Friday, April 13, 2012

New York City: Social Eatz

We went to NYC to attend our niece's Bat Mitzvah.  Keep in mind that Ryann doesn't feel well and my SI issue has been literally confining me to bed so we were  I was nervous about an entire week away, but it turned out to be a good trip.
Angelo Sosa's Restaurant in NYC

I am a huge fan of Top Chef and have watched all 9 seasons faithfully.  Tom Colicchio, the head judge, owns several restaurants in NYC including Craft.  On our last visit my brother-in-law mentioned he had eaten there and it was only around $35 for an entree.  While that is expensive, it is far less than I imagined it would be to eat food at such a well respected restaurant owned by such a picky chef.  I love a good meal, so I decided I wanted to eat Top-Chefesque food on this trip.
New York City + high-end restaurants=reservations wait-lists.  The difficulty getting a reservation, and not knowing how Ryann and I would feel each day made it too difficult to plan ahead and get reservations before we stepped off the plane.  I also didn't want to make reservation in a restaurant that was a $50 cab ride from our hotel.  Since I knew that getting a reservation would be nearly impossible at establishments run by big name chefs like Jean-Georges or Daniel Boulud so I decided to hit up the New York restaurants owned by some of the Top Chef contestants.

Angelo Sosa, Top Chef
What makes Top Chef food so special?  Over 9 seasons, I have listened to top chef's use words like confit*,  yuzu*, pork belly* , roulade*, and cerviche*…words one NEVER RARELY sees at a restaurant in the Midwest.  I wanted to read menus that used all the words that I would then pretend to understand.  Sounds reasonable right?  My husband was on board- in theory at least.  The problem then became the kids.  Would my kids eat yuzu and confit?  Hard to say.  Chase is a pretty adventurous eater- he recently ate blue cheese by picking it up and taking bite after bite- but once he decides he doesn't like something there is no turning him around.  Ryann is a pain to feed.  She avoids diary and gluten and can't eat late because she gets horrific reflux.    So horrific that she comes into my room gagging, wakes me up, and demonstrates vomiting.  No meal is worth another demonstration….especially in a hotel room.

Top Chef contestants….close to hotel... I had a plan and couldn't wait to pull it off.  As we flew to NYC I dreamed of the amazing food I would be eating.  We arrived on Friday night-much later than expected after our plane was delayed.  Everyone was hungry as I sat down and tried to find something close and Top Chef-ish.  I found Social Eatz, the restaurant of Top Chef 2x contestant and one of my favorites, Angelo Sosa.  It was even within walking distance.  We called and found that if we arrived close to 5pm we could get at table without a problem.  Score!!!!
Strawberry Shortcake

The restaurant is almost exactly a year old.  Prior to Top Chef Angelo, owned a sandwich place called Xie Xie, which by all accounts, people loved.   If you watched Top Chef you know that Angelo cooks with Asian flavors.  It was never really clear on the show if he was a great guy or he was a shrewd, quick-to-throw-someone-under-the-bus kinda player.  One thing I did notice was he used Yuzu in EVERYTHING.  What the hell is Yuzu?

Ok…so we showed up, followed the hostess to a table, sat down, grabbed out menus.  Hmmmmm, such odd choices…we looked….we ordered drinks….we looked some more … what to get…oh what to get.  Ryann went all dramatic about the smell in the place (her father agreed- I didn't smell anything).  Finally she chilled out we placed our orders.  We waited.  and waited.  and waited.  and waited.  Did you remember Ryann needs to eat early?  It was quickly becoming "not early".  I figured if we sat down at 5pm, then "eating early" wouldn't be a problem.  Think again.  What I failed to consider was the aptitude of the waitress.

Social Eats
Let me paint a picture for you…the restaurant is in NYC, AKA it isn't much bigger than my dining room/kitchen.  Using the  picture at left note exactly how WIDE the restaurant is or rather how wide it isn't. You can see the walls on both sides of the restaurant.   Just past the bar is a little alcove with 4 tables.  See the row of tables on the right? We are sitting in the last table in that row directly across from the alcove.  Notice the brown wall (all the way in the back of the alcove).  The cash register and entry to kitchen are directly behind our table across from the brown wall.  The waitress had to walk by us every time she went to the kitchen or the cash register.  The manager had to walk by us every time he went to and from the kitchen.  Angelo had to walk by us every time he went to and from the kitchen.  I can't imagine how a waitress could NOT realize our food was taking too long was never given to the kitchen.  We watched people sit, order, eat and leave.  My kids are completely losing it.  Ryann swears she can't at or she will throw up.  She's too hot.  She's too cold.  It smells bad.

