Sometimes going to a restaurant without any knowledge or preconceived thoughts of what the place may be like turns out to be something very special. That was the case when we made a last minute visit to Amali. After a holiday party that was lacking in the food department, we were hungry. Having met the chef and owner of Amali at an event a few days prior, we gave them a call to see if it was alright to come in. They graciously invited us, so we jumped in the car and drove right over.
Amali is special in many ways. Let’s start with sustainability, a core value of this restaurant. We have seen and heard many restaurants talk about farm to table, sustainability, etc., but Amali lives it, from the food that they purchase, the wines that they serve and the design of the space. They have made a holistic commitment to the ideal of sustainability which doesn’t end with food and drink, but extends economically by participating with and supporting numerous local charities, organizations and groups that promote environmental respect and biodiversity.
The food at Amali is inspiring. The menu is based on the Mediterranean way of life and emphasizes vegetables, olive oil, cheese, grains, fish and lamb. Put into the caring hands of visionary Chef Nilton Borges, Jr., this cuisine is elevated to a sublime and emotional experience. The Spanish octopus a la plancha was some of the best octopus we have ever tasted, tender with a beautiful char flavor from the plancha, dressed with a simple red wine vinaigrette, perfection. The two pastas that we had, the spaghetti with cured San Marzano tomatoes and the squid ink pasta with calamari were both as good as it gets and all of the pasta is crafted in-house. Spaghetti with San Marzano tomatoes is something that we all love and is generally very simple in preparation. Chef Junior takes this into another world as he cures the tomatoes in a two-day process that brings out elements of flavor that will change the way you think about tomatoes. The lamb is in a category all to itself and probably the most satisfying and unique example of just how skillful Chef Junior is. The lamb is first braised and then shredded into luxurious strands. It is then reassembled into what you would only consider a to be a block of pure lamb goodness. This block of heaven is then seared and served with an ethereal lamb reduction. We actually had to stop eating it at one point to meditate to regain our composure! This is a dish that you can honestly call a game-changer! Every dish that was presented to us was well crafted, thoughtful and memorable. Chef Juniors flavors are clean, bold and honest.
We also enjoyed some incredible wines that were selected for us by owner James Mallios. You know you are in for a treat when the decanter arrives at the table and you are told that the wine has been opened so it had a chance to breathe. The 2000 vintage Oikonomy Sitia from Greece that we were privileged to experience was over the top. This quite rare wine was a perfect choice to pair with Chef Junior’s cuisine. With a wine list of nearly 400 selections, James has received awards from Wine Spectator (Award for Excellence in 2011 & 2012) and Wine & Spirits Magazine (Top Ten Newcomer, 2012). Not only is James incredibly knowledgeable about his wine, he is a fantastic host and operator that understands what a dining experience is all about.
We really loved Amali. This is the kind of food that you want to eat. Please go and pay Amali a visit and let them know that Men Who Dine sent you!
We are big time fans of Michael White, but then again, who isn’t? With restaurants such as Marea, Ai Fori, Osteria Morini and many more coming, Michael has built an empire of inspired cuisine. Michael White is the best of the best. Not many chefs can say they are a Multiple Michelin & NY Times Starred Chef, Grand Chef Relais & Chateaux, and James Beard Award winners. But after all the awards, achievements, and success, Chef Michael is one of the nicest people you will ever meet. He is humble, generous, funny and someone that you want to just hang out with.
Nicoletta is quite different than the other concepts that Michael operates. Many people ask, “why would super-star Chef Michael White open a pizzeria in NYC?” The answer is simple. Because if Michael is behind it, it’s going to be something very special, and it is. New York has become home to many wonderful Neapolitan pizzerias which have certainly raised the bar on the quality of pizza in the city. Hailing from Wisconsin, Chef White puts a mid-western twist with his impeccable palate of unique flavors into his hand crafted pizza.
The menu is fun and a perfect balance of small bites (assaggini e sfizi), antipasti, and of course, pizza. We loved the caponata, the cici fritters, and the insanely delicious patate (crispy fingerling potatoes with pecorino, truffle oil and parmesan fonduta). We enjoyed two salads, the Nicoletta and Farro. Both were full of fresh flavors and the yogurt vinaigrette on the Nicoletta salad has become an addiction! These small bites are perfect to get you going before the pizza arrives and just as expected, the flavors are clean, bold, and spectacular.
Chef Michael is a master of detail. I can’t think of another restaurant operator that is so critically focused on every minute detail including the dining room and guest experience. Prior to our pizza arriving, our server brought out metal pizza stands that slip into spring loaded receptacles strategically placed on each side of the marble tables. The pizza is then placed on the stands and held in place by magnets. This keeps the pizza elevated above the table so that drinks can fit underneath and serving the pizza becomes a very easy task. Just brilliant!
Pizza in general is all over the map. You have your typical New York slice, the greasy dripping over-cheesed type, the psudo-gourmet California type, the newly popular Neapolitan style, we can go on and on. There is something quite unique about the pizza at Nicoletta besides that fact that is it delicious. It is a medium crust pizza with a wonderful bite and texture. It is incredibly satisfying. The three pizzas we tried really gave us a good sense of what Nicoletta is all about. We had the Calabrese, which we understand is Chef Michael’s favorite, with thick-cut pepperoni, homemade fennel sausage red onions, pomodoro and mozzarella. This pizza is bold, meaty and intense. If you are hungry and in the mood for big flavors, this is your pizza. The Tartufata with mozzarella, crema di tartufo, prosciutto cotto and roasted wild mushrooms was to die for and probably our favorite pizza of the night. It has that wonderful umami quality from the truffle and mushrooms that is perfectly balanced with the prosciutto. The third pizza was the Parmigiana with fior di latte, marinated tomatoes, ricotta fried eggplant, pomodoro, garlic and basil which is absolutely delicious and can only be described as pure comfort food.
