Saturday, October 31, 2009

Keep'in the Bar*Food menu fresh

It's Halloween weekend and I definitely don't want to be at a costume party, suffocating in a tight and sexy outfit. No, this year I have finally grown up. I'm putting my knee high socks away and instead, hope to spend the weekend either at a low key bar, or at home vegging in front of my TV. To kick off my grown up Halloween weekend, I headed over to Bar*Food in Brentwood, one of my favorite watering holes in the area. It's casual, friendly and the food is comforting. A couple weeks ago, I was at Bar*Food for dinner and drinks. It was the same drill this time: Friday happy hour drinks and dinner but this time, I was there to check out their new food menu. Apart from their existing menu of burger, mussels and bangers and mash, they now have added on traditional Irish fare such as shepherd's pie, steak and kidney pie, and fish and chips. Already the list is sending me to my happy place.

They still have Happy Hour from 5-7 pm. House wine is $5, select beers at $3.50, burger, calamari and various other items ranging from $2 to $6. And yes, they still have free hot dogs.

We made it to the bar just in time for happy hour, so wine for $5.

Tuna on Crispy Rice, also on the happy hour menu for $6 (normally $9) and came in 3 pieces. Some might think it had a bit too much mayonnaise but personally I liked it because I thought it gave a creamier consistency. I loved the crispy rice which was crunchy on the outside and a little bit softer inside. There was a heap of tuna atop the rice, with aioli on the side. Surprisingly quite filling; each tuna sushi was a few bites full.

Steak and Kidney Pie
Delicious!! I love English/Irish pies. I liked how this was not served as an actual pot pie. It was a puff pastry that was on top of the steak and kidney. The crust was buttery and golden. The kidney and steak were cut into bite size pieces and cooked well. The gravy had a curried flavor and wasn't too heavy or dense. Instead it was a little viscous, which made for a hearty meal but not painfully heavy. I loved every bite of this dish, but kidney is still a kidney, so it's not for everyone.

Liver and Onions
There were lots of thin liver slices and the onions were caramelized and had a tart flavor from the balsamic vinegar. Another delicious dish, but once again, not for the faint hearted.

An issue I had was that our waitress dropped off the two plates while our fish and chips was still missing. She didn't mention that it was going to take a while for the last dish to come out so we started on the 1st two while my friend was left waiting. After we were halfway though our dishes, we asked the waitress and she said "Oh, the fish and chips is going to take a while". Hmm, wish she would have mentioned that when she dropped off the first two plates.

Fish and Chips
Fried cod and potato slices. The batter was golden and a bit airy, and the cod was tender and fresh. I only wished they had fries instead of the potato slices, but that's a personal preference.

Bar*Food is the type of place where you're usually too stuffed to get dessert. But this time we rallied and decided to split a dessert between the three of us.

Bread Pudding
The bread pudding was actually pretty dense and firm and was served warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and drizzle of caramel. What a great way to end a filling meal - let's just say that the poor dessert didn't even have a chance: there was no evidence of it after we were done with it.

I've always had good service while sitting at the bar. We sat at a table this time because the bar was full when I first got there, but I have to say that the quality of service differed. The restaurant is pretty large and patrons were spread out so the two waitresses were never in one spot for long. There were a few times when I was left without proper utensils, drinkless and waiting ten minutes for her to come by, even after I tried flagging her down. She also wasn't very friendly (which is a HUGE difference from the smiling faces behind the bar) but to her credit, she did warm up at the end.

Once again, the food was amazing, satisfying and reminded me why I can't get enough of this place. I am so glad they expanded their menu and added heartier food items. Next time, I'd like to try the coddle and Guinness beef stew, but chances are, I won't be able to say no to the steak and kidney pie. It appears that Bar*Food has found it's sweet spot; perfecting its food and drink menu, and even launching a new jazzy website that would make any web designer proud.

