eat. shop. love. nyc.

Le Bernardin-style crispy black bass recipe
January 18, 2011, 11:33 am
Filed under: Cook | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

I have the excellent fortune of being friends with a cook at Chef Eric Ripert‘s three Michelin star and New York Times four star seafood restaurant Le Bernardin, and after some prolonged begging, he finally acquiesced and cooked for me on his day off.

He told me he was going to make “something simple.” Happily, it turns out that we have very different ideas of what constitutes “simple.” He decided that a crispy black bass dish with a port wine, sherry vinegar, and butter sauce served over blanched chanterelle and black trumpet mushrooms with a side of thyme and garlic roasted potatoes was “simple.” At Le Bernardin, they used to serve a similar dish – the Crispy Chinese Spiced Black Bass with Porcini Mushrooms and Port Wine Reduction, which original recipe is listed on the Avec Eric website linked above (from episode 13). Side note: my friend says his favorite time to eat at Le Bernardin is during the winter when the locally-sourced fish have all fattened up to endure the colder weather, so you should get over there now. He walked me through his own version of the black bass recipe step by step, explaining why he was doing what he was doing at each step, so I could eventually cook it on my own. I hope I haven’t forgotten anything. It was super fun to watch him cook and even more fun to eat it afterwards. Thanks, friend!

Crispy black bass with mushrooms and port wine sauce (serves 2)


  • 2 skin-on black bass fillets
  • 1 cup chanterelle mushrooms
  • 1 cup black trumpet mushrooms
  • 4 tablespoons neutral cooking oil like grapeseed or canola – we used soybean oil because that’s what I had on hand
  • 2 tablespoons Wondra quick-mixing flour – this is a low-protein, pregelatinized wheat flour formulated to dissolve quickly and is especially fine and designed not to clump
  • Salt and white pepper to taste
  • 1 cup sherry vinegar
  • 1 cup port wine
  • 2 tablespoons butter


  1. Boil a small pot of lightly salted water in which to blanch the mushrooms.

    As the water comes to a boil, wash the mushrooms to get rid of any dirt or pine needles or other undelicious little bits of nature that might have been left behind on the fungi. Blanch the mushrooms quickly until just cooked through – this removes dirt, kills germs, and brings out flavor. Remove mushrooms and pat dry, setting aside on a plate lined with paper towels to dry.
  2. Take the fish fillets out and remove about one inch off the narrow tail end and discard – this part usually has bones. Then wash the fillets and pat dry with a paper towel, and with a paring knife, scrape the skin side to get rid of any leftover scales and excess moisture.

    You can’t get a crispy skin on the fish if there’s too much moisture, so this is a nice little trick. You can wipe the paring knife on the paper towel after each scrape kinda like you’d wipe off the squeegee you used to clean your car’s windshield at a gas station before each new swipe.
  3. Salt both sides of the fillet lightly, and put some white pepper on the flesh side only. White pepper tends to burn if cooked too long, so you should only put it on the side that is barely going to be cooked. Set the fillets on a cutting board to come to room temperature.
  4. Take the sherry vinegar and boil it down until it is reduced by half, then add the port wine and boil it down until the sauce is syrupy, roughly yielding 1/4 of a cup. Careful that the sauce doesn’t burn as the liquid boils down – you’ll need to turn down the heat as the syrup reduces. The vinegar will add tartness and acidity and the port wine will add some sweetness and mellowness of flavor. Once fully reduced, add the butter and swirl vigorously until glossy and melted (don’t whisk or sauce will become could) and reduce heat to low. The fat in the butter balances out the acidity in the reduction.
  5. Heat a skillet over high heat for about 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook dry over high heat – if you have some thyme on hand (which we did from the roasted potatoes we made on the side), you may add a couple leaves here. Turn off the heat and divide mushrooms onto two serving plates.
  6. To cook the fish, heat the neutral cooking oil over medium-high heat until it is almost smoking, about 2-3 minutes. Because my skillets aren’t very large, my friend used two skillets side by side so as not to crowd the fish in a single pan for two reasons: (1) since the heat is strongest at the center, it’s best to cook the fish as close to the center of the skillet as possible for even heat distribution, and (2) the fillets release steam as they cook, and the moisture from the steam prevents the fillets from getting truly crispy.
  7. As the oil heats, take the Wondra flour and sprinkle one side of a fillet over the sink, then blow off the excess flour into the sink so that only a very light dusting of the flour remains. Repeat on the other side of the fillet so both the skin and the flesh sides are floured lightly.
  8. Once the oil is hot, lay the fish fillets at the center of each skillet skin side down and turn the heat down to medium. Press the top of the fillets down with a spatula gently so they don’t curl up. You’ll cook most of the fish on this side, shaking the pan to prevent sticking and ensure even distribution of the oil, maybe 4-6 minutes. You can check the skin side from time to time to make sure the skin is getting a nice brown color, but not burning. To check, do not flip the fish over in the pan; flip the fish over into a towel in your hand, and return immediately to the pan skin side down until you achieve the desired golden brown crisp.
  9. Flip the fillets once and finish cooking, about 30 seconds or so. If you’re afraid the fish isn’t fully cooked, don’t worry as the heat will carry through and continue to cook the fish even after you have plated it.

