Sunday, March 29, 2009

Happy at Haru

My friend JK wasn't able to make it to my party last Saturday, but wanted to take me out to dinner and drinks for my birthday. Who am I to turn that down?! He has been telling me about Haru's Sake Hour for years now, but I still hadn't made it there. So when he suggested that for Monday night, I was excited to finally give it a shot.

Haru has a few locations around the city (along with one in Boston and one in Philadelphia), and I had been to the Midtown ones for work lunches, but hadn't been to the newest one on Park Avenue South right near Union Square.

The interior is so nice...massive floor to ceiling windows allow for great people-watching from the bar area. There's a sleek, modern vibe without being over-the-top trendy.

Haru features a "Sake Hour" every weeknight from 5-7pm, featuring a small menu of appetizers and drinks priced around $5 that are only available in the bar area. We started with an order of edamame and a Sapporo, and then took a look over the options. I decided to go with the spring rolls, spicy tuna roll, and California roll. The vegetable spring rolls were delicious, although a little greasy, and were served with a great pickled plum sauce. Both the rolls I ordered were very fresh and the portion sizes were definitely larger than expected. JK really enjoyed his rolls as well.

While the prices aren't dirt cheap, they are pretty reasonable for an upscale sushi restaurant. But, if you order a few rolls and drinks like we did, the bill usually ends being about the same amount as if you ordered sushi off the regular dinner menu in the main dining room. It was a really fun departure from the typical nachos/wings bar food at happy hour though. And, the atmosphere is just a touch classier!

220 Park Avenue South
@ 18th Street
Menu Pages listing

Monday, March 16, 2009

Will Always Yearn for the Yurt!

I've shared a lot of my incredible dining experiences on Miss Menu in the past year, but all of these pale in comparison to the one I just had in Park City, UT. I don't use the word "amazing" very often, but our trip to The Viking Yurt truly was amazing.

We heard about The Viking Yurt from none other than US Magazine in a Sundance Film Festival wrap-up. After talking to our new best friend and owner of the Yurt, Joy, we took a vote and decided that we had to give this adventure a shot.

The evening starts with a sleigh ride up the ski slopes to an elevation of 8000 steep that there are seat belts involved! This offers the most ridiculous views, especially at sunset. Once we reached one of the ski lodges, we got off the sleigh and put on snow shoes for a 300 yard trek through the snow-covered forest.

Emerging from the trees, we saw the Viking Yurt...a simple structure built into the side of the mountain with no electricity or running water. Sounds a little rustic, right? Far from it. We were in store for an evening filled with flowing wine, a roaring fire, live piano music, and a 5-course, top notch dinner prepared by Chef Adam Findlay.

Upon arrival, a hot drink was served called glog. Yes, glog. Glog is a non-alcoholic berry based drink spiced with cardamom, nutmeg, and cinnamon. It was delicious, and the perfect way to warm up after the sleigh ride and snow shoeing.

First up was a selection of cheeses, crackers, and fruits. Fresh Vermont cheddar, Maytag blue, and brie. Yum. While there was beer, wine, and cocktails available on the menu, there was also the option of BYO with a corkage fee. We brought two bottles of white and one bottle of red. They both went so well with the cheeses.

Next up was a cauliflower pear soup with lavender essence and white truffle oil. It was hands down the best soup I've ever had. Creamy, hearty, and rich. Each flavor really came through, but none overpowered the soup.

After that was a shaved fennel and watermelon salad topped with a parmesan crisp. This was so light, the kind of dish you'd expect to have in the summer, and was a nice contrast to the heavy soup before it.

To cleanse our palates, lemon sorbet was served in rocks carried back from Norway - in keeping with the Scandinavian theme. Each rock came with a number engraved on the bottom indicating which region of Norway it came from.

For the entree, we had wild salmon with a miso glaze, served with whipped potatoes and baby carrots with a red wine reduction. When Chef Findlay was announcing the menu at the beginning of the meal, I thought miso glaze and a red wine reduction on the same plate sounded pretty strange...but wow, was I wrong! Even though salmon isn't my favorite fish, this dish was out of this world.

And, last but certainly not least, dessert. A frozen chocolate mousse was removed from its mold and topped with a rich raspberry sauce, fresh raspberries, a piece of peanut brittle, and a chocolate cigarette. Un. Real.

It's hard to put this amazing experience into words, but I hope I did it at least some justice. Take a look at the Viking Yurt's website for more descriptions and photos. And, if you are ever in Park City, or anywhere in Utah for that matter, you must...I repeat MUST venture to the Yurt!

The Viking Yurt
The Canyons Ski Resort

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Everything But The Kitchen Sink - Park City Style

I'm off to Park City, UT for a long weekend. I'm really excited, except for one minor detail - I don't really ski. Hopefully that will all change within the next 48 hours! If the skiing thing doesn't work out though, I'll have to get back in my comfort zone. I've heard that there are some incredible restaurants in Park City. So, check back on Wednesday for a Miss Menu recap of the Park City dining scene!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Centro In My Mind

I was heading to SN's birthday apartment party on the west side with AS and JM, and we thought it'd be fun to grab dinner nearby for a change of scenery. I use to go over to Hell's Kitchen a lot for lunch during work, but haven't since the weather turned cold. We didn't get a chance to scope out a restaurant beforehand, so we did something Miss Menu really doesn't like to do...roamed the street looking for a restaurant!

Luckily for us, it was one of the easiest restaurant hunts I've ever had. Knowing how many restaurants line 9th Avenue in the 50s, we told the cab to drop us off at 50th & 9th. We figured we could get out there and work our way up since SN lives on 60th.

We peaked in the windows and looked at the menus of a few places, but nothing was really grabbing our attention. We ended up at El Centro, a lively, crowded Mexican restaurant. It was perfect. They had a table available for us right away, and a pretty extensive, reasonably-priced menu.

At first we were seated right at the door, which made us uncomfortably cold. Luckily, the table next to us opened up a few minutes later and we moved over to a great corner table. It gave us a great view of the restaurant...right next to the wall adorned with metal - OK, I have NO clue what these things are!

Chips and salsa were brought out right away, and I was a huge fan of both. The chips were hot and really salty, and the salsa had a great flavor and just the right amount of heat. After perusing the menu, I decided to go with my old standby, enchiladas suizas. Yes, I've ordered these recently, but they are just so darn good! I ordered the grilled vegetable enchiladas that came in homemade corn tortillas, topped with lettuce, queso blanco, crema fresca, salsa verde and radish. It came with a side of black beans and rice.

The vegetables had a great flavor, and surprisingly had quite a kick to them! The crema fresca helped though.

AS ordered the burro vegetarian, which was a stuffed homemade flour tortilla with monterrey jack cheese, pico de gallo, and crema fresca. It came with a small side salad as well. She really enjoyed the veggies that were inside and commented how she liked that the outside of the tortilla was grilled lightly, adding a nice texture.

JM decided to go for a more creative dish and ordered the pan-seared striped bass, which was served with roasted sweet plantains, a mixed salad, and black beans & yellow rice. He loved it and said the fish was cooked really nicely. And, the sweetness of the plantain complimented the seasoning on the fish really well.

Top 40 music was playing pretty loudly, which, for a Saturday night, was a lot of fun. But, I can see how that'd get a little old on a quieter weeknight. We didn't get any drinks, but the margaritas on the table next to us looked delicious too! The waitstaff was friendly, coming by multiple times to ask how everything was. All in all, we had a great experience there. It may not have been our first stop in the restaurant hunt, but it should've been the centro all along!

El Centro
824 9th Avenue
@ 54th Street
Menu Pages listing