Hits: steak and kidney, spicy tuna, liver
Misses: service was a bit off
Rate: ****

2117 Wilshire Blvd.,
Los Angeles, CA 90025
(310) 820-3274

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Recipe from the pantry: Chicken with cellophane noodles

No posts this week for a couple reasons: It's been a busy work week so no fun dinners out. Plus the nights I did get out this week were dinners at repeat restaurants so I didn't bother blogging about the same dishes. After getting home from work tonight, I decided to raid the pantry for dinner ideas. Chicken in the fridge, check. Condiments in the pantry, check. Cans of veggies, check. I decided to make chicken with cellophane noodles. It's light, quick & easy and packs in loads of proteins and flavor. Personally, I like to load my dish up with canned veggies and less with the noodles and chicken, but you can adjust this recipe depending on what you're craving at the time. You can also substitute chicken with ground meat (use 1/2 lb) if that is what's in your freezer.

Ingredients, either from the freezer or pantry

Saute ingredients in a pan or wok

Chicken with cellophane noodles Recipe

4-6 oz glass noodles
Non stick cooking spray (or 1 tsp vegetable oil)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 chicken breast, cut into cubes
1 cup of veggies each (e.g. bamboo shoots, mushrooms, corn, broccoli, bell peppers etc)
1/4 cup vegetable stock
3 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp fish sauce
2 tsp Sriracha (or 2-3 dashes red pepper flakes)
Salt to taste

Soak noodles in a bowl of water for 20 minutes, or until soft.
Spray sauté pan with oil and heat over medium-high heat. Sauté garlic, then add chicken and cook for about 3 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Add canned vegetables and brown, about 3 minutes. Set aside with chicken.
Place broth in pan over medium-high to high heat. Bring to a boil. Add all other sauce ingredients, cooked chicken and vegetables. Mix well and turn heat down to medium. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes, or until chicken is cooked.
Add the noodles and salt, and continue to cook until most of the liquids have evaporated, 1-2 minutes.
Serve and enjoy

2-3 servings

Monday, October 26, 2009

To squash or not to squash Mimi's Cafe

We decided to grab a casual bite after visiting my grandparents' and aunt's graves at Forrest Lawn Cemetery. We're not usually in the area so I didn't know where to grab some food. Someone knew that Mimi's Cafe was round the corner so we made our way over. This will probably be either a very short review or a super long one because on one hand, I am so NOT motivated to write this but on the other, I could probably rant nonstop. Why you might ask? Because the food and service sucked. But why would I bother writing about this place? Well, I like my food blog to focus not only on really nice fancy restaurants, but also on cheaper accessible good dining deals.

Mimi's Cafe is a chain restaurant that serves French comfort food at affordable prices. The restaurant building is a little cottage and the interior decor is colorful and kitschy. This particular outpost is located in a shopping plaza that includes a Costco and Best Buy. So you know right away that parking on a weekend will be manic and it took me 15 minute to get out of the parking lot. Anyway, that's the least of my problems.

I ordered my standard weekend beverage, a mimosa. My uncle asked if they had smoothies, perhaps wild berry, and the waitress said "yes! we have lots".. then she frantically flipped the menu trying to find the smoothie section. Oh wait.. never mind, there are only two options: Strawberry or Strawberry & Banana. Fine, he'll take the strawberry.

Mimosa, split of cava/sparkling wine arrived. I liked that it was a split and a nice large glass. But no smoothie yet. My uncle waited for another 10 minutes before our waitress came by to say "Oh sorry, we are washing our smoothie glasses. It's gonna take a while.. Did you still want it or cancel the order". Humph, really? Over 10 minutes to wash a glass? When I was walking in, barely anyone was drinking smoothies. I know because I was specifically looking at every one's beverage to see if anyone was drinking a mimosa. OK, minor setback.

Bread basket of french rolls and banana or carrot bread, with whipped butter
Liked the banana/carrot bread. I like that they served something different from regular bread. It kind of reminded me of the little bread pieces that they served at Artisan in Paso Robles and Ad Hoc in Yountville. I'll give Mimi's a gold star for this.

