Sticks and Stones and Soup From Bones: Brothfest Recap

On a rainy, muggy Saturday, a crowd of NYC’s most enlightened eaters (or should I say slurpers?) journeyed to South Street Seaport for the Battle of the Broths, determined to find the one in seven that would warm their bones and their souls. Planned as a collaboration between FAME by Alex Mitow and Greg T. Spielberg’s Imagination in Space with additional backing from Yelp and the Howard Hughes Corporation, the event appears to have been a soupy success. The famous Katz’s Delicatessen offered a classic chicken-matzoh broth dating from the restaurant’s earlier days in 1888. It was a smooth, simplistic throwback with little artifice that carried a great deal of salty and umami flavor.

I had a chance to meet Jake Dell, Katz's current owner, and a proud legacy of a deli dynasty taking over for his father and grandfather.

I had a chance to meet Jake Dell, Katz’s current owner, and a proud legacy of a deli dynasty taking over for his father and grandfather.

Using their Magic Bullet (only like my favorite as-seen-on-TV product), Belle Reve whipped up a Blackened Butter Bone Broth splashed with a shot of Wild Turkey bourbon. It was intensely creamy and decadent with a harsh, smoky aftertaste, and one of my favorites.

Paula Deen would be proud of all the butter in this broth!

Paula Deen would be proud of all the butter in this broth!

FAME by Alex Mitow had the  “Sake to Me,” a concoction of Kobe Beef broth dressed up with lemongrass, herbs, dry sake, and chive oil. The ingredients were fresh and well-chosen, and they all noticeably popped, but I found this elixir too over-the-top for my appreciation. Baz Bagel prepared its own variation of a chicken matzoh ball soup that was salted nicely and came with an adorable baby matzoh. It was definitely the most recognizable broth in the bunch, and a safe choice. Bone Deep and Harmony gave out both beef and chicken broths, allowing visitors to choose their own spices and condiments to customize their cup. I tried mixing in some chimichurri, but turned out to be a poor judge of how much to mix in. Spur Tree brought in its “Fish Tea,” a fish-based broth with garlic, scallions, and even a little bit of tropical fruit. It managed to be fiery and sweet at the same time with very delectable bits of boneless fish that melded swimmingly with the broth. There were even some crispy wonton chips  for a crunch with my slurp.

The Fish Tea was well-stocked with fish, veggies, and flavor!

The Fish Tea was well-stocked with fish, veggies, and flavor!

Caracas Arepa Bar had a traditional Venezuelan San Cocho  with beef shanks on the bone. The heat and the spice were overpowering in contrast to the tender morsels of beef. It wasn’t really my cup of broth, but the beef was absolutely delicious and it slid right off.   Sancocho Spur Tree’s “Fish Tea” ended up scoring the most votes (including mine), followed by Belle Reve (my second choice), who was just four shy. I seldom think of my tastes as conventional, but my picks apparently were the consensus.

Spur Tree was the winner!

Spur Tree was the winner!

Between cups, there was plenty of beer, clothing boutiques, and live music provided by gypsy band Sylvana Joyce and the Moment and DJs Andrew Andrew. Alex Mitow even took the stage at one point to spin a few playlists of his own as DJ Mouthlove.

Oddly enough, I didn't hear any Bowling For Soup

Oddly enough, I didn’t hear any Bowling For Soup

With this year’s weather remaining as hostile and chilly as ever, it doesn’t look like the bone broth trend is ready to simmer down just yet (and neither is Shailene Woodley). Broth Fest was a fun way to fan the flames of this fad, and I’m excited to see what’s up next. Hopefully Spring!

Photo with Alex Mitow and fashionista Leo Gugu. Photo by James Miille.

Photo with Alex Mitow and fashionista Alotta McGriddles. Photo by James Miille.

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Take off with Flight!

Braving the harsh January cold, I attended a press dinner at Flight, a fairly new gastropub on the Upper East Side. After my last four months in London, I wasn’t sure if pub food was something I was wanting, but Flight’s eclectic menu alleviated that concern. Named after its various meat, seafood, and beverage sampler “flights”, Flight is an interesting and welcome addition to a neighborhood not particularly known for its dining options.

