Skip to content

Posts from the ‘Asian’ Category

Eaten, Barely Blogged: A Bender Just Because

When you post lots of food and drink photos (though who doesn’t anymore?) there is an assumption that you’re always out eating and drinking when in my reality there’s a good deal of cheese and crackers, eggs and bacon, yogurt, seltzer, and other mundanities consumed at home.

dallas bbq pina colada

But when visitors are around who think you’re perpetually having fun, you might have to give them the full eight-hour bender experience, day job be damned. This is now your job. What started out as an innocent lunch break across the street at my favorite regional chain Dallas BBQ (one piña colada) resulted in a two-borough excursion that served to blow the mind (and health) of a long-distance old friend-turned-boyfriend who hadn’t drank for the 25 years leading up to our reconnecting in January. I’m a horrible influence, no question.

jimmy's duo

Jimmy’s Corner (one Sam Adams, two Maker’s on the rocks), not just the best boxing bar in Times Square but possibly the best bar in Times Square period (this is a great recent ode) carried me into oyster happy hour territory but Cull & Pistol, where I was lured by a friend, was too crowded and I wasn’t hungry anyway after ribs and fries, so Corner Bistro minus the burger (two McSorley’s dark ales) became stop #3 for a little anti-Dallas BBQ atmosphere.sea wolf duo

Yet oysters (and two $5 frozen Painkillers) ended up happening anyway at Sea Wolf, the newish beachy restaurant off the Jefferson St. L where getting off the train I came face to face with a coworker whose name I don’t know and initially made me panic since I was being a truant but by 6:30pm I was in the clear. A barely perceptible nod of acknowledgement was sufficient. The point of Bushwick was to hit a few vintage stores, something I haven’t done in decades, and fittingly demonstrate what the Portland of NYC looks like (equally young with free-time during the day, better educated and likely to be secretly wealthy, far dirtier and more industrial, less white, duh).

tomo sushi

By this point, rando sushi seemed like a good idea and a sandwich board on the sidewalk worked its magic. Shared rolls (and a Sapporo) at Tomo just opened the floodgates, though, and Dorito ramen (oops, carbonara) at King Noodle, a few doors down, started seemingly like an even better idea, except I forgot that they had tempered the kitsch a while back and now the menu was more straightforward Asian, slightly SE. Oh, but thank god, and thank you, if you made it this far because the whole point of this exercise is this: ma po tofu fries!

king noodle trio

This is my kind of junk food: melted, processed cheese and fried starch and intensely seasoned ground meat. I love salty soy (fish sauce ideally) with melted cheese and a little (a lot really) heat. Ok, the overriding theme was salt in all the dishes, in an extreme way that was too much in the Spam fried rice and Chinese broccoli with oyster sauce (a nod to health). Maybe not the lemongrass wings, which felt a little wan in comparison, probably because I’d lost all taste for subtlety at this point. (Eaten with coconut porter and a second completely unnecessary beer in a style that I don’t remember since it was the eleventh drink of the day.)

me at king noodle

Drink #10, still going strong. There’s no way to make the neon lighting flattering.

Once you start binging at 1pm, you’ll get tired unless you keep up a steady pace. It may seem dangerous, but the beauty is that you’ll probably make it home by 10pm and get a full eight hours to digest all that sodium, fat, and alcohol and will wake up feeling only sort of like crap (but maybe not at all depending how far from middle-age you might be). To really tempt fate, you can start again the next day but two back-to-back benders is my maximum as a non-young, employed person. Most importantly, I really impressed a now-drinking, self-described Country Mouse (only if you consider Portland’s outskirts country) into boxing, whose going out consists primarily of ramen with his kids, with my fortitude and disregard for work ethics and diet. 

