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Maison Yaki

When I heard the Olmsted folks were gonna let down their hair and open up a yakitori/cocktail bar in Brooklyn, I was more than on board. 

Which is kind of a shame. See, I admit I hyped this spot up too much in my mind. I’m so into yakitori that I was sure this Japanese/French hybrid spot would be my new favorite watering hole in Brooklyn. And after a few failed attempts at getting in, I scored a reservation and was super excited to get my meat stick on.

Let me start with the good. The place is cute, the bar has great seats, the cocktails were good, we had great seats by the front window, and the marketing is spot on. And I’d remiss if I didn’t tell you I thought the ribeye yakitori was perfectly cooked and delicious. I could eat those all day, even though at 9 a pop, you’d wind up paying more for that ribeye than you would if you just ordered one whole somewhere.

What was so special about the ribeye is exactly what is missing from many of the other dishes I tried. If I had to sum that up… the ribeye had a pureness to it that was missing in most other dishes.

The Duck A’Lorange is gorgeous, but it’s been frankensteined together into a meatball. The lobster also sufferes from being a bit tortured. Imagine how amazing a pure piece of lobster is, or could be, on a skewer with a tiny dish of, say, clarified butter. Instead you get a something you might never identify as lobster at all. You might confuse it with shrimp, and who knows what else that literally takes away from the purity, the beauty of lobster. Over-complicating something that’s already amazing doesn’t make it more amazing. Let the lobster sing. That’s why people love it.


Suffers from the same preciousness as Olmstead, where the front of the house in both cases makes you feel like they are doing you a favor.

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Maison Yaki

626 Vanderbilt Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11238

Brooklyn yakitori/cocktail bar from the team behind Olmsted.
EaterYelpResyMap

Baguette & Yuzukosho Butter

Ribeye & Bordelaise

Beef Heart, Lobster & Sauce Américaine, Duck a l’orange, Pork Belly Dijonaise

King Trumpet Mushroom – á la Grecque

Artichoke Barigoule Chawanmushi & Summer Truffle

Beef Tongue Sando & Gribiche

Pommes Dauphine



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Toro

Spanish Tapas in Chelsea
At 15th St. & 11th Ave NYC –

Map . Website . Instagram . Yelp

Pizza Night!

We strolled leisurely down 11th, avoiding the tourist-infused High Line, toward a chef’s counter reservation at Toro where we happily ordered a step beyond what might be considered reasonable.

I went with a steady stream of Pizza Night! cocktails – a spicy Old Fashioned with Calabrian chili, chorizo infused bourbon, Mike’s Hot Honey, and peach bitters. Cold and hot. Spicy and sweet.

We also found the Hell’s Bell Pepper to be just the right amount of savory – tequila, mezcal, yellow bell pepper, agave and bird’s eye chili.

Now we’re diving headfirst into an expensive plate of Paleta Iberico De Cinco Jotas – a dry cured boneless Iberian ham that delights and is gone before you can say “twenty eight dollars.”

Some addictive Maiz Asado con Alioli y Queso Cotija followed – a dangerously convenient version of grilled street corn, and a nice foil for the Setas, a bowl of deliciously unctuous mushrooms set beneath a sexy chivy yolk.

Paleta Iberico De Cinco Jotas
Setas

Then things got heavy – in a good way. Unable to choose between bone marrow and foie gras, we picked both. I’m more of a purist when it comes to bone marrow, so the Asado De Hueso with guajillo and chorizo XO, Brussels sprouts and escargot – perhaps has a little too much going on. Yet I ate it happily.

We opted for the Foie Gras Tonkatsu – a crispy foie sandwich with strawberry tomato jam and pickled daikon. Kinda perfect bar food if you’re OK with foie taking second billing. Nice marriage of textures, too.

Hey man, that’s probably delicious, right?” asked a stranger at the bar – flanked by two liquored up and leathery ladies of a certain age. I smiled and snapped a picture of his seared foie.

Seared Foie
Asado De Hueso
Foie Gras Tonkatsu

For dessert we had hamburgers.

Ok, not dessert per se, but our last course were a pair of delectable Hamburguesas, mini dry-aged burgers with a spicy kick on a potato bun.

Hamburguesas

In a nutshell, Toro is the perfect place for you and your overpaid friends to meet up, get buzzed, and eat decadent small plates while ignoring a world gone mad.