The restaurant’s atmosphere is much classier than your average pub with hanging lights and pictures of winged creatures and machines in keeping with the theme. Patrons have several seating options, including a full-service bar and a dedicated dining area, though it is the glass enclosed sidewalk café that will catch most diners’ attention.

FlightCafe

There are so many restaurants out there that think a dash of soy sauce or a hint of ginger makes a dish Asian, but Flight really utilizes its eastern culinary inspirations in a meaningful way. Hailing from India, Chef Golam has decades of experience with both Indian and Thai dishes that really shine!

We started off with the mussels. Chef Golam immediately demonstrated his flair for reinventing standard pub grub with this dish as he served it in a curry sauce. The mussels themselves were succulent and flavorful with the curry forming a fiery broth that warmed me up and sustained me for the rest of the meal, drawing me out of my winter hibernation. Golam even garnished the mussels with butternut squash, leveling out the heat with a little bit of sweetness.

Mussels in Thai Curry Sauce

Mussels in Thai Curry Sauce

Next, we were served a taste of the Thai meatball, made with a blend turkey and beef and served in a sweet chili sauce. It was a tender, delicious appetizer that cleansed the palette nicely. The dish was further accented with crispy fried onions for a little extra crunch and a great deal of flavor with a hint of lemongrass.

That Meat Ball

That Meat Ball

The fish and chips were solid and fairly standard. I found the chips a little too salted, but the fish, which was flaky and battered without an excess of grease was more enjoyable than any incarnation of the dish I had tasted in London.

Fish and Chips

Fish and Chips

My favorite dish by far was the Shepherd’s pie. Like the fish and chips, there wasn’t anything distinctly Thai added to it, but it was flawless in execution and a perfectly done pub staple. The vegetables were sautéed and flavorful with ample pieces of meat and a light, savory gravy beneath a bubbling, breaded dome. It was a take on the dish that could almost be likened to a classic bread-crumbed macaroni and cheese.

Shepherd's Pie

Shepherd’s Pie

Flight Shepherd's Pie Interior

Shepherd’s Pie Interior

For our last main course, Chef Golam presented us with his Thai Style Coconut Curry Chicken, served with mushrooms, herbs, and basmati rice. It utilized a similar peppery base to the mussels though not nearly as spicy—most likely a product of the coconut and something I very much enjoyed given my sensitive taste buds.

Coconut Curry Chicken

Coconut Curry Chicken

Dessert came with the Homemade Brownie with Vanilla Ice Cream in Chocolate Sauce, an enjoyable dessert prepared in-house. After so many hearty meat and seafood courses, the last thing I had been expecting was a homemade pastry treat from Golam.

Homemade Brownie with Vanilla Ice Cream and Chocolate Sauce

Homemade Brownie with Vanilla Ice Cream and Chocolate Sauce

In terms of drink offerings, Dermot Kelly, the restaurant’s owner and beverage director has cultivated an extensive selection of international wines, spirits, cocktails, and craft beers. He also promises to bring in live jazz music to entertain diners in the immediate future.

Happy Hour Comes with $5 on any Bar Appetizer, Select Draft Beers, House Wines, and Well Drinks!

Happy Hour Comes with $5 on any Bar Appetizer, Select Draft Beers, House Wines, and Well Drinks!

In all honesty, I’m not in the area too often, but the next time I find myself looking for a meal in the Upper East, Flight will definitely be somewhere I’m thrilled to revisit. Comfort food is rarely found in such a classy venue and never in the presence of fun Thai flavors!

Flight

Address: 1479 York Avenue (Between 78th & 79th Streets)

Website: www.flightnewyorkcity.com

Phone Number: (212) 988-5153

Hours

  • Lunch from 11:30 AM to 4:30 PM from Mondays to Fridays.
  • Dinner from 3:30 PM to 11:00 PM from Sundays through Wednesdays. 3:30 PM to 1:00 AM on Thursdays through Saturdays.
  • Brunch from 11:30 AM to 3:30 PM on Saturdays and Sundays
  • Happy Hour is 4 PM to 7 PM from Monday to Friday, 10 PM to 11 PM on Fridays and Saturdays.

