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Posts Tagged ‘pork’

Spaghetti and Meatballs

Serves 4-5.

1 ½ lbs. spaghetti
6 cups tomato sauce
1 lb. ground pork
1 lb. ground sirloin
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbs. ground onion (about a quarter of an onion)
1 tbs. parsley or thyme, finely chopped (only one)
2 cups fresh white breadcrumbs (stale white bread ground in a food processor)
2 eggs, beaten
¼ cup whole milk (enough milk to wet crumbs without them sitting in a big puddle)
1 pinch chili flakes
¼ cup parmigiano reggiano, grated
Vegetable oil, to coat the pan
Salt and ground black pepper

  • Soak breadcrumbs in milk for about 5 minutes or until all the milk is absorbed.
  • Add onion, garlic, chili flakes, grated cheese, eggs, herbs, pepper, and salt (if you like things on the saltier side like me, a small palm-ful is good). Mix everything well. Add meat. Mix gently until just combined.
  • Form golf ball sized balls. Don’t tightly pack the meatballs. Only handle them until just round. You can also make one tiny marble sized meatball (cook this one in the pan to make sure your seasoning is right. If it needs more salt, just sprinkle the formed meatballs with more salt).
  • Meanwhile, heat up a big pot of water to a rolling boil. Make the spaghetti according to the package.
  • Heat up a pan on high. Add oil and let it heat up. When almost smoking, add the meatballs, trying not to overcrowd the pan. It’ll probably take two batches of cooking to get them all.
  • Sear the meatballs on all sides. Take them out of the pan and set them aside.
  • Drain the excess grease from the pan, if there is any. Lower flame to medium and add tomato sauce. Scrape the brown bits off the bottom of the pan. Let tomato sauce come to a bare simmer. Add all meatballs to sauce and let simmer for about 8-10 minutes to finish off cooking.
  • Toss together spaghetti, meatballs, and sauce. Serve with more cheese on the side.

The key to this recipe is the use of fresh breadcrumbs and soaking them in milk. I had always used dry breadcrumbs (the kind in a can) and the meatballs always came out a little too dense. The milk-soaked fresh crumbs give a lightness and creaminess to the meatballs. Almost as good as grandma’s.

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Momofuku Ko
163 First Avenue (Bet. 10th and 11th Streets)
No Phone – Make Reservations Here

David Chang is a genius.

Let me repeat that. David Chang is a genius.

I was worried after I posted my review of Momofuku Ssam Bar that I had exaggerated Chang’s talents or that I was rhapsodizing about something that I had really only had limited exposure to. The answers to those concerns are: I didn’t and I was, but I was right anyway, so who cares.

Last night, as a belated birthday surprise, Zachary, my wonderful gourmand of a friend, told me to meet him at Union Square. Indeed, I met him there and after the customary hugs and kisses, he linked my arm and suggested we take a stroll around the neighborhood and see what could be scrounged up for dinner.

We began walking east, which fueled my belief that somehow Zack had procured reservations at Momofuku Ko. How did I know Zack was going to take me to Momofuku Ko? Well, for one, Momofuku Ko has been all over the place this week as it just opened to the public on Wednesday, March 12, so it had already been on my mind. Secondly, I went to Momofuku Ssam Bar for the first time with Zack at Zack’s suggestion. Thirdly, he’s amazingly fabulous and has wonderful taste in food. Fourth of all, I’m psychic.

To make a long story short, he turned us around in circles a few times all over the East Village until I didn’t know what to think and then finally after a 1/2 hr of wandering we wound up at, you guessed it, MOMOFUKU KO!

When I realized, I shrieked, hit Zack on the shoulder, grinned like a murderous clown, shrieked some more and then composed myself as we walked into the tiny space that was once Momofuku Noodle Bar, now transplanted down the block. The atmosphere was as you’d expect from Chang and a 14-stool counter: fun and simple with funky selections playing from an (probably a chef’s) iPod, creating a Zen-like ambiance.

I could not believe we were actually sitting here one day after it had opened. I continued grinning as the hostess/waitress put a small, black moleskine notebook in front of us. Zack thought we got to keep it, but we didn’t; although that didn’t stop someone from stealing one later in the evening (overheard from the hostesses/waitresses). Inside the first few pages of the notebook was the wine selection, the only selecting you’ll be doing at Momofuku Ko, unless, like us, you opt for the wine pairing, in which case the only decisions you’ll be making are how quickly you inhale the food and when you visit the bathroom.

