; 3) our friends recommended good places; and 4) who wants to read us complain about some meal we had?

Well, well, well... Y'all got your wish! We had a less-than-stellar brunch experience with my parents at 10 Downing in the West Village. The omelet lacked any real flavor and fell completely flat in the cheddar cheese department. A major no-no. The Open-Faced Curry Chicken Salad sounded great on the menu but neither Jess nor my dad particularly loved it. For both dishes, my dad mentioned that my mom's versions was far superior. He wasn't just being nice... it was the truth. And, you never want to spend your money eating out when you think you can be doing it better at home.

On the positive side, the pumpkin bisque was delicious - even though the bowl was only filled up half-way - and the bloody mary's were just right.

Jess was here for dinner recently and had a good experience so maybe brunch just isn't their thing. In any case, we won't be back here for brunch. There ya go... not every meal we eat is the "best meal ever." Bummer.

For Dinner:

My dinner here came before the brunch experience tainted our perspective on this local spot.  One positive is that their bread basket comes with chunky tahini that is a nice departure from plain old butter.  

My mom and I split the butter lettuce salad with a warm goat cheese crostini and it was tasty!  I had a huge craving the day after for another butter lettuce salad - it's so superior to every other type of lettuce.  I got the scallops as well, which were great - flavorful and accompanied by brussels sprouts and spaghetti squash.  My mom went with the herb-lemon half chicken and it was quite tasty as well, and a large portion.  We split a side of the brussels sprouts, since they were raved about in reviews and they really didn't live up to the hype.  They weren't cooked enough so they were harder than I like my sprouts - the pieces of bacon did not redeem this dish.

To sum up, after eating dinner and brunch at 10 Downing in the same week, I would definitely use it as a fall-back dinner option going forward and will not be going back for brunch any time soon.