Hell’s Bell Pepper
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Olmsted

Olmsted
659 Vanderbilt Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11238 – Map
Website

Prospect Heights restaurant from chef-owner Greg Baxtrom packs them in for dinner and recently rolled out brunch. Expect twists and turns, like a breakfast of Carrot Kathi Rolls (Carrot Pulp Falafel, Cilantro Stem Raita) or the Duck Duo, crispy duck sausage with scrambled egg and maple flatbread. And don’t leave without trying their bacon, egg, and cheese Egg Rolls, as delicious as they are adorable.

The tight and thoughtful dinner menu includes a scrumptious Duck Liver Mousse, a clever Beef Tartare, Heritage Pork with Raclette, and other seasonal curve-balls. Toss in a playful cocktail menu and you’ve found the perfect spot for those who like a dash of quirkiness on the plate.

Duck Liver Mousse

 

Beef Tartare Polonaise

Beet Gin, Preserved Lemon, Maraschino, Juniper

 

House Gravlax – Scallion Ricotta, Everything Bagel Crackers

Egg Rolls – House Made Bacon, Farm Eggs, Vermont Cheddar

Frozen yogurt with lavender honey

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What To Do: Paris

On your fourth trip to Paris, you take less pictures and enjoy more actual moments. Best to live like a local. We rent an apartment and stock up on breads from Poilâne, french butter, various cheeses, some fromage de tête. Good coffee. And the inevitable bottle of Orangina. 

The Google Map below has more restaurants than you could see in any one trip. I wound up having super memorable tasting menus at Frenchie and Ellsworth, and a nice meal at Ore in Versailles. But we also had excellent low key bistro meals, enjoyed Pizzeria Popolare, and some cocktails and charcuterie at aveK.

One of my favorite spots, L’Avant Comptoir, was closed the night I visited.  And I regret not getting to Clown Bar or the Experimental Cocktail Club.

There’s always next time. 

Between the historic sites, architecture, museums, churches, parks, and restaurants… there’s a whole hell of a lot to do in and around Paris. Check out our Google Map for some ideas.

Links
Eater Paris
Time Out Paris
Lonely Planet Paris
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What To Do: New Orleans

If you’re spending a few days in New Orleans, you’ll probably focus on the French Quarter and the Garden District. Maybe branch out to the Financial District or take a boat ride to Algiers Point. Truth be told, those spots are small enough that after a few days you’ll feel like you’ve exhausted all possibilities. And how much can you really drink, anyway?

If the answer is “a lot,” then you can be very happy in New Orleans, day drinking and catching local Jazz in any number of touristy hangouts. You have carte blanche in New Orleans to over-do it. For the most part, no one will judge you for public intoxication and/or nudity. It’s part of the deal. As fun as that sounds, it may get old fast. Kinda like only going to Amsterdam for the weed. Once you give in to the touristy stuff, dig a little deeper.

Once you give in to the touristy stuff, dig a little deeper.

I guess there are certain things you have to do. A drunken walk down Bourbon Street people watching is likely something you won’t forget. Just know that you’ll be accosted by charming shysters trying to separate you from your cash. If you can catch some music at Preservation Hall, do it. Add a stop at Old Absinthe House, Voodoo Authentica and Cafe Du Monde. Take a walk down Magazine Street for some shopping. Watch the artists in Jackson Square do their thing. Then use the map below for a deeper dive.

Links
Eater New Orleans 
Time Out New Orleans 
New Orleans Travel Guide
Lonely Planet New Orleans
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DeKalb Market Hall

DeKalb Market Hall
445 Albee Square West  • Brooklyn, NY 11201

The brand new DeKalb Market Hall in Brooklyn just augmented your dining choices by a factor of forty. In the basement of the same building that houses the new Alamo Drafthouse, Target, and Trader Joes, you can find a host of flavory pickin’s, including, but certainly not limited to, the first outpost of Katz’s Delicatessen, and Brooklyn favorites Fletcher’s Brooklyn Barbecue and Wilma Jean.

Now, I haven’t tried everything, and that will be a fun little experiment, but I can vouch for the excellent pork jowl and fried chicken buns from Bunsmith. I would go back for those alone. Certainly a lot cheaper than a $21 sandwich at Katz!

The carne asada arepas from Arepa Lady are a meal unto themselves, so next time I won’t also order the chorizo. And maybe finishing with scoops of both zesty lemon sorbet and malted milk ball ice cream from Ample Hills Creamery may have been over doing it.

