Restaurant Review: Ristorante Morini

A typical day for me involves taking a rather long, but not arduous, journey uptown by way of Madison Avenue. There are worse avenues to travel. And every day, for quite sometime, I pass Ristorante Morini and make mental notes to eat there. Thanks to Gilt City, I finally got my chance. Being of the kind that spends hours reading Yelp reviews and following food blogs, I was well aware that Ristorante Morini was not only one of the restaurants belonging to Michael White’s Altamarea Group but also that it had a pretty darn good reputation. And judging by my experience it’s a reputation that’s well-earned.

Ristorante Morini BarRistorante Morini

Upon entry, the first thing you’ll notice about Ristorante Morini is their gorgeous bar, which adds character to the white tablecloth atmosphere. The restaurant does consist of two levels, with the top accessible by elevator. Drawing a fair, but not crushing crowd, their prix fixe lunch menu is one of the better ones that I’ve seen in the city. For our appetizers my guest, Rosemary from NYC Style & A Little Cannoli, had Bocconcini – tomato-braised chicken-eggplant meatballs with mozzarella di bufala and garnished with torn basil.

Ristorante Morini Chicken MeatballsRistorante Morini Meatballs

The meatballs were insane – perfectly tender, and packed with flavor. They tasted like they had some kind of sausage in them, but I’m not certain. I had the Tonno – bigeye tuna tartare, crispy fingerlings, radish, and parsnip crema. I’m a massive tartare fan, so I eat tuna pretty often. This tartare was fresh, and I loved the texture added on by the crispy fingerlings, but the most spectacular addition to this tartare was the crisped capers. They tasted like they had been briefly pan fried, which gave this instant pop of saltiness that enhanced the whole dish.

Ristorante Morini Tartare

For our main, she had grilled sea bass, served with cauliflower, pine nuts, golden raisins, and saba. The dish was plated beautifully, and according to Rosemary, very delicious. I had the Milanese, a crispy veal cutlet wrapped in bruschetta, and served with aged balsamico and cream spinach. I loved it, it’s so filling that I couldn’t even finish all of it (which rarely happens, haha!).

Ristorante Morini Sea Bass

For dessert we had the Budino – a sweet italian custard or pudding – this one featured Gianduja, chocolate crema, banana, and hazelnut gelato. Rosemary had the Panna Cotta, one of my favorite desserts, this was a vanilla panna cotta with citrus, pistachio, toasted meringue, and blood orange granita.

Ristorante Morini DulceRistorante Morini BudinoRistorante Morini Panna Cotta

The toasted meringue were so tiny and perfect! They were really reflective of the entire meal which was clearly executed perfectly and done with attention to every detail. I cannot wait to bring my friends and family here – next time I’m definitely trying their pasta, which I’ve heard nothing but good things about! Want to dine at Ristorante Morini yourself? Right now Gilt City had an amazing deal for dinner and brunch at Ristorante Morini – check them out here! While you’re there be sure to check out Gilt City’s other local offerings!

Sunday Lunch at Vai

For weeks now I’ve been trying to hammer down a date with my mom to take her to lunch at Vai. I had read good things about the small restaurant and after browsing their menu online, everything sounded so good that I was really excited to eat there. So after ages of figuring out a day that was good for both of us we finally made it!

We made reservations over the phone, although I was given the impression that it wasn’t absolutely necessary to do so. We arrived right on time and were promptly seated, a few minutes later we were given our menus and glasses of water. The place had about five to six other couples, and the actual space was far smaller than I had imagined it would be. That being said, I loved the décor and general feel of the place – it was nice without being stuffy, and I loved the brick walls, hanging lights, and massive mirror over the bar.

Vai Restaurant NYC | nyctalon.com

Now here comes the sticky part. It took forever for them to take our order, granted there was only one host and one hostess, our order wasn’t taken until at least half an hour after we arrived. We didn’t see our first course until an hour had passed. On top of that, the menu was reduced to a few items (we only had one choice for the second course) and didn’t at all reflect the options seen online. There was a moment where we had waited so long for our food that my mom and I just sat there, grinning at each other, driven far past being incredulous and almost into insanity by the discomfort of the wait. The host and the hostess kept refilling our water glasses and seemed as embarrassed by the wait as we were. It just has to be said, two hours for lunch is far too long especially when almost all that time is spent seated and waiting.

Hamachi Yellowfin Tuna Duo, Vai Restaurant NYC | nyctalon.com

Even so, my mom and I absolutely loved the food. Yes, really. In fact we loved it so much that we’d even go back again – despite the possibility of a long wait. We both had the Hamachi and Yellowfin Tuna Duo with avocado and preserved ginger sauce. It was seasoned perfectly, the creaminess of the avocado, sweet almost citrus flavors of the preserved ginger sauce, and bright punch from the cilantro garnish was, as my mom said, “perfectly balanced”.