Eaten, Barely Blogged: Chinchulines, Cue, Cavatelli

Boca juniors parrillada

Boca Juniors You'll hear about La Fusta or El Gauchito, if you hear about Queens Argentine restaurants at all. Boca Juniors, not so much, possibly because it's a theme restaurant. What kind of self-respecting food-loving Buenos Aires resident would eat at a Jets-themed steakhouse catering to American expats? No matter, it's fun, and the food is respectable enough. Have a few empanadas, order some grilled meat (if you look out of place–I did–you may get cautioned against the parrillada for two, pictured in its sweetbread, intestine and blood sausage-filled glory, but it takes little to convince that you know what you're getting into) or pasta. I have no idea staff still breaks into song and does a dance routine with blue and yellow umbrellas; on this early mid-week evening, the room was half full with most tables for two seated side-by-side at four-seaters, positioned to watch the live Boca Juniors game on the two wall-mounted flatscreens. The elderly couple in Boca jerseys splitting a bottle of wine were my heroes. Or maybe it's the Argentine house wine pours, always to the rim, that are my heroes. Inexpensive Malbec and a jumble of organ meat are made for each other.

Fatty cue green chili lamb bao

Fatty 'Cue I only went once in its former guise and
that was three years ago so I'm hazy, but Fatty 'Cue 2.0 doesn't seem radically
different to me. The layout's more or less the same. There are cocktails, smoked
meats, funky dips, pig's ears and heads. Maybe the baos are new? There could be
more vegetables than previously. The one notable difference is that the pork
ribs, still great and salty-sweet from fish sauce and sugar, were $14 for three
last time and $12 now (the online menu says $11, but I don't think that's
correct). So, maybe lower prices? The green chili lamb bao was done more Indian
than Southeast Asian, with a tamarind sauce, yogurt and cucumber. Winsome. The
whole steamed fish, the only non-meaty large plate, seems an odd choice in
retrospect. The components were straightforward, turmeric and lime rubbed onto
the fish itself, with chile sauce and ketchup manis for dipping. No complaints,
but I would stick with the meat.

Aita trio

Aita I think I said I would never go here, not out
of malice, but because I eat Italian food so rarely. After 10pm on a weeknight,
though, the dining choices in an immediate two-block radius after a few
Manhattans at Mayflower, are slim. The fried rabbit in the style of fried
chicken with a lot more sage, was fun, if not bony. Something possessed me to
order wheat pasta, cavatelli, with a lamb ragu and favas, not completely out of
whack with this still-cool-at-night spring (that's not a complaint, and no,
it's still not summer, Memorial Day over or not). If you want to continue with
the rye-drinking, the cocktail list isn't bad.

The Toucan and The Lion

Last week I heard a few peeps about The Toucan and the Lion on Twitter and message boards, then I noticed a few blog posts based on an invite from the new East Village restaurant. Scotch eggs? Duck confit mofongo? I could get behind that. So, I went on my own dime…and I think, volition? That's the thing, was it really my own idea or was I influenced in online ways that I like to believe I'm immune to?

Either way, the food and cocktails were overwhelmingly winsome and  that was mostly due to playing to some of my favorites ingredients like goat, fried pickles, taro, and  kaffir lime. For the most part, the flavors were there, though now looking at my photos I can see there is a peculiar swampy palette (not palate, thankfully) at work, lots murky greens and hits of yellow.

Toucan and the lion cocktail

The Lion matches ginger and kaffir lime with rum and a hit of Sriracha that adds a subtle creeping spice. This and a few fried pickles (see below) would be a fun duo to sample at the bar, if I did that sort of spartan thing (I always over order because I want to try too much in one sitting).

Lion and the toucan whiskey sour pickles

I didn't want to order two fried things with kaffir lime aioli so I opted for the whiskey sour pickles instead of the Scotch egg. Tart and crunchy, tempered by the perfumed mayonnaise, the breaded spears were a great snack, but possibly too much for two diners. A little pickle goes a long way (I was imagining less intense coins). My dining companion didn't agree with me and thought the portion was fine, so who knows.

Toucan and the lion duck confit mofongo

Even though there was a lot going on in many of the dishes, the diverse use of tubers caught my attention. I love taro and thought it made a perfect substitute for plantain in an Asian-inflected mofongo topped with a perfect oozy-yolked egg.  I expected the duck confit to anchor the dish, but it was the sweet, garlickly slices of Chinese sausage that pulled everything together. Why not add a mild salsa verde, too? This was very good, and while dense (though lighter than a traditional rendition) I could've easily eaten this, no sharing.