Pan seared scallops with butternut squash ravioli with tomatoes, garlic mushrooms and roasted tomato cream sauce
I was excited when I saw this on the menu- I mean, butternut squash ravioli and scallops? Yum! I know creamy sauces can be a bit too heavy so I asked how heavy it was. Not too heavy, she said. I asked if they could make it lighter. I didn't want a tummy ache all the way back to the westside. She said yes of course! I'm beginning to think, she's so accommodating. I like her.
When the dish came out, it was anything but light. The sauce was oily, see below. Honestly, it looked like the oil that you would sometimes see when you nuke your leftover Cheesecake Factory pasta the next day.

The scallops were cooked perfectly and absolutely scrumptious. But hmm... where's the butternut squash? The ravioli tasted like normal ricotta filling, see below of the ravioli and on the top center of the photo, the cheese that I scooped out because I can't eat cheese.

I asked the waitress about this and she said "Oh the butternut squash is in the sauce. I think...." then scuttled away. OK, that is my pet peeve- when waitstaff don't know the answer (which is OK) but try to wing it and don't even bother saying "You know what, I don't know, I'll check and come right back to you". The waitress seriously got me doubting myself.. Maybe it DID say regular ravioli and maybe it was just a butternut squash sauce, although I don't even taste the butternut squash in the sauce.

After lunch, I went to check the menu to get some resolution and stealthy took a photo.

I knew it! It WAS supposed to be butternut squash ravioli, not ricotta, And yes, there was no butternut squash in the sauce, it was tomato based. Grrr.... I should have had more faith in myself. Thank goodness there were scallops on my plate and my sister ordered a side of fries because I would have certainly starved. I am still a bit annoyed about the outcome of this dish because I was going to order the Belgian waffles but when the waitress reassured me that the tomato sauce could be lightened, I decided to go with it. Plus, the butternut squash ravioli sounded delicious. What a let down...

Bistro lamb shank
Tender lamb shank, slowly simmered in a red wine garlic sauce with pan veggies, broiled asparagus and homemade mash potatoes
At $10.99, it's a steal! The lamb was tender, but the asparagus was overcooked and the mash although served in a generous portion, had no seasoning.

Hand carved Turkey cobb wrap
With smoked bacon, avocado, sliced tomatoes, shaved lettuce, bleu cheese crumbles, green onion and zest herb spread, wrapped in a tomato tortilla and served with baby greens.
The components of the wrap were a bit too creamy and there was too much herb spread. The spread overwhelmed the wrap and what would had been a light refreshing meal became a heavy one.

OK, I know that some of you are shaking your head and thinking to yourself, she's crazy for expecting anymore more from a dish that costs $10. I know, you get what you pay for. But I can get oh-so-much-better-food if I went to get pho or a sandwich. I was seriously contemplating hitting a drive-through on my way home. Besides the heavy sauce and missing squash, service was an issue. If our waitress hadn't tried to pretend she knew exactly what was on the menu, I'd be more forgiving. Next time, stick with the safe items. They can't possible muck up Belgian waffles right? Well, I wouldn't hold my breath...

Hits: bread basket, scallops
Misses: service!!, parking lot is a zoo, oily pasta sauce, where's my butternut squash ravioli?
Rate: *

Mimi's Cafe
2925 Los Feliz Blvd.,
Los Angeles CA 90039
(323) 668-1715

Sunday, October 25, 2009

*sob* why did they give up Riva for another Fraiche?????

Fraiche, started by Jason Travi and Thierry Perez, in downtown Culver City has had many fans since its opening in 2007. It's menu boasts good French/Italian dishes but service had been a sore subject. Most complained of Travi's snobby and brash attitude. No less than a year after its opening, Riva was spun off in Santa Monica. Riva's initial menu consisted of crudo, pizzas and entrees but then switched over to stuzzichini (tapa portions) and just last week, news erupted that Riva was converting to another outpost of Fraiche. Thierry left 6 months ago and Travi just parted ways with Fraiche this month. There's been lots of changes but hopefully the food stayed good.

We were looking for a dining place in Santa Monica to celebrate my friend Dilu's birthday, so we decided to check out the new Fraiche location. The menu looked the same as Fraiche; pastas and a couple entrees. We decided to order a couple appetizers for the table and an entree each. They ran out of the lobster tagliatelle (drats) and said they would substitute it with shrimp. Hmm.. for the same price? Doesn't seem fair...