Burrata Ravioli from Vai in NYC | nyctalon.com

For our second course we both had the Burrata Ravioli. Two ravioli served with a rich truffle cream, tiny Hon Shimeji mushrooms, and 18 mo. Parmigiano was the stuff of dreams. It was incredibly rich and creamy, I had to restrain myself from licking the plate. It was the sort of dish that you eat in complete silence, letting the flavors envelope your tongue.

Trout, Vai Restaurant NYC | nyctalon.comScottish Salmon, Vai Restaurant NYC | nyctalon.com

Lastly, my mom had the trout served over cannellini and chorizo (the menu item isn’t on the website), and I had Scottish Salmon with roasted cauliflower and chorizo. We both loved our fish – perfectly cooked, served attractively, and tasted wonderful. I loved the crunch of the roasted cauliflower and the saltiness of the chorizo – I’d have it again in a New York minute!

Overall, prepare for a wait, but definitely come for the food!

Vai
429 Amsterdam Ave
New York, NY 10024
(212) 362-4500

http://vairestaurant.com/

Lunch at Bagatelle

Backstory; a couple of years ago I joined SearsStyle for a brunch at Bagatelle in the Meatpacking District where I had the most amazing black truffle scrambled eggs. Since then I always meant to return, if not for the truffled eggs than at least to try their other eating options. I recently spotted them on Gilt City* (a higher-end version of Groupon) and thought it was a no-brainer, of course I bought a voucher for lunch! Out we went on a blisteringly cold day, my sister, my voucher and I downtown to Bagatelle.

Bagatelle-NYC-Lunch

Our voucher included one appetizer, two entrees, and one dessert. We started with a Bagatelle Salad – hearts of lettuce, parmesan cheese, fresh garden herbs, and a mustard vinaigrette. The salad was crisp and fresh, the vinaigrette was a bit heavy for my sister, but I thought it was great.

Bagatelle-NYC

As an entree, I ordered the Ahi Tuna Tartare Bagatelle – featuring a lime soy vinaigrette, avocado salad, and taro chips. The portion was massive. I always forget how filling tuna is, especially raw tuna. I loved the lime soy vinaigrette – which really added a much needed citrus flavor to cut through the clean and creamy flavors of the tuna and avocado salad. Now, I’m in no way a chef or culinary professional, but I feel like I would have enjoyed it far better if the portion was made smaller or served as individual bites. There was nothing wrong with it – the flavors were great – but it was just not something I really enjoyed eating, if that makes sense.

Tuna-Tartare-Bagatelle-NYC

My sister ordered the Steak Frites Chimi-Choron Sauce – black angus sirloin steak, homemade pommes frites, and cilantro-chipotle bearnaise sauce. No stranger to heat, chipotles, or cilantro, we both deemed this sauce a dud. The fries were perfect, as in you could-not-make-them-in-any-way-better perfect. The steak was also perfectly cooked (medium/rare), but unfortunately Bagatelle seemed to be lacking in serrated steak knives. A quick trip to Bowery Kitchens next door in the Chelsea Market would have taken care of that. So in short, cutting the steak was a job. Such a job, it took away from the enjoyment of said steak. I felt like I was ‘tearin the beastie wit me bare hands’. Also, as fun as having steak for lunch sounds, unless you work on a ranch it’s definitely a safer bet to go for something lighter.

Bagatelle-Lunch-Steak

Our choice of dessert was the Creme Brulee aux Framboises. We actually picked this out while looking at their online menu before we even arrived at Bagatelle. It’s meant to be a raspberry creme brulee served with salted chocolate cookies and raspberry sorbet. What is was was a deliciously creamy creme brulee, perfectly torched, served with raspberry sorbet – whose tart flavor was the most ideal accompaniment to the sweet creaminess of the brulee. I was tempted to lick the plate. It was a perfect end to our otherwise so/so meal and a reminder of why Bagatelle had left such a lasting impression on me in the first place.

Creme-Brulee-aux-FramboisesCreme-Brulee-Bagatelle

Ultimately, I feel like their entrees were a let-down from what had drawn me back. Could it be it was due to a slow afternoon or maybe the head chef wasn’t in? I don’t know. It is a beautiful restaurant, the dessert was delicious, and the service is definitely on point, and my sister and I had a lovely time just chatting and enjoying each others company – but the entrees, not so much.

Bagatelle
1 Little West 12th Street
New York, NY 10014
(212) 488 – 2110

http://www.bagatellenyc.com/

Cape May: Cape Orient Review

So earlier this summer, my sister and I went on a week long vacation to the Jersey shore – no, not that Jersey shore – we hit up classic seaside destination Cape May. We had a blast – and minus a car we definitely had our fair share of adventures. I’ll be sharing all the deets of our vacay, including where we played and stayed as well as our picks for the best places to eat, sleep, and tan!