Toucan and the lion goat pot pie

The goat pot pie was sweetish and spice-rich as massaman curries are, and also made use of non-traditional starches: cubes of sweet and purple potatoes to offset the hunks of tender meat. The roti–this is not a pastry-topped dish, despite the name–ended up getting a little stiff, but I appreciated the flaky flatbread's presence.

Lion and the toucan drunken manilla clams

The clams just tasted like clams. Perhaps the flavor was simply more subtle compared to the stronger dishes. I felt it was lacking a distinct element, though, especially since "drunken" was in the description and I take that to mean chile heat . I will say that the bao buns, similar to the roti in usage, was a nice touch.

The Toucan and The Lion * 342 E. Sixth St., New York, NY


1/2 As each year passes, a restaurant blog post becomes less and less servicey and more of a fragment of dining history. A majority of what I’ve written here doesn’t reflect NYC’s current scene in any way. I originally started this as a pre-blog dining journal to keep track of what I’d eaten (uh, which is still kind of what this is—the only difference is that now people actually read, or rather look at pictures, about what strangers eat on the internet) and it’s great because even though photos weren’t de rigueur in olden times, I can see the style of cooking that was being employed at Wong’s 2003 predecessor, Jefferson.

Yes, it was more upscale (then downscaled to Jefferson Grill, then closed). Then there was candlenut foam and lobster in kaffir lime nage. Now lobster shows up in fancified egg foo young and pizza shows up alongside noodles. Chef Simpson Wong is adaptable.

Wong naan

Naan does double duty as bread basket/amuse. The warm bread comes with a glass vessel of clarified butter stuffed with a sprig of mint leaves to pour and shred (it’s messy) plus a curry sauce for dipping. It’s like luxurious roti canai.

Wong hakka pork belly, hakurei turnip, taro root tater tots, greens

I’ll admit I chose the Hakka pork belly because of the tater tots, i.e. taro fritters with hint of lemongrass (or maybe lime leaves). But the lacquered hunk of meat, crispy and sticky along the surface and perfectly tender beneath, was the star. Pickled anything is always a good foil for fattiness, and the tiny Hakurei turnips and tuft of salad were a good match. The original temptation, the tots, were room temperature, though. They had the potential for greatness—I could see something wu gok-like being done with them.

Wong duck meatball, spiced tomato sauce, squash, paneer

The substantial duck meatball went more Mediterranean, using spiced tomatoes and feta. Of course cast iron skillets signify a farmy ethos, adding to the formerly unseen “Asian locavore” concept that’s also taking off at RedFarm.

Wong lobster egg foo young, leeks, salted duck egg yolk, dried shrimp crumble

The lobster egg foo young. While I didn’t sample the shellfish tail, I appreciated the umami richness of salted duck egg yolks and dried shrimp granules. The salty and fermented edge shifted the dish far from its traditional namesake.

Wong long island duck breast, niagara grape, coconut vinegar sauce, collard greens, squash

The duck was the most conventional, or rather non-Asian, dish, sliced, rosy, with collard greens, charred grapes, and squash (also present in the duck meatball). Coconut vinegar, a typically Filipino ingredient, did make an appearance and cut through some of the fowl’s naturally oiliness.

Wong caramel apple shortcake, sugar-roasted apples, brown butter cake, cinnamon cream, wee caramel apple

Sure, the duck ice cream dessert had outré appeal, but I kind of wanted to see the promised “wee apple.” It arrived as one component in an autumn extravaganza of brown butter, caramel, cinnamon, and more apples.

I don’t know if it was because we’d made a reservation or it was the luck of the draw, but we got one of the few two-seaters in the window instead of a place at one of the dreaded communal tables (there’s no convincing me that sharing tight quarters is fun). And while busy, the table next to us remained open the entire time. There’s no good reason why Wong has availability on a Friday night while nearby Tertulia and Whitehall are standing room only.

