Tuesday, December 25, 2007


It's always a matter of opinion and experience. But one thing I know is I was unimpressed. My face couldn't hide it, my senses were disappointed, and my mind couldn't believe it.

After hearing tons of hype from numerous people; all of whom are good sources for recommendations, I finally made it to Japonais. From the minute the hostess sat us in the worst table in the restaurant; the 4 top by the hostess stand and closest to the rotating door, I knew it was going to be trouble.

Japonais opened a few years ago but has consistently been praised for its food; mainly the hot dishes over the sushi. Doogs gave me the play- "Try mostly small plates; appetizers and such so you get a variety...and definitely get "The Rock." After we switched to another table, which wasn't very hard considering the abundance of empty tables in a crowd of annoying young girls, euro-trashy couples and other odds and ends, my surrogate sister, my sister and I began to process the menu while sipping on a cocktail.

We decided on a few apps and 1 main. First came the lobster spring rolls. This dish was actually pretty good- this, however, was not all that surprising considering anything with ingredients like lobster and mango in a fried shell is usually good. Following not far behind was the tuna sashimi and lamb ceviche. Both of these apps were pretty good but definitely not worth they hype. I've had far superior sashimi even at places that don't speciialize in sushi and I was pretty disappointed.

The pacing of the food was always way too fast. The service tried to pick up plates before we were finished which made for awarkdness and looks of death (mainly from me cause I can be a bitch- surprise surprise). Furthermore, the staff had problem communicating in English- and for a restaurant of supposed high caliber, servers should be able to confidently talk to their tables.

Finally came Doog's suggestion, "The Rock." This app was raw beef cooked to your preferred temperature on a rock. I've had a dish similar to this at Megu; in which a server comes to prepare the meat for you first and shows you how to 'cook' the meat. At Japonais, this server seemed like he barely knew what he was doing and although this was probably the best dish we had at Japonais it feel far behind the dish we had at Megu. By the end of the apps, we felt no hope for the main course we ordered and we were right. The eggplant and sauce was severely salty and put the final finishing touches on a disappointing meal.

It could've been the night we went there, the dishes we chose or the specific service that catered to us; but I don't feel a strong urge to return to Japonais. Some of my friends love this joint but to me it falls wayyy short. In it's NY birth, it even got good reviews in the NY Times and New York magazine but as said before, it's all about opinion and experience and when your experience is poor usually you're opinion is too.

A Night at ICE

Over 7 months after receiving a birthday gift certificate from friends Ginger, A.Duh and Doogs- I finally cashed in on a class at the Institute of Culinary Education in Chelsea. I pondered which class to take for quite some time and continually nagged my culinary partner in crime, J-Food, as she had several gift certificates to ICE as well.

After profusely calling the institutes's number, I locked a spot in "Essentials of Provencal Cooking" for a Saturday night in December. J-Food only landed the waiting list, but the woman on ICE's line assured her there would be no problem in attending the class.

The day finally arrived when J-Food and I would attend the highly anticipated cooking class- we, of course, had subway issues on the way down and were 15 minutes late. We found the school and got to the 12th floor to find a disgruntled disheveled woman asking us for our class confirmation letters. J-Food began to explain her predicament and was firmly interrupted to be told she will try to make an exception for her...but only this time. Again, we tried to explain the multiple phone calls, the 20 minutes hold times, and the calming reassurance that had been given to J-Food, but reception lady wanted nothing to do with it. Luckily, she took mercy on our poor foodie souls and told us to take a right to the stairwell and walk up a flight. As soon as the door closed behind us, I couldn't help but call her a "bitch!"

We silently walked into Kitchen 1 to find the class had already begun. Instructor Chef Loren Banco was going through all the recipes on our agenda and was already on the third dish- soup au pistou. Trying to rapidly throw our belongings under a table as to not disrupt the class, I already felt intimidated as the chef guided us through all of the recipe changes and I couldn't reach a pencil to mark it down. I had this feeling like I was in high school and about to get scolded, but Chef Loren was super breezy about it and included us in the introductions as he continued with the menu. J-Food and I tried to give each other sideway glances.

After the chef went through all of the 8 recipes (Tapenade, Brandade de Morue avec Croutons, Soupe au Pistou, Daube de Boeuf, Fenoul a la Provencale, Carre d'Agneau Roti aux Herbes de Provence, Tian d'Aubergines et Courgettes, and Compote de fruits Secs au Miel) he took the class to "Table 3" to give us a knife demo. At this point, J-Food and I started to figure out that each of the three tables in the kitchen would be in charge of prepping 3 of the dishes on the menu. It was a free for all as to which table we were at and I was determined to cook a meat (either the rack of lamb or the beef). After the chef showed us the proper way to cut an onion, he allowed us to pick our tables. J-Food and I stood at table 3 (the rack of lamb table) along with several couples our parents' age and I tried not to budge. J-Food began to nudge me, "Maybe it's just better to go to Table 1?" She was right; it wasn't worth the fight.