Another plus in the Brooklyn column, fo shizzle.

 

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Little King

Little King
749 Metropolitan Avenue • Brooklyn, NY 11211

Excellent spot for crafty cocktails and smallish plates in East Williamsburg.

Quaint bar setup, but concise and well stocked. Dug the Trolley Dodger (Redemption Bourbon, Vermouth Bianco, Cherry Heering, Peychauds) and the super smokey War Horse (Laphroaig single malt, Overholt Rye, lemon, Aperol, Falernum). Bartender let us know that the drink program will change regularly to keep it interesting.

Roasted Bone Marrow with pear and bourbon glaze and toasted baguette may provoke purists, but I found it tasty and perfectly sized for two people to share without feeling overly stuffed afterwards. Same for the Little King Burger, covered in caramelized onion and tomato jam so you won’t confuse it with the multitudes of burgers on every street in this town. Solid fries, too.

Menu also includes Beef Carpaccio, Fried Brussels Sprouts, Chili Glazed Chicken Wings, Cheese and Salumi Plates, and more. I intend to know it well. Across the street from the L train, and a stones throw from the G – this is my new go-to spot before shows at Brooklyn Steel, for sure.

Related Links:
– Little King, a new bar and gastropub, is now open in Williamsburg – Free Williamsburg
The Making of Little King- Tumblr
– Metropolitan Minibar Little King Reigns Supreme Over Graham L-Stop – Greenpointers
– Little King Bar – Design SpongeFacebooktwitterredditpinterestmail

Cockscomb

Cockscomb
564 Fourth Street • San Francisco, CA 94107

Truth be told, I shouldn’t be eating at Cockscomb. My doctor recently told me an angiogram is in order to see if I have any arterial blockages worth a stent or two. But any damage I may have done over several decades won’t be augmented by a few meals in a hastily planned vacation before I get back to New York for a procedure I’m not looking forward to.

Otherwise, I’ve been on somewhat good behavior. Taking my meds, my vitamins, eating better the week leading up to this vacation. If I live through the angiogram, I’ll modify my behavior appropriately – with decadent meals and cocktails the exception rather than a weekly rule. So this little trip to California may be my last hurrah. Or my last something, anyway.

Cut to Cockscomb, Chef Chris Cossentino’s ode to whole animal cookery, where the menu is replete with ginormous sharing plates that may include a hundred and twenty five buck Pin Bone Steak with a bone marrow dipping sauce. Depending on how adventurous you are, you can even order Wood Oven Roasted Pig’s Head. Both these options, tempting as they might be, are better suited to large groups – or smaller groups for whom such leftovers are sanctioned by a cardiologist. (Insert smiley face emoticon here, but only half mean it.)

Kim and I reeled it in a bit, but still felt like we had thankfully overdone it. A night of salt infused fitful sleep, while not on the bill, was a cost we gladly paid for a foray into debauched butchery. We started light, with the Tombo Crudo – citrus cured fish with Vietnamese herbs and chili beneath a wide-rimmed rice cracker. It had all the acid that was missing from the Beef Heart Tartare, so we dipped our bread in it before slathering on the aforementioned ticker.

Any attempt to keep it light was soon thwarted by the Hot Mess – an aptly named combination of seared foie gras and pork trotter on gravy soaked toast.  Some pickled pink rhubarb could only hope to cut the richness of this most devilish and delectable dish. If you’re out drinking with friends, this is a must.

Our waiter steered us in the right direction and we ordered the Bacon Chop after he suggested it was the most flavorful thing on the menu. I was skeptical. How could a pork chop live up to that? Well, for one, this piece includes the pork belly in the cut – and is served on a tasty bed of mint salsa, chicharron and citrus panzanella that adds some much needed acid. It’s one decadent chop – nothing like you’re imagining right now, so don’t even bother. If you can get over to Cockscomb, this porky delectation needs to be experienced to be believed. Wood fired and perfectly rendered – its pure bliss for carnivores of every ilk.  We got it with a side of beautifully garlicky Baby Bok Choy.

If I live to tell the tale, I’ll be back to Cockscomb one day – perhaps to feed my bionic body-parts with everything else on the menu.

Maybe I’ll even come back for the lunch-only Impossible Burger, the closest vegan replica of that American staple which got so much good press recently.

As for me, it’s time for my high blood pressure meds and a leisurely walk along Half Moon Bay where, perhaps, I’ll mull over my life choices and the future of writing about eating.

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