Our 11 course (if you include the two amuse-bouches) meal began with a piece of crispy, thin pork rind sprinkled with some Japanese dried spice.

Quick Side Note: The acoustics in the place are horrendous, so listen hard when the chefs plunk the plates in front of you and don’t hesitate to ask them to repeat it. Same goes for the waitress/hostess/sommelier ladies (only 2 of them). This will help explain why there are some things that I’ll have to just describe as “yummy, salty, brown paste-y stuff.”

We were served a Rose Lambrusco first. I’ve had plenty of Lambrusco in my day and appreciate it for various reasons, the main ones being that it’s fruity and bubbly, but this was drier and more crisp than the cheap, 5 euro bottles I had back in Italy. Therefore, the Rose version made it a perfect wine for me.

The pork rinds, of course, tasted like the best pork rinds you’ve ever eaten and thought never could even exist in the realm of fried pork skin. It actually managed to be…dainty and delicate. But, I mean, it’s a pork rind, so I was thinking, let’s move on to the main show.

The second dish dropped in front of us was a housemade English muffin with whipped pork fat. This was very comforting, toasted, spongy bread soaked with yummy grease. But again, just bread and butter essentially.

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The third course consisted of slices of raw fluke from Long Island with whipped (they like to whip things here) buttermilk and poppy seeds. The buttermilk was light with a faint tartness that elevated the richness of the fish. The poppy seeds gave it an unexpected peppery pop. A delicious, beautifully simple, clean dish.

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Excuse the blurriness of a lot of/most of the photos.
Haven’t gotten a hang of the new camera yet, plus I felt self-conscious.

This lovely plate was served with a Sancerre from the Loire Valley. “100% Sauvignon Blanc grapes” as the waitress continually reminded us. It was light and crisp and went well with the clean flavors of the fish. I might end up confusing the order of some of the wines. Pardon my blunders.

The next dish was slices of Berkshire pork belly and two raw Beau Soleil oysters over Napa cabbage in a kimchee consomme. Now this, this is what I was expecting from Chang; and, yet, it was still entirely unexpected. Throughout the pork rinds and English muffins, this creative dish is what I was waiting for, but I could have never known it would be this good. The consomme was dark and deeply flavorful. The oysters were briny and slippery. The pork meat was savory and hearty, but the real highlight of the dish for me was the pork fat. I, like many, have generally tried to avoid eating large hunks of pure pork fat. I find it not only mentally unappetizing, but also physically unappetizing with its glossy, opaque chewiness. When I got to that part, after I had sliced off and eaten the meat, I shrugged, grinned, and bore it. With the price tag of this meal, I was leaving nothing on the plate.

These pieces of pork fat literally melted in my mouth. As soon as it touched your tongue, it was halfway out the door. It had the consistency of denser whipped cream and broke down just as smoothly as a mouthful of whipped cream would. It was unbelievable.

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This was served alongside Okuden sake, a sweet sake that did that neat disappearing trick good sake always does.

Next up: hen egg over onions garnished with potato chips and an obscene mountain of (what I assume was) Osetra caviar. This dish was the star of the entire evening. Hell, it was the star of the month. The egg is sliced open with the silky, lusty yolk flowing out and under the salty, fishy caviar. These ultra rich flavors are tempered by the sweet, sweet onions and the starchy potato chips. Each bite worked with every element being on the spoon and even with only individual parts of the dish sitting on the spoon. Achieving that is pure genius and pure madness.

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I think that was served with the “indie” (as the sommelier described it), 100% Sauvignon Blanc grapes wine from California, but I can’t swear to that.

Ooh, boy. This is gonna be a long post.

Moving on. Next came scallops and manila clams over fennel and red wine vinegar garnished with sea beans alongside a pile of crisp nori and a streak of aforementioned “yummy, salty, brown paste-y stuff.” The relative simplicity of this plate was a pleasant break from the culinary acrobatics of the pork belly and the egg dishes. You can’t go on for too many dishes like that, you’ll just keel over and die. The scallops and clams were tender and the nori brought out the salty sea taste in them.