The prices are fair, the atmosphere polished-casual—I like how the music shifted from adult and jazzy to Hall and Oates’ greatest hits to The Smiths’ first album, as the night progressed—and the food creative. The only weirdness was with timing; there were long gaps between courses and varying food temperatures on the same plate. Hopefully, the kinks will get sorted out. I’d hate to see Wong morph into Wong Grill…and you know the rest.

Wong * 7 Cornelia St., New York, NY


Possibly the strangest thing about Benu is that no one had any idea what I was talking about when I mentioned it (which was not that many times). Clearly, I do not fraternize with anyone particularly interested in French Laundry alumni. I could’ve just as easily said I was dining at Benihana for my birthday (the hibachi chain has been on my to-try list for some time).

The food at Benu is the style–seamlessly blending Chinese luxury ingredients with modern technique and a greenmarket sensibility–that I expect I might find in the more wealthy, aggressively image-conscious Asian capitals like Singapore or Hong Kong, but never encounter. Presentation is definitely important here, but never for the sake of showing off. The components are subtle and thoughtful.

I have resolved not to dork-out and take photos during higher-end meals, but the atmosphere while mildly stark, was not stuffy or nerve-jangling in a manner that I always associate with Corton. After settling into a relaxed (I was going to say quiet, but there was nothing hushed about the odd foursome next to us, what appeared to be married men showing off for married women who were less than impressed) corner table  I was glad that I had not left my camera in the hotel, after all.

To be perfectly frank, though, I don’t really enjoy blogging about tasting menus. Who cares what I have to say about 18 courses, wonderful as they may be? (In a similar vein, I’ve really started to tire of those talking head food tv shows where minor personalities ooh and ah over moijto ice pops or food truck fish and chips for people sitting at home on their couches.) After getting the play by play on the elaborate method used to craft the translucent kimchi wonton wrapper, I stopped focusing on techniques (well, the “shark’s fin” demanded a few questions—it’s made from Dungeness crab and hydrocolloids are involved) and took in the food at face value.

Continuing surface appreciations…here are photos without commentary. I can’t just let them flounder on flickr (do visit, if you would like to see full-sized images).

thousand-year-old quail egg, cèpes, ginger
oyster, pork belly, kimchi
wild sockeye
    belly, maple-sake cure, fennel ash
    roe, homemade sesame tofu, Serrano chili

cherry blossom, yogurt, cucumber, pistachio
beef tartare, caviar, horseradish, chive
tomato, hand-pulled mozzarella, dashi

eel, feuille de brick, crème fraîche, lime
jasmine chicken with dates
foie gras xiao long bao

monkfish liver torchon, turnip, plum, brioche
abalone, potato, caper, lettuce
fresh noodles, shrimp roe, tarragon, chicken jus

“shark’s fin” soup, Dungeness crab, Junhua ham, black truffle custard
Duck, glutinous rice stuffing, fermented pepper
Pork rib, sunchoke, pine nut, cherry, black bean

Passion fruit white chocolate, chili
Peach, matcha, elderflower

Benu * 22 Hawthorne St., San Francisco,  CA


Má Pêche

As part of my recent initiative to eat a real lunch every few weeks, I ended up at Má Pêche one-day-shy of its first anniversary. Apparently, 364 days is how long it takes me to eventually try a restaurant (and I won’t be back, at least not during the day, anytime soon, if only because 35 minutes each way during a workday just isn’t feasible).

I shared two versions of the $25 prix-fixe (which never end up being a bargain after ordering two glasses of wine—it was nice seeing a Jura wine by the glass on a short list, though) with a friend.

Ma peche summer rolls

We were hesitant about summer rolls. Would they be any different that at a nicer Vietnamese restaurant? They were certainly heftier with more pork (there’s an unseeable slab on the far side of the roll) and greens than one would normally see. What at first I thought was sugar cane turned out to be a fried wonton, resembling a rolled wafer cookie. I liked the added crunch.

Ma peche pork & oxtail terrine

Oxtail terrine with pickled carrots, mushrooms and violet mustard skewed more French. I would’ve probably preferred this first course if I had been dining alone.