    Check out that lovely brown crust – it’s not thick because the dusting of the Wondra flour was so light.
  10. On each of the serving plates with the mushrooms, lay a fillet down with the skin side up.

    Drizzle some of the port sauce around the plate. Serve immediately for maximum crispiness. Try not to moan with ecstasy too loudly.

Bon appetit!


Go a la carte at Bohemian

A clever marketing scheme it may be, but dinner at the under-the-radar NoHo restaurant Bohemian is a lovely experience. I was invited at the last minute by a friend from out of town who was going in a party of three and happened to have an extra seat. I was excited about dining at a speakeasy-style restaurant with an unpublished phone number, all hush hush and super cool. It is an excellent date spot (check out the sweet bar!) because it is small (maybe 26 seats or so?), quiet, and feels like you’re hanging out in someone’s well-appointed living room. Oh, and the food’s pretty good, too.

Dark wood, hot towels, long chopsticks, Japanese print napkins. Both the decor and food were refined, restrained. Check out the bathroom. The bidet is on steroids. Perhaps the only thing that’s over the top here.

Don’t get the tasting menu. You’ll miss out on some really amazing dishes, and from what I understand from those who had dined at Bohemian before me, not everything on the tasting menu is that great. Also, if you get the tasting menu, everyone at the table has to get it, so you’ll have way too much food leftover if you order additional plates.

We decided to try a little bit of everything, and we definitely over-ordered but everything was so pretty and so tasty! I don’t regret anything, though next time I think I’ll suggest that we share the uni and mushroom croquettes (1 croquette per 2 people) instead of getting one each, I’ll skip the charcuterie platter and sweet potatoes, and order just one of the ikura (salmon roe) bowls – probably the one with the uni.

We ordered a bottle of the Dassai 39 sparkling sake ($52) as no one else had tried a sparkling sake before. I’m a huge fan of bubbles in general, so the effervescence followed by the nigori creaminess and delicate rice flavor was a real pleasure. I felt like it was sweeter at the open and drier on the finish, and it served as a wonderful palate cleanser with its mild acidity.

We started off with the large order of oysters (12 oysters for $30) from Massachusetts somewhere (couldn’t hear the waiter when he told us exactly what kind they were). They were pretty mild, but briny – the oysters were good, but not my favorite. The apple cider vinegar and key lime mignonette with diced Granny Smith apples was tart, a little sweet, and brought a nice brightness of flavor to the oysters. I probably would not order this again, but that’s mostly because I enjoy my $1 oyster happy hours immensely.

The second dish to come out was the washu-beef short rib sashimi with hon-wasabi and garlic soy sauce ($18), and it was stellar. The raw beef was so tender and so flavorful – it actually tasted like really high quality cooked beef, but more delicate and softer in texture. The accompanying pickled cauliflower was a nice touch, too. I was so distracted that I forgot to take a picture before we started eating. I think there were eight or ten pieces. Wow.

We also ordered Herve Katz’s cold cuts platter for $23, but aside from the duck, everything was pretty standard. In order of best-ness: duck, ham, chorizo, and the salami/bologna thing. It was fine, but I’d rather get my charcuterie at Jadis or L’Oublis.

One of my personal favorite dishes for the night was the foie gras soba ($15), though I am biased towards anything with foie gras in it. I don’t think I could eat the entire bowl by myself – probably best to share between 2-3 people – because it was really quite decadent. The warm duck liver lent a sinfully rich dimension to the soba noodles and soup, and I liked that we were able to control how much wasabi, grated daikon, and shredded green onion went into each bite.