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Brown streak located under the nori in the top right corner

I think this dish was served with a Crozes-Hermitage. A dry wine the sommelier described as “funky” to my and Zack’s amusement. We were also glad she didn’t call this one “indie” as well.

The next dish blew and CONTINUES, even now as I write this in the comfort of my own living room, to blow my mind. This dish is the best demonstration of David Chang’s talents. He takes ingredients and puts them together in a way that makes you think it could never work. This man is insane. This is absurd. THIS CAN’T BE.

But it can and it is. It be. So sit down and wrap your head around this. A bed of lychees, a Riesling gelee, and pine nut brittle covered in snow cone-like shavings of…foie gras. Yes, you heard me lychee and foie gras. Of course, foie gras is often served with fruit, but usually some assertive ones like cherries or cranberries, not the mild mannered, laid back lychee.

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Whyyyyyyy does this taste good? It SHOULDN’T. But it is at this point in the meal when you learn to surrender yourself to Chang and just say, “alright, alright, fine, I trust you, I get it, you’re fab, what’s next, man.”

The brittle is pine nut, not peanut, so it’s sweet, but not overpoweringly strong in flavor. The gelee contributes more texturally than flavor-wise. The foie is salty and, similar to some of the other elements of this meal, dissolves on your tongue like the snowflakes that it imitates.

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This dish was served with a lychee tasting Kamekome sake that I would gladly drink with any light Japanese dish.

From this delicate dish, we were taken to a heavier meat dish of braised and fried short ribs with pickled carrots, grilled scallions, daikon, and a mustard sauce. Here comes the only minor, minor, minor, minorrrrrr complaint of the night. The dish overall was delicious and my appreciation of it grew over the course of my eating the dish; however, my short ribs were a touch dry, justttt a touch. Zack said his were fine, so who knows. It was still delish, especially with the pickled carrots.

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The beef was served with a Rioja that I enjoyed a surprising amount considering I don’t typically like Rioja at all.

Come on, stay with me now. Almost done. Let us trudge on with curious stomachs and brave hearts!

The miso soup with pickled vegetables and a grilled roll of rice was a clever, clean way of easing the transition between heavy, savory meat and sweet dessert. Not too much to report on with this dish except that I loved the not too sour pickled veggies with the not too salty miso soup and the comforting saltiness and smokiness of the grilled rice. It was a soft, smooth landing from the previous culinary flights of fancy.

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I don’t remember what wine this was served with. It’s very difficult to keep track of, plus, I was getting just a wee bit hazy at this point (not just from all the wines, but the long day too).

Leading us into dessertwas a sorbet of very, very ripe pineapple atop a pile of candied pineapples, a very nice palate cleanser.

The very last course was a fried apple pie with sour ice cream and miso paste. Again, this dish emphasizes Chang’s trademark balance of flavors and textures. The sweet, sweet apple filling (with very low acidity, the way I like it) with the salty, earthy miso and the tangy, milky ice cream. The pie was hot and crisp with a thin coating of crunchy cinnamon sugar. The filling was warm and oozing. The ice cream was cold. A wonderful apple pie reminiscent of, and I mean no offense whatsoever, a McDonald’s apple pie; well, like a McDonald’s apple pie that went to finishing school and came back to its hometown in piles of pearls, a pair of expensive jeans, and a funky cardigan.

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This was paired with a carbonated Banyuls from the Catalan region. It doesn’t come carbonated, so Chang, the bad ass, adds his own carbonation. Its bubbly apple cider-like appearance belies its very strong alcohol flavor.

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That’s it. I think I’ve sufficiently done my duty as a food blogger here. I had planned this whole wrap up paragraph about why I love Chang so much, how I greatly appreciate his crazy contrasting ways because of growing up on Thai food, how my favorite dishes in the world combine different flavor elements and different textures, but I’m spent.

And I really need to get to bed to catch my 7:30am flight to Tampa, FL tomorrow. Why am I going to Tampa, you ask? You’ll just have to wait for my next post for the answer to that one.

Dinner for Two:

  • Wine Pairing ($50 x 2) = $100
  • Tasting Menu ($85 x 2) = $170
  • Total (excluding tax and tip) = $270

And worth every penny.

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Momofuku Ssam Bar
207 Second Avenue (on the corner of 13th Street)
(212) 254-3500

Excuse the ridiculous title. I couldn’t help myself.

