Citrus Marinated Salmon

>>  Sunday, January 31, 2010

Citrus Marinated Salmon
I think I've found my new favorite way of preparing salmon.  I might be biased, as I love raw fish, but man, this dish is so incredibly good.  I really think it's my new favorite dish for potlucks or dinner parties.  It's got all the elements of perfect entertaining food: it's easy to make, relatively inexpensive, can serve quite a few people, and looks stunning when presented.

Oh, did I mention that it tastes absolutely phenomenal?  And that it's a Thomas Keller recipe?

Similar to gravlax, this salmon is marinated in coarse sea salt, sugar, white pepper, and zest from a bounty of citrus fruits overnight. What results is a beautiful citrus-infused salmon tartare, which pairs beautifully with potato blinis and greens with citrus vinaigrette.

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Joel Robuchon (The Mansion)

>>  Friday, January 29, 2010

This post is part V and the conclusion of the larger series: Celebrity Chef Dining in Las Vegas.  Other posts in this series include Part I: Mario Batali's B&B Ristorante and Part II: Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill and Part III: Rao's, and Part IV: Mario Batali's Enoteca San Marco
Joel Robuchon
Utter decadence.  Royal Opulence.  Over-the-top.

These are just a few words that come to mind when I think back to my experience dining at Joel Robuchon.  Up until that point, I had never felt so much like a king while dining at a restaurant.

We're lucky to even be able to dine here, actually.  Back in 1996, Joel Robuchon, one of the most acclaimed French chefs in history, felt "stifled" from cooking at the age of 51.  He closed his famous restaurant in Paris (Joel Robuchon) in 1996 while "at the top of his game."
Fortunately, after six years, he got the itch again.  He came "straight out of retirement" to open his first French restaurant in the US - Joel Robuchon, The Mansion, in Las Vegas.

This is the only three-star Michelin restaurant in all of Las Vegas. Having enjoyed two other three-star Michelin restaurants in NYC, I was curious what a three-star Michelin outside of NYC would be like.

The craziest thing you can order is the Menu Degustation (8-courses for $385 pp!!!).  I wasn't feeling so crazy, and we had a show to catch at 7pm, so we opted for the 4-course tasting for $148 pp.
bread spread
The Incredible Bread Cart
Moments after we had settled into our plush, velvet seats, this gorgeous bread cart rolled up right next to our seats.


Definitely the most amazing spread of bread options I had ever seen in my life. Typically at these nice restaurants, a waiter comes by holding a tray of various breads and allows you to choose as many as you want, which is always fun. Here, the waiter wheeled this massive cart filled with gorgeous, perfectly formed mini-baguettes, herb rolls, large crusty breads, milk bread rolls, and on and on and on. It was mind-blowingly full of options, and every single piece looked tantalizing.

I think between the two of us we almost tried every single piece of bread (heh), and they were all fantastic. If I had to pick our favorites, I think it would be the mini-wheat baguette, the basil roll, and milk bread.  But really, they were all incredibly enjoyable.
caviar amuse
And that was only the beginning of this insanely over-the-top meal.

Join me as I share with you what must be the most opulent meal I have ever experienced.

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Enoteca San Marco

>>  Wednesday, January 27, 2010

This post is part IV of the larger series: Celebrity Chef Dining in Las Vegas.  Other posts in this series include Part I: Mario Batali's B&B Ristorante and Part II: Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill and Part III: Rao's
cauliflower ragu
One of my favorite things to do in the summer in Boston is to enjoy a meal outside on a beautiful day. After visiting Las Vegas in July a few years ago, I realized why there is very little real outdoor dining in Las Vegas.

This desert is crazy hot in the summer, and outdoor dining would be no fun.
What I find amusing is how many of these huge casinos have built up these indoor spaces that almost feel like the outdoors. The most obvious ones are at Caesars Palace and the Venetian, where super high ceiling is painted to look like clouds against a blue sky. At the Venetian there are even canals in which gondolas float by every so often with opera singers inside. There’s also a fake St. Mark’s Square (modeled after Venice) and has both indoor and “outdoor” seats.
Enoteca San Marco is one of these restaurants, by Mario Batali, that sits in the Square. The benefits of these “outdoor” seats are that it never rains, the temperature is always perfect, and you might even catch some Italian singers putting on a show if you’re lucky (or maybe unlucky depending on how you feel about that kind of music!).

Here are detailed pictures of the relaxing lunch we enjoyed while attending CES (The Consumer Electronics Show) which was also held inside the Venetian.

