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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Keeping it simple - Oysters & Grill

Danish oysters from "Limfjorden"
Starter of mixed seafood: grilled "virgin lobsters" (langoustines),
panfried baby squid, tiger prawns, razor clams, littleneck clams and
blue mussels
Deep fried softshell crabs with chili mayo
Crudité of cauliflower, fennel and carrot
Dessert: Danish Christmas rice pudding with cherry sauce
Oyster & Grill branded water.
Interior - cheap, cheerful and "hyggelig"
LOCATION: Oysters & Grill, Sjællandsgade 1B, Nørrebro, Copenhagen
CATEGORY: Seafood, steak, surf and turf
DRINK: Champagne (N.V. J.L. Vergnon, Conversation, Le Mesnil sur Oger, Blanc de Blancs, Grand Cru), white wine (2010 Cheverny, Hervé Villemade, Domaine du Moulin, Loire)
WE THINK: Another smart concept from the guys behind Cofoco (Copenhagen Food Consulting) whose ten or so Copenhagen restaurants are all reasonably priced (by Copenhagen standards) and serve good food and wine. This one might just be the best of them all. Located on a quiet side street in one of our favorite Copenhagen neighborhoods, the somewhat rough (again, by Copenhagen standards!) "Nørrebro",  Oysters & Grill is based on a simple surf and turf concept. Their starters include French and Danish oysters and around 8 different types of seasonal shellfish (grilled, steamed and fried). Mains are a choice of 3 different cuts of beef served with french fries. The only side-dish on the menu is a crudité of vegetables and the wine list is very short (less than a dozen wines in total) but features well selected, interesting wines from small producers, including natural wines. We had a delicious champagne and Cheverny white with our meal. It's all pretty simple and refreshing in a way that makes total sense to us. We decided to start our dinner with a handful each of some very tasty Danish oysters followed by a surprisingly inexpensive platter to share, comprising all the seafood starters on that day's menu. It turned out to be an impressive pile of grilled langoustines, baby squid and tiger prawns 'a la plancha', deep-fried soft-shell crabs, steamed razor clams, littleneck clams and blue mussels--all fresh, well seasoned and cooked to perfection. It's impossible to list the amount of times we've had a disappointing seafood platter experience. There's always something in the mix that's not entirely fresh, something overcooked, something undercooked, too little of the good stuff, too much of the boring stuff, 40 tasteless mussels, one funky clam etc... It shouldn't be that hard to get it right, but it almost never is. This was one of those rare occasions where everything was right. It seems to us that by keeping the menu so simple, the kitchen at Oysters & Grill can focus on pulling each dish off perfectly. To our surprise, we were stuffed after our starters, skipped the otherwise good-looking steaks, and finished off with a small sneaky dessert. What a winner. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Lots of blood, bones and butter at Prune

Serrano ham, fresh figs and pistachio nuts
Beets, beet greens, spring onion and aioli
White anchovies with almonds and onions
Radicchio, endive and lettuce salad
with crumbled Valdeon cheese and boiled egg
Roasted marrow bone, parsley salad, sea salt
Grilled head-on shrimp with anchovy butter
Baby lettuces and herbs salad
Grilled (enormous) pork chop with warm cabbage and apple slaw
Grilled (enormous) rib-eye
Roasted duck breast with dandelion greens in raisin-caper dressing
Roasted cauliflower with fried capers and aioli
String beans with chili and mint
Whole grilled Branzino with fennel oil and gros sel
Braised pumpkin in cinnamon
Calvados omelette
Glazed figs
Fromager d'Affinois with honey, candied pecans and apples
Bitter chocolate Pot de Creme
Candied pumpkin and sugared "hay" with Greek yoghurt and honey
The tiny restaurant
LOCATION: Prune, 54 East 1st Street, New York
CATEGORY: Noveau American, farm to table
DRINK: Lots of wine and champagne, chosen by the chef. We drank too much and forgot to write down the names.
WE THINK: Very delicious and uncomplicated food made from great produce, served in a tiny, cozy and unpretentious bistro-style restaurant by very friendly waiters. Also: very heavy food that makes you hate yourself after eating too much of it. Which, of course, we did. The creamy bone marrow alone was enough to make our hearts stop for a few seconds--just in time for our brick-sized pork chop and brick-sized bloody rib-eye. Our dinner seemed to fit well with the title of executive chef, Gabrielle Hamilton's critically acclaimed memoir, "Blood, Bones & Butter", which we want to read. Sometimes, this type of gross food overindulgence is a fun and enjoyable necessity. On this occasion it was paired with an overindulgence of wine which made us forget time and place (and to note down the names of the wines). Favourites this evening, as far as we recall, were the beets, snails and of course the grilled and roasted meats! We will soon be back for another visit - next time weekend brunch.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Vive la Revolution!

Cheese puffs
'Shot' of king prawn ceviche
Baked clams
Mackerel with lime pulp and cauliflower
Squid with horseradish and greens
Yellow plaice with jerusalem artichokes, kumquat and chanterelles
Beef, herring and pickles
Cheese of the day
Endives, oranges and olive

Chocolate and celery

LOCATION: Le Chateaubriand, 129 Ave Parmentier, Paris, 75011
CATEGORY: Nouveau French 
DRINK: Champagne: "Blanc D'Argile", Vouette et Sorbée, extra brut
White: 2008 Saint-Romain "Clos de Cerisier", Domaine Chassorney
Red: 2008 Saint-Romain "Sous Roche", Domaine Chassorney
WE THINK: Don't let the name or the concept of prix fixe fool you… this is not an ordinary French steak’n’frites joint… From delicious fresh lime pulp accompanying mackerel, to delicate extraction of pumpkin in clear broth casually named ‘pumpkin soup’, this outfit is a valid contestant to any ‘taster menu’ at any Michelin starred establishment. This restaurant is a perfect interpretation of how a modern French eatery should be, upholding traditional values of carefully selected wines and brilliantly cooked food with modern overtones and presentation. Located in a city known for its people’s arrogance and snobbishness, the friendly staff of Le Chataubriand are charming and when asked: “excuse me moi, parlie-vou englaise?” it’s no surprise the answer is “I’ll do my best”. This is something damn revolutionary and can only be described as ‘Modernity’ in a city like Paris. Vive la Revolution!
Our tip: Go to Paris!