A Feast For Bros: The Game of Thrones Season 4 Red Carpet Premiere and Cast Party

This writer, foodie, and long-time fantasy geek got the extraordinary opportunity to join the cast and crew of the HBO Original Series, Game of Thrones, for Season 4’s grand premiere screening and swanky after party. The Red Carpet was rolled out at Lincoln Center and a specially designed statue of Queen Daenerys’ pet dragon, Drogon, greeted guests with a toothy grin, as did I.

Music is the Food of Love (and Murder–at least on this show)

At Avery Fisher Hall, some of the fabulous string musicians of the New York Philharmonic performed moving renditions of the show’s opening theme along with other fan-favorites like “The Rains of Castamere” and “Mhysa” with Ramin Djawadi, the show’s composer, conducting his own masterpieces. Lucky enough to sit in the second row, the epic music wafted into my ears—each string onstage feeling like one within my own heart. I must admit, when the title credits started rolling, it saddened me that the Philharmonic’s version can’t be the main one. It was THAT awesome! At the start of the ceremonies, Charles Dance (Tywin Lannister) graced us with a stern warning (really some threats) about the dire consequences of leaving one’s cellphone on or recording the show. Before the screening began, show runners David Benioff and Dan Weiss as well as HBO Programming President Michael Lombardo left us with some triumphant speeches.

The Cello solos really stood out!

The Cello solos really stood out!

Food of Thrones: Inside the Episode and Its Characters’ Stomachs

While I was thrilled to get a sneak peek of Season 4’s first episode, I won’t be going out of my way to spoil anything too specific about the episode’s plot. However, as this is a food blog, I will be happy to divulge what the main characters ate, and there was actually quite a bit of feasting going on in Westeros. Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) watched her sweet dragons flambé an unlucky goat with fresh pepper breath. Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) had trouble eating pigeon pie and lemon cakes after receiving some troubling news about her family. Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) continued to drink red wine excessively while bossing people around. The Wilding Ygritte (Rose Leslie) and her crew watched some bloodthirsty tribesmen eat some of their enemies while thinking of better fare. Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) and the Hound (Rory McAnn) resorted to desperate measures for some delicious roast chicken. It’s a yummy start to what Michael Lombardo promises is the best season of [one of] the greatest show[s] on television!

Everybody has those days... You know it's bad if Sansa won't even touch the lemon cakes!

Everybody has those days… You know it’s bad if Sansa won’t even touch the lemon cakes–they’re her FAVORITE!

The Feast

I found it borderline impossible to engage with the actors on the Red Carpet or at the premiere itself as they were preoccupied with the paparazzi, but the cast party sang a different song as I had the opportunity to wine and dine with several of the stars—really got the royal treatment! Held in the Hall of Biodiversity and Milstein Hall of Ocean Life at the American Museum of Natural History Uptown, the Season 4 Cast Party featured animated flames all across the walls and over the exhibit’s signature fiberglass whale—that’s right, we were greeted with something as outlandish and mythical as a flaming whale!

For us smallfolk, there were opportunities for some virtual reality games based on the show, costume exhibits, and a photo on the Iron Throne, but I think I had a much better time trying the delicious party food and mingling with the cast and crew!
Better than a royal wedding! And less violent :)

Better than a royal wedding! And less violent 🙂

Of the positively kingly buffet offerings, I most fondly remember the fillet of beef, arctic char in miso glaze, and gnocchi in crimini and shiitake mushroom cream sauce. There was also a kingdom of appetizers, including tuna tartare, minced chicken with peanut sauce, and asparagus wrapped in pancetta, as well as an open bar with some show-inspired cocktails—I heard The White Walker was to die for!

Fillet of Beef, Gnocchi with Mushrooms in a Cream Sauce, Arctic Char Marinated in Miso
Fillet of Beef, Gnocchi with Mushrooms in a Cream Sauce, Arctic Char Marinated in Miso

For dessert, we were offered an assortment of cupcakes, pastries, cookies, and other treats, but I settled for the tasty blueberry almond tart a la mode.

