Atomix 2nd Visit — New York City (6/2019)

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Atomix is still a relatively new restaurant on the scene. Even though they recently were awarded a Michelin star, I was hoping that after my first visit in March, their menu would still be evolving as the seasons changed. I enjoyed the first experience enough even with its flaws that I wanted to see what they would do with a late spring/early summer menu. Since I had planned a visit to New York well in advance, I was able to secure a reservation through Tock right when seats were released for the date and time I wanted (Reservations are released a month at a time on the first day of the prior month and are pre-paid). Diners are seated around a U-shaped counter which encloses the beverage preparation area.
The chef spent time at Jungsik, New York’s 2-star Michelin Korean fine dining restaurant. Atomix presents a seasonal, Korean cuisine-inspired tasting menu. They offer wine pairings with their courses. However, I opted to start the meal with their house-made Magnolia kombucha and then asked them to serve teas from their list as appropriate.

While I was considering the beverage options, I was offered as a small bite soon after being seating. It was white shrimp tartare with pine nuts and fermented white asparagus.

The next small bite was smoked trout roe and rice in a seaweed cracker wrap.
I started off with Magnolia kombucha as a beverage.
As before, each course is preceded by presentation of a card that provided the name of the Korean course. The art on the cards for this menu had the Korean symbols for each course depicted abstractly on one side. Each card listed the principle ingredients followed by discussions covering the history of using the specific ingredients, the sources, the preparation methods, and/or general comments about the menu and the research involved for its creation. Finally, the creator of the serving dish is listed.

The first course was a soup featuring firefly squid seasoned with mirin (sweet rice wine) and Yondu (a seasoning derived from simmered vegetables). With it was fermented chickpea with squid, beech mushroom and more mirin and Yondu. At the counter, they finished with squid soup (a squid dashi seasoned with dried anchovy, garlic, scallions and mirin).

For the full write-up, click here.

For the write-up from the first visit, click here.

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The Clove Club 8th Visit — London (5/2019)

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As a change of pace, and because of my flight schedule, I made a dinner reservation at The Clove Club instead of the usual lunch visit. In terms of the food, it is generally the same as the long lunch menu on the weekends. I was at the bar for the meal. The differences were that I had to go through a lighting change as the evening progressed and dinner reservations are prepaid when the reservation is made.

Before starting in with the non-alcoholic pairings, I ordered a glass of the South African Chenin Blanc to go with the small bites.
The experience started off with a melon granita with ham gelée, charcoal cream, elderflowers and gazpacho reduction. This was a refreshing beginning.

The next bite was spider crab tart with elderflower hollandaise and devil spices. On the side was a trout belly tartare with crème fraiche and Sancho pepper.
The next bite was the familiar (and always good) buttermilk fried chicken with pine needle salt.

Also served very warm was the mushroom haggis bun with cider vinegar.
The first menu course was a salad of biodynamic vegetables with a dressing of turnip milk and sesame.
To start the beverage pairing, they served white peony tea made with softened water.

The next beverage was fresh cucumber juice seasoned with mustard seed shrub.
The next course was lightly hay-smoked river trout, toasted almonds, watercress, and ossetra caviar.

The beverage for the next course was chamomile with a little smoked lemon and verjus.

For this course, we start off with Scottish langoustine, served with morels and asparagus.
This was soon followed by ancient proto-grains noodles from Orkney with langoustine broth. This had an especially good flavor.

For the full write-up, click here.

The French Laundry — Yountville (4/2017)

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A friend from out of town asked if I was interested in going to The French Laundry in several weeks. I said that if we could get in, absolutely! He managed to secure a reservation for an 8:30pm on a Sunday, leveraging the concierge benefit at American Express Platinum Card to get us in. The French Laundry is one of the two 3-star Michelin restaurants located in the Napa Valley. We were staying in downtown Napa, so we gave ourselves plenty of time to get to the restaurant. We ended up walking into the restaurant more than a half-hour early for our reservation. They did not seem to have a problem seating us so early, so we were led upstairs to the smaller dining room.

They offer two menus – the standard menu and a vegetarian menu.

The standard menu had some options, where on the first and second courses, you could upgrade to a different course for a supplemental fee. Additionally, for the main meat course, they offered a substantial upgrade. There were 10 courses listed on the menu, but there was an amuse bouche course and a final offering of chocolates. The vegetarian menu had no upgrade options available. Both basic menus were the same price.

The wine cellar holds 60,000 bottles. The wine list is on an iPad and is quite amazing. There is a list of wines by the glass. And just as a sample, I took some photos of a few of the Burgundy wines.

For the full write-up, click here.

42 grams 12th Visit — Chicago (3/2017)

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This visit was my first with their new format for 2017 with just one seating for the evening. Timing-wise, it worked best for me as dinner probably wasn’t going to run as late as the late seating used to run. However, the price went up with the new format and the experience was no longer BYOB (for free).
With the new format, there were going to increase the number of courses, upgrade the course ingredients and slow the pace of the experience. Also, they recently received their liquor license and now had a wine list (by the bottle only). It wasn’t going to work for me to buy one of their bottles, so I just opted for tea. I ended up being seated next to another solo diner who did order a bottle, and he shared a glass with me, which was very nice.