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Mesa Grill

>>  Tuesday, January 26, 2010

This post is part II of the larger series: Celebrity Chef Dining in Las Vegas.  Other posts in this series include Part I: Mario Batali's B&B Ristorante.
Unlike many of the other Food Network celebrity chefs, Bobby Flay only has one restaurant in Vegas. That might be part of the reason why that restaurant is always SUPER crowded. It almost seems like it’s a given you have to wait if you don’t make a reservation.

IMG_1466What’s the draw?

Well, it does not hurt that this restaurant is in Caesar’s Palace, one of the most popular and crowded casinos, partly because it’s attached to the huge Forum Shops Shopping Plaza.

But that can’t just be it – Wolfgang Puck’s Spago (in the same complex) is not nearly as crowded. And even Rao’s is not crowded in quite the same hectic way.

Well, I don’t know the exact reason, but I can tell you that the food at Mesa Grill is amazing. Bobby Flay is truly a master of using interesting, bold flavors to spice up ordinary dishes. His dishes are nowhere ordinary, and everything has some creative kick to it. I love it.

This was my second time here, and Bryan’s third, so we tried to order some newer things, one of which became one of the best duck dishes Bryan has ever had in his entire life.  I’ll let you know what you should order if it’s your first time there at the end of the post.

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I know so many of you have donated to the Haiti Relief effort already.  Others, like me, may still be waiting.  Waiting to decide whether to give, how much to give, where to give . . .

If you feel moved to give, I urge you not to wait too long - it's easy to forget these things.  I still kick myself for doing the exact same thing after the earthquakes in China.  I waited . . and then I didn't give.

So, I have decided to join the Blog Away Hunger campaign.  This is a group of bloggers coming together and agreeing to donate a portion of their ad revenue towards the Haiti Relief effort.
I will be donating 5x my ad revenue for the months of January and February to the American Red Cross.  Furthermore, the company I work for has offered to match my donation dollar for dollar (if made by Feb. 12, 2010), resulting in a total effective donation amount of 10x my ad revenue for the months of January and February.*

If you have ever wanted to explore my old posts, now's a great time to do it, since ad revenue is counted by number of impressions (clicks).  I have put some links to my favorite posts after the jump.

If you are a blogger and want to donate your ad revenue as well, check out the Help Haiti Campaign over at Blog Away Hunger.

If you want to make a much more direct impact, please donate directly.  I urge you to give unrestricted funds (instead of earmarking them for Haiti specifically).  This allows the organizations as much flexibility as possible to use the funds where they needed most.
The American Red Cross
World Vision
Doctors Without Borders

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B&B Ristorante

>>  Sunday, January 24, 2010

No! Not OFFAL! I don't want to eat brains!!!

I couldn't believe it. After having heard amazing things about celebrity chef Mario Batali’s Babbo in NYC, (and pasta basically being Bryan's favorite food in the world), we had decided to try B&B, Batali and Joe Bastianich's joint venture in Las Vegas. This restaurant has been most closely compared with Babbo, Batali's restaurant in New York. Both Babbo and B&B have signature eight-course pasta tastings which change seasonally.
While at the airport en route to Las Vegas, I thought it would be fun to look up the pasta tasting online.  Uh oh.  Bad idea.  B&B had just started featuring their seasonal offal pasta tasting.

In case you don't know, offal is defined as basically parts of an animal that most people don't want to eat.  Hmmmm . . .

Now, being Chinese, it's not like weird animal parts are foreign to me. I grew up eating tripe (cow stomach), pig intestines, and chicken hearts. I've had frog legs, sea cucumbers, duck tongue, and all sorts of other things. Really, it shouldn’t be a big deal. Nevertheless, there are a few things that have always grossed me out, and one of these is brains.

And the first course of the tasting menu? Ravioli made with lamb's brains.

I looked deploringly at Bryan - "No brains . . please? please? PLEASE????" “No brains!”
Jen Lamb's brain
He looked crestfallen. The pasta lover had been looking forward to this meal for like a year.

We entered the restaurant and the waitress RAVED about the pasta tasting. She said the various dishes were REALLY GOOD. And after looking at the other menu options (which looked much more ordinary and less interesting), I was stuck in a bind.

Bryan looked at me again, smiled mischievously, and said, "pasta tasting?"

I sighed. . . defeat . .again. How does this always happen?

So here is a detailed summary of my first offal pasta tasting ever.