And the rosy slices of duck breast and Jimmy Dean-esque puck (in looks only) of duck sausage with spaetzle would’ve been my main. Super meaty, so what.

Ma peche rice noodles

As it was, the half portion of duck was just right with shared rice noodles, sheets formed into tubes not strands and sautéed for textural contrast. Other than pork and what appeared to be fried shallots, I’m not sure what else was in this dish. This looks a little more naked than versions I’ve seen online.

We took our third course, double chocolate and corn cookies, to go. I forgot to take a photo, but I did not forget to eat the sizeable brown cookie as an early evening snack. I think it broke my pancreas.

Má Pêche * 15 W 56th St., New York, NY


Vientian Café

My final vacation meal was small and slapdash, a zero hour take out excursion I barely managed to squeeze in before Vientian Café closed at an early 9pm. Burmese (which I never got to), Mayan and Laotian are three cuisines lacking in NYC that the Bay Area has aplenty. (Only the latter made the recent Village Voice “Nine Cuisines Missing From NYC” list. Burmese is iffy here–I’m not even sure which restaurants if any are in business anymore. La Superior does serve panuchos, pavo escabeche and cochinita pibil, but it’s not strictly a Yucatecan restaurant. Laotian is completely absent.) I wanted to try them all.

Oakland, only a short car ride from our hotel in Berkeley, seemed to be the epicenter of Lao cooking. After a late lunch/early dinner at Tadich Grill and a nap induced by a few too many afternoon glasses of wine, it was already 8:30pm, too late for Green Papaya Deli, my first choice, but potentially ok for Vientian Café.

My only concern were the Yelp reviews, which I never take seriously for food quality but find useful for service quirks or issues not related to eating. Everyone mentioned how unsafe it was to park near the restaurant and how sketchy the neighborhood was. I don’t tend to take these cautions seriously; I read similar nonsense about places in Puerto Rico that were perfectly fine. Then again, I always think back to Vancouver, B.C. and getting everything stolen from our rental car because I didn’t take bad vibes seriously.

The door was locked when I ran up hoping for takeout. I was let in and the door was re-locked. I’m not sure if this was because it was the end of the night or if they always keep the door locked. The only other time I’ve seen this practice was at La Peniche in New Orleans where they also kept a machete near the door—if I’m correct, because there had a been a rash of robberies not because the Marigny is a particularly dangerous area. James insisted he heard gun shots while waiting in the car. Who knows? Maybe we’d just been in Berkeley too long and had gotten all soft and jumpy.

Vientian cafe beef larb

Knowing we were flying out in less than 12 hours, I only ordered two things from the menu, which was overwhelmingly Thai. The only thing I knew I had to try was the beef larb. Very different from the Thai style, the meat is raw, tripe is mixed in and there is nearly an equal amount of whole mint leaves and fat rings of green onions to irregularly chopped beef bits. Spicy for sure, herbal, and also bitter, much more so than the Thai style I’m accustomed to. I don’t know what that’s coming from, if it’s an unidentified herb or a side effect of the fermented fish sauce.

I almost never lame out on food, but after days of popping Pepto-Bismol tablets to keep the inexplicable nausea that started on the flight to San Francisco and lasted the entire trip under control I went with the counter woman’s suggestion of rare beef instead of raw. After reading up a bit, I don’t think cooked meat was the abomination I originally thought it was. Here’s a fancy version of the larb from a great blog I’d nearly forgotten about, written by a Laotian chef in Spain.

Vientian cafe lao papaya salad

There is no doubt where the papaya salad gets its predominant funk from, and that’s the above mentioned padaek. Thankfully, we were checking out the next morning. I can’t imagine our hotel’s housekeeper being pleased with the foul, dirty smelling Styrofoam container left in the garbage (wrapped in plastic). As is often the case, the taste is much milder than the smell, more of a robust saltiness you associate with the sea. “Five or six chiles?” the counterwoman asked. “How you would eat it,” was my response hoping she wasn’t a baby palate. The heat was sharp and forceful, but nothing that a blob of sticky rice couldn’t temper. The most unusual part of the Lao style salad was that it came with a separately bagged up pile of fresh rice noodles, which provided the same softening effect as the sticky rice. I liked the contrast between crunch and chew.