The Momofuku restaurants (Momofuku Noodle Bar, Momofuku Ssam Bar, and the latest Momofuku Ko) and their omnipotent, do-no-wrong, GQ’s Chef of the Year creator David Chang have gotten plenty of hype in the past year. Chang’s image as a rebellious young chef with an attitude appeals to New York diners. We may enjoy prissy, delicate, subtle foods (our Masa, our Payard pastries) now and then, but when it comes right down to it, we like our food like we love our city: innovative, brash, unapologetic, yet full of mirth, with just a touch of pretension. This is why Chang’s Momofuku empire has taken off and that is why David Chang is here to stay.

I have yet to sample Chang’s other little “lucky peaches” (that’s what “momofuku” means apparently), but I have been to Momofuku Ssam Bar (MSB) twice now and have been amazed each time by how satisfied I am when I leave. I always expect to like Momofuku Ssam Bar, not love it; to be full at the end of the meal, but not sated. And each time my expectations are dashed to pieces to my pleasant surprise.

I went recently with Matt, who else (God I sound isolated and pathetic) at 7pm on a Friday night. The joint was, as always ,packed and hopping. I predicted it would be filling up, but I always thought of the majority of MSB’s patrons as being the nocturnal hipster type from Williamsburg who don’t eat dinner until 10pm. I thought we wouldn’t have to wait, but alas, we were told the wait would be about 20 minutes. Matt and I had both psyched ourselves up so much that we couldn’t just turn and go eat at one of the other 9 million restaurants in the area so we squeezed our way past the tables on the left and the bar to our right to the “waiting” area in the back of the restaurant, an area so clearly carved out as an afterthought. It consists of a 5 foot x 5 foot open space with one side by the open and bustling kitchen, another side covering the entrance to the bathroom and to one of the kitchens, and another side hemmed in by the entrance to the area behind the bar. I was jostled to and fro by dashing waiters in their American Apparel long sleeved tees, while a table of 10 to my left (covering the 4th side of the waiting area) savagely tore into their whole roasted pork butt (Bo Ssam) offered for $180.00 for a minimum of 8 people.

I don’t know how, but the 20 minute waited turned into a 5 minute and we were able to grab two seats at the end of the long, dark bar.

MSB’s famous brussel sprouts came out first, a glossy dark brown, you taste the intense roasting that those little sprouts have suffered through, and yet they’ve managed to maintain a certain amount of crispness. You also taste the vinegary, spicy, sweet light dressing they were tossed in. The hint of mint and the flavor of that deep dark char are what elevate the dish from Lovely-Thanksgiving-at-Your-Parents’-House to Dammit-Chang-You’re-a-Genius territory. The spiced rice krispies sprinkled on top seem an unnecessary novelty, as they become soggy too soon to contribute much to the overall texture of the dish, a texture which is fine as it is anyhow. They look like maggots in photographs to boot.

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The next dish to come out were Chang’s famous pork buns, like the lovechild of peking duck and a steamed pork bun from Chinatown. Upon a bed of hoisin sauce, cucumbers, and scallions (the peking duck part) lie slices of roasted pork belly tucked into an unattractively pale, white slab of dough (the steamed bun part) that has been folded over the filling. The texture of the dough is hard to describe, at once sponge cake-like and Wonder™ bread-like. The comforting warmth and doughiness of this dish makes me wish I could wake up with one of these every morning on my bedside table.

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Two adequately sized pieces of banh mi, aka Vietnamese sandwich, arrived next. Slices of pork pate, layered with pickled carrots, pickled cucumbers, cilantro, and mayo, are served on crusty, fresh French baguette. If you’ve never ventured below Houston and are never planning on heading to Chinatown, try MSB’s fairly classic, conventional take on the dish. But it’s not the most spectacular banh mi I’ve ever had, having worked near Chinatown.

