Categorized | Travel

Restaurant Reviews: Raising the Bar

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NoMad Restaurant – Manhattan, NY

The-NoMad-BarSimilar to creating the sequel to a great movie, it is often difficult to keep aspects that made the original material successful while developing new concepts and a new identity. Instead of an outpost, Daniel Humm, three-star Michelin chef and owner of Manhattan’s Eleven Madison Park, has created a new destination that satisfies the same visual and visceral hunger in a much more approachable way, pairing expertly executed food with whimsical cocktails.

With a handful of distinctively themed dining environments all set within a luxury boutique hotel, the No- Mad offers the opportunity to consume the same dishes and drinks in a variety of styles: the Parlour, with its gold clad chairs, velvet cushions, mahogany and Persian rugs; the Library, a casual midcentury modern room buzzing with chatter; the Bar, a cozy elbow-to-elbow space seemingly crafted out of one giant piece of mahogany, detailed with embroidery and alcohol; the Rooftop, an outdoor location on top of the hotel with white furnishings and clean lines set among trimmed greenery and flowers; and the Atrium, the main dining room with three stories of spaciousness, wingback chairs and as much natural lighting as the time of day allows through its vaulted glass ceiling.

Chef Humm’s characteristically charismatic attention to detail and balance permeates the menu. The rectangular prism of suckling pig confit is accented by softened onions and tart plums. It has an impossibly thick and crispy crackling skin that sits on top of the slow cooked tender meat. Asking the server for the fruit de merwill result in a tower of tiered ice platters housing various seasonal seafood dishes, each carefully crafted with flavors that complement the freshness of its base ingredient. The capstone entrée is the whole roasted chicken for two. Stuffed with brioche, black truffle and foie gras, it is presented after roasting and then carved for you: the white meat intact and placed before you, the dark meat swimming in foie gras and black truffle.

It isn’t hard to see why many guests frequently return to the many rooms the NoMad has to offer. The masterful touch that Daniel Humm applies to all of his cullinary creations allows the diner to spend less time judging the menu and more time enjoying the warm and comfortable décor and the elegant decorum of service.

Bohanan’s – San Antonio, TX

6-oz-FiletBefore I chose a restaurant I asked every San Antonian I knew what the best restaurant in town was. The answer was unanimous: Bohanan’s. Walking in, the restaurant looks like it has been around for a century; in reality, it has only been in operation for 11 years. This is because Mark Bohanan is not a typical restaurateur. Most young, accomplished chefs start restaurants with minimalistic décor, molecular gastronomy influenced menus, and closets full of bare white plates.

Bohanan’s is less of a coffee table cookbook restaurant and more of a time portal to an era that celebrated extravagance and style. Formally dressed waitstaff, a full complement of gold and platinum laced fine china and ornate glassware remind guests that Bohanan’s is not in the business of breaking rules; it is in the business of executing and enhancing them. Mark is also not afraid of sticking to his mission statement of delivering only the best quality ingredients and experiences to his guests. While the Japanese style Akaushi beef is from Texas raised cattle, the prime cuts of bone-in ribeye, New York strip, filet mignon or the service-for-two portion of chateaubriand are sourced from Chicago beef producer Allen Brothers, at a higher expense and a superior quality.

Bohanan’s offers a wide variety of seafood options, as well, from a towering portion of crab cake that is almost 100% pure crab meat to the succulent gazpacho of colossal shrimp or a simple traditional appetizer of raw oysters. The sea bass, perfectly seared to a nice golden crust, was flaky and tender, accented by a savory sauce and roasted vegetables.

In line with the goal of offering a complete dining experience, they offer a cigar menu featuring signature cigar styles from renowned producers (Cohiba, Montechristo and Arturo Fuente) to pair with the extensive list of well-aged single malt and blended scotches, bourbons, and cognacs.

There are many options in San Antonio for fine dining and even more options for steak and seafood. For a truly exquisite experience, Bohanan’s lives up to the numerous recommendations that are offered by locals and visitors alike.

Chicago Cut Steakhouse – Chicago, IL

CCS-InteriorThe management at Chicago Cut seems very concerned with having control over the critical aspects of their beef product. The cattle are butchered in house to maximize freshness and control over the quality of the cut. The chop is then aged in house for at least a month, if not more, in a full sized dry aging room. The steak is then selected daily and cooked in 1,800 degree broilers to produce all of the char and none of the ash. It is this attention to detail that explains how other restaurants can work with the same ingredients, same methods and same styles, yet fail to compete with Chicago Cut.

To accommodate those who enjoy flavors other than steak, lamb chops and scallops appear on the appetizer menu, the house made Burrata, which is an Italian fresh cheese made from mozzarella and cream, is rich and creamy with a smooth texture and a perfect way to start out the meal.

While it has all of the cliché features of a steakhouse—the velvet, leather, wood, metal, mirrors and crisp cloth—immediately your eyes are drawn to the 21-foot tall windows that comprise an entire wall looking out into the downtown Chicago urban landscape. While you peruse the menu, you have the option of ordering from the iPad wine menu, slick and beautiful albeit somewhat confusing. The menu is extensive and offers some reserve wines that scale as high as your budget is willing to stretch.

The restaurant inspires you to splurge. A dry aged porterhouse, cooked medium rare and topped with foie gras and béarnaise, and a side of truffle scalloped potatoes and lobster macaroni and cheese has the ability to evoke sensations of satisfaction and happiness. For those who are crazy enough not to partake in the incredible steak offerings, there are other staple items that are prepared excellently as well: crab cakes, large lobster tails, oysters and a truly delightful miso crusted Chilean sea bass.

Steakhouses are truly akin to artistic performances: anyone can sing, but only the rare few who train, refine and improve can stand out and shine.

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