Here're some notes on a of a few of the bites I've had in the last week or so in New York and New Jersey (Wu Liang Ye, Dona, Bisto-en). I just can't find the time to write up proper entries on these places. Yet.
Wu Liang Ye is to my mind the best Sichuan restaurant in NYC. I know that the various Grand Sichuans have their fans, and I know they do a very nice job will lots of stuff, but Wu Liang Ye is my go-to place when I'm looking for Sichuan and spicy. They also have a very nice waitstaff (at least at the Lexington Ave branch).
A recent meal consisted of:
Shrimp "with Yibin City spice": "Yibin City spice" means some sort of salty spicy minced pork. It goes great on just about anything, perhaps most notably the string beans. But you can get it on lobster (excellent), and shrimp for sure. Highly recommended.
Dan Dan noodle: spaghetti-style noodle with minced pork, greens, and a spicy oil. A classic sichuan dish, and a better version I've not had.
Shrimp dumpling: shrimp, surrounded by a see-through wrapper, and some vinegar/soy dipping sauce. Perfection.
Shredded Camphur Tead Smoked Duck with spring ginger: probably the best duck dish I've ever had. A great balance of fat, smoke, ginger, and greens (scallion).
The wine list is painful, but they have a Bollini pinot grigio that at least has a synthetic cork, so you don't have to worry about trying to send back a corked bottle with a waitstaff that likely knows nothing about wine. If they had a Riesling or Gewurtz, I'd be in heaven.
I go on about Wu Liang Ye more here.
This is Donatella's new Greek/Italian place. The menu doesn't read as confusing as it might, given the focus on two cuisines.
The almost-all-white room (tiger stripes on the carpet) got kinda loud. The average age of the customers on a Thursday night looked to be about 50 or 60. The food ranged from good to pretty good to very good. The wine service and service overall seemed rushed and under pressure. We left feeling a bit stressed for some reason.
The dry-aged strip steak was OK. The "lardo" served with the steak was interesting, but made from cow and not pork. Sweetbreads were good and generous in portion size, and had shaved truffles, which is always nice. Pasta with veal and porcini was good. I dunno. The one thing that stood out is Donatella's beauty and aura. Aside from my companions, of course, she was certainly the most beautiful thing in that room. Stunning, actually. We probably won't be back.
It was about 80 degrees in the restaurant. The staff seemed overwhelmed and stressed me out. Water was not offered (although there were wine and water glasses on the table when we were seated). Water was then not refilled without asking.
The sushi (rolls, actually) was quite good. Soft shell crab salad was very nice and a decent bargain at 8 bucks (one crab and some greens, actually). The Kobe burger was juicy and flavorful, though not much "beefy" flavor to my mind. The fries were listed as "homemade," but they looked like frozen McDonald's-style fries (which isn't a bad thing). They were aggressively salted (a very good thing).
Given the room temperature, and where the red wine was stored (on the counter) I stayed away from ordering from the very short list of red wines. Instead we had beer and a quite tasty pinot blanc (I forget the producer) and a coupla cocktails (cucumber martini, and a watermelon and rum concoction) from the adjoining Lounge Zen. Excellent cocktails!
We planned on eating at Lounge Zen (they share a kitchen, and bar-dining is always preferable), but when we walked in we were greeted with the screams and babbling of about 6 of the loudest sum'bitches on the planet, taking up the entire room and bar no less. Like, inappropriately loud (at 6.30 on a Friday night). It was so loud that some sort of natural instinct took over, and I basically ran out. It was so so loud. Words cannot describe it. Methinks the locals aren't going to make that a very comfortable place for me to have a nice dinner at the bar. That's a shame, and they'll probably lose business because of it. They'll unfortunately lose mine if I'm subjected to that element in there again.
My initial impressions: they need a manager, their aspirations are loftier than their abilities, I was sweating during dinner.