Blueberry Almond Tart a la Mode

Blueberry Almond Tart a la Mode

FOOD FOR OTT AND THE STARS

I drank wine with Queen Regent Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey)

I drank wine with Queen Regent Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey)

I jested with Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage)!

I jested with Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage)!

I met the incredible author of the books that inspired the series, George R.R. Martin. When I asked him for tips on combating writer's block, he reached for the wine glass!

I met the incredible author of the books that inspired the series, George R.R. Martin. When I asked him for tips on combating writer’s block, he reached for his wine glass… CLASSIC!

King Joffrey Baratheon (Jack Gleeson) showed me mercy and even allowed me a picture. He has no immediate plans to annex Manhattan to the Seven Kingdoms.

King Joffrey Baratheon (Jack Gleeson) showed me mercy and even allowed me a picture. He has no immediate plans to annex Manhattan to the Seven Kingdoms.

Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) agreed to a photo as long as I promised to scream with her. It was a long, good scream--made me feel like a warrior!

Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) agreed to a photo as long as I promised to scream with her. It was a long, good scream–made me feel like a warrior!

A Fiery Photo with Lady Melisandre, the Red Priestess (Carice Van Houten).

A Fiery Photo with Lady Melisandre, the Red Priestess (Carice Van Houten).

Sansa Stark (Sophie Wright) was kind enough to take this photo of me with Ser Loras Tyrell (William Finn). I kid you not when I say she declared us "SEXY!" Ser Loras was actually sipping an appropriately green party drink!

Sansa Stark (Sophie Wright) was kind enough to take this photo of me with Ser Loras Tyrell (Finn Jones). I kid you not when I say she declared us “SEXY!” Ser Loras was sipping an appropriately House Tyrell-Green party drink!

I told Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) that he looks quite dapper in a suit and when he's not tied up or being tortured!

I told Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) that he looks quite dapper in a suit and when he’s not tied up or being tortured!

Schmoozing with Shae (Sibel Kikelli)!

Schmoozing with Shae (Sibel Kikelli)!

The Wilding Ygritte (Rose Leslie) looking especially demure out of fur and boots.

The Wilding Ygritte (Rose Leslie) looking especially demure out of fur and boots.

I asked Roose Bolton (Michael McElhatton) to do something menacing for the camera, but he doesn't take direction. Just look what happened to the King in the North... I asked Roose Bolton (Michael McElhatton) to do something menacing for the camera, but he told me “I don’t take direction from boys… Remember what happened to the King in the North?” Plenty menacing 🙂

Missandei (Nathaile Emmanuel) is happy to play an intelligent woman of color in a medieval fantasy drama.

Missandei (Nathaile Emmanuel) is happy to play an intelligent woman of color in a medieval fantasy drama.

HODOR!

HODOR! (Kristian Nairn)

The festivities went on until midnight. It was honestly one of the greatest experiences of my young life. These characters, experiences, and tastes will stay with me for a very long time.

If my name wasn't Otter, I'd totally take this flaming whale for my House Sigil!

If my name wasn’t Otter, I’d totally take this flaming whale for my House Sigil!
Food For Ott would like to thank the good folks at The New York Philharmonic for this exclusive invitation, the cast and crew of HBO’s Game of Thrones for being sweet and humoring a fan, and the HBO staff for hosting the perfect night.Game of Thrones comes back to HBO on Sunday, April 6th, 2014 with Season 4 playing for network subscribers at 9 PM.

Yuji Ramen: The Little Test Kitchen That Could

A Little Rant

Ramen, like sushi, is a Japanese dish that has nestled itself into America’s eating consciousness, though this isn’t always a positive thing. Ask a typical American college student what they think of ramen and you might get a groan or a chuckle and maybe a story about “that one week I couldn’t leave my dorm” or an anecdote about the dangers of a high sodium diet. Like several actors’ careers (I’m looking at you Adam Sandler), ramen appears to get by due to its ease of preparation, availability, and overall infamy–people are willing to overlook just how cheap and terrible for their life it might because it’s a familiar, reliable poison. However, I digress. Most of these grievances are reserved for the microwave and instant variants of ramen. Put simply, there is good, gourmet ramen out there, just not at most grocery stores. . . Whole Foods on the Bowery, however, is a game changer!