Bread was served only after we requested, and it arrived at the same time as the appetizers.

Foie Gras. Can never say anything bad about foie, you'll never disappoint.

Speck and burrata. The speck was mild and tasted great with the drizzle balsamic vinegar. I am not usually drawn to mozzarella but this was delicious. It was soft and creamy but didn't have a strong flavor. This was definitely my favorite of the starters.

Oysters on half shell

Baby beets, with hazelnuts, mache and mozzarella. My friend omitted the mozzarella from the dish. The beets were lovely and I liked the crunchy hazelnuts.

The only beef I had with the appetizers was that there was a salad overload on most of the plates which just seem like filler to me. Entrees came out shortly after.

Squid ink pasta with sun dried tomatoes, shrimp, calamari and clam.
The pasta was soft and delicate, and I liked the dark black color from the squid ink Most of the seafood was perfectly cooked except for the calamari that was overcooked. The pasta dish was delicious but I think it needed a bit more flavor, perhaps from a more intense seafood broth or a little more salt.

Braised short rib pappardelle with arugula
The pasta was fresh but according to the homemade pasta-expert at the table, it had a bit too much flour and needed a bit more egg. The braised short rib however was tender and flavorful.

Breadcrumb pasta served in broth with pulled chicken
When we first asked about this dish, our waiter said that it was very heavy. Hmm.. don't think its any heavier than the pappardelle and short rib pasta.. I liked that this pasta was prepared differently, in soup. The pasta itself was a bit denser because it's made from breadcrumbs. The soup was served lukewarm so it would have tasted better if it was warmer. The online menu also listed a similar dish (that wasn't offered when we were there) with pulled duck instead of chicken. I think the former would gave been better because of the richness and color it would bring to the dish.

Corn ravioli with brown butter and sage
One of my favorites. It was simple. I loved the sweetness of the corn and the sage butter was fragrant. I think this is where Fraiche excels; with its fresh and simple pasta.

Kurobuta pork chop with brussel sprouts
It was great how the pork was huge but yet was cooked well and evenly.

Woodfire pork. Yes, it looks like a black mess but it was the best of the entrees. The meat was soft and the sauce had a sweet maple flavor.

Steak and frites.
Seared flat iron steak, with hand cut fries and compote butter. Fries were delicious, wonder if it was double fried in duck fat..

Hennessy with dessert. I can't drink this, even a drop makes me cringe.
For dessert, we ordered beignets and two bread puddings.

I thought it tasted good but the consistency was doughy and hard.

Chocolate bread pudding, bourbon caramel sauce, peanut brittle ice cream (with candle for the birthday girl but her dessert not complimentary).
Odd consistency, it wasn't like a regular bread pudding that is usually soft and warm. Instead, it tasted more like cookie that was crumbly.

Overall, a fun dinner. The service was a little off; the waiter tried to clear the plates without even asking if my friend was done but he learnt quickly because after that, he would ask us if we were done before taking the plate away. The sommelier's recommendations were also a bit off. The Chenin Blanc had a bitter after taste and the burgundy was unbearably honey. Another issue with the restaurant is that they did not list their new location and phone number on their website (and you couldn't find it on google either) so someone in our party had trouble finding the restaurant.

The food was alright; there were a couple of strong dishes but some of the rest were nothing special. I am actually a bit bummed that they got rid of Riva. They already have a Fraiche Restaurant in Culver City so it would be nice to have a different location that offered a different menu. I enjoyed my dinner the last time I was at Riva; I can't eat pizzas (bad cheese experience) but they had a wonderful potato and fennel sausage pizza. Overall, the food was good but I don't think it lives up to the huge hype; I have had better pasta dishes. I would give Fraiche a 3 out of 5 stars.

