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Del Posto: Best Meal of the Year?

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As you could tell from previous posts, our trip to Del Posto was something that both Nicole and I were really looking forward to. Exactly thirty days prior to our anniversary I called at 10:00 on the dot, along with a couple dozen calls between 9:58-9:59, only to hear the pre-recorded message about the hotline being closed. When the call went through to the receptionist, I literally jumped out of my desk in excitement. The phone call was really enjoyable, we discussed that it was our three-year anniversary, and that we recently got engaged and wanted to celebrate at Del Posto. By the end of the call I setup a 7:30 reservation, on a Saturday. From that day forward, we both eagerly awaited what would become one of our favorite meals ever.

I cannot begin to describe to you how many times the both of us checked out the menu on their website. My browser history had more Del Posto links than my teenager-selfs porn history. I would sit at work, spreadsheet on one screen, Bloomberg on another, and Del Posto’s menu on the the third – drooling while thinking of the endless possibilities of what I would eat.

Since it was our anniversary, I decided to change things up and we booked a hotel room at The Maritime Hotel down the block. Even though I live in Nolita, thought it would be nice to have a perfect evening and really treat ourselves. When we woke up that morning, we had a light breakfast followed by lunch at Hu Kitchen in the afternoon. Looking back I would have skipped the lunch, as I wanted to be completely hungry by the time dinner rolled around. We even turned down meeting some coworkers at ZZ’s Clam Bar, they were stoping in before trying Carbone for the first time based off my recommendations (review here). I didn’t want any non-Batali substances in my body prior to tasting the food at Del Posto. Kind of like not eating before taking communion.

When it was time, we walked over to the restaurant. Excitement building between the two of us, both waiting to try what we have been dying to try. With each step the back of my mind was spinning with different antipasti, primi, secondi, and dolci variations. As the door man opened the doors, we were greeted by the maître d and hostesses.

Host: “Hello Mr. Hedge Fun NY, happy third anniversary and congratulations on your engagement! Welcome to Del Posto.”

Nice touch. Who would have expected a phone call thirty days prior which contained casual conversation with the receptionist would be remembered.

We made our way to the table, and our waitress came over to engage in some conversation. She explained the menu, along with wishing us a happy anniversary as well. She was extremely friendly, and we enjoyed her presence.

Next the sommelier came over, at first I thought it was Joe Bastianich due to the similar haircut, however it was not him (was missing the bright green sneakers.) He provided us with a few suggestions, and then left the iPad with us to take a look. The software was amazing on the iPad and made narrowing down our options extremely easy. We would up choosing the Castell’ In Villa Chianti Classico Riserva 2008, which was one of his recommendations to us. After the initial taste I realized how great the bottle was, and was happy we went with his suggestion.

We said cheers, and then something amazing happened. The bread mades it’s way to the table. There were three types, which included an olive-loaf, all of which were made fresh. Accompanying the bread was their butter and lardo. The lardo was mind blowing, and also a duel-edged sword. All I wanted to do was to keep smearing it across the warm bread, but I also didn’t want to fill up too quickly. I had five courses ahead of me, I did not want to sacrifice any room in my stomach.

We started our first course with the Minted Octopus and Lobster all a Cesare, which is a fancy way of saying Cesare Salad. I will start with the salad, since I was a little hesitant to try due to the fact I never eat Cesare Salad since it looks like mayo. Not the case here, the salad was great with huge chunks of lobster. The dressing wasn’t overly creamy and was well balanced with the grilled romaine and onions. The octopus was for lack of a better word, dope. Being Pulpo-Aficionados we pride ourselves on distinguishing the good from the bad, the rubbery from the perfectly cooked. This was one of the best octopus dishes I have had in a long time. I would say, neck-and-neck with Charlie Bird, and better than Toro, Carbone, and Peasant. The tentacles are served over Nduja, Giant Beans & Hearts of Palm. The njuda spread was on the bottom and gave a nice flavor to the pieces of octopus I smeared into it’s red-pasty spread. Despite the amazing flavor and tenderness of the tentacles, the best part of the dish was the size. Firstly the tentacles were not those wimpy skinny tentacles, they had some girth. Also, they must have had at least four pieces on the dish. We enjoyed each bite, how could you not? The outside was charred, the inside was juicy and cooked to perfection. Really a perfect dish.