The mushroom cream croquette topped with uni and sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds ($13) was another favorite, and we had ordered one per person at the behest of the two who had tried this dish on a prior visit when they had the tasting menu. The croquette is about the size of a duck egg. Since uni (sea urchin roe) is basically the foie gras of the sea, this is another rich dish I enjoyed immensely, but would rather have shared with one other person. I was delighted by what I felt was a very novel combination of uni and mushroom, the epitome of umami for me.

The miso-glazed black cod ($18) was delicious, albeit in a fairly standard way. I love miso black cod at any Japanese restaurant worth its salt, so this was kind of a no brainer. The creamy mushroom and sour cherry sides were a nice touch, and the fish was perfectly seared and moist and flaky. I would come to Bohemian to have this dish and a glass of sake after work on any given evening.

We ordered two rice bowls (each $10) because we were afraid the food we had ordered wouldn’t be filling enough. That was dumb, because the ikura & uni rice bowl and the sashimi rice bowl ended up being very similar to one another – both were rice bowls topped with a lot of salmon roe, but one had uni and the other had hamachi. I like the way the ikura pops in my mouth, though, and this is another dish I might order after work one day for a light meal, though I’d likely pair it with a frosty beer and negate its lightness.

The $28 pan oven-roasted branzini with seasonal vegetables was phenomenal and huge. I can’t actually imagine one person ordering this and being able to finish it. If you order this and nothing else, it will comfortably feed two. If you ordered like we did, it could easily feed 6. My favorites of the vegetables were the roasted garlic and the brussel sprouts, and I especially enjoyed the occasional olive and anchovy in between all of the potatoes and zucchini – it was like a treasure hunt!

By this point, we were all pretty full. We could easily have ended the meal with the branzini and the four of us would have left quite happy, and not completely bursting. But we had a medium-rare, 5-ounce flat iron steak ($32) left to go. We felt we needed to order the steak because Bohemian is connected to a Japanese butcher shop and has daily steak specials; not sure if they are owned by the same people as the butcher shop or if it’s just a symbiotic relationship born of proximity. The steak, juicy and pre-cut for ease of sharing, came with some of the most delicious pan-roasted garlic I’ve ever had in my life, and was served with a potato. Sadly, given that we were all really full, I don’t think any of us enjoyed the steak as much as we could have.

I really wish we had known that the steak came with a potato, because then we wouldn’t have ordered the fried satsuma sweet potatoes ($8). That was a whole lot of potato, and while good, I don’t think anyone enjoyed it because at this point, we were ready to explode.

Knowing what I know now, I would suggest the following a la carte menus for groups of 2, 4, and 6 people respectively. I’ve heard mixed reviews about the wagyu beef sliders, so I can’t recommend that you order or not order the sliders.

2 people: beef sashimi, uni croquette, miso black cod, foie gras soba, and sashimi rice bowl OR beef sashimi, uni croquette and branzini

4 people: beef sashimi, 2 uni croquettes, miso black cod, foie gras soba, branzini

6 people: beef sashimi, 3 uni croquettes, miso black cod, foie gras soba, ikura & uni rice bowl, branzini, a steak of the day – medium rare

I can’t publish Bohemian’s phone number – that would take away the fun in your having to procure it somehow yourself – but I will tell you it’s definitely worth a visit. Just don’t get too excited and order way too much food like we did because it will end up being pretty pricey and you won’t enjoy the last dishes to come out.

Sushi UO blows me away (again)
November 12, 2010, 3:57 pm
Filed under: Eat | Tags: , , , , , , ,

I’ve written about Sushi UO a couple of times already, which seems unfair because I have dined at several other restaurants and have failed to write about those experiences even once. But I just enjoyed one of the best sushi dinners I’ve had in a long time, and I felt I should encourage you NYC sushi lovers to go here once more. Don’t get swayed by the hype or the haters – Sushi UO’s celebrated Chef David Boudahana left several months ago and gone are the days of hot, tatted 23 year-old wunderkind sushi chef slicing fish and taking names.