Hits: pork, speck and burrata, corn ravioli
Misses: wine recs, nothing horrendous but did not live up to the hype
Rate: ***

Fraiche Restaurant
312 Wilshire Blvd.,
Santa Monica, CA 90401

Saturday, October 24, 2009

A night in with Jose Andres

My friend LB is such a perfectionist when it comes to cooking. She has to make her own dough and pasta from scratch, and buy the best ingredients. So when she invited me over for dinner on a weeknight, I knew she was going to be slaving in the kitchen all day. The theme was Spanish tapas, with the main dish rossejat. The inspiration for the theme was because I had sent over a recipe for rossejat and she realized that she had a different variation from her Jose Andres cook book. She decided to cook some items from his cookbooks (recipes below). We were also celebrating her trip to Spain this weekend.

Spanish Rossejat or Fideua is pan fried noodles in a paella pan. I've had the rossejat at Jose Andres' The Bazaar Restaurant and it was absolutely flavorful and delicious. I like it better than paella (if that's even possible!) because the noodles are thin and absorb more of the broth without being too heavy.

First things first, sangria.

The fruits include strawberries, apples and these huge mutated grapes.

Sangria with sparkling wine. This was delicious and refreshing. You could tell the hint of vanilla. We ended up making another pitcher with Chardonnay as the base. I liked the sparkling better.

LB decided to make a few tapa dishes and the Rossejat for entree.

Serrano ham on fresh rustic bread. I love cured ham and it's just a lovely way to start a meal. Serrano has a bit more intense and cured flavor than prosciutto. The bread was rubbed with tomatoes and drizzled with very good olive oil. I could be happy just eating this all night. It's simple but addictive.

Chorizo, pan fried. The chorizo had a heavy and strong flavor. It sat around a bit too long so it got a bit hard. This is the type of dish that you should eat right after cooking.

Fresh calamari with sauteed garlic and sofrito
LB made sofrito for the fideua but decided to set aside some for the squid. Sofrito had to be stewed for about an hour. Onion had to be grated by hand, and tomatoes and onions were simmered for an hour. So, it's pretty labor intensive but it went really well with the mild tasting squid. The calamari was tender and fresh, and in big pieces. The sofrito tasted a bit like like marinara sauce but smoother. Simple but so much flavor and you can really taste the simmered onions in the sofrito.

I watched as LB prepared the main course. But I did refill her drink and made another batch of sangria.

Fideua or Rossejat

She cooked the monkfish and shrimp, brown the pasta, then add the liquids that would be soaked with the noodles. Finally, she combined everything and used a broiler to crisp the top noodles while the noodles underneath were still wet and absorbed all the liquids. I have to say that this was mouth watering and satisfying. The noodles had a very strong seafood flavor which was from the seafood broth, which of course was not the canned broth from the grocery store but from Santa Monica Seafood Market. Yes, everything had to be perfect. The noodles had really concentrated flavors of the seafood essence, and the shrimp added a nice sweet flavor to the salty dish.

Last but not least, dessert. I had wanted to pick up a Tres Leche (Spanish!) cake from Emil's Swiss Bakery in the Westside but when I called in the morning, they didn't have any. Instead, LB grabbed some desserts from Paris Bakery in Westwood.

Bavarian fruit tart and a chocolate creme brulee mousse from Paris Bakery.
Fruit tart crust was like ladies fingers with a light coat of sugar. The cream was light. I liked the cake part of the creme brulee mousse however I did not really taste any creme brulee flavor.

While we were eating, she put in her Jose Andres DVD from PBS.

It truly was a Jose Andres night. The food and sangria was excellent, the company was even better and Jose was right there on TV making sure we were having a great Spanish time


From Jose Andres, Made in Spain

White Wine Sangría
1 cup chopped mixed fresh fruits: strawberries, peaches, white grapes
1 bottle of Spanish cava or other dry sparkling wine
¼ cup brandy
¼ cup white grape juice
¼ cup Licor 43 or any vanilla flavored liqueur
1 teaspoons sugar
1 small fresh mint sprig

Fill a glass pitcher halfway with ice and add the chopped fruits. Tilt the pitcher and pour the cava very slowly down the side; this will help retain the bubbles. In another pitcher or bowl with spout, combine the brandy, Licor 43, white grape juice, and sugar, then pour the mixture into the sparkling wine and fruit. Give a quick stir and add the mint sprig. When serving, make sure each glass gets some ice and fruits.