The menu is not normally presented at the beginning. I just placed the photo up front to allow viewing of the wine choices and food at the same time.

For the full write-up, click here.

It is also with a great deal of sadness that I have to report that 42 grams is now closed.  It was one of my favorite restaurants anywhere, and I will miss the food and the people that made each dining experience an enjoyable one.  There is an independent film that made its premier in March called “Courses” that documents the history of Sous Rising/42 grams.  See it if you can.

 

Pineapple and Pearls 2nd Visit — Washington DC (1/2017)

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I had a work trip come up, so I used the opportunity to dine a second time at Pineapple and Pearls.  I knew enough in advance to be able to secure a spot.  In the seven months since my first visit, the restaurant garnered 2 Michelin starts in the debut of the guide for the Washington DC area.  The format and prices had not changed.  As a single diner, the only place I could book a seat was at the bar.  But that’s fine, as it meant beverage pairings were optional.  Half the meal is charged when you make the reservation and the balance the day of prior to arrival.

Upon entering the restaurant, they offered me one of two pre-dinner cocktails.  It was either a whisky cocktail or this, which was a blend of hot white chocolate, mescal, and chartreuse.

After being seated, I was offered the beverage menu, which listed more cocktails, wines-by-the-glass and beverage pairings options (alcoholic and non-alcoholic).  This time, I went with the non-alcoholic pairing. I was also offered the choice of still or sparkling water.

The first bite offered was the same as at the first visit – fennel bon bon with a touch of absinthe. Beet sugar formed the shell and inside was fennel yogurt, dehydrated golden raisin zest.  Underneath as a chaser was a combination of fennel, sunchoke, apple and celery juice with a splash of absinthe.

The next small bite was a beef tartare wrapped by cured sirloin into a roll.  This was topped with paddlefish roe and shitake ash.

My first beverage pairing was a winter pear and vanilla sparking cider.

The next small bite was a hoecake/johnnycake served takoyaki style (grilled pancake in the shape of a ball found commonly as street food) with Périgord black truffle and honey.

The next dish was a compressed napkin that they added hot water to for a finger towel to clean up after the finger food. It was scented with Kafir lime and ginger.

For the full write-up, click here.

 

Atera 4th Visit — New York City (1/2017)

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A restaurant I had planned to dine at for the first time cancelled my reservation a day in advance due to unforeseen circumstances.  I managed to secure a last-minute reservation at Atera.  It had been about 18 months since my last visit.  It was a Saturday night, so I was a little surprised that a spot was available for the early seating.  But it was there on Opentable.com, so I took it.  Once I booked it, I was committed, since they have a 48-hour cancellation policy.

I was seated soon after arriving.  It looked like there were a few staff changes, but also some familiar faces.  They did remember that I had been there before.  I had a side seat this time (despite what they said about solo diner placement the last time). We started with a hot towel to freshen up.

The wine list by the glass seemed longer than the last time.  They also offered both a standard pairing and premium pairing (but no explicit premium by the glass offerings).  I went with a glass of the Puligny-Montrachet (from a magnum), which was premium enough.

We started the menu off with a beverage of lime snow and warm juniper foam.

Fermented mushrooms and burgundy truffle were served on a crispy waffle as the next small bite.

For the full write-up, click here.

 

Pineapple and Pearls 2nd Visit — Washington DC (1/2017)

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I had a work trip come up, so I used the opportunity to dine a second time at Pineapple and Pearls.  I knew enough in advance to be able to secure a spot.  In the seven months since my first visit, the restaurant garnered 2 Michelin starts in the debut of the guide for the Washington DC area.  The format and prices had not changed.  As a single diner, the only place I could book a seat was at the bar.  But that’s fine, as it meant beverage pairings were optional.  Half the meal is charged when you make the reservation and the balance the day of prior to arrival.

Upon entering the restaurant, they offered me one of two pre-dinner cocktails.  It was either a whisky cocktail or this, which was a blend of hot white chocolate, mescal, and chartreuse.

After being seated, I was offered the beverage menu, which listed more cocktails, wines-by-the-glass and beverage pairings options (alcoholic and non-alcoholic).  This time, I went with the non-alcoholic pairing. I was also offered the choice of still or sparkling water.

The first bite offered was the same as at the first visit – fennel bon bon with a touch of absinthe. Beet sugar formed the shell and inside was fennel yogurt, dehydrated golden raisin zest.  Underneath as a chaser was a combination of fennel, sunchoke, apple and celery juice with a splash of absinthe.

The next small bite was a beef tartare wrapped by cured sirloin into a roll.  This was topped with paddlefish roe and shitake ash.

My first beverage pairing was a winter pear and vanilla sparking cider.

The next small bite was a hoecake/johnnycake served takoyaki style (grilled pancake in the shape of a ball found commonly as street food) with Périgord black truffle and honey.

The next dish was a compressed napkin that they added hot water to for a finger towel to clean up after the finger food. It was scented with Kafir lime and ginger.

The next dish was a single long housemade chilled udon noodle with Jonah crab,  tempura, blood orange, ginger and toasted pumpkin seeds.  This was fruity and salty with a nice added crunch from the tempura for texture contrast.

For the full write-up, click here.