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Celebrity Chef Dining in Las Vegas

>>  Friday, January 22, 2010

This is the first post in a six-part series titled "Celebrity Chef Dining in Las Vegas."
Part II: Joel Robuchon (The Mansion)

Part III: Mesa Grill (Bobby Flay)
Part IV: Enoteca San Marco (Mario Batali)
Part V: B&B Ristorante (Mario Batali)
Part VI: Raos

My favorite thing to do in Las Vegas is to watch the Bellagio fountains.  I never miss it. I can watch show after show after show.  The magic never loses its touch on me, for some reason.  I am just mesmerized by it. Maybe it's the music.  Maybe it's the majestic heights that these fountains reach (with the help of fireworks).  Maybe it's the way the music is timed so perfectly with the artistic movements of the water.
Bellagio Fountains night
Last year on the way to Bryce Canyon, we stayed at the Bellagio in a fountain facing room  for one night (rates were cheap in the dead of the hot summer on a Sunday night).  I just sat next to the window, for about two hours, watching every single fountain show. Every 15 minutes. I enjoyed every minute of it.
Las Vegas CES (58 of 69)
Just a few weeks ago, Bryan and I went to Las Vegas again for our annual CES trip. This time, we decided to hit up a bunch of celebrity chef / famous restaurants.  I believe all of these restaurants or chefs (except for one) have been featured on the Food Network.  The last chef is just super famous.  I have interspersed some pictures from these restaurants with other random Las Vegas scenes.  Can you guess where I went?
A signature dish at this old world Italian restaurant was fantastic.
City Center Agate Stairs
Agate stone stairway at the new City Center.
shrimp tamale
Shrimp tamales with fresh corn!
Domo chocolates
One of these restaurant gave a box of chocolates "to the lady" to take home.
Lamb's Brain Ravioli
An eight course pasta tasting showcasing interesting ingredients.
Salmon cavier
Utter decadence!  A gold leaf, caviar, and salmon.
Bellagio Fountains dusk
Of course, I leave you with my favorite fountains, at dusk. This series will continue all next week, as I showcase detailed descriptions of Las Vegas!

*thanks to Bryan for taking the fountain pictures as I was too mesmerized to take any photos

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Roasted Brussels Sprouts

>>  Thursday, January 21, 2010

I love oven roasted Brussels sprouts.  Similar to the way roasting glorifies its humble cruciferous cousin, the cauliflower, oven roasting transforms Brussels sprouts as well, but even better!  Brussels sprouts have these thin leaves that, when roasted, crisp up into these addictive crunchy morsels, not unlike the kale "chips" I made recently.  And I just can't stop eating them.  Seriously, I was making these at night after dinner and then I ended up gobbling up like 1/3 of the tray before I forced myself to stop.  By the way, they do taste the best straight out of the oven!
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Make sure to cut off the hard bottom and any leaves that look wilted.  I also like cutting up the sprouts in half (or big ones in quarters) to speed up the cooking time.  Plus, cutting ensures that all the pieces are relatively the same size, which ensures even cooking.

Blanching is optional, but it allows you to roast at a higher temperature to crisp up the edges.  I blanched my Brussels sprouts for just a few minutes before shocking them with cold water.
Toss the Brussels sprouts with olive oil, salt, and pepper until well coated.  The key, actually, is to add quite a bit of salt.  Add a bit more than you would normally add for other vegetables.  For some reason, salt really makes this dish stand out.
I peeled off some leaves because I wanted more crunchy bits. :)  Roast for about 20 minutes, but check periodically to see how they are doing.  Once they are a nicely brown and tender (with crispy edges!) you can take them out. If you did not blanch then earlier, check one to make sure it's tender all the way through.  At that point, if it's also nicely brown and tender, you're done!

Note: I used a convection microwave oven to make this.  I basically set the oven to cook for 30 minutes (this includes preheat time) at 400 degrees.  The Brussels Sprouts came out perfectly after the 30 minutes was up.

That's it!  So easy!  And honesty - so incredibly delicious!  Brussels sprouts pair amazingly well with smoked meats, such as bacon, guianciale, etc.  Experiment!  This recipe is super flexible.  I might try pulling off all the leaves next time and try making Brussels sprouts "chips"!

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Wheat Berry Salad

>>  Wednesday, January 20, 2010

raw wheat berries
I love wheat berries.  I first tried them at the salad bar at Whole Foods Market and I was hooked.  They are slightly chewy, and "pop" when you bite into them.  I love it.  Plus you feel really good after eating it, probably because it's loaded with vitamins, fiber, and other very good stuff.

