Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Bits and Morsels

The Scallop Picante at Nuela: Scallops with parmesan crust / gnocchi / tomato / fennel.

by Erin Frankel

Upscale South-American fusion fare. Over the past couple of years, we’ve seen the fusion trend saturate our city to the point of cliché. Are we just whacking a hodgepodge of arbitrary flavors together or is there a reliable agenda here? Let me spare you the skepticism. Whatever the answer may be, the food at Adam Schop's sophisticated Pan-Latino venture, Nuela, ranges from excellent to outstanding. Nuela is a fusion of Pan-Latin flavors and techniques. Is there a legitimate angle here? I'd say yes. Nuela is a celebration of classic Peruvian cuisine highly influenced by the assimilated Japanese and Chinese cultures that have long held cultural sway within the country. 

Nuela is brazen. The large glossy room with splashy red seating fits over 200 people. The style is urban contemporary. The scene is trendy. The music is thumping. And the people are pretty. Once we were seated in our private nook, however, it became clandestine, quiet, and relaxed. 
Nuela's splashy interior.
Adam Schop's menu is contemporary and minimalist, consisting of Peruvian classics designed in a format and method I've never quite experienced.

The presentation is impeccable; the display, pure art. We started with the smoked brisket arepas and the charred octopus causa over olives and avocado mousse and lightly spiced with an aji amarillo potato puree.
Smoked Brisket Arepas with sweet plantain/ black bean/ queso blanco.
Charred Octopus Causa.
Then we moved onto the restaurant's signature dishes: the simple yet brilliant ceviches. The spicy mixto de mariscos (lobster, shrimp, and octopus) offered an interesting union of raw textures and flavors. Our waiter presented the beautiful tuna and hamachi ceviche to our table and then proceeded to artfully pour the bright sauce onto the fish. The acidic yellow aji Amarillo sauce and black garlic puree complimented the delicate Hamachi beautifully (our favorite ceviche). The flavors were refreshing and balanced.

Now, onto the best part, the gargantuan entree for two (but truly meant for a hungry family of four): a luscious roasted suckling pig with a side of cumin lime rice and scallion pancakes (note: dipping the meat in the guava pink peppercorn glaze gets you some tasty results).
Lobster/Shrimp/Octopus Ceviche: mixto de mariscos / charred tomato/ rocoto.
Tuna Ceviche with coconut/ cara cara orange/ basil. Hamachi Ceviche with aji amarillo leche de tigre/ basil and black garlic.
The Scallop Picante: Scallops with parmesan crust / gnocchi / tomato / fennel.
Roasting Suckling Pig for 2: Guava Pink Peppercorn Glaze/ cumin lime rice/ scallion pancake.
Hands down the best dish at Nuela is the Arroz Con Pato. Translation: an elaborate, beautifully-constructed Duck. The duck is served on a bed of crisp, crunchy Calasparra rice. Schop has added every pure fatty bliss of the meat to this dish, conveniently and beautifully arranging it on a giant pan around an assortment of seasonal vegetables.

There's the gracefully sliced roasted duck breast embracing a rich fold of duck foie gras, a crispy and tender confit of leg, and the gizzard. The best element of this dish is the savory and sweet fried duck egg, which should be mixed with all diverse contents in the pan.
Arroz Con Pato (The amazing duck for 2).
Don't let the food distract you from the cocktails at Nuela as there are some exotic concoctions throughout the cocktail menu. After mentioning our plans for the night, our waiter suggested we get the “anti-hangover” Amazonas with tequila. The fresh, natural ingredients in this cocktail (a mixture of cilantro, pineapple, ginger, Peruvian pepper and fresh lime) left a refreshingly zesty flavor in my mouth ... and I felt fabulous the next morning.

43 West 24th Street
New York, NY 10010

The Amazonian (anti-hangover) cocktail.
Dessert Cocktails.
What else I ate this week:

A whole lot of grilled cheese!

Anyone who knows me well, understands my penchant (some might call it an obsession) for grilled cheese. I've been lured to the most basic, unassuming deli late in the evening, craving a humble take on the sandwich: a few slices of American cheese slapped inside two pieces of white wonder bread. But now the classic dish has grown up and developed some style and pretension. Upscale restaurants don't skimp on the fromage or additional ingredients. Who ever thought grilled cheese could be so gourmet?
A room full of hungry grilled cheese mavens.
This is why my good friend over at Gilt City was the first to tell me about their event “The Big Cheesy,” an exclusive grilled cheese tasting at OpenHouse Gallery. A grilled cheese tasting competition?! I'm there.