Asturian Chorizo stewed in hard cider
From Jose Andres, A Taste of Spain in America

1 Tbsp Spanish extra virgin olive oil
4 semi-dry chorizo sausages (about 2 oz), cut into 1/2 inch thick slices
1 cup hard cider
Crusty bread, for serving

Heat the olive oil in a medium saute pan over a medium flame. Place the chorizos in the pan and cook until they are slightly browned on all sides, about 5 minutes.

Pour the hard cider into the pan and raise the heat to high. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to medium. Cook for around 30 minutes, until the chorizos are soft and the cider is reduced to 2/3 cup.

Place chorizo in bowl and cover with the reduced cider. Serve with warm bread.

Serves 4

Tomato toast with Spanish ham
From Jose Andres, A Taste of Spain in America

4 slices rustic bread
2 ripe tomatoes
Spanish extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
Salt to taste
4 thin slices jamon serrano (Spanish cured ham)

Toast the bread. Set aside.

Cut tomatoes in half. Rub the open face of the tomatoes into one side of each piece of toast until all the flesh is grated. Throw the skin away.

Drizzle olive oil, as liberally as you like, over the tomato. Season with salt to taste. Place a slice of ham on top. Drizzle with a little oil again.

Serves 4

Squid with garlic and parsley
From Jose Andres, A Taste of Spain in America

3 Tbsp Spanish extra virgin olive oil
4 squids, tentacles separated, washed and dried
1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped
Juice of 1/4 lemon (about 1/2 tbsp)
1/2 tbsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
Salt to taste

In a flat griddle or a medium frying pan, heat 1/2 tbsp of olive oil over a medium-high flame.

Place the bodies of the squid in the pan and sear them, without moving them, for 3 minutes. Turn them over, add the tentacles and cook for 1 minute. Then turn the tentacles over and cook for 1 more minute. Remove the squid from the pan, and place it in a serving dish.

Add the remaining 1 1/2 tbsp oil and the garlic to the pan, and saute for 20 seconds. Remove from the heat.

Sprinkle the lemon juice over the garlic and stir together. Sprinkle the parsley into the mixture, pour it over the squid, and add salt to taste. Serve immediately.

Serves 4

Sofrito, Catalan tomato and onion sauce

10 ripe plum tomatoes
1 1/2 cups Spanish extra-virgin olive oil
4 small Spanish onions, peeled and finely chopped (about 4 cups)
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pimenton (Spanish sweet paprika)
1 bay leaf

Cut the tomatoes in half. Place a grater over a large mixing bowl. Rub the open face of the tomatoes over the grater until all the flesh is grated. Discard the skin.

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over a medium-low flame. Add the onions, the sugar and the salt. Cook, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until the onions become soft and tender and turn a light brown color, about 45 minutes. You want the onions to caramelize. If they get too dark, add 1/2 tablespoon of water to keep them from burning while they cook.

Add the reserved tomato puree, the pimenton, and the bay leaf. Cook for another 20 minutes over medium heat. You'll know your sofrito is ready when the tomato has broken down and deepened in color, and the oil has separated from the sauce

Makes 3 cups.

Rossejat, Pan-fried angel hair pasta with shrimp
From Jose Andres, A Taste of Spain in America

1 cup Traditional fish stock
3 tbsp Spanish extra-virgin olive oil
2 oz monkfish, cut into 3/4 inch cubes
1/4 lb angel hair pasta, broken into 1-inch pieces
1 garlic clove, peeled and very finely chopped
3 tbsp Sofrito
Salt to taste
8 medium shrimp, peeled, deveined and cut into 3/4 inch pieces
1/4 cup Allioli

Bring the stock to a boil in a small saucepan. Once it boils, reduce the heat and maintain it at a simmer.

In a paella pan or a medium flameproof casserole, heat 1 tbsp of the olive oil over high heat. Add the monkfish and sear on all sides, about 2 minutes. Remove the fish and set it aside.