What's a wheat berry?
A wheat berry is an intact wheat kernel.  It's what gets ground up to make wheat flour. I could go into a long dissertation about the benefits of keeping your grains whole as long as possible, but I'll save that for another post. Suffice it to say, wheat berries are packed with nutrients and fiber since they are virtually unprocessed.

For now, let me show you how to make wheat berries!

Inspired by The Ultimate Rice Cooker Cookbook by Beth Hensperger

1 cup soft white wheat berries
2 cups water
dash of salt
toasting wheat berries
Toast the wheat berries in a skillet for ~4 minutes on medium high heat. Stir often, for the wheat berries will begin to brown and even start popping. You may want to get a lid just in case. I had one fly off the pan and onto the counter!  This step is optional, but it does give a nice, roasted nutty flavor and the grains will smell fantastic while they are cooking in the rice cooker!
soaking wheat berries
Soak the wheat berries for 1 hour in water.

Drain the water and then cook the rice + 2 cups of water in a rice cooker at the brown rice setting. I use my awesome Zojirushi fuzzy logic rice cooker (mine's actually an older model they don't make anymore).  If you don't have a rice cooker, you can bring the wheat berries to a boil in a pot of water on the stove top and then let simmer for about 45 minutes.
note: Rice cookers come with a "cup" that is actually only 3/4 of a regular cup.  The recipe shown above is for regular cups, not rice cooker cups.  You can also try using the rice cooker proportions (i.e. add 2 rice cooker cups of wheat berries and fill the water up to level "2" under the "brown rice" section of the rice cooker)

This is what cooked wheat berries look like. Some of them will split open.
wheat berries
Now the possibilities are endless!  Some Asians find that, just by replacing their white rice with a whole grain like this, they can actually lose weight.  This stuff is filling (from all the fiber), super nutritious, and delicious (nutty, toasted flavor).  I usually feel really good after eating this.  I feel balanced, not stuffed, not unsatisfied.  I think it's because my body is getting enough nutrients and fiber, and thus it doesn't crave munchies or desserts as much after a meal.  I'm just starting to get into whole grains thing, but so far I love it!

Of course, you don't have to treat it like rice.  You can make interesting salads (which is how I first enjoyed it at Whole Foods).  Toss with a "dressing" of some sort, and mix in vegetables, cheese, meat - whatever you fancy.
chopped peppers onions
For this "recipe," I finely chopped 1 red bell pepper, 1 orange bell pepper, 1/3 red onion, and 2 mini-cucumbers.  I then dressed the cooked wheatberries with a bit of sesame oil, soy sauce, and sugar to taste.  You can add hot pepper flakes or ground black pepper if you like a bit of kick.  Finally, mix everything together.
Wheat berry salad
And that's it! Of course, this is very flexible and you can add whatever you want. I bet a Greek version with some olive oil, balsamic vinegar, olives, peppers, and feta cheese would be really good as well.
wheatberry salad

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Market by Jean-Georges

>>  Tuesday, January 19, 2010

JG Market
There are only four restaurants in New York City that have received the sacred three-star Michelin rating: Le BernardinDaniel, Per Se, and Jean-Georges. Imagine the excitement and hype that followed when we Bostonians found out that finally, finally Jean-Georges Vongerichten was going to open a restaurant in Boston.

It's been 24 years. Jean-Georges opened his first US restaurant in Boston.  Called Lafayette, it was located in the former SwissĂ´tel near Chinatown.  A year later he moved to New York, and still lives there today.

Market by Jean-Georges
Situated in the new W Hotel, Jean Georges' new Boston venture is called "Market." The concept behind this restaurant is that everything is locally sourced.  The restaurant relies "entirely on the bounty of area farms and fisherman," only the fourth of its kind in the Jean-Georges Empire (the others are in Paris, Vancouver, and Atlanta).  The restaurant also aims to serve seasonal ingredients, and Jean-Georges insists that all of his shellfish is fresh and wild.  Many of the dishes are local interpretations of "greatest hits" from other Jean-Georges restaurants around the world.

A few weeks ago, I visited Market by Jean-Georges for lunch with Bryan and our friend Peter (guest author of the awesome Melisse review).  Peter and his wife, Chia Chi, had just enjoyed an absolutely incredible dinner at Jean-Georges in New York. Bryan and I had also tried their amazing $28 three-course lunch last year and thought it was very, very good.  Naturally we were super curious about this place.