My date? I had to bring Juls, my fellow grilled cheese aficionado.

Here were the contestants:
Keith Klein (owner of the Milk Truck) in front of his table.
The Milk Truck's Grilled Cheese: Three-Cheese Grilled Cheese: Aged Gruyere, Aged Cheddar, Creamy Wisconsin Blue with balsamic glazed onions, sauteed mushrooms and thyme on rosemary pullman bread.
Artisanal's chef in front of his table.
Artisanal's Grilled Cheese. The Frenchie: Wild Mushroom Duxelle, Belletoile, Red Onion, and Truffle Slices on Levain Bread.
Alice's Tea Cup's Grilled Cheese: Lapsong Souchong Smoked Chicken With Gruyere, Whole Grain Mustard and Mayonnaise on Golden Semolina Fennel Bread.
Bua's Grilled Cheese: Blue Ribbon Pullman Loaf Bread with Aged Cheddar from Murray's Cheese.
Bua's spicy pickles from McClure's in Brooklyn.
Big Daddy's Grilled Cheese: American, Cheddar, and Jack on Parmesan- Crusted Bread, Brown Sugar, Candy Bacon, Marinated Roasted Plum Tomatoes and Mac & Cheese.
Barnyard's Grilled Cheese. Double Double: Appleby's Thinly Shaved Double Gloucester Cheese from Neal's Yard Dairy on Grandaisy Bakery Filone Bread with Meyenberg Goat Butter, Caramelized Onions in Balsamic Vinegar, House Roasted Beef, Leidy's Double Thick Cut Bacon, finished with Maldon Sea Salt.
The Plaza Food Hall's Todd English Grilled Cheese: House baked foccacia, smoked truffle pecorino, and provolone topped with a little spicy tomato jam.
Juls chose Bua. Her explanation? "When it comes to grilled cheese, you gotta stick to the basics. You just don't need all of the bells and whistles." I chose the Milk Truck. There's really nothing like a quick and easy grilled cheese on the go.

However fancy it may get, grilled cheese in any variety is a winner to me.
Gotham Bar and Grill chefs at the Ninth Annual A Taste of Greenwich House.
I ate a lot of amazing dishes from many diverse restaurants at the Ninth Annual A Taste of Greenwich House event on Monday evening. It always feels great eating for a good cause. In this case, all contributions directly benefited the various Greenwich House programs that cater to thousands of New Yorkers every year. This year, the event was held at the Metropolitan Pavilion and featured signature dishes from 40 of New York City's best restaurants.

Here were some of my favorite dishes:

Ai Fiori served lobster salad, avocado puree and ligurian lemon oil.

Betel prepared a poached chick and crab salad with cherry tomatoes, coconut all dressing with a green namjim dressing.

Gotham Bar and Grill presented a pineapple upside-down cake with a black walnut griddle and coconut sauce.
Ai Fiori. Market Table.
Gotham Bar and Grill.
Perilla made a crudo of fluke with green papaya salad, candy kumquat on top of a lotus fruit chip.

Lunetta served roasted cauliflower with pickled raisons, walnuts and garlic aioli.

Brats made a Kobe Beef Sausage Hot Dog.

The Little Owl prepared tuna, cucumber, and avocado on a bed of lettuce with a touch of sea salt, olive oil and cilantro.

Market Table made a roasted beet salad with horseradish cream, goat cheese and toasted hazelnuts.
Neumans. Craft.
Centro Vinoteca.
Salt made cream of cauliflower soup with mushrooms and truffle oil.

One if by Land Two if by Sea prepared octopus a la plancha with fragola caponata.

Mole served spicy pork empanadas and crab ceviche.

Centro Vinoteca served ricotta cavitelli with short rib ragu and pomegranate seeds.

Bridgewaters make a Glass Noodle Bowl, which consisted of Cellophane Noodles with a soy-ginger vinaigrette, haricot verts and scallion.
Commerce. Hill Country.
Bridgewaters chef Michael Goldsborough. City Hall.
I washed it all down with a Bison Grass Vodka Cocktail made with apple juice, otherwise known as a traditional Polish cocktail called Tatanka.

Hungry yet?
Photographs by Erin Frankel, Zander Price, & Carrie Newman.
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