I only regret not being able to order more things like the duck salad and Lao sausages…and having to toss out the unfinished remains of this meal. I just couldn’t justify packing such messy food in our suitcases even though we did do just that with Sichuan leftovers from our last lunch in Hong Kong.

Vientian Café * 3801 Allendale Ave., Oakland, CA

Xie Xie

Last year, when I was looking for worthy alternatives to the banh mi (which I still love), I kept waiting for Xie Xie to open. They took their sweet time, and so did I. Only now have I gotten around to sampling a few of their Asian sandwiches.

Part of the post-2007 high-end chefs going casual trend (I celebrated my birthday—not saying which—at Angelo Sosa's short lived Yumcha back in 2005 when he was still cooking "serious" food) Xie Xie successfully turns bread and filling into something exciting. Too bad they didn't even crack New York's Best 101 Sandwiches.

Xie xie beef

Both the bbq beef and the pork sandwiches contained meats that seemed very American despite all the accouterments. The tender short rib was akin to brisket despite the soy and sugar, basil mayonnaise bridged cultures while the carrot kimchi tasted purely Korean. The squishy sesame bun just made more sense than a baguette.

Xie xie buns

Rather than the pork belly slices you often see tucked into steamed buns, they used pulled pork, sweetened by hoisin and oyster sauce. Oddly enough, the addition of pickled onions and cilantro made this handheld meal taste Mexican. If you've ever eaten Yucatecan cochinita pibil, you'll recognize the flavors. Just swap buns for corn tortillas.

Xie xie ice cream

I am prejudiced against no foods except melon (yes, even watermelon) but I won't be able to tackle a 1,000-year-old egg for quite some time. The most violent stomach sickness I've ever experienced period (to be fair, I'm pretty sure I had flu the entire vacation and was not food poisoned) occurred after a big meal at the famous roast goose restaurant, Yung Kee in Hong Kong. The dark gelatinous center of the fermented egg was tough going, but Xie Xie's 1,000-year-old ice cream sandwich was a delight. I love how they approximated the same gooey blue-black color for their salted caramel center.

Xie Xie * 645A Ninth Ave., New York, NY


1/2 Makkoli’s fluorescent glare, strip mall location and impervious daycare flooring suited for a carpet sweeper, do not mask an hidden suburban jewel. This all-you-can-eat Japanese buffet is exactly what you would expect for unlimited $20.99 sushi. Perhaps strangest of all, this is not a chain.

Makkoli entrance

I was hoping for a Minado (whatever happened to the proposed Edison location?) but this canary yellow room with only The Weather Channel on mute for distraction, didn’t quite make up for the disappointment of being quoted an hour-plus waiting time at Bonefish Grill one parking lot over, my original plan. 

Makkoli interior

That’s not to say that throughout my stint there weren't waits for seats; long tables were filled with Asian-American families with New Jersey accents, Chinese-Chinese whose only English consisted of “Pepsi,” a gaggle of bikers staking out the corner and more than a few middle aged, date night couples with bottles of wine.

Alcohol did not appear to be on the menu, there is no menu, so the wine confused me. It never would’ve occurred to me to bring wine into a buffet, though it would certainly elevate the experience. I would’ve gladly downed a few glasses of Charles Shaw.

Makkoli plate one

The seaweed, octopus and jellyfish salads were fine. The sashimi was mushy and they oysters weren’t chilled sufficiently.

Makkoli plate two

This is a small sampling of the cooked food row, which contained more Chinese dishes like prawns with walnuts and mayonnaise, scallion pancakes and dumplings. I picked up shrimp tempura, a rib, a breaded, fried crab chunk (I never understand coating on top of a shell) and a grilled prawn. The hit of any buffet is always the king crab legs; people will shove for them. I just can’t get excited about cracking and picking.