Next up, our primi course. Going into this course we were extremely excited, especially since we have not had pasta for close to thirty-days. We had been on a diet since we are getting married in a few months, and we figured if we were going to cheat it might as well be with some of the best pasta you can find. This was also a very difficult choice for us to decide on. I have at one point or another said in my head over the past thirty days that I am getting the 100 Layer Lasagna, or Lidia’s Jota, or Orecchiette with Lamb Neck. When we decided to order, we went with neither of the above. We chose The Spaghetti with Dungeness Crab, and the Gnocchi. Once again, two perfect dishes. The Spaghetti and Crab was probably one of my favorite pasta dishes I have ever eaten. The spaghetti was nice and al dente, and mixed into the bowl were jalapeños, scallions, and the sweet meat of the crustacean. The jalapeño definitely provided some heat, in fact I actually had to ask the busgirl for a tissue at one point, but the spice was not overbearing. The crab flavors definitely keep this bowl of pasta well balanced. This is one of their most famous dishes, as I learned after, with many pages discussing the perfect execution of this dish. There is actually a video Del Posto put on YouTube a few years back that shows the process of making this dish, CLICK HERE, and if you don’t have a seizure from the music – you might gain an appreciation for this dish. Definitely do not skip this dish. Next up, gnocchi. One of my favorite types of pastas, and favorite form of potato. As if the idea of gnocchi could get any better, especially to two people on diets who have been pasta deprived. The recipe was handed down by Batali’s Grandmother. The gnocchi was light and fluffy, unlike that heavy junk you get at majority of these so-called ‘Italian’ restaurants. Also, unlike most places who drench the pasta in sauce to compensate for the pastas lack of flavor, also not the situation here. The sauce was light, and tasted like fresh tomato. Nice and basic, and the flavoring from the Thai basil gives the dish the simplicity and freshness one would expect while eating in non-touristy areas of Italy.

Right around this point of the evening, I began to really regret getting lunch at Hu Kitchen earlier. I was beginning to get full, and the constant stuffing of my face with bread and lardo didn’t help. But we had our secondi course coming, and the excitement kept me going.

Once the food came to the table, we acted as if those past courses didn’t happen and kept consuming our entrees. I ordered the Burnt Beef, medium rare of course, which came with seared green onions, parmigiano zeppole, and tomato raisins. Everything about this dish was perfect – so much so my fiance, who is not a meat person found herself voluntarily picking pieces off my plate. I have to say, for a girl who hasn’t had meat in eight-years I have started her on some awesome places – Black Label Burger from Minetta, Steak from Del Posto… Highly recommend this dish, worth the extra money – TRUST ME. Nicole ordered the Baked Halibut, which came with mashed sun chokes, chicory salad, and smoked truffles. Once again, perfect entree. We still talk about this dish and how it was the best piece of halibut, possibly the best pieces of fish we have ever had.

To finish the meal we had some dessert, but really was hard to enjoy since we were so full – but we somehow managed to finish it. We had the Grilled Semolina Cake and Fette Biscottate, also they brought out some additional items for our anniversary – which we finished as well…

Toro NYC: Tapas, Octopus, Paella, and Churros

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I knew from the beginning, it would be extremely hard to beat last years Valentines Day dinner at Carbone. But, I had a good feeling Toro might be able to do it – or at least get close. Toro definitely impressed me, and I already want to go back.

Last summer we went to Boston for a music festival called Boston Calling. This was held on Memorial Day weekend and included bands such as Bastille, The Neighbourhood, Modest Mouse, Death Cab for Cutie, Jack Johnson and Brand New. Before going I spoke to some friends for recommendations – everyone came back mentioning Toro. While eating brunch the next morning at The Beehive (Great Place to check out) the bartender also said “Do not leave Boston until you goto Toro.” So we decided to call up, book a reservation and were told that is not possible. So we decided, let’s go for brunch. While there, we ordered up a storm. We started with the olives, foie gras, patatas bravas, escalivada catalana, and finished the apps up with an order of jamon serrano. We then moved to some egg dishes (since it was around 11:00) and moved to the creme de la creme, duck prosciutto and an order of Asada de Huesos aka Bone Marrow with Oxtail. As you can see from my reviews on Minetta Tavern and Charlie Bird, I hold the marrow from Toro in high regard.

When we got back to Manhattan we all said we need to make it a point to goto Toro over in Chelsea. With everyone’s busy schedules, it seemed difficult to get everyone together to book a reservation. So, I said fuck it – Nicole and I are going for Valentine’s Day. Since the day I made the reservation, I kept thinking about the absurd amount of dishes I would be ordering. Removing the romantic aspects of the day and replacing them with a gluttonous sloppy feast. As we were running around doing errands in the neighborhood, I made us stop at Alidoro to get a sandwich early – and avoid ruining my appetite.