Revolutionary Ramen

Located in the form of a counter on the second floor of an ordinary-looking Whole Foods, Yuji Ramen is an extraordinary eatery that takes one’s assumptions about ramen and flambes them into sweet, delicious oblivion. Starting off as a Smorgasburg vendor then a Whole Foods-sponsored pop up shop, Yuji’s popularity has earned it a permanent placement upstairs and a large, loyal following. After eating countless bowl upon bowl of noodle-filled Nirvana, I have to say this positive reception is completely deserved.

Most people might doubt that a ramen-based restaurant could succeed in catering to different clients and tastes, but Yuji offers customers two radically different types of ramen.

The “Daily Shoyu” is your typical meat broth-based ramen but comes with the added twist of being different just about every day. Using fresh cuts of meat from the Whole Foods butcher, Yuji ensures a uniquely delicious experience every day of the week. From blue fish to tuna to mussels to pork to turkey, the shoyu is a favorite for carnivores and a delight on a cold winter day.

Daily Shoyu with Blue and Lamb

Daily Shoyu with Bluefish and Lamb

The second type of ramen is the “mazeman” a newer variant that is made without broth and cooked by an open flame. Using a profusion of savory oils, fresh ingredients that alternate between crunchy and gooey, and perfectly firm and textured noodles, Yuji’s mazeman is a refined kind of ramen that one might liken to an al-dente pasta dish. Instead of your standard pork or chicken, Yuji brings customers original and dazzling concoctions like Smokey Bacon and Poached Egg with Kale or Salmon and Cheese. Spicy Tuna and Uni Miso (Sea Urchin) also have their own mazeman on the menu. For vegetarians, there’s also a Miso Roasted Vegetable mazeman, though I admit I have never sampled it because of my love for the meat and seafood selections.

Smokey Bacon and Poached Egg Mazeman on the left, Uni Miso cooked in Sake on the right.

Smokey Bacon and Poached Egg Mazeman on the left, Uni Miso cooked in Sake on the right.

At roughly $9 a pop, Yuji’s prices are reasonable for an up and coming business, and certainly for the quality of the ramen you get. I typically find that one Shoyu leaves me stuffed. However, when it comes to the mazeman, I usually try to make room for two–they’re just THAT yummy. For $12 you can get the combo with cold barley tea and pickled vegetables on the side. Starting this year, Yuji is offering a small selection of desserts.  Additionally, every month, Yuji offers a full seven-course Omakase (Chef’s Choice) Dinner. I plan on sampling it and presenting my findings later this year.

If you like creamy things, meat or fish, or noodles of any kind, then I highly recommend you give Yuji a visit soon–you’ll probably run into me sometime!

Yuji Ramen

Address: 95 E. Houston Street, 2nd floor. 

Phone Number: 212-420-1320, extension. 281

Website: http://yujiramen.com

Open all week from 11 AM to 9:30 PM.

Artistic Rendering of Yuji's Mazeman Selection

Artistic Rendering of Yuji’s Mazeman Selection

Giano: Where the Past and the Present Meet… the Pasta!

An Epic Concept

Named for the dual-faced Roman God of the past and future, Janus, Giano was designed with a desire to marry the past with the present. Owners and native Italians Paolo Rossi and Matteo Niccoli sought to capture the beauty of changing times yet still hold onto vestiges of the past through their décor and cuisine. In keeping with this theme, the restaurant has traditional mahogany tables and brick walls coupled with more avant garde furniture pieces like feather-shaped lights and swinging rope. Giano also offers a lovely, decorative garden area for dining outside in warmer weather. It’s an eclectic atmosphere that one might find worth visiting for the décor alone, but the food is what has sustained this marvelous restaurant for the last six years.

Giano's beautiful garden area is open to diners from April to October.

Giano’s beautiful garden area is open to diners from April to October.

The Most Appetizing Asparagus Ever

My meal started with a rich and varied trio of appetizers, Crochette di Ricotto e Tonno (Tuna and Ricotta Cheese Croquettes), Polpette al Pomodoro (Grass-fed Meatball in Tomato Sauce), and Asparagi Gratinate  (Asparagus Wrapped in Speck and Fontina Cheese). I can happily recommend any of the three.