On my most recent visit to Sushi UO last night, I opted to sit on the side of the sushi bar where two Japanese sushi chefs joked and laughed with one another as they worked away at fulfilling orders on a bustling Thursday night. He may not be 23 years old or covered in tattoos, but watching him slice, score, and roll, I thought he was pretty hot. It was definitely the best seat in the house. I felt like I was at a dinner theater, except better.

The first dish to arrive was the Creamy Rock Shrimp Tempura Duo with wasabi aïoli and spicy red pepper aïoli ($13). The shrimp is just barely cooked through, the tempura batter is unbelievably light, and there is just the right amount of sauce. No soggy bits, no gushing oil, no rubbery texture. Just delicious, bite-size pieces of creamy shrimp. Also, this is a huge appetizer. Can easily be shared between 4 people, so for $13, it’s a steal.

Sitting at the sushi bar is a great way to get a feel for the other dishes at the restaurant. Someone, presumably on a low-carb diet, had ordered a lovely roll wrapped with cucumber instead of rice. It was just four pieces, albeit four very large pieces, and immediately Sara and I had food envy. When we asked what it was, we were told it was the No Rice Roll #2 with yellowtail, tuna, kaiware (daikon sprouts), and Asian pear. Since that sounded light and heavenly and was just $8, we went ahead and ordered one for ourselves. The Asian pear brings a hint of unexpected sweetness that truly makes this roll stand out. This is going to be a roll I order every single time I come here.

Sara and I ordered the $49 sushi and sashimi platter for two. We didn’t know what would be on it or even how many pieces, but somehow we felt it would be a good call. And it was. The platter included 18 pieces of sashimi, 10 pieces of sushi, and an 8-piece crunchy spicy tuna roll. The rice-to-sushi ratio was perfect, and the fish was impossibly fresh.

This might be a little blasphemous, but I actually think I enjoyed the salmon here at UO more than the salmon I had at the Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo. The salmon was melt-in-your-mouth soft, almost buttery, without any of the harsh fishiness of stale salmon. The tuna was so fresh and so perfectly cut that the fish was almost falling apart at the striations between the grain (I don’t know the proper terminology – sorry!).

The crunchy spicy tuna roll was good, but that’s fairly standard, I think. I usually don’t enjoy unagi. I think eel has a tendency to taste way too fishy, and I feel like the sweet sauce usually just masks the flavor of the eel rather than enhancing it. At UO, this was most certainly not the case, and I really liked the taste and texture of my unagi, finding the sauce to complement rather than hide the flavor of the fish.

After we had stuffed ourselves silly with sushi, the waitress brought us a two-bite dessert of flourless chocolate cake with raspberry ganache. The perfect end to an already-excellent meal.

Next time I head to Sushi UO, I plan to order the Botan Ebi Sashimi ($9) two pieces of shrimp sashimi, one topped with ikura (salmon roe) and the other with uni (sea urchin roe). It looked positively amazing. I will also be getting the omakase, a Japanese phrase meaning “It’s up to you.” The sushi omakase is $38 and the sashimi omakase is $46, 9 pieces of the chef’s choice depending on the freshest fish of the day. It is beautifully presented with fried shrimp head and tail, and the chef takes you beyond just the standard tuna, salmon, yellowtail, etc. that you usually find in the sushi/sashimi platters.

If a guy were to take me on a date to Sushi UO (without having known that I totally love this place), I’d be thoroughly impressed. It’s small and intimate, dark and sexy, and the food is really effing good. Quality sushi for a reasonable (not cheap) price. Sake flight also available for $14, I think.

Another important note for you dealseekers: Sushi UO serves an impressive $24.07 3 course prix-fixe menu daily from 6 to 7 pm. Sushi UO is closed on Sundays.

Eat: Sushi UO (LES) 151 Rivington St. between Clinton and Suffolk, upstairs. 212-677-5470. They take reservations starting at 5 pm, or you can reserve seats on Open Table.

Spotted Pig burger 0: striped bass 1
September 28, 2010, 9:34 am
Filed under: Drink, Eat | Tags: , , , , , , ,

I was really looking forward to trying the much raved-about burger at The Spotted Pig over in the West Village. Maybe my expectations were too high. Maybe it was an off day. Whatever the case, I was underwhelmed.