Makkoli plate three

Sushi round. The variety and flavor is better than what you’d find in most NYC refrigerated cases. Ok, that’s not saying much, but if grab-and-go lunchtime rolls are your benchmark you’ll be fine with Makkoli.

I didn’t photograph my dessert plate. You can choose from Jello, those unsatisfying but pretty chiffon cakes you find in Asian bakeries and scoop-your-own-ice cream (I’d never seen green tea that brightly colored before) that created a traffic jam in the dessert section. Don't they know that buffets need soft serve machines?

More interesting to me were the Phil-Am (fortuitous, because I needed bagoong for a kare kare recipe the next day) and closed Russian Restaurant (I’ve never encountered Russian food in such a setting) in the same mall complex.

Makkoli exterior

Makkoli * 415 Rt. 18, East Brunswick, NJ

SHO Shaun Hergatt

Anyone who has partaken in Restaurant Week more than once quickly realizes that it’s generally not worth it. In the past I’ve always ended up ordering off the regular menu, and now I rarely bother at all. It’s actually very easy to determine whether you should bite or not—is it an expensive restaurant or not an expensive restaurant?

Wildwood bbq 3 little piggies A few friends recently wanted to eat barbecue and none of us had been to Wildwood. Did we want to spend $35 apiece for an appetizer like fried green tomatoes, an entrée such as spare ribs and a chocolate molten cake when “Three Little Pigs,” a porky triumvirate of thick bacon, pulled pork, spare ribs and two sides (I chose baked beans and collard greens) was enough food for two meals and cost $21.95?

SHO Shaun Hergatt, on the other hand, is a mysterious (literally—it’s been covered in scaffolding for eons and has that ‘80s Shogun black lacquer, red accents, land of the rising sun vibe) upscale restaurant that I walk by every single day but have never felt compelled to visit. I know the chef is Australian and that he uses lots of imported exotica and gets flogged in The New York Times for being tone deaf and pricy when that’s not really true.

$69 isn’t an outrageous dinner prix-fixe, the Restaurant Week $24.07 lunch was a bargain and would not be a rip off at its normal $35. My own hesitation stemmed from the Wall Street location and odd placement in a maligned condo with my favorite tagline: The Setai. There’s no word for it in English. I associate the neighborhood with work, not leisure.

Sho shaun hergatt petuna farms ocean trout tartare

I had never heard of Petuna Farms, the purveyor of this ocean trout, and that is because it’s in freaking Tasmania. I’m totally un-locavore so the tartare and roe suited me just fine. I love seeing kalamansi on menus; I seriously thought it was going to be a break-out citrus in the mid-2000s but the Filipino fruit never made the mainstream jump like yuzu. The limey broth was tart, perhaps a touch too mouth-puckery, and slightly bitter in a grapefruit manner. The trout was rich enough to take it, though.

Sho shaun hergatt hibiscus & acacia honey glazed long island duck

The hibiscus-and-acacia-honey glazed Long Island duck was served with an apple cider vinegar sauce, brussels sprouts, turnips and a gelatinous cube that I wanted to say was beets based on color but wasn’t particularly beety. In both dishes the equation was unctuous+tart+bitter.

Sho shaun hergatt butterscotch parfait candied honey crisp, green apple sorbet

I’ll order anything butterscotch and was curious how they meant "parfait." Clearly, this was a modern scattered dessert not a composed chilled treat in a tall glass. The tawny poof looked like a marshmallow but was cold and creamy like ice cream, fluffy. Honeycrisp apples were used for sweetness while the sorbet was pure green apple. More of that tartness. This more like an apple crisp than a parfait.

I rarely talk wine, but if you are curious I had a glass of Lachini Vineyards 2007 pinot gris, then returned to work and saw Eric Asimov had just written about Oregon pinot gris being kind of boring. True enough, I had already forgotten what my wine tasted like 15 minutes later.

Sho shaun hergatt mignardises

If I had a personal chef I would like small, powerfully flavored portions of food for lunch every day instead of my usual light, soul-crushing soup or salad.

SHO Shaun Hergatt * 40 Broad St., New York, NY