Table 1 actually ended up working in our favor. There were only 4 of us there so we got to be hands on with most of the dishes we were preparing. For some reason, I had this funny feeling that the students in the class kind of thought J-Food and I were these dumb girls in tall boots. I told J-Food my thoughts and she agreed but reassured me, "Melis, I think so too..but lets show em we're professionals.." I couldn't help but laugh when suddenly as I began to slice the onion, the Chef went over with me the proper way to cut an onion again in a 'rocking motion.' I got the hang of it and was off on my way to slicing, cubing, and wedging the rest of the vegetables for the Soupe Au Pistou. J-Food and I prepped most of the vegetables that went into the soup, while our other team members boiled the soaked beans, prepped the bouqet garni and started on using a mortar and pestle to blend the pistou by hand. I think after they agreed to the chef's suggestion, they later regretted it. This was an arduous task which tired both of them. Meanwhile, J-Food and I took control of the fennel. One of my favorite parts of cooking is presentation. Thats the time when I've done everything I can do to make the dish taste good and can now put an artistic touch to make it look as pretty as possible. We saved the tops of the fennels for garnish and when the dish was almost complete I cut this slices of tomato to line the dish with. I placed a few slices with the springy fennels branches on either side of the plate. It wasn't my ideal; but it was good enough for now.

Just as the lamb was finishing, we frantically tried to get all of our dishes to table 1. You could see everything from our soup and tapenade to the codfish and croutons and crustless tart. The end of the class was really nice because we got to sit down with our fellow classmates and enjoy each other's cooking. Chef complimented me on the presentation of the fennel (which being the loser that I am--I was excited about) and we sat down to eat. Chef complimented all of our dishes and I wondered if he ever said anything was bad in which he responded with his most horrific stories- salt used in a recipe in mistake for sugar and a tobasco sauce disaster. J-Food being the life of the party that she always is began to probe the chef on bourbon cooking. Being a PR manager for Makers Mark, she's constantly finding opportunity in every experience- that night, she found it ideal to plug my blog (this very one you're reading!) and her liquor. I sat red-faced.

By the end of the night, we learned that one of the couples our parent's age lived a block away from where J-Food grew up, another couple played Jewish geography with 25 year olds from Rockland County and other people asked me my favorite restaurants I blog about. I guess they didn't think we were those dumb girls in tall boots after all! As I left the institute with a shopping bag of left-overs, I vowed to do another class as soon as possible- one with J-food, another with my mom and a wine course with my dad. J-Food caught a ride home to her parent's house with the couple from her Hometown and I tried to figure out where I would go out that Saturday night. To be honest, the night was eventful enough..and although a different sort of Saturday night in NYC- it was a night I'd definitely like to repeat.

Friday, December 21, 2007

NYC Restaurant Week

Its that time of year again. Winter NYC restaurant week has been announced: Gourmet Prix-Fixe Menus- Jan. 21-25 and Jan. 28-Feb. 1, 2008. Get on it!! Open Table allows you to book and has a list of the restaurants available: Open Table

Lunch menus are often the best.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Spot- the Dog

Although you have to search hard to find the gems, there are actually a lot of good lunch spots in my work hood. The area I work in is one that is currently unidentified and will probably have an acronym that describes it in the next 5 years. For now I would consider it triabovcan/lo w.village/soweho. In the blocks neighboring my building, there isn't much. Sketchy delis, a random subway and a displaced Chipotle are the nearest establishments. But if you go a bit farther you can find the endearing italian sandwich shops (san panino on hudson, alidoro on sullivan, vesuvio bakery on prince), the perfect thai place with a cheap lunch (peep) and the best gourmet sandwiches, salads and others at Olive's.

There is, however, one little establishment thats really close to my heart- Grey Dog on Carmine. For some reason, its the staple for my lunch group; the go to spot when we are craving hearty soup,a tasty salad, a damn good sandwich, or their delicious tuna tacos. It never fails. Although hard to admit but there have been late nights at work when we've ordered dinner and it has made no difference that we've already had grey dog for lunch- their selection is varied and the food is consistent. Oddly enough, the hippie staff and homey surroundings also bring in celeb clientelle. A couple weeks ago, my friends saw Lilly Taylor there and its been heard that MK and Ashley "eat" there (maybe they get the coffees?). In any case, it's a mystery to me why I can't find the listing in Zagat and the rave review to go along because all I know is that its one rock in my life I won't part with.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Happy Birthday 3 Course Discourse!

So its two days passed the official one year anniversary of 3 Course Discourse. YAY! Throughout this year, many meals have been eaten, stories shared, embarrassing details exposed (of myself and others) and critiques given. And like most years, time has flied by. With the mark of this blog’s 1 year anniversary, also comes the new and improved 2008 Zagat which I recently purchased to replace the 2007 edition. While most of the restaurants are the same, I can’t help but notice the large numbers of new restaurants that have sprung up around the city. This only means there are new places to go and check-out and a few have already been sticky-tagged in the new publication. Oh and might I add- there are color titles in the new Zagat! (hey, it’s the little things…) I toast to the success of the 1 year old 3 Course Discourse and to the many new and old restaurants to continually review. I hope you’ve (all 10 of you) enjoyed reading. Salute!