A.G. Newsletter #13: The Spotted Pig, Ippudo NY, Tomoe Sushi & Torrisi Italian Specialties

Hey Gang,

Three-Day Weekends are dangerous affairs; Tuesday morning comes around and BANG you've got a lot to do!

I spent the morning editing pictures from the past seven days; and it turns out not only did I cook a lot of terrific food (wait 'til you see the July 4th feast I cooked for my brother and his wife Tali; I'll post about it soon) but we ate a lot of great meals out.

For example, last week Craig and I were craving burgers and instead of the Five Guys fix we've gotten so used to we decided to splurge with burgers at The Spotted Pig. If you've never had The Spotted Pig burger, you're in for a treat: it's a big mound of succulent meat, perfectly cooked, with a hunk of blue cheese on top. That's it. And it's perfection; that blue cheese is a funky, surprising addition that makes the burger truly great.

But man cannot live on burgers alone; you've gotta make the meal wholesome somehow, right? So we ordered this radish salad:



No one gets too excited, I bet, by the words "radish salad" but the radish salad at The Spotted Pig is really lovely. The trick, according to our waitress, is to make a loose pesto of torn basil, garlic, lemon juice and Parmesan all tossed with the radishes until they're coated. This was bright and refreshing and the perfect foil for that burger, if a little pricey at $16.

Later last week, I met my friend Diana for lunch at Ippudo, the much-fetted ramen joint that I first visited with Steven Shaw in 2008.

It's interesting--last night I Tweeted about a quote from "Mad Men" (we're working our way through Season 2) in which a character says: "It's good when it's hot to drink something hot." I was dubious but my Twitter followers set me straight:



So there you go. I didn't have this edifying information in my pocket when I met Diana, so I wasn't too excited about eating this hot bowl of miso ramen on a hot day:



But man, was it delicious. The broth at Ippudo is the richest broth I've ever encountered and that big ball in the middle is fresh ginger which I broke apart and spread throughout the soup so it was zippy and bright and, shockingly, not bad on a hot day after all. Here's Diana enjoying hers:



Craig's approach to hot weather is to crave sushi. That, to me, is more relatable, so I joined him after a long walk along the Hudson on Saturday for dinner at Tomoe Sushi (or is it Sushi Tomoe?)

If there were ever a differential between lunchtime prices and dinnertime prices, you experience it at Tomoe. The lunchtime sushi regular, which comes with 7 pieces of sushi and a half roll, is $17.75. At dinner, the sushi regular costs $27 and it comes with just one more pieces of sushi!

So the time to go to Tomoe is at lunch (it's also much less crowded).

Still: the sushi there is so fresh sometimes it's worth splurging on dinner. Craig and I each settled on sashimi:



With a big bowl of rice, this was the perfect thing to eat after a long, hot day. I loved everything (I always save the tuna and salmon for last) except the raw shrimp. I hate raw shrimp: future sushi chefs, take note.

And now, for the big finale: the dinner I ate with my brother and Tali at Torrisi Italian Specialties.



Let me set the stage. Torrisi got a rave review by Sam Sifton in The New York Times and five out of five stars in New York Magazine. The concept is basically this: a fancy version of a red-sauce Italian dinner--antipasti, pasta, an entree and dessert--for the remarkable price of $50. Needless to say, it's popular.

I got there at 5:45 to put our name on the list. Here's the crowd:



Actually, that picture doesn't do it justice. There was a swarm of people around the woman with the salmon-colored top and the clipboard. By the time I reached her I was told that we could have a table for three at 9:15 (again: it was 5:45). She was very nice about it and took my phone number. When Michael and Tali arrived I told them we had a lot of time to kill.

So we walked around Little Italy and SoHo and stopped and had drinks at Savoy, which turned out to be a pretty terrific thing to do. The bar there is charming and look at this Hibiscus Prosecco cocktail:



Also, we ordered the mapled nuts and look how they serve them--in a little jar spilled on to a plate. Isn't that cute? That's a great place to kill time before dinner; also, the McNally Jackson book store is a great time killer too.

So finally, around 8:45 we wandered back and that salmon-colored hostess was very sweet and told us that it wouldn't be much longer, our table was on dessert. It took another 15 minutes but then, finally, we were there.

Look, there's Billy Joel on the wall:



That same hostess, who felt sorry for how long we'd waited, poured us some "bubbles for your troubles" on the house:



There wasn't much to do in the way of ordering; you only had one choice: "skate or pork chop?" Michael and I chose the pork chop, Tali chose skate. That was that. [Note: the menu changes every day.]

The first item that came to the table was one of the most remarkable bites of the night; garlic bread with homemade mozzarella:



Oh my, how to describe this. The bread was perfectly toasted (it reminded me of the best bread we ate in Spain when we ate Pa amb Tomaquet), dusted with tomato powder and sprinkled with oregano. And the mozzarella was fresh and milky and surprisingly pully, like a string cheese, but in a good way.

Then there was grilled zucchini in a yogurt sauce:



A yogurt sauce (with lemon juice) on grilled zucchini is a great idea and something I'll definitely try at home.

For the serious foodies at the table (i.e.: me), there was this lamb's tongue salad:



I have to admit, I was a bit cautious at first but when I took a bite it immediately tasted familiar: it was like pastrami. And it was paired with cucumbers and pickled red onions and had a certain Jewish flair, which I appreciated. Michael and Tali did too.

There was broccoli rabe (which I almost choked on, but that's my own fault--cooked greens get caught in my teeth) and the one thing Tali wouldn't eat, whole fried fish (whiting?):



She couldn't get past the eyeballs but I gobbled them up.

Now on to the truly best bite of the night, my entree, the pork chop:



This was undoubtedly the best pork chop of my life. It was a thin piece, not a hulking affair; but it was so well cooked. Moist and tender in the middle, crispy and caramelized on the outside. It was topped with a vinegary bundle of red peppers and the whole thing together was like magic. I'm craving it now as I write about it.

Tali's skate was very good too, but I was glad I got the pork chop.

Finally, they gave us lemon Italian ices:



And a platter of cookies including my favorite cookie of all time, the rainbow cookie:



My one criticism of the meal concerns those rainbow cookies: there wasn't any jam slathered between the layers which is the whole point of a rainbow cookie. But the rest of the little desserts--including the cannoli--were top notch, if a bit austere (the ricotta in the cannoli was barely sweetened.)

Without question, dinner at Torrisi is the steal of the century. Did you see all that food we got for $50 a person? For a fancy New York restaurant, that's unheard of. No wonder it gets so crowded.

Here's my advise: sent an emissary to Torrisi at 5:45 to put your name on the list. You'll be given a time to come back (probably after 8:30 or so). Have the emissary call you with set time and then meet there then. Perfect!

Ok, newsletter readers, I better get back to my life: I have videos to shoot and a trip to plan (I'm leaving for D.C. either tomorrow or Thursday, depending on the availability of one final D.C. chef). We're seeing the B-52's tonight, Craig's favorite band from childhood, so that should be fun.

Until next time!

Your friend,
Adam (The Amateur Gourmet)

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