Sunday, March 08, 2009

Elements, Princeton NJ

Princeton finally has a good restaurant! The biggest compliment I can pay Elements is that while we were there, we forgot we were in Princeton. It felt like New York or Philadelphia in every aspect -- decor, service, and most importantly, the food. And when we finished our 3 hour tasting menu at midnight, we only had to a travel a couple miles up the road!

We partook of the $75 Winter Tasting Menu. The guys got the wine pairings with it. We started out with an amuse of kobe lardo (made from the leftover bits from making other dishes - can't waste good kobe!) And tiny bites of the citrus salad, and scallop crudo. The scallop made me want to go back and order the whole appetizer - I've recently realized that I really prefer scallop raw over cooked.

The first course was a Kindai tuna tartare. Kindai is a new farm-raised bluefin tuna shipped over from Japan, which is supposed to have lower mercury levels and of course be more eco-friendly than eating caught tuna. I'm happy to eat sustainable tuna and do my part in the over-fishing problem.

We also got the pork belly appetizer for the table. God, I love pork belly -- nothing quite comes close to the goodness of pork. And the accoutrements for this dish - Bartlett pear, radish, and whatever was in that sauce - were excellent.

Next course were scallops. I'm forgetting exactly how they were served - with some vegetable puree, wild mushrooms and a foam. Different from the diver scallop dish on the regular menu.

Next course was squab (from the local Griggstown Farm). This was my favorite dish on the tasting. The broth was delicious, the squab was a perfect medium rare. And the last meat dish, was filet mignon with potato puree, maitake mushrooms, and Swiss chard -- also excellent.

Next, they brought out a cheese course, with three hard cheese all from local cheesemakers, starting left to right going from younger and milder to more aged and pungent. The accompaniments with each cheese complemented really well. For the last, most pungent cheese, it actually came with grape jelly and chocolate shavings!

The only disappointing item on the tasting menu was the dessert. It wasn't bad, it just wasn't quite up to the level of everything else, I thought.

Finally, they brought some miniature cookies and petitfours, and sent us home with a mini pound cake to have for breakfast the next day.

Again, all I can say is Hallelujah for finally having a place like this in Princeton!

163 Bayard Lane
Princeton, NJ

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Momofuku Ssam Bar

Petitesouer and I went to Momofuku Ssam Bar for lunch. We got there just before the rush. I like the Momofuku enterprises, but my main thing with them is they are way overpriced. So the $25 prix fixe three-course lunch special seemed like a good deal.

First course was a choice of either the kimchi apple salad, pickles, or roast pork buns. For two bargain-hunters such as us, there was no question -- it had to be pork buns. Petiteseour's stomach was not quite up for fatty pork, but I happily gobbled up her's as well as mine - the pork buns just taste like my childhood.

Since it was 2 of us sharing one prix-fixe lunch, we supplemented with the Satur farm's fried brussels sprouts with mint, scallions, and fish sauce vinaigrette. This was great - brussel sprouts were slightly charred and crispy, but nice and tender and the sauce had a great blend of flavors - and the crunch of the puffed rice was nice.

Second course was a choice of grilled branzino, braised beef brisket, or spicy rice cakes with pork sausage, chinese broccoli, and crispy shallots.

We opted for the rice cakes - it had a nice amount of heat, the rice cakes were well-cooked. The sausage lent it a fusion flavor - different than traditional Asian rice cake dishes. I'd have been happy trying either of the other choices as well - the branzino (which as an entree costs $21) seems like it would have been a steal of a deal, and the brisket (which we saw over at the next table) looked delicious.

Finally, third course was dessert: a choice between blondie pie, and their signature PB&J -- which is a peanut butter pannacotta on a peanutty wafer cookie, topped with strawberry jam and saltines. The whole thing (other than the jam) was oddly salty -- not in a good accent salt kind of way - which I really like in dessert, where you get just a hint of salt to cut the sweetness. No, this dessert started sweet on the tongue and finished salty in the aftertaste. It was interesting, but I would have liked to finish sweet.

I and 1000yregg are curious about the Bo Ssam dish - the whole pork butt with a dozen oysters, served with kimchi, rice, and lettuce accompaniment. The dish costs friggin $200! Petiteseour said she had heard it served about 8-10 people, but when Bourdain had it on No Reservations, it didn't look that big to either me or 1000yregg, but who knows -- we're Chinese and have a skewed sense of what a lot of food is... There is a recipe from David Change online - maybe if I'm ambitious I'll try it.

Momofuku Ssam Bar
207 Second Avenue
New York, NY

Friday, March 06, 2009

The Bacon Explosion

So we jumped on the bandwagon last month and made the Bacon Explosion. Smoked it with hickory, along with a whole chicken.

I have to say that I think the recipe needs some work - there's nothing revelatory - it tastes like you'd expect bacon, sausage, and bbq sauce to taste. And it was really salty.

I feel like some element of starch needs to be added - like stuffing in mashed potatoes, or making it en croute - just something. Perhaps further experimentation is necessary...