The tuna and ricotta cheese croquette presented a crunchy, creamy treat that managed to fit delicate morsels of tuna in a warm, breaded shell.

Deceptively simple in appearance, the meatball consisted of savory and tender beef bathed in a bold and zesty tomato sauce that changed my perspective on an Italian classic.

Surprisingly, it was the asparagus that left the biggest impression on me.  Now let me tell you that I absolutely detest asparagus. If you read my previous post on my status as a supertaster, you understand that I am not particularly versed in the consumption of potentially bitter greens.  However, Giano’s asparagus transformed it into a dish of a different species. Swaddled in a sweet layer of Fontina cheese and a second layer of salty speck (it’s like prosciutto), the docile taste of cooked asparagus perfectly complimented by a cocoon of flavor, though the asparagus itself remained a firm and crunchy branch. Wrapping your veggies in cured meats and cheese is a surefire way to enjoy them!

Crochette di Ricotto e Tonno (Tuna and Ricotta Cheese Croquettes) on the right, Polpette al Pomodoro (Grass-Fed Beef Meatball in Tomato Sauce) on the left, and Asparagi Gratinate  (Asparagus Wrapped in Speck and Fontina Cheese) at the top

Crochette di Ricotto e Tonno (Tuna and Ricotta Cheese Croquettes) on the right, Polpette al Pomodoro (Grass-Fed Beef Meatball in Tomato Sauce) on the left, and Asparagi Gratinate (Asparagus Wrapped in Speck and Fontina Cheese) at the top

Going Medieval

Giano really focused on its selection of homemade pastas, treating each like its own separate main course. Paolo and Matteo offered us Bigoli al Ragu D’agnello e Noci Totaste (medieval-style spaghetti in a ragu of slow-braised lamb with crushed walnuts), Gnocchi ai 4 Formaggi (potato gnocchi in a four cheese sauce), and Raviolo di Spinachi e Ricotta (spinach and ricotta ravioli in a sage and butter sauce).

Gnocchi ai 4 Formaggi -  Potato Gnocchi in a Four Cheese Sauce (Parmigiano, Gorgonzola, Fontina, and the rare, overpowering Tallegio)

Gnocchi ai 4 Formaggi – Potato Gnocchi in a Four Cheese Sauce (Parmigiano, Gorgonzola, Fontina, and the rare, overpowering Tallegio)

Raviolo di Spinachi e Ricotta (Spinach and Ricotta Ravioli in a Sage and Butter sauce)

Raviolo di Spinachi e Ricotta – Spinach and Ricotta Ravioli in a Sage and Butter Sauce

The spaghetti dish was so colossal and filling that it threatened to end my tasting session early. Thick, cooked in egg, and served with generous dollops of lamb meat, it stood out as a champion amongst pastas. Filling enough on its own, the addition of the crushed walnut powder added more meatiness to the ragu’s flavor.  While, I certainly enjoyed the succeeding pasta courses—pillows of fine potato gnocchi and the lightest of raviolis beneath a veil of butter, the bigoli al ragu d’agnello e noci totaste is what really exemplified the restaurant’s unique qualities for me. Giano took a peasant dish and made it fit for a king!

Bigoli al Ragu D’agnello e Noci Totaste -Medieval-Style Thick Spaghetti with Slow-Braised Lamb Dusted with Crushed Walnuts

Bigoli al Ragu D’agnello e Noci Totaste – Medieval-Style Thick Spaghetti in a Ragu of Slow-Braised Lamb Dusted with Crushed Walnuts

Non-Pasta Main Courses

Baccala’ alla livornese con polenta came next. Baccala is a traditional dish of seared and salted cod. I’m no expert on European fish dishes, but one of my fellow diners insisted that the Baccala at Giano’s was the best Baccala she has had in the world. While I haven’t been to Europe in over 15 years, I can agree that the Baccala was of a superb quality as it was flaky, succulent and served atop an equally crisp piece of polenta.

