[New York] Beso – Spanish Tapas Restaurant

25 07 2011

New York is a pretty interesting place. Initially, I imagined it to be just one large metropolitan city, with similar settings to scenes from “How I Met Your Mother”, where professionals would gather at neighbourhood bars surrounding Central Park to unwind and catch up after a hectic day at work. However, I guess that scene is probably limited to Manhattan, the most upclass of the 5 boroughs in New York. For the other 4 boroughs, Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens and Staten Island, life is just so much more down to earth. Oh I would think that a borough is roughly the same as a supersized GRC (half to 2.5 million people per borough) in our local context.

A few islands surround New York as well, namely Liberty Island where the Statue of Liberty is located at, Ellis Island which is just a short ferry ride from Liberty Island and formerly used as a immigration checkpoint, as well as Staten Island which is a large island that houses about half a million New Yorkers. There’s a free 24-hour ferry service to and fro Staten Island though so that these people aren’t left stranded. The subway operates 24 hours a day too, maybe that’s why New York is called the City that Never Sleeps.

Anyway, my friends and I took a short ferry ride over to Staten Island to try out one of their Spanish Tapas Restaurant and it was pretty awesome. Having just did a short tour of Madrid last month though, I personally felt that the food served here wasn’t very authentic but very much fine tuned for the American palate instead.

From the outside, Beso looks rather dodgy and quiet but the whole scene changes stepping inside. Dim lighting allowed for casual conversations, and the vintage decor with red brick walls added a quaint charm that appealed to me.

Sangria is fast becoming my alcohol of choice. It’s light, fruity and refreshing, very much a fun party drink.

Red Sangria (US$26 per pitcher)

The 3-course dinner set is reasonably priced at US$20.11. There’s quite a decent selection – 4 choices for appetizers, 3 for mains and 2 desserts.

One of the set dinner’s appetizers, the Tuna was overseared but still pretty tasty.

Dinner set 1st course: Sliced Seared Tuna served with sun-dried Tomato Salsa and drizzled with Soy Sauce

I’m usually skeptical about set lunches and dinners so I went for ala carte instead. The lamb chops here are one of their signature appetizers and it’s not hard to see why given that it was so juicy and flavourful. My friends sampled the lamb and cajoled me to stop being so prim and proper and just use my hands to pry the residual meat off the bone so as not to waste it. It took iron will to avoid being swayed by them and stick to proper dining etiquette.

Lamb Chops (US$10.95)

Like a bandito pocket from KFC.

Dinner set 1st course: Fried Chicken Tortilla

Dinner set 1st course: Tomato simmered with cucumber, jalapeno peppers, bell peppers, cilantro and onion served chilled

Dinner set 2nd course: Sauteed Pork Tenderloin in Spanish Sherry Wine topped with fried Eggplant and melted Mahon Cheese, served over dirty mash

Dinner set 2nd course: Mussels, Clams, Chorizo, sauteed in white wine sauce over Penne

I remembered the Bass being really good, but it was still a shade off the Seabass from Rick Stein’s The Seafood Restaurant in Cornwall, England.

Filet of Bass served with sauce of sun-dried tomatoes, caramelized onions, garlic, capers and lobster broth, accompanied with saffron rice (US$19)

I was torn between ordering the Osso Bucco and Paella so I let the waiter choose for me. The Osso Bucco turned out above average, but what actually won me over was the thinly sliced fried onions.

Osso Bucco (US$24)

Something I noticed about Beso is that they love playing with fire. I saw one of the bartenders pour ignitor fluid or alcohol over the bar counter to allow a couple to roast marshmallows. And they did the same for our set meal desserts. Creme de Catalan is the spanish form of the more common Creme Brulee and they ignited the top of it to allow it to caramelize into a lovely warm shade of brown. Theatrics aside, the Creme de Catalan wasn’t to my liking and I felt it was much too solid (like chawanmushi) rather than viscous (like thickened condense milk).

Dinner set 3rd course: Creme de Catalan

The cheesecake was alright but the overkill of caramel sauce just made it much too cloying.

Cheesecake topped with Brown Caramel Sauce (US$7)

We were very satisfied with the appetizers and mains, alongside the reasonable prices. Definitely worth the trouble of a ferry ride.

Bon Appetit!

Beso Restaurant

11 Schuyler Street, Staten Island, New York

Tel: 718-816-8162

[New York] Bouley – Skipping out New York’s Restaurant Week for this!