Suddenly she perks up and says "what does HE look like?  I think he is standing right there".  I admit I got a little stupid but resolved to NOT make a fool out of myself so I DIDN'T ask for an autograph.  That wasn't true of everyone in the restaurant.  There was a table in the alcove that took pictures with the man.  I will say that Angelo flits around, seemingly without purpose, at least when he is in the front of the restaurant.

We are still waiting for our food.  Finally, after close to an hour, we flag the waitress.  She plays it off with the standard "let me check on that" and "it is almost ready".  Right!  We were tipped off to the fact that she never placed our order when she came back to ask Rick how he wanted his steak cooked and what did I want to eat.  Huh? I ordered when everyone did and she never asked him how he wanted his steak cooked the first time.  She promises to bring drinks on the house.  We wait some more.  and some more. Until suddenly food arrives and keeps arriving.  We still didn't 'have the second round of drinks.
Fish and Chips
Okay the service sucked but how was the food?
I ordered Fish and Chip to share with Chase.  The "chips" were seasoned with Tograshi.  Rick and I agreed they were spectacular.  Perfectly deep fried and the Tograshi added a nice flavor.

Ryann had Porkchop and Applesauce (with sweet and sour cabbage; asian pear applesauce).  Initially she was scared of the plate.  The pork chop was actually sliced off the bone and looked odd but it was drizzled with the pear applesauce which was amazing.  She ended up eating all of it.

Rick had Steak Frites (Kalbi style, King Royal mushrooms).   He enjoyed his as well.

We had our food but here is where the story takes a truly odd turn. When they dropped off our order they also gave us a Bibimbap Burger (slow cooked egg, Korean Pickle on a BUN)  which is one of their specialties.
"Yeah, um we didn't order that?"
"Yes, it is our compliments"
That would be a nice gesture if they had delivered it early as an appetizer.

Ironically, chase has been talking about trying a hamburger all week, so this seemed like the perfect opportunity.   Of course this  was certainly not a normal hamburger  but he loved it.  I tasted the slaw and it was unbelievably good.  Rick took a bite or two and found the twist tie- from the buns- in the burger.

Panna Cotta
Can this experience get any worse?  I quickly deduce that a twist tie is better than a hair.  We tell the manager who winces.  I suspect she mall was said and done they didn't tell Angelo ANYTHING about this disastrous meal since he never stopped by our table as he whips past us numerous times.

To make up for the monuments failure that started when we sat down they bring us all 3 desserts they offer.  And the drinks promised before the food arrived.  The 3 desserts are Strawberry Shortcake in a jar (Sake marinated strawberries lemon cake, black pepper whipped cream in a cute bell jar), Chocolate cake (smoked cardamom, dulce de leche), and Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta (Yuzu blueberry compote, Thai basil). 

Chocolate Cake 
The Panna Cotta was D.I.V.I.N.E.  So silky….so smooth….. and so delicious.  I am in love.  I think I ate most of it.  Chase devoured the Strawberry Shortcake and we all the cake.

We had spectacular organic sodas but I cannot remember the name of it.   It was very interesting and delicious.

Would I go back? I don't know.  I love Angelo and I know he is very talented.  He came in 3rd place Season 7 Top Chef and he returned for the next season as an All Star.   The food was great, but he never did stop by the table to say "Hi" or "Sorry".  In the end they didn't charge us for the desserts or the extra drinks, but frankly they should have knocked off some other items as well.

My hubby, always the comic, served me a delicious, Social Eatz-inspired meal after we got home.

While he stuck to traditional flavors we know, he did add a little "twist".

*Pork Belly- it is NOT the fat one gets after eating too much bacon.  Literally the belly of the pig.
*Confit meat cooked slowly in its own fat
*Yuzu an Asian citrus fruit
*Roulade A dish cooked or served in the form of a jelly roll, typically made from a flat piece of meat, fish, or sponge can with a soft filling and rolled into a spiral.

*Cerviche marinated raw fish
*Twist Tie something that should NEVER be served with a hamburger

Social Eatz wasn't the only Top Chef restaurant we hit.  Come  back to read about the most amazing food I have ever eaten.  Oh and I still have an amazing story to tell.  Any guesses why I did in NY that MADE MY YEAR?  I'll give you a hint….I used her ideas to make my own wedding cake and even some sweet heart-shaped cookies dipped in pale pink icing.

Laters Baby...

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