Baccala’ alla Livornese con Polenta - Pan Seared Cod with Tomatoes, Black Olives, and Polenta

Baccala’ alla Livornese con Polenta – Pan Seared Cod with Tomatoes, Black Olives, and Polenta

Last up, the Fillet al Balsamico (Balsamic Glazed Fillet Mignon) came with two sides: basil whipped potatoes and pancetta diced over onions. At this point, they kept the portions mercifully small because we were absolutely stuffed after the last four courses. Arranged in an artistic green swirl, the basil whipped potatoes cleansed my palette, preparing me for one, fine cut of beef.

The only thing I can say about the fillet mignon is that I try to avoid red meat when I can, but I finished that morsel without a single regret. One day, I hope to touch someone as wonderfully as this cow’s body and soul graced my appetite. Perfectly seasoned and juicy from bite to finish, I found myself satisfied with even a small piece.

Fillet al Balsamico -Balsamic Glazed Fillet Mignon with Basil Whipped Potatoes and Pancetta with Braised Onions

Fillet al Balsamico -Balsamic Glazed Fillet Mignon with Basil Whipped Potatoes and Pancetta with Braised Onions

Giano turns tradition into innovation, taking classic Italian cuisine and decor and revitalizing it for the enjoyment of contemporary customers. With excellent homemade pastas, creative appetizers, and an atmosphere that can be enjoyed by people of any age, looking to the past never tasted so good!

Giano also offers food at the bar with a killer wine selection!

Giano also offers food at the bar with a killer wine selection!

Giano

126 East 7th Street between First Avenue and Avenue A

New York, New York 10009

Website: http://www.gianonyc.com

Telephone Number: (212) 673-7200

Closed on Mondays, Open from 5:30-11 PM from Tuesday to Thursday and on Sunday. Open from 5:30 to Midnight on Friday and Saturday. From 5:30 to 7 on every day but Friday and Saturday,

Giano also offers a happy hour with a 2-Course $21.95 Prix Fixe Dinner and ½-price on select wines by the glass.

History and Haggis at Incognito Bistro

Located on West 18th Street Between 5th and 6th Avenues, Incognito Bistro brings Italy and Scotland a short walk away from Union Square!

At a Glance

“I think I’ll have the risotto with some haggis to start!”— Words that I never foresaw myself saying! Dining in New York always inspires revolutionary cultures and tastes, but Incognito Bistro really sets a new standard, combining classic Italian favorites with delicious Scottish twists. Scottish-Italian owners Chef Paolo Montana and his wife, Adriana Moretti, who also acts as the restaurant’s hostess, have clearly succeeded in bringing their dual heritage to life just minutes away from Union Square and Gramercy in Manhattan’s Flatiron District.

Born in Glasgow, Scotland, but trained in traditional Roman cuisine, Chef Paolo makes sure to stock his kitchen and menu with all the classic Italian staples. Regardless of national origin, however, every dish sings a different ballad of flavors.

The Food 

The meal started with the Anchovie and Black Olive Pizza, a dish that managed to be sweet, savory, and sour all at the same time as the overpowering saltiness of the fish found harmony with garden vegetables and fresh mozzarella. Next came the second starter, a refreshing Tuna Tartar, which combined succulent fish with a mix of summer fruits. The Green Pea Soup, a velvety silt of verdant cream, rounded out the starting courses.

Anchovie and Black Olive Pizza

Anchovie and Black Olive Pizza

Tuna Tartar

Tuna Tartar

Green Pea Soup

Green Pea Soup

For me, the highlight of the meal could be found within the resolutely ethnic courses. Before Incognito, I had never thought I would try Haggis, a classic Scottish pudding of sheep meat and occasionally organs. Composed of tender lamb sausage and turnips over a bed of creamy potatoes soaked in whisky jus, Incognito’s variant had me hooked! The preparation and presentation brought something akin to a shepherd’s pie that eliminated any fears or doubts regarding such an exotic delicacy.

The Highland Haggis, a "national" treasure.

The Highland Haggis, a “national” treasure

Incognito continued to impress me with its pasta courses of which I sampled three: the San Paolo spaghetti drizzled with garlic and olive oil and topped with clams and pancetta (tender Italian bacon made from pork belly), a classic lasagna packed with meat, and mushroom risotto with porcini and truffle mushrooms.  Every single pasta dish was al dente as well as flavorful in its own way, but the risotto deserves special mention.