20 07 2011

Restaurant Week 2011 for New York is held between 12th to 25th July, but instead of going for discounted set meals (US$24.07 for lunch and US$35 for dinner) offered at some restaurants, I figured that this week would divert some attention away from the many Michelin Star restaurants not participating in restaurant week and provide the opportunity for successful last minute reservations. That’s how I stumbled upon Bouley, a French Michelin 1-Star fine dining restaurant.

On a side note, given the success of Singapore’s Restaurant Week in March 2011, a 2nd installment will be held here in October this year, making it a bi-annual affair.

Unlike the chichi restaurants in Singapore and those I visited in London, the dress code for fine dining in New York is more strictly enforced, so even in the heat of summer where temperatures soar as high as Singapore’s, formal jackets are still required for gentlemen dining at Bouley.

My group of 5 was seated at a dimly lit side of the restaurant so the photos are kind of grainy and dark even after some editing 😦

From start till finish, service was top notch and bordering on stifling but after getting some awesome food in our tumtums as the meal started, we immediately abandoned our unusually reticent selves in unending ravings.

Bouley offers ala-carte lunch as well as a 5-Course Tasting Menu (US$55). Given that a 2 course ala-carte meal here already costs more than the Tasting Menu, almost everyone in the restaurant opted for the tasting menu.

Can’t remember the exact constituents to the complimentary amuse bouche but there was definitely Celery Sorbet, Beetroot, Avocado with Cherry Sauce. A truly refreshing dish with great complementary natural flavours. Even my friends who usually avoid celery proclaimed that this was good and cleaned out their bowls.

Amuse Bouche

All except one of my friends ordered the trio of sashimi as their starting course. Kampachi is a Hawaiian Yellowtail best known as Almaco Jack which tastes and looks almost exactly like the Tuna. My favourite sashimi though was the white flesh from the Striped Amberjack which had a much fattier and creamier texture.

1st Course: Carpaccio of Kampachi, Young Big Eye Tuna and Striped Amberjack (Mediterranean style)

This was prepared with the Flan (custard) at the base, with the dashi (soup stock) poured over it. While we often use Sri Lankan crabs for our local Singapore dishes, the Dungeness Crab, named after the the town of Dungeness in Washington, is most often used in the Pacific Northwest which includes areas such as Vancouver, Seattle and Alaska.

2nd Course: Porcini Flan, Alaska Live Dungeness Crab & Black Truffle Dashi

2nd Course: Wild Alaskan Salmon with a Rainbow of Early Baby Beets & Macadamia Nut Dressing

2nd Course: Black Cod marinated with Pistachio Miso, Organic Buckwheat & Ginger Aromatic Sauce

B ordered the chicken which she gave positive feedback on. I thought it was good, but not great. Pain D’Epices is a type of bread or cake so I’m not really sure how the dressing for this dish is made. B thought that the dressing tasted like a mere pumpkin puree sauce though. Chanterelles are a type of mushroom commonly used in French Cuisine and had a notable earthly flavour.

3rd Course: All Natural Pennsylvania Chicken, Spring Carrot Ravioli, Chanterelles & Pain D'Epices Dressing

3rd Course: Organic Long Island Duck Roasted with White Truffle Honey with Puree of Organic Dates and White Turnips

I think most of us got fooled that this was Kobe beef given the name of the dish but judging from the extent of marbling, I highly doubt it. Still, everyone found it very tender and tasty, going well with the Gnocchi which acted as a staple for this dish.

3rd Course: Slow Braised Kobe Style Beef Cheeks with Blue Kale Gnocchi

This really reminded me of the Honeydew and Rock Melon Sago dessert that we get in Chinese restaurants, especially after the Ricotta Sorbet started melting and replacing what would have been the Coconut Milk.

4th Course: California Organic Orange Flesh Melon Soup with Fresh Ricotta Sorbet

My friends called this “Heaven on a Plate”, nuff said.

Hot Valrhona Chocolate Souffle 2011 with White Coffee Cloud and Chocolate Sorbet

Hot Caramelized Anjou Pear with Valrhona Chocolate, Biscuit Breton, Hot Toffee Sauce, Lemon Verbena and Tahitian Ice Cream

Petit Fours

Gems such as Bouley are best left for special occasions when you want everything to be perfect, but since perfection is relative, never should meals here be an everyday affair.

Bon Appetit!


163 Duane Street, New York

Tel: 212 964 2525

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