We arrived for our reservation, and once we walked in through the maze of wind-blocking tunnels, I was amazed by the size and decor of the restaurant. There we definitely a nice amount of aspects from their Boston location, such as exposed brick, distressed wood, and open ceilings showing the HVAC system. But, they definitely threw a New York/Meat Packing vibe into the mix, which was beautiful. We spoke with the hostess, which didn’t catch her name, but she was extremely nice and she walked us over to our table. Once we sat down, and looking around, I heard the great soundtrack – some songs of Nas’ Illmatic, some Tribe Called Quest – once again, similar to Charlie Bird, it was awesome to hear some hip-hop with amazing food.

The waiter came over, and we ordered our drinks. Nicole mentioned she was looking for something similar to a Pinot Noir, and he recommended two different ones. Initially she ordered the Bodegas Ponce ‘Pino’ Bobal, which she really enjoyed. After she wet with the Cvne Real, which was a little more Old World and earthy – another winner. I went with the Estrella (couple of Estrella) followed by a Smuttynose ‘Brown Dog Ale’ with dessert.

After the first round of drinks came, we placed our order. I gave the waiter a disclaimer to stop me if ordered to much – but then disregarded it and decided to surpass his ‘rule of thumb’ of 6 plates per two people. Here is our order:

  • Pan Con Tomate: Toasted bread with tomato, garlic, Spanish olive oil and sea salt. This dish was so basic, but the pureness of it brought me back to Barcelona. I highly recommend this as a great way to start, and won’t fill you up to much for the other items on the menu.
  • Tuna Tartare: The most amazing thing about this is the way it is listed on the menu “tuna tartare with stuff that we really like“. I mean, come on – how can you not order that? The tuna is served in a anchovies tin – and was delicious. I wanted to order the Tuna Belly initially, and might go with that next time, but the tartare was good.
  • Jamon de Pato: which is aged duck prosciutto, which was great. Nice mix of fat/meat, and was really nice. Tasted even better when I threw it on my Pan con Tomate ***Make that happen***.
  • ColesBrussels sprouts with olive oil and maldon salt. Probably some of the best brussels I had in a long time.
  • Costilla de Carne: Braised beef rib with pigeon peas, farro, and persimmons. This was one of those dishes you will be scraping the dish with your fork, picking up every last molecule of the items. The ribs were nicely cooked, and went extremely well with the farro and peas. I would suggest this if you want some red-meat, but don’t want to fill up on ordering the Chuleta de Buey – which is the 40 Day Dry Aged Rib-eye. **Order this dish**
  • PulpoGalician octopus with potatoes and charred onions. This was one of the best pieces of octopus I have ever tasted. Additionally, I would like to see the size of the octopus this tentacle was cut off – as I immediately yelled in my head, in Liam Neeson’s voice, “Unleash the Kraken!” If I were to take the time to straighten out the tentacle and measure it, I would say it would be 12 inches, thats what she said. Instead, we began to cut this into chunks and devour the Galician Greatness. At first taste I got a bit of a sweet tangy taste, but once I bit threw the charred outside and into the tender inside, I picked up a smokey taste – possible paprika. The potatoes were delicious, kind of looked like mini caramelized scallops and went nicely with the onions and tentacle. Hard to compare with the pulpo from Charlie Bird Noodle Pudding, Rubirosa, or Peasant – since those are more Italian style. This octopus is extremely unique, and I would definitely say this is some premium pulpo,  I HIGHLY RECOMMEND THIS DISH ****
  • Paella Langostino: Lobster and black summer truffle paella. This was the final item of our order, and since we ordered a lot, and I had full intentions of ordering dessert, I decided to go with the half order. This was a great choice, the pan that comes out is a great size for two people who just ate a ton of tapas. The paella was moist, and full of flavor. I highly recommend ordering the half size, which at $45 isn’t too bad considering it is a large portion with lobster and black truffle.
  • Dessert: The semifreddo was good, however the CHURROS WERE AMAZING. These were by far the best churros I have ever had – better than Barcelona, Madrid, and anywhere in Manhattan. They had the perfect blend of cinnamon-sugar, kind of like taking the bottom of the cereal bag of Cinnamon Toast Crunch. It came with a chocolate dipping sauce, which is not even needed. Trust me, Order these Churros.