For our main courses, we both had ssams, lettuce leaf ssams, not real ssams (more to come on that later). They both resembled Korean barbeque wraps more than any Korean “burrito” type ssam. My dish consisted of slices of grilled pork sausage patties, lettuce leaves, pickled carrots, pickled turnips, some cilantro leaves, and a big bowl of thin sweet and sour sauce similar to Vietnamese nuoc nam. The pork sausages retained the flavor of the grill and had the pleasantly rough texture of most Asian sausages, as opposed to the slick skins of some classic French and Italian Sausages. Here texture was key. There was the soft, somewhat chewy texture of the sausage underneath the crunchy texture of the pickles topped off with a few fluttering cilantro leaves, all wrapped up in the snap of the Boston lettuce. This interplay of textures between the different ingredients mirrored and highlighted the interplay of flavors: salty, porky sausage, tart, sweet pickles, green, herbaceous cilantro, and mild, fresh lettuce. I was disappointed there was no rice so for most of the bites I stole some rice from Matt’s bowl (there was plenty to go around with some left over too). So add to all of that the sticky, warm rice and you have the perfect little bite.

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Matt’s marinated steak came sliced over caramelized onions with a scallion oil, a kimchi puree, lettuce leaves, and a bowl of rice. The onion-y, but mild scallion oil paired perfectly with the fiery kimchi. Once more, we see the beautifully structured composition of flavors. The rice provides a warm bed to soak up the delicious oil and the spicy, sharp kimchi. Then come the lusciously sweet caramelized onions and the perfectly pink, lean, and tender steak.

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Some things I had the other time I visited MSB were the seasoned pickles and the Jonah crab claws. The claws were delicious, fresh with a fantastic yuzu mayo, but the four little claws were not worth the price. The pickles, again though tasty, were not worth the price tag.

As for the incredible ssams that I once had the privilege and pleasure of having at MSB, the real ssams with the burrito-like structure, they are no longer on the dinner menu and, rumor has it, they don’t even exist on the lunch menu anymore. The lunch menu used to focus centrally on the more traditional ssams. Where did they go? I’m not sure, but will investigate because it would be a crime to offer New York the uniquely beautiful ssam and then cruelly yank it away. Here’s my source for the ssam having disappeared.

Regardless of all that, this is one of the few times I will openly say this about any chef or restaurant: believe the hype.

Because Chang ain’t goin’ nowhere.

  • Brussel Sprouts – $12*
  • Banh Mi – $9
  • Steamed Pork Buns – $9
  • Grilled Lemongrass Pork Sausage Ssam – $18
  • Marinated Hanger Steak Ssam – $21
  • 2 Glasses of Riesling – $20
  • 1 Bottle of Anchor Steam – $6*
  • Total (excluding tax and tip) – $95

*  Price estimated because I couldn’t find it anywhere on the Internet.

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This past Saturday, I waited for my good friend, Zack, at Resto’s silvery bar, sipping on an ice cold Delirium Tremens as an iPod propped in the corner pumped out classic jukebox tunes. The hum of the dining room was loud and yet the overall ambiance exuded a certain relaxed energy that made me breath more evenly and taste the white, florally beer more deeply.

Okay, enough with that fluffy poetry. Zack had been bugging me to go to Resto since this summer. I told him it was far too hot to eat the heavy, pork-laden food the Times review described in May. A couple of weeks ago I received an email from Zack:

Is it cold enough for resto yet???

I replied with a resounding, YES! It was definitely cold enough to finally gorge ourselves on Resto (plus, you know, all those extra layers of clothing to hide the consequences). We went on a Saturday night. Fortunately for us, Resto finally decided to give up their reservations for parties of 6 only policy. Unfortunately for us the earliest rezzy we could procure was at 9:30pm. No matter.

As I mentioned earlier, I waited for Zack at the bar, admiring the playlist of Journey and Boston as well as the extensive variety of Belgian beers Resto offers. I ordered the Delirium Tremens out of habit of always ordering what I know so I don’t end up sitting there, stammering like an idiot, paralyzed by the paradox of choice, as the bartender waits. I really should have been more adventurous and tried something new like the Blanche de Bruxelles that Zack eventually ordered, a crisp white beer with such a clean finish that the taste disappeared from your tongue almost the minute it touched it.

To start with we had the tete de cochon (translation: pig’s head), deviled eggs, and the veal meatballs.

