Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Sunday, August 17, 2008


I must admit that I expected Hearth to be a far more rustic dining experience than it turned out to be. The name itself conjured up in me images of a wood fired oven turning out simple peasant food, I suppose I was expecting an experience closer to what one gets at Peasant on Elizabeth Street. What I got at Hearth was far closer in both spirit and execution to Craft, food that might be rooted in Italian tradition but with heavy modern, particularly American, influences.

And the room itself, which again given the name, could have been a eclectic menagerie of wood and brick is instead decidedly more modern. While it does have the exposed raw brick walls that I anticipated, it is only on the restaurants facade. The interior dining room is all metal and refined wood.
Hearth has a voluminous wine list with some pricey offerings as well as some fairly esoteric ones. It is also one of the wordiest lists I have come across offering lengthy discourses on the types of wine and detailed information about the vineyard. Such is the case with the excellent bottle of 1999 Les Terrasses from Alvaro Palacious that accompanied my dinner. Forget the completely tortured and ridiculous comparison that is made between the vintner and the Punk revolution of the 1970's and just enjoy the wine, which was excellent.

I opted to sample the five course tasting menu which was priced at $90. The first course was a poached lobster with Fava bean ravioli, leeks and orange. The generous portion of lobster was complimented nicely by the ravioli and the creamy Fava beans. Unfortunately I found that while the claw was perfectly poached the tail was a bit less succulent than I prefer. I often find that like chicken, lobster benefits from having its disparate parts prepared separately. What is good for the goose's breast is not necessarily good for the gander's legs, so to speak.

If I had some criticism of the first course the kitchen redeemed itself with the follow up, a beautifully roasted arctic char served over corn and Chanterelles. The milky flesh of the char was both tender and succulent and at the same time had a texturally pleasing firmness. In terms of flavor the char really falls between salmon and trout, the two fish breed which char is most closely related. I would be remiss if I did not mention the wedge of supremely crispy skin that accompanied the dish, it added a wonderful element to the dish.

Next up was the dish I had been most looking forward to which was the grilled Wagyu flank steak served with scallions, shallots and a parsley puree. Once again (and I apologize to long time readers if I am sounding like a broken record) I must take issue with the nomenclature - Wagyu beef comes from Japan and it is a pure breed. Domestic "Wagyu", which is what is served at Hearth, is a cross breed between Japanese Wagyu cattle and domestic breeds such as Long Horn or more often Black Angus. My quibbles with the name aside the dish was very good. The steak was cooked as close to black and blue as one could reasonably expect from a non steakhouse kitchen and was very tender and flavorful. The scallions and shallots added a savory contrast to the charred flesh and the parley puree provinding a balanced dish in terms of both flavor and texture.

The basil pana cotta that followed was perfectly set and provided a fascinating amalgam of sweet and savory, evoking pizza by virtue of the basil, the creaminess from the milk and the acidity of the strawberries. It was an unexpected but pleasant flavor profile.

The desert course was a nectarine and raspberry cobbler served a la mode with vanilla ice cream. It was a generous dish both in terms of portion size and in flavor, the tangy filling was balanced by the velvety richness of the ice cream and complimented texturally by the flaky crust.

The service at Hearth was casual and familiar and the staff was well versed and knowledgable about the menu. The room, despite my expectations, was clean and uncluttered and the food, aside from the slightly over cooked lobster delivered. Recommended.

403 E. 12th St.
(1st Ave.)
Manhattan, NY

Hearth on Urbanspoon

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Smith and Wollensky Porterhouse

I had occasion to dine at Smith & Wollensky last week. I was not expecting to have anything new to add to my recent review but they have now added a porterhouse for two which I feel is worth mentioning. As I stated in my full review S&W remains one of my favorite steakhouses in NYC, which makes it one of my favorite steakhouses anywhere.

Unlike a majority of "house" wines S7W is easy to recommend

I was frankly surprised to see the porterhouse for two offered here because for so many years S&W has refrained from succumbing to the increasingly prevalent trend of serving the cut. My guess is that the cut has become so entrenched in the steakhouse vernacular, by virtue of all of the Peter Luger's clones offering it, that S&W must have received so many requests for it that they felt obligated to add it to their permanent menu.

Porterhouse for two

Thankfully S&W have not strayed from their steak formula by serving their porterhouse in the Peter Luger's model - despite how impressive the spectacle of the spluttering, sizzling platter of beef and butter parading through the dining room might be. I love the porterhouse at Luger's, it remains my favorite incarnation of the steak but I have to say that the S&W version gives it a run for its money. The steak is served "dry" with no additions, sans salt, and is sliced. While I prefer my steak served whole it makes sense to serve a large steak meant for sharing sliced. The steak is cut thicker than at Luger's but weighs around the same so its circumference is smaller. This allows it to develop a better crust than at Luger's, the latter complaint is really my only quibble with the steak at the venerable Brooklyn institution. Getting back to Manhattan the S&W porterhouse is ethereally tender with a pronounced, musky dry aged flavor, much closer in fact to their rib eye than their NY strip. The exterior char is impressive and provides a wonderful textural compliment to the succulent inner flesh. I often remark that the small sliver of marrow that resides in the bone cavity at the top of the "T" tells me all I need to know about the dry aging process. The one here imparted an over the top, moldy Roquefort cheese like tang with a heavy mineral finish. This is a beautifully aged piece of beef and a welcome, albeit unexpected addition, to the menu.

Smith & Wollensky
797 Third Ave.
(49th St.)
Manhattan, NY

Friday, August 1, 2008

Show notes from my Sirius radio interview

I would like to thank Lucinda Scala Quinn, the staff at Sirius and all the listeners that called into my appearance on EatDrink on Martha Stewart Radio yesterday. Here are links to the burger joints that the listeners and I referenced:

In N Out Burger
Numerous Locations in AZ,CA,UT,NV


The Palace-Haunted Burger
410 N Clark St, Jerome, AZ 86331
(520).634 0554

Nation's Giant Hamburgers
Numerous locations

Redrum (formerly Murder) Burger
978 Olive Drive
Davis, CA 95616
(530) 756-2142

The Original Tommy's
Numerous locations in CA


Ted's Restaurant
1044 Broad Street,
Meriden CT 06450
(203) 237-6660

Louis' Lunch
261-263 Crown Street,
New Haven CT 06510
(203) 562-5507


Mr. Bartley's
1246 Massachusetts Ave
Cambridge, MA 02138
(617) 354-6559

New Jersey

White Manna
358 River Street, Hackensack
NJ 07601
(201) 342-0914


Matt's Bar
3500 Cedar Ave S, Mpls.(
612) 722.7072

New York

Shake Shack
Southeast corner of Madison Square Park (corner of 23rd Street and Madison Avenue)


Loco Coyote
1795 County Road 1004
Glen Rose, TX 76043
(254) 897-2324