Reduce the heat to medium-low, and add the remaining 2 tbsp of oil and the pasta. Pan-fry, stirring it continuously with a wooden spoon, until the pasta has a golden brown color, about 10 minutes. Be careful not to burn the pasta. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. The add the sofrito and raise the heat to medium. Pour in the hot stock and add salt to taste.

Add the shrimp and the seared monkfish pieces, and stir with a wooden spoon. You'll see the pasta absorbing the liquid. Don't touch the pan anymore. Cook for 6 minutes, until the liquid has evaporated.

Remove the pan from the heat and let the rossejat rest for 3 minutes. Heat a salamander or broiler, and place the casserole underneath until the pasta on the surface starts to curl up and brown slightly. Remove, and serve immediately with allioli on the side.

Serves 4

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Heavenly Truffle pasta at Bar Pitti, NYC

One last great meal before we left for the airport, where did the time go?? This New York trip was all about catching up with old friends, lots of walking and of course, lots of eating and drinking. For our final lunch, we decided to dine at Bar Pitti, home of the truffle pasta that Fay had been talking about all weekend.

It is a neighborhood joint located in Greenwich Village and it got crowded while neighboring Italian joint was pretty empty. Apparently there is a known feud between the two owners who used to be partners and friends. The restaurant is cozy and there is 80's music playing in the background. The wait staff are mainly cute Italians with strong accents. But beware, it's cash only. The seats outside are most coveted for people watching, but since it had been raining, no one was seated outside. After doing some research when I got home to LA, it appears that Bar Pitti is supposed to be a popular celeb hangout, although it seemed more like a simple, low key restaurant.

Our waiter brought over a blackboard with list of specials; apparently the specials are the way to go. The service was a little abrupt and he had a bit of an attitude. We decided to order a few plates to share but one plate of pasta would not be sufficient so we went with 2 plates of the truffle pasta and two meats dishes.

Started with 2 bottles of wine. Bread was also served with olive oil. I asked for balsamic vinegar, but I got an odd look and the vinegar never came. Perhaps our waiter was bewildered that I asked for balsamic when olive oil should be sufficient.

Fettunta E Prosciutto: grilled country bread with prosciutto di parma, garlic and olive oil
OMG, look at the large slices of prosciutto. It was the best few bites because the bread was crusty and toasted with essence of oil and garlic. And the prosciutto was paper thin, freshly moist and with a sweet and salty flavor.

Truffle linguine
This was a definite winner. To be honest with you, I could have eaten the whole plate myself and then some more. Sometimes, cream sauces can be very heavy but this was light and a mild truffle infused flavor. The pasta itself was cooked al dente and was fresh. And atop the pasta was a generous topping of shaved truffles. A delicious and comforting dish that really left me wanting more.

Boiled beef ribs
They were served as is, without a sauce. The meat was tender and the dish was very simple but delicious with parsley and boiled vegetables on the side. This was a lighter meal compared to a beef stew or braised short ribs, which was a good thing right before a six hour flight.

Lamb chops
The lamb was a bit gamy and was a bit overdone by the time we got to it. Our bad. I reckon that it would have been cooked perfectly if we had eaten it before the pasta, but how could we resist that scrumptious pasta?

Side of potatoes that went with the lamb.

After our meal, we ordered four cups of joe.

Our waiter (who was in a better mood by this time), brought by dessert wine and biscotti for us. FOR FREE! How sweet! I don't usually drink dessert wines but when I was in Paso Robles the prior weekend, I was very impressed with the dessert wines that I tasted at the wineries. The biscotti was hard, crunchy and had an almond flavor.

That was an amazing meal and I will be dreaming about for a while. The food was delicious, especially the truffle pasta which was absolutely memorable. The place is charming and it really is a cozy and casual dining atmosphere. The waiters are charming especially after they warm up a little. The truffle pasta will be on my list again when I next return. In fact, I have already recommended this to a few friends. If you are craving for homemade pastas and hope to catch a glimpse of a celebrity, this is the place.

Hits: pasta, free dessert wine, good looking Italian waiters
Misses: cash only, service a bit rude at times
Rate: ****

Bar Pitti
268 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10014
(212) 982-3300