Three Course Market Lunch
If you go for lunch, I would highly recommend getting the Three Course Market Lunch, which is a great value at only $24. I have written the prices below of what these items would have cost, a la carte (you can see it's much much higher).
JG Market tuna tartare
Tuna Tartare Avocado, Spicy Radish, Ginger Dressing ($14)
My favorite dish of the meal!  The tuna, avocados, radish - everything was really fresh. The dish was surprisingly spicy, and seemed to have hints a Srirachi sauce-like flavor, which I loved.
JG Market Fish
Slowly Cooked Salmon Mashed Potatoes, Brussel Sprouts, Truffle Vinaigrette* ($21)
Shredding Brussels sprouts seems to be the in thing to do these days.  I actually liked them prepared this way.  The brussels sprouts were flavorful with just the right amount of texture. The slow-cooked salmon was perfectly soft and tender, flaking off easily with a fork. The truffle vinaigrette was fine, although unmemorable.  Over all, it was a decent dish considering the price of the Market lunch, but definitely not up to par with the food I typically associated with Jean-Georges.
JG Market Chicken
Parmesan Crusted Organic Chicken, Artichokes, Lemon-Basil Butter ($18)
Peter got this dish, and unfortunately, he hated it.  Though it was decently fried, it was severely over-salted.  You can see the salt crystals in the picture!  It ruined the entree for him, sadly.  I tried a bite and I agree it was super salty, although I tend to be sensitive to salt.  Bryan can eat much more salt than I can, and he even agreed it was too salty.
JG Market Crumble
Green Apple Crisp Cinnamon Ice Cream
Dessert was solid, but again, nothing particularly remarkable. The crumble part was quite enjoyable, and I'm pretty sure I finished everything,
JG Market pudding
Chocolate Pudding Gently Whipped Cream
Bryan loves pudding, so it's not hard to please him in this department.  This pudding had a nice, dark chocolately flavor and was not too sweet.  I typically associated pudding with what you get in those JELL-O boxes, and I cringe a bit when I think of that. This was nothing like that. It was quite pleasant, and I was wishing I had ordered this instead of the crumble, mostly because it was less heavy.

Over all Thoughts?
Ignoring the overly salty chicken (which may have just been an anomaly?), this restaurant is not bad.  I like the idea of a "Market" selling food that aims to be local, seasonal, wild, and fresh.  The Market Lunch is a great deal; all of the food (except for the chicken) was prepared pretty well.  Don't expect the amazingly inventive flavors and perfect execution that you'd see in his three-star establishment in New York.  However, you will get a solid three-course lunch made with fresh, local ingredients for only $24.

Would I go back if I had to pay their normal prices? My initial answer might be no. Especially if the over-salting of food is not an anomaly, then I really would be hesitant about coming back. At that price range, there's plenty of competition in Boston.

But perhaps it's a bit too early too make any final conclusions.

I should at least try dinner there once. The 6-course Market Menu is only $58, which feels "cheap" after our trip to Las Vegas (posts coming soon!).  I'll definitely report back once I try this place for dinner!

Market By Jean-Georges
Theater District
100 Stuart St.
Boston, MA 02116
617) 310-6790
Market by Jean-Georges on Urbanspoon

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Truffle Roasted Cauliflower

>>  Monday, January 18, 2010

I can't believe it's taken me this long to discover how delicious cauliflower tastes when roasted.  Chinese cuisine doesn't really use the oven, and thus I grew up eating food that was mostly stir fried, steamed, or boiled.  Not that stir-fried cauliflower isn't delicious.  It is. And I absolutely love Chinese food.

But there's something about the roasting process that especially brings out some amazing flavors in cauliflower that you don't get from stir frying, steaming, or boiling.
And it's so incredibly simple . . . and so delicious.  There's really no need for an actual recipe.  Just preheat the oven to 400 degrees; toss together cauliflower florets with olive oil, salt, and pepper; and put everything in a single layer onto a baking tray.  Roast at 400 degrees for 25-30 minutes.  Check the florets halfway through and stir.

That's it!  And they will brown and look like this!!
Roasted Cauliflower
Oh yum . . .

Finish the dish off by drizzling some white truffle oil on top.  You can optionally add coarse sea salt (or normal salt) to taste.  Oh yeah . .once you add the truffle oil, it's hard to stop eating it.

The truffle oil really kicks this humble side dish up to another level.  I recently brought this to a potluck and people gobbled it up.  Yeah, they gobbled up the veggie dish.  It was awesome.


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