The $17 Chargrilled Burger with Roquefort Cheese & Shoestrings seems like it should be delicious, meaty, rich and Roquefort-y. Meaty it was, and it was mostly good, but there was just not enough juice dribbling out of the meat (medium rare wasn’t rare enough), not enough salt, and not enough Roquefort. Look at that Roquefort. Doesn’t it look sad? Meager? Overwhelmed by the massive amount of meat? The meat itself was underseasoned and could have used a larger dollop of cheese for sure. The shoestring fries were crispy and delicious with rosemary and crunchy little garlic slivers, and I shoveled the fries into my mouth by the handful.

And then there was the striped bass.

The striped bass redeemed it all. How they got the crust on that bass without overcooking or drying out the fish will never cease to amaze me. Pan Roasted Striped Bass with Tomatoes & Saffron, $28. There were no tomatoes on the plate and to be honest, I can’t really remember tasting any hint of tomato, but the saffron-infused sauce lent a slightly sweet, slightly bitter complexity. A little more tomato might have been nice for some acidity, but man, oh, man, was that fish cooked to perfection or what.

The Spotted Pig is cozy, welcoming, and it has a small but tasty selection of beer, including their home-brewed cask ale. I’d recommend you check it out, but you might want to ask them to be a bit more generous with the Roquefort.

NYC Oyster Happy Hour Roundup

[tweetmeme]Another reason to love living in NYC – oyster happy hours! Below is a list of restaurants in lower Manhattan (sorry, I rarely make it uptown) where you can find great oyster and/or drink specials during happy hour:

Oyster happy hours I have tried:

  • Jo’s (Nolita/SoHo. 264 Elizabeth St. at Houston. 212.966.9640) My fave oyster happy hour. Dimly lit restaurant with $1 oyster happy hour (and $4 beers on tap, $5 well drinks, $7 select wine) weeknights from 5-8pm, only available in the bar room which has seating at the bar and along the walls (can accommodate groups of 4-6 at the tables). Service is slow if you’re not seated at the bar, so you’ll have to go to the bar to order and to pay. Oysters change daily depending on what the fishmonger brings by – I’ve had Blue Points and Miyagis here. Jo’s isn’t crowded on weeknights, happy hour goes until 8 pm, and the people here are awesome.
  • Lure Fishbar (SoHo. 142 Mercer St. at Prince. 212.431.7676) Stellar happy hour from 5-7pm on weeknights, at bar area only. Arrive early to grab seats as it gets really busy, you may have to throw some elbows to place your order at the bar. $1 oysters and $1 littleneck clams are the best bet; top quality oysters. See happy hour menu here. Shrimp tempura with black sesame seeds is delish. Do not get the lobster croutons. You’ll be sad when you realize there are 4 extremely teeny (MAYbe 1cm squared) cubes. Select beer $5, select wine $6, and select cocktails $7.
  • Essex (LES. 120 Essex Street, entrance on Rivington. 212.533.9616) On Mondays and Thursdays, $1 oysters all night and half price drinks (except for pitchers) from 6-9pm. I think that makes the beers $3, the wine $4, and most cocktails $5-$6. The oysters are decent, but not as good as Lure’s or Jo’s. Still, it’s a great location for grabbing a drink and a snack before doing a Thursday night out in LES, and you really can’t complain when you get to drink an Ommegang brew for $3. Also, this is a huge space, and can accommodate large groups.
  • Bondi Road (LES. 153 Rivington St. between Suffolk and Clinton. 212.253.5311) If quantity is more important to you than quality, and you like shrimp cocktail, then this is the place you will want to be spending your Thursday night. On Thursdays, Bondi Road does all you can eat raw oysters, shrimp, and Oysters Rockefeller (though I have read that sometimes they have oyster shooters instead) for just $9.99. Of course, they will try to convince you to take the $20 all you can drink for 2 hours deal on the side, but you can politely decline and just order as many beverages as you need.
  • Ulysses Folk House (Financial District. 95 Pearl Street between Coenties Aly & Hanover Sq. 212.482.0400‎) This is not really for happy hour, but Ulysses does have an all you can eat Sunday brunch that includes all you can eat oysters on the half shell for $20, along with fruits, breads, cheese and crackers, bagels and lox, sausages, corned beef, roast beef, ham, turkey, potatoes, veggies, salads… and a dessert tray. It also includes a Guinness, a (not very tasty) bloody mary, or a mimosa. It’s best in warm weather when you can eat outside at the picnic tables on the cobblestone street, but don’t expect 5 star food.

Oyster happy hours I have yet to try: Continue reading