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One of the places we ate at was the Cape Orient – located right off of Washington Square Mall, and a few paces away from Acme supermarket, Cape Orient is an established Cape May eatery. It’s obviously a favorite of the locals, many of the customers were familiar with the staff and would actually call in to pre-order the fish they planned on eating before coming in for dinner. One of the walls in the entrance is lined with awards and reviews, and despite their apparent culinary klout we found the hostess that greeted us to be very warm and friendly – but not in that weird overbearing way that makes you feel like you’re about to get fleeced.

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Now, the two times that we went were for takeout. The first time we shared Chicken Pad Thai and Wonton Soup Deluxe – it came out to about $14.

The description for the Wonton Soup Deluxe said it had chicken and shrimp, but ours also had shreds of pork, as well as snow peas, carrots, and of course, wonton. The pork, chicken, and shrimp were tender, the snow peas and carrots were bright and tasty, while the wonton literally melted in my mouth. It was simply delicious, flavorful, and one order of the small ($3.95) was enough for both of us to share.

CapeMay1
The Chicken Pad Thai was my favorite item that we tried from Cape Oriental. The noodles were perfectly cooked and packed with flavor! It’s not overwhelmingly spicy (keep in mind, we love spice/heat in my house and often eat such foods), and definitely rates as one of the top Pad Thai’s that I’ve ever had. It contained peanuts, scallions, basil, onion, red chili pepper, and other spices. While it was enough to fill us, it was so good that we could’ve eaten more just for the flavor.

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Ours came with white rice and a sweet & sour (?) sauce. We actually didn’t use the sauce – I didn’t like it, I know some people are big fans but the smell just turns my stomach. But we liked the Pad Thai noodles so much that we’re determined to find good Thai in the city now!

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The second time we ordered Peking Duck Rolls, and Chicken Lo Mein. The Lo Mein looked like standard NYC fare, but was surprisingly tasty. And unlike standard NYC fare, it wasn’t drenched in oil and had a nice amount of veggies – which I thoroughly appreciated.

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The Peking Duck Rolls however, were more of a disappointment. There was far to much hoisin sauce in our rolls – and ruined the perfectly tender and otherwise delicious mahogany roast duck. If there had been less hoisin I’m sure the rolls would have been amazing, but our rolls pretty much had equal parts hoisin and equal parts duck – which isn’t the most desirable combo.

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Altogether, Cape Orient was definitely a great find for us. We would go back in a heartbeat. In fact in hindsight I wish we had had another round of their Pad Thai during our stay. Their menu is definitely worth exploring – and I do hope I get another chance to do so!

Beating the Heat with Cool Gear! #HotintheCity

Content Disclosure
Every summer without fail my family makes a point of throwing a few barbecue’s – well, except for last summer. Last summer we were really busy and never managed to pull one together, so the second the weather began to heat up we made plans to go grillin’! Living in the city means having to go to a grill friendly park to get your barbecue on – so you have to be really selective about what you bring with you and how you carry it, because you’ll be traveling with it. Luckily for us I recently received Cool Gear’s new Collapsible Bento Box and Basic Lunch Tote Bag – which are really both lifesavers when it comes to transporting food!

Cool Gear

The Collapsible Bento Box in purple and the Basic Tote Lunch Bag in black

cool gear bento box

The Bento Box in action :)

We used the Collapsible Bento Box to bring our pickles and our tomato cucumber salad. Seriously, the Bento Box is one of my favorite items of the summer – the bottom collapsible portion stretches out to hold quite a lot of food (salad, a meal, whatever you want!), the middle part holds the three smaller containers – but it’s also able to be frozen, which keeps both the items in the top and bottom sections cool. Love, love, love it! My sisters, brother, and parents all want one of their own now!

Cool Gear Lunch Tote

I used the Basic Lunch Tote Bag to tote the Bento Box – it’s super cute, and Cool Gear offers lot’s of styles. It’s very roomy and sturdy, and comes with a zip pocket on the outside. I stored some first aid items in the zip pocket and used the bag to store my camera in when I wasn’t using it so it wouldn’t overheat by sitting out in the sun.

coolgear

Water balloons & hot dogs? Yes please!

We ended up eating all the salad that we packed in the Bento Box, so we were able to collapse it – just slide the bottom portion onto itself, it’s great! Both the Bento Box and Tote Bag were excellent space savers and kept everything cool – even after five hours!

Check out Cool Gear, and their amazing products here! And don’t forget to check out the Collapsible Bento Box here, it retails for $12.99 and is worth every penny!

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