Cata

No dinner reservation on a Saturday night…Cata to the rescue. This spacious, LES restaurant has large windows that open up to the street, perfect for the summer season.  I love the decor of this place; exposed brick walls, wooden beams, bar-height tables, and industrial light fixtures. 

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There is a Gin & Tonic menu, with 20+ varieties of G&Ts to choose from.   

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The food is Spanish tapas, so we got a bunch of dishes to share.  These bite-size lobster rolls were yummy.  Wish they were a little bigger…  Same can be said about the duck pastrami.  

POACHED LOBSTER BRIOCHE

POACHED LOBSTER BRIOCHE

CHICKEN CROQUETTES 

CHICKEN CROQUETTES 

DUCK PASTRAMI WITH PICKED MUSTARD SEEDS, CORNICHONS ON A PUMPERNICKEL CRISP

DUCK PASTRAMI WITH PICKED MUSTARD SEEDS, CORNICHONS ON A PUMPERNICKEL CRISP

The acidity of the rhubarb balanced the richness of the foie gras nicely.  

GRILLED TUSCAN KALE

GRILLED TUSCAN KALE

The Bikini is basically a monte cristo sandwich.  Simple, but really good.  Love the taste of the truffle.

BIKINI - JAMON SERRANO, BLACK TRUFFLE, MELTER SKELTER CHEESE

BIKINI - JAMON SERRANO, BLACK TRUFFLE, MELTER SKELTER CHEESE

The Fideos is a twist on the paella; instead of being rice-based, it's made with rice vermicelli. I think I'll stick to paella in the future. 

FIDEOS - CLAMS, SHRIMP, SEPIA, PULPO, SEA BASS, WITH BLACK ALLIOLI 

FIDEOS - CLAMS, SHRIMP, SEPIA, PULPO, SEA BASS, WITH BLACK ALLIOLI 

I think our waiter was shocked that we still wanted desserts after inhaling so many dishes. The desserts were just ok. I was expecting a proper Lemon meringue tart rather than the mini deconstructed version that we got. In the future, I would probably skip the dessert (and I don't say that lightly) and just get another glass of G&T. 

BANANA WAFFLE

BANANA WAFFLE

LEMON MERINGUE TART

LEMON MERINGUE TART

Verdict:  AA-.  Great place to meet friends for impromptu drinks and some nibble. The portions are a bit small for the price, so don't come too hungry.  

Cata
245 Bowery (@ Stanton Street)
http://catarestaurant.com

Charlie Bird

Finally had a chance to check out the much-hyped Charlie Bird for dinner. First impression: while the space feels airy (glass wall that opens out to the sidewalk gave it a nice indoor/outdoor feel), the noise level was deafening! I guess the restaurant is going for a trendy, downtown vibe, but, personally, I think the loud music distracts from the space and the food.  

The menu has lots of small plates, so we decided to share everything, family-style.  

We started with the Farro Salad and the Chicken Liver. The Farro Salad had great texture and was quite tasty for a salad (no, I don't usually order salads). 

Farro Salad

Farro Salad

The Chicken Liver was beautifully presented, but was just average in taste.

Chicken Liver with Balsamic Raisins, Capers, & Walnuts 

Chicken Liver with Balsamic Raisins, Capers, & Walnuts 

The Duck Egg Sphagetti with Uni, a signature dish, was pretty good, but wasn't spectacular. The restaurant did split the dish into individual portions for us, which was a nice touch. 

Duck Egg Spaghetti with Uni

Duck Egg Spaghetti with Uni

It seems that every New York restaurant is serving some version of roasted chicken these days, so I was curious how Charlie Bird's version stacks up. As it turns out, the Roasted Chicken was the surprising star of the meal! The skin was perfectly crisped and the meat was extremely tender and juicy. No foie gras on the chicken (think NoMad), but it does come with a side of chicken liver.  Of course, this made the chicken liver appetizer that we ordered seem that much more redundant. 

Roasted Chicken 

Roasted Chicken 

Overall, it was a very nice dinner, but I am in no big hurry to return. If I do go back, I would probably go for lunch and request an outside table. 

Charlie Bird
5 King Street (entrance is on 6th Ave.)
http://charliebirdnyc.com

Verdict: AA-

Pearl & Ash

A friend, who used to live in NYC, was in town for the week and requested that we explore a trendy, new restaurant for dinner.  Feeling a bit too old for the scenes at the Meatpacking District, we ended up at Pearl & Ash. 

The space felt warm and inviting.  Various design elements kept  my eyes bouncing around the room.  

PORK MEATBALLS, SHIITAKE, BONITO, SOPPRESSATA

PORK MEATBALLS, SHIITAKE, BONITO, SOPPRESSATA

The menu was designed with sharing in mind.  

The octopus was too charred for my taste. The portion was also tiny!

OCTOPUS, SUNFLOWER SEED, SHISO

OCTOPUS, SUNFLOWER SEED, SHISO

The cod was fresh and flaky. I love how the chef added a simple flavor like coconut and completely transformed the dish to something different. 

COD, COCONUT, THAI BASIL, LEMONGRASS

COD, COCONUT, THAI BASIL, LEMONGRASS

CAULIFLOWER, HAZELNUT, SHISHITO

CAULIFLOWER, HAZELNUT, SHISHITO

POTATOES, PORCINI MAYO, CHORIZO

POTATOES, PORCINI MAYO, CHORIZO

I expected the meat dishes to be more substantial. It felt like each dish was a little bit of a tease. 

DUCK, TURNIP

DUCK, TURNIP

FLAT IRON, BROCCOLINI, CHICKPEA-TAHINI

FLAT IRON, BROCCOLINI, CHICKPEA-TAHINI

It was impossible to know what kind of desserts we would be getting by reading the menu description. Our waiter was no help either.  Thankfully, the ones we chose turned out nicely. Both of the desserts were both beautiful and tasty. 

BANANA, MUSCAT GRAPE, CASHEW

BANANA, MUSCAT GRAPE, CASHEW

STRAWBERRY, PISTACHIO, GRAHAM CRACKER

STRAWBERRY, PISTACHIO, GRAHAM CRACKER

Verdict: AA-.  Good restaurant for groups.  More opportunity to sample more dishes and hopefully the socializing will distract one from noticing the small portion size.

Pearl & Ash
220 Bowery (Between Prince & Spring St.)
http://www.pearlandash.com

Le Coutume Cafe

Super excited to find a cafe that serves American-style brunch!  Brunch spots hard to come by in Paris because the Parisians don't really brunch.  But, why not?!  This may be the one tradition that the Parisians can afford to pick up from the Americans.  

Not only did the brunch pre-fix include eggs, bacon, and toast, it also came with a selection of pastries.  We are in Paris after all!  While I enjoyed my eggs and bacon, the highlight of the meal was definitely the fresh squeezed orange juice!  The last time I had OJ this good was in Morocco, where they were literally picking the oranges off the tree to make us juice!  

Verdict: AA-.  This cafe definitely has a cool hipster vibe. The brunch menu is a bit limited, with only pre-fix options, and pricey.  But since it's one of the few places in Paris that serves brunch, I am willing to overlook those minor details. Plus, the orange juice alone will have me coming back time and time again! 

Le Coutume Cafe
47 Rue de Babylone, 75007
https://www.facebook.com/Coutume