To my delight, Incognito carries through on all of its promises—the truffles were authentic and Italian in every possible way. The blast of earthy flavor coupled with lighter, sweeter hues of wine-infused broth created the most extraordinary of risottos!

Risotto with Truffles and Porcini Mushrooms and Spaghetti in Garlic and Olive Oil with Clams, Pancetta, and Chili Peppers

Risotto with Truffles and Porcini Mushrooms and San Paolo Spaghetti in Garlic and Olive Oil with Clams, Pancetta, and Chili Peppers

Classic Meat Lasagna in a Bechamel sauce of flour and butter.

Classic Meat Lasagna in a Bechamel Sauce of Flour and Butter

Additionally, for the allergic or health-conscious, Incognito also offers gluten-free and whole-wheat pasta alternatives on their menu.

Always generous, Chef Paolo allowed us to try both the Lemon Sole Fillet and Fillet Mignon for our main course. Topped with crispy breadcrumbs and a lemony white wine sauce over whipped potatoes, the Sole disappeared with a crunch as it melted in my mouth. The Fillet Mignon on the other hand was something to sit back and enjoy. Each bite presented a juicy, tender cut of meat. A combination of pepper corns, cognac, and cream made every bite a literal explosion of flavor. These classic entrees proved just as tasty as the appetizers and ethnic eats.

Sole Fish with bread crumbs, white wine, and lemon on a bed of mashed potatoes

Fillet of Sole  with Bread crumbs, White Wine, and Lemon on a Bed of Mashed Potatoes

Fillet Mignon with Black Pepper Corns, Cognac, and Cream.

Fillet Mignon with Black Pepper Corns, Cognac, and Cream

If you’re thinking that I was completely stuffed after the first six or so courses, you’re correct, but Adriana insisted that we enjoy dessert, and after the first look and a bite, I made room. Our five dessert plate consisted of Coppa Scosseze, a Scotland-influenced mix of Ice Cream, Marscapone, and Butterscotch, Tiramisu, Panna Cotta, Cheesecake, and Chocolate Torte. All I can recommend is that you try them all at some point. Among other things, Chef Paolo also excels at ice cream, pastries, berry compotes, sauces, and chocolate.

Dessert Platter with Coppa Scozzese, Panna Cotta,  Cheesecake, Chocolate Torte, Tiramisu.

Dessert Platter with Coppa Scozzese, Panna Cotta, Cheesecake, Chocolate Torte, Tiramisu

The Atmosphere

Throughout our meal, and in between a rainbow of fine European wines, the whimsical Adriana entertained us with stories of Incognito’s crowning accomplishments. The restaurant has been certified as authentically Italian by culinary authorities from Italy. Its décor consists of original art and painted columns by a descendant of the Pre-Raphaelite Albert Moore. In terms of fashion, Incognito’s entire staff is even decked out with the first-recognized, official Scottish-Italian tartan, Clan Italia. Additionally on Tuesday nights, Incognito features live jazz music.

Incognito's Elegant Dining Room

Incognito’s Elegant Dining Room

View of the Bar

View of the Bar

All in all, Incognito Bistro brought my tastebuds and my heart a much-needed European vacation. Chef Paolo and Adriana have truly outdone themselves with creating an authentic, yet innovative dining experience. If you love Italian food, do yourself a favor and pay this establishment a visit, though be sure to try the Scottish offerings as well.

Be sure to send my regards to Chef Paolo and Adrianna. Their restaurant is a cultural and culinary gem.

Be sure to send my regards to Chef Paolo and Adriana when you visit!

Incognito Bistro
30 West 18th Street
(Between Fifth & Sixth Avenues)
New York, NY 10011
Website: incognitobistro.com
Open Monday to Saturday and closed on Sundays
Lunch is available from 11:30 to 4:00 and Dinner is on from 4:00 to 10:30 (11:00 on Saturdays). Happy hour is from 11:00 AM to 10:30 PM. All major credit cards accepted.

Incognito Bistro’s Dinner Menu