I'm just back from my trip to NYC and let's just say I ate well. In four nights, I had four world class meals, so I thought I'd share some restaurant reviews, but I'm not going to go in order.
On Saturday, we ate at Bar Boulud. Daniel Boulud's least formal space is kind of oddly set up. As you can see in the picture, it's a long arched space with very tight table space. The service was spotty and part of that is the setup, making it tough for them to get between the tables. The food was very solid though, especially the pommes lyonnaise (potatoes with caramelized onions). Even though it arrived late, it was worth it. Of course, when the highlight is potatoes, you can imagine that it was a little disappointing overall. In retrospect, yes, but that's only because of the other two restaurants. The charcuterie was great - I tried head cheese, which was interesting, but I wouldn't trust many places with that - as was the boudin blanc I had as an entree. It was very light, suprising for a sausage. Overall, I'd give the experience a 6. The food was a seven, but service and space brings it down.
On Sunday, a group of us went to what might be the best restaurant in the world. Tom Colicchio's Craft - the Gramercy original - wasn't spectacular, but it was damned good. Joe Sheehan and I love Craft (and Craftsteak ...) and discussed afterwards why it didn't seem like it had met its normally astronomical standards. A bit was the table -- Craft serves "family style" and the best part is always the tasting, the passing around, and the conversation. We were at the front at a table that just didn't QUITE work. Going from end to end with tough. The food was amazing, as always. It's simple, perfectly done food. I had the rack of pork, but tried everything from Joe's lamb, some amazing shortribs, crispy bacon (more of a pork belly dish, really and Craft is where I discovered pork belly), two very nice fish dishes, and more. Craft can do something as simple as baby carrots and make them special ... and I don't even like cooked carrots! The peach crumb pastry was a great end, though the chocolate souffle was a big hit as always. An 8 out of 10 would be awesome anywhere else, but this was underwhelming for Craft.
On Sunday morning, we had brunch at Perilla. We're big Top Chef fans, so eating at first season winner Harold Dieterle's little Village spot was very cool, especially when we looked up and Harold was sitting at a table talking to some friends. I had a duck burger, since Harold did some neat things with duck on the show. It was very good, perfectly seasoned. Barb had the "as seen on Oprah" Chicken Parm Hero, which had sausage in the sauce, a cool touch. The "vanilla scented doughnuts" were more of a beignet - not a bad thing! I'd highly recommend brunch there. It wasn't full and I'd love to try dinner there some time. I'll give it a solid 7, almost an 8.
Finally, we come to the first meal which really was sublime. Mesa Grill is best known for being Bobby Flay's base, but with all his TV shows, the place is still amazing. We ate at Flay's other NYC restaurant last time and while it was good (and had an amazing space), this meal at Mesa was just sublime. Starting with pork quesadillas that were perfectly cooked and spiced, moving through spice rubbed pork tenderloin that was PERFECTLY done and snapper that was light yet flavorful, to the cornbread pudding ... seriously, it was a master work. Barb's not one for spicy, so she was expecting just to tolerate the meal, but it was ... just wow. Add in some amazing (and strong!) margaritas and it was just an amazing meal. If you're in NYC or Vegas, trust me - go to Mesa. (Thanks, Lawrence!) It was a 10 out of 10 and one of only three restaurants I've ever given my ten to (Craft and the underrated Harry Caray's are the others.)