As a Whale Week special, Eater asked a voracious Manhattan diner — let's call him "Dave" — to keep a record of his meals during a one-week span. Over that stretch of time, he dined at five top-notch restaurants, including Eleven Madison Park and Brooklyn Fare. Here's the dining diary of an anonymous New York high roller:
January 12, 2013 – Battersby: I jump in a car for an early solo excursion to Brooklyn to do the seven course tasting menu at Battersby. I've been a Manhattan-centric snob for a long time, but being a serious eater, Brooklyn can no longer be ignored and my list of "targets" is now filled with about a dozen Brooklyn spots at any given time.
Hipster kitsch décor notwithstanding, the place is cool and inviting. I grab a seat at the bar. The meal is really amazing. Standouts include their much written-about kale salad, farro with duck ragu and slow poached egg, roasted lobster, and an amazing piece of short rib pastrami that tastes like Katz's gone up market.While many tasting menus lean high concept, Battersby is different and refreshing; this is food that is easily understandable, perfectly executed and extremely delicious.
Dinner lasts two hours, service is great, I have some terrific wine, two glasses of a white from Greece, and then a Primitivo with the beef. The place is crowded but not packed. I meet some great people at the bar. I will definitely come back here. [Photo]
January 13, 2013 – A Voce Columbus: Meet a date at Stone Rose in the Time Warner Center and end up at A Voce Columbus for dinner. To begin, we share lardo, spicy salumi and the royal trumpet mushrooms with fonduta, while drinking Vermentino. Main courses are cocoa pappardelle with duck bolognese for me, I don't love it, and sea bass for her, which is good. We switch to a Barbera for the main courses. This restaurant is fine, very corporate, little character. The only reason I ended up here was because I was in the building. In this section of town for high end Italian, I like Marea and Lincoln much better. [Krieger]
January 16, 2013 – Lupa: Another date tonight, I meet her at Lupa, one of my favorite workhorse restaurants, not a regular in my dating rotation, but I am craving the carbonara (the best in NYC). We share prosciutto and sopresetta. The sopresetta is amazing, blows away the spicy salumi I had at A Voce the other night. I get my fix of carbonara, she has a pasta special with duck ragu, and we share the leg of lamb. The lamb is fine, but pastas and salumis are the way to go here. A few quartinos of Barbera and then we're off to Pegu Club for after dinner cocktails. A Manhattan for me, something with gin for her. [Krieger]
January 18, 2013 – Eleven Madison Park: My Internet mogul little brother, and fellow serious eater, is in town and we have an exciting weekend of eating planned. Friday night we went to Eleven Madison Park where we have dined several times before, but this is our first of the new tasting menu. We begin with a glass of Champagne. For the only food decision we have to make, we opt for the beef over the duck, as we have had the duck before. Of course we elect to do the wine pairings.
The food is outstanding, as it has always been on our visits. It is the experience that has changed by adding more entertainment and interactivity to the meal. It works without getting in the way of the meal, but I'm not sure I would want to go again to see the same show? The sturgeon and the beef courses are the standouts but everything is good.
Warning: If doing the wine pairings with this meal, it's probably best not to have too much planned the next day. It's a lot to drink if you finish everything.
Champagne is served for the first couple of courses as part of the wine pairing, therefore our Champagne starter ends up being refilled three times before it then morphs into a cocktail called "Black Velvet" with the addition of a smoked Porter beer for the sturgeon course. The wine pairings are mostly whites and consist of some amazing wines including Chablis, a Riesling from Red Hook Winery, a Sancerre, a Chenin Blanc, and then a switch to red for a Nebbiolo with our beef. Halfway through the meal, the maitre d' surprises us with an invitation to visit the kitchen where, among other things, they make us a mad scientist-looking special cocktail containing Chartreuse and Benedictine and using liquid nitrogen. It is one of the best cocktails I have had in a long time. We have to finish it of course — it would be rude not to.
Later in the meal, we have a beer from Ithaca Beer Company, which is in the picnic basket cheese course, a Vin Santo with the dessert courses, and in keeping with Eleven Madison Park tradition, they leave you with a bottle on the table at the end of the meal. What had been Cognac in previous visits is now a bottle of Apple Brandy, which we definitely do not need, but somehow drink anyway. Our meal lasts about three and half hours. We have a blast and literally stumble out the door, feeling fat and very happy. [Krieger]
January 19, 2013 – Brooklyn Fare: My brother and I head out for our first ever visit to Chef's Table at Brooklyn Fare and let me tell you, it is raining black truffles in Brooklyn! Sea urchin with a huge slice of black truffle draped over it served on brioche, snapper with black truffle dashi, Japanese rice with bonito and a blizzard of black truffles, turbot with black truffles — I think I still smelled like black truffles the next day. The room itself is fairly spartan and antiseptic, but comfortable. You almost feel like you are on the set of a sci-fi movie. The crowd is much younger than the night before.
Other standout dishes are smoked Osetra caviar with potatoes and fried egg yolk cream, Burgundy snails with garlic cream, and a grilled scallop with foie froth. We begin the meal with some amazing sashimi including Knifejaw, Blue Nose and Red Trumpet Fish. This is one of the best meals I have had in a long time. To drink, we begin with Champagne, then a very expensive and incredible bottle of Chablis, and we end with a glass of pinot noir for our one non-seafood course of duck. Chef Ramirez is great. He talks to us on a few different occasions. In fact, at one point, my napkin drops to the floor and before I know it, it is being picked up and I notice it is Chef Ramirez grabbing it and having it replaced. Now that's service.
Eating at these two restaurants on consecutive nights was a fascinating contrast. Eleven Madison Park evokes the place haute cuisine has come from, practicing the art of the grand dining rooms of the past, while at the same time attempting to update and modernize the experience through their new format.
Brooklyn Fare is the best example of where haute cuisine has gone, bringing diners out of the dining room, and all of its grandeur, and literally into kitchen. The emphasis is exclusively on the food and the entertainment is the opportunity to watch it being made and interact with the chef. Very different places, no doubt two of New York City's best dining experiences. [Photo]