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Blurry photo of the tete sandwiches

I wanted so much to like the tete de cochon, especially after reading all the hype about it, and perhaps they just had an off night, but I did not enjoy it. The dish is described as meat from the pig’s head spiced with curry and aioli, topped with pickles on toasted bread. What we experienced instead was very greasy, very burnt toast with bland meat and one strand of pickled carrot on it. The burnt flavor/smell was so pronounced, in fact, that when I went to put the sandwich up to my mouth to take a bite, the strong odor of burnt bread traveled up my nose, shutting down my tastebuds for the first few seconds  after taking that bite (the darkness of the bread in the picture above is not shadow). Zack wondered aloud whether the bread was purposely toasted to death. I doubted it. And yet the dish has so much promise. If only there was a little more pickle, a lot less burning…

The deviled eggs were delicious, just a shade short of over salted. Thankfully, I have a high tolerance for salt, others may not be as forgiving. Overall the dish worked very well. The creamy yolk paired perfectly with the crispy, bacon-y, greaseless pork toasts underneath.

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The fantastic meatballs (“bitter ballen”) were made of veal and gruyere cheese. The breaded crust was pleasantly crunchy and the meat juicy and light as air. The tang and spice of the mustard dipping sauce helped cut through any potential heaviness of the fried meat.

We got the mussels cooked in beer with orange zest and garlic. The mussels were very sweet (natural mussel-y sweetness, not sweet from the zest), supple, and fresh, some of the better mussels I’ve had. The broth was flavorful and tasty, but wasn’t overpowered by garlic or citrus flavors.

Now we get to the burger…the burger that launched a thousand reviews. Some even call it the best in the city, which is no small praise considering the heavyweight contenders in this town (Shake Shack, Burger Joint, Corner Bistro, etc.). Resto’s burger is famous for ground fatback mixed with the beef. I suppose this must be part of the reason why they have to cook the burger to medium well/well-done, no matter what you say (so don’t bother trying). I typically like my burgers medium-rare, but this burger was sufficiently moist and tender, despite lacking even a hint of palest pink in the center. The timberdoodle cheese was creamier and more mild than a typical sharp cheddar, although they do share certain background flavors. All in all, a delicious burger, albeit a little small for the price tag ($13). Even putting price aside, I wouldn’t dare to call it the best burger in the city.

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As for the fries that came with our mussels and burger, I can see why many have complained about them. They aren’t your typical crunchy French fries. They have a pleasant inner texture and a great potato flavor, but they’re fairly soft with only a slightly crisp outer layer, rather than actually being crispy through and through. The softness wasn’t greasy or limp though, so I enjoyed them. Most Belgian-style frites aren’t really fast food crunchy anyway. The frites that came with the mussels included a sauce of your choice. We had the pickle mayo, which had a decidedly pronounced lime-y flavor, a very different, pleasantly unexpected taste. It balanced well with the fat in the mayonnaise. Again, perhaps others wouldn’t enjoy the strong tartness of the sauce. I happen to love acidic flavors.

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The liege (classically Belgian) waffle we ordered for dessert sounded great in theory. Covered in brown sugar and toasted to caramelize it, the waffle is dusted with powdered sugar and served with a small bowl of vanilla creme fraiche. The waffle that was set before us was hard and tough, like a waffle that had grown stale, been frozen, then partially thawed, and then toasted…and then cloaked in cement. The creme fraiche helped mask the terrible texture and I was able to actually swallow a couple of mouthfuls when suddenly I took a bite and nearly gagged. The bite I had taken tasted exactly like bacon…and nothing else. I made a face which quickly prompted Zack to ask what was wrong. I struggled to get the salty bite down before eeking out, “it tastes like pork.” None of his pieces tasted like any pork products, but neither of us were able to finish even half of the waffle either.

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And it looked so pretty and promising too…

To all those who plan on visiting Resto, I would recommend you order very carefully. And while there were some minor disasters (the tete de cochon, waffle), there were also some notable highlights (bitter ballen, the deviled eggs) and I’ve never been one to completely write a restaurant off because there are some dishes on its menu that I don’t enjoy or that aren’t done well. The service was professional, but casual, the ambiance lovely, and the beer selection impressive. Why would I let a salty waffle and a burnt sandwich get in the way of that? It’s not like I’ll be forced to order them the next time I return. And I will be returning soon…just not that soon.

  • Tete de Cochon – $12
  • Bitter Ballen – $9
  • Deviled Eggs – $8
  • Moule Frites- $18
  • Cheeseburger – $13
  • Liege Waffle – $6
  • Delirium Tremens – $9
  • Blanche de Bruxelles – $8
  • Total (excluding tax and tip) = $83

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