It might be said that we were a little “obsessed” with the “Obsessed” episode of No Reservations we saw a few weeks before we headed to New York. We added a few restaurants from that show to our ever-expanding list of places to go in NYC, including Co. Pizza which I already wrote about but what Neil was really looking forward to was the Black Label Burger at the Minetta Tavern.
According to their website, Minetta Tavern was opened in Greenwich Village in 1937. The Tavern was named after the Minetta Brook, which ran southwest from 23rd Street to the Hudson River. Over the course of its long history, the Tavern was frequented by various layabouts and hangers-on including Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound, Eugene O’Neill, E. E. Cummings, Dylan Thomas, and Joe Gould, as well as by various writers, poets, and pugilists.
This place has the feel of an authentic French bistro – it’s not a place for an intimate dinner. Tables are very close together and you end up chatting with your neighbours whether you like it or not. It’s all very jovial. Add in a cloud of smoke hovering above your head and old men at the bar drinking ballons of red at 10am and you could well be in Paris. Something else that made me think of Paris was the waiters. These people know their stuff. And take it very seriously. Again, reminded me of being in Paris where serveur is an actual profession and treated accordingly by those who practise it.
We started out with a champagne cocktail for me and a martini for Neil:
And since we knew from Bourdain’s show that serving sizes were large, we opted to share a salad. This was a special of the night with chicory, mushrooms and a poached egg. Simple, elegant and a great start to our evening.
For mains, I chose the pork tenderloin special.
Had we known the price ($34) when we ordered it, we might not have done so. Because if you think that the photo above looks like a gigantic platter of meat, then you would be right. This was so much meat and not enough of the delicious polenta it was served on. Oh, and one baby carrot? Seriously?
I actually sent this back because it was just a tad too pink for me and instead of cooking that portion more, they sent me back a new one, again, not quite cooked enough for me. I let it go and ate the end parts – Neil ate a fair amount of this but between us, we left a lot. I hate to waste food and wish that we had had a fridge in our hotel room to take it with us. This would have been more than enough to share. The flavours were spot on though.
For the second main, we knew we would end up ordering the Black Label Burger – the one Bourdain came here seeking out. At $26, it’s not a cheap burger (especially when you consider it’s actually fairly small) but by golly it’s good:
Case in point: Neil ordered this medium and it came out on the rare side of medium and even I ate a healthy portion of this. The frites were incredible – crunchy on the outside and creamy on the inside. This was a great plate of food. Simply. Terrific.
And since we *were* there celebrating my birthday, we figured a dessert was in order. A soufflé. Grand Marnier. (to share)
This was absolutely one of the best things I have ever eaten. With a glass of Orange Muscat (“Essensia” Quady Winery, CA ‘07, $11) it was a little party in my mouth.
We really enjoyed our meal here. Though we were only able to get a 6pm reservation, they let us linger (nearly 3 1/2 hours!) which was nice. Whilst it was loud, the atmosphere is very convivial and it just has a great feel to it. If you know you are going to get (really) big portions in advance (though even we weren’t prepared for quite how big they were!), it will be easier to order accordingly. Oh and if you’re a vegetarian, you might just want to go to Mamoun’s down the street for a falafel 😉
113 MacDougal Street
New York, NY 10012-1201, United States
On our last night in NYC, we headed to Kampuchea where we believe that Bourdain was on a(nother) pork quest. Their menu is a lot of small plates – we ordered four small and two large to share. Can you guess what we ordered?
This was absolutely amazing – the creamy mayo combined withe kick of chili with the touch of coconut – out of this world. Doesn’t sound like the best on paper but a match made in heaven! Will be replicating this on the grill chez nous this summer!
Any chance we get, we order green mango salad.
This was wonderfully light and fresh but I feel the dried shrimp were a bit of overkill – way too “fishy” tasting and not necessary. This was a great palate cleanser though amongst some other spicier dishes.
Fried chicken (yes, this was Neil’s choice):
Taste revelation? The spiced fleur de sel. OMG! This was out of this world. The chicken was pretty good (not greasy, moist and flavourful) but what really made the dish was the dipping salt. Again, this will be replicated this summer!
Pièce de résistance? Crisy pork belly:
Whilst pork belly is a bit too fatty for my liking, Neil ate his portion silently. In about 2 seconds. It was that good. no wonder Bourdain sought this place out!
And for mains? Any guesses?
Well of course we couldn’t go past the ribs:
We actually saw these being served as we were entering the restaurant and it was hard for me to get Neil to focus on anything else. This was tender, falling-off-the-bone meaty goodness. The cilantro-lime sauce was good but we really didn’t need it at all. Now, to learn how to make amazing ribs like that at home…
Next up – what could be better than fried rice? BACON fried rice!
Oh yeah! This was an amazing combination – the garlic, the bacon (and the fact that it was clearly fried in the bacon fat), the hint of spice. My thinking cap is on. Flavours seem so simple but I am sure it takes more than just what’s listed in the menu to make it. Hmmm…
This place was such a find – it’s on the Lower East Side where we don’t normally tend to go (though coincidentally this trip, both our brunch destinations were on the LES) but I would go here again in a heartbeat! Authentic Asian flavours bordering on unusual fusion, what’s not to love?
Kampuchea and The Norry Bar
78 Rivington St
New York, 10002, United States