Sant Pau — Tokyo (10/2013)

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I heard about this restaurant while doing some casual reading about Tokyo food. Sant Pau is a one-star (I think it used to have two) Michelin restaurant in a city with the most stars total of any city.  I checked advanced availability and it looked to be easier to book than many other places (via OpenTable.com).  So, when the opportunity came up to try and fit a dinner in, I was able to do so.  I planned for a late dinner (by my standards) at around 8pm, in case my incoming flight to Tokyo was delayed.  I arrived at the restaurant about 25 minutes early (it’s conveniently located in Central Tokyo) and they were able to take me to my table directly.

The restaurant is an offshoot of Carme Ruscalleda’s place of the same name in Sant Pol de Mar near Barcelona.  The seasonal menus are coordinated, with the exception that the Tokyo branch uses local Japanese ingredients to create the dishes, which are categorized as modern Spanish/Catalonian.

 I went ahead and decided to do the full degustation menu.  After I decided, they brought this smaller version for me to use to follow along with the courses.

 The tables were grouped into small sections.  The mood was subdued, but with spot lighting at the tables.  There was instrumental music playing at a very low volume in the background.

For the full write-up, click here.

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Juni — New York City (9/2013)

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This restaurant was brought to my attention by a friend.  The restaurant had only opened a few weeks before my visit.  It was listed on OpenTable.com and was easy to book.  From the initial description, it looked like a restaurant with the appropriate cuisine for me.

The restaurant was divided into two rooms. I had an early reservation because of a show I was attending later, so it was pretty empty for the first part of my meal.  The atmosphere was quiet ambience, although it might have been too quiet, as when other patrons arrived, their conversations from across the room carried pretty well.

There were three options for ordering.  One could order the 10-course tasting menu. Or, one could order a 4- or 6-course menu where you select from a list of items (different than what was listed on the 10-course menu) to construct your own meal.  The menu photos aren’t very clear, unfortunately.  But the listings are not very descriptive.  They just list the main components to each of the offered dishes.

The wine list by-the-glass list was of average length.  They offered a Riesling from the Finger Lakes region of New York State, so I went with that to start off the meal.

For the full write-up, click here.

Atera 2nd Visit — New York City (9/2013)

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I first visited Atera about 14 months prior to this visit.  Then, it was relatively new and you could book via OpenTable.com.  Now, it is a 2-star Michelin restaurant, you have to pay in advance (food+tax+gratuity), and it is often difficult to get a seat on the weekend.  The only things you pay for at the end are your beverages.  I decided that since I was going to be working in New York for a week, I could book a dinner during the week.  I ended up booking a late dinner (the 9:30pm seating) on a Thursday night.  I wanted to go back and see how the place had evolved.

I arrived a little early but it was not a problem.  They led me down to the “new” lunge located on a lower level.  It’s a nice cozy area with a bar and lounge seating.  They have a cocktail and short wine list that you can choose from.  I stuck with the water (still or sparkling) that they offered.

The restaurant looked the same as before, with seats arranged around a U-shaped counter with a view of the kitchen area.  They were not fully occupied this evening, with a couple of seats empty.  They sat me in the exact same spot – center with a straight on view of the kitchen.  The vibe seemed different now, as there was 80’s music playing at medium volume.  The overall ambience seemed a little less formal than my prior visit.

For the full write-up, click here.

Atelier Crenn — San Francisco (9/2013)

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Dominique Crenn is the only 2-star Michelin female chef in the U.S.  I did not know that when I made a reservation.  I was looking for a “home town” restaurant at the last minute over the weekend. To get a list of options, I searched on molecular cuisine. I could have gone back and revisited some places, but Atelier Crenn came up as a choice and I felt like trying a new place.  And, it was available for booking for an early dinner just a couple of days in advance on OpenTable.com.  They call what they do “poetic cuisine”.  Instead of a menu, diners are presented with a poem.  On-line, they indicated there were two menus – a five-course Signature menu and a Grand Tasting Menu (about 11 courses).  On the evening I visited, they were only offering the Grand Tasting menu (which was what I was going to have anyway).

When seated, diners are presented with a poem that represents the meal for the evening.  It does not have dishes or ingredients.

For the full write-up, click here.