We really enjoyed our experience at Nicoletta. It is the kind of place that will bring spontaneous cravings and keep you coming back for more. We highly recommend that you head over to Nicolatta and give it a try. Let them know that The Men Who Dine sent you!
160 Second Avenue • New York, NY 10003
Tom Colicchio, Michael Symon, Linton Hopkins, Jonathan Benno, Michael White, Christina Tosi, Rich Torrisi, and Mario Carbone…put them all together in a kitchen and you have the “Greatest Meal Ever Cooked.”
Hosted by Esquire Magazine, The Greatest Meal Ever Cooked was an historical culinary event with all proceeds benefiting the Mayor’s Fund’s efforts in providing relief for those affected by Hurricane Sandy. The venue for the dinner was at the beautiful Bowery Hotel in Manhattan. It is very rare to have such an all-star cast of chefs cooking together and it brought out New York’s super-foodie crowd. The dining room was charged with excitement in expectation of the dishes that were going to be coming out of the kitchen and we were behind the scenes and on the line to capture every moment. What the guests could not see was this chef super-group in the kitchen all working together as one team to prep, cook, plate and deliver some of the most amazing food ever! The kitchen was buzzing with great energy, intensity and passion which was reflected in the dishes that kept flowing into the dining room for hours.
Here was the menu:
Hors d’oevres, Mario Carbone & Rich Torrisi
Prosciutto d’ Melone
Raw Tuna and Egglant Spiedini
The Queens Olive
Foie Gras Newburg
Nantucket Bay Scallop Fantasia
First Course, Tom Colicchio
Marinated Hamachi with Roasted Beets and Smoked Creme Fraiche
Second Course, Jonathan Benno
Candele e Tartufo Bianco, Baked Pasta Layered with Bechamel, Cardoons, White Truffle
Third Course, Michael White
Scallops with Butternut Squash Caponata and Black Truffles
Fourth Course, Linton Hopkins
Ash Roasted Pheasant, Hominy Grits, Crisp Kale, Perssimon-Bacon Marmalade and Chestnuts
Fifth Course, Michael Symon
Braised Beef Shank with Shaved Baby Carrots and Radishes
Dessert, Christina Tosi
Pear Sorbet, Pumpkin Ganache, Blue Cheese, Pickled Pear, Cornflake Crunch
We are not making any breaking news today by saying that we are huge fans of Colicchio & Sons, you already know that. If you don’t, here are few reasons why.
Not only do they continuously raise the bar on the dining scene in NYC and are true leaders in the industry, they are a group of uber-talented chefs, managers, servers and staff who deeply care about what they do. How deeply? Just spend a few minutes talking to them and you will quickly see how they feel about each other and the man in charge, Tom Colicchio. This is a family – a restaurant family, that is intensely focused on our enjoyment and working together to achieve greatness. Collectively, they consistently deliver the kind of inspiring experiences that all restauranteurs should take a lesson from. Whether its a casual beer and burger in the Tap Room, an elegant dinner in the main dining room or one of the many charity events that they graciously participate in, Colicchio & Sons is focused on every detail and passionately delivers excellence.
Chase Rabenn, a manager and beer guru at Colicchio & Sons, put together an event aptly named “Shift Drink”. A shift drink is just what it implies, a drink after your shift, in case you didn’t know. Together with Empire Brewing Company in Syracuse, Chase crafted a custom beer specifically for Colicchio & Sons and we had the extreme pleasure of attending the launch party. The beer was truly fantastic; the food, amazing as usual and the staff…well let’s just say, “You guys know how to throw a party!”
Colicchio & Sons
85 10th Avenue New York, NY 10011
After Thanksgiving and way too much turkey, it was time for some new flavors. We sent out this Tweet into the social media universe, “Enough turkey! We are ready for a food throw down…any interesting suggestions for this coming week?”. Not more then a few seconds later, we received a response from Wilson Tang of Nom Wah Tea Parlor, “how about a dimsum dinner throwdown?”, and the rest was history! We quickly made Nom Wah’s first Twitter reservation, the power of social media in the food universe was in full force.
New York City’s Chinatown is a truly unique place, fast paced with exotic sounds, smells that plays a very important role in the city’s vibrant food scene and is steeped with historical significance. And then there’s Doyers Street home to Nom Wah. This small curved street that cuts through Bowery and Pell Street is straight out of a movie. Early in the century, the bend in the street became known as “the Bloody Angle” because of numerous shootings among the Tong Gangs of Chinatown that lasted into the 1930s. The street was ideal for street battles not just because of its angle but also because of the tunnels that connected the buildings. Hatchets were frequently used, leading to the creation of the expression, “hatchet man.” According to law enforcement officials, more people died violently at the “Bloody Angle” than at any other street intersection in the United States. Thankfully, the violence died out decades ago and now Doyers Street has become a dining destination with amazing restaurants and bars.
Back to the Dim Sum throw down.
Nom Wah Tea Parlor first opened at 13-15 Doyers Street back in 1920 as a bakery and a tea parlor. For most of the 20th century, Nom Wah Tea Parlor served as a neighborhood staple offering fresh Chinese pasteries, steamed buns, dim sum and tea. After it lost its lease at 15 Doyers in 1968, it moved into a brand new kitchen at 11 Doyers Street and has occupied 11-13 Doyers Street ever since. In 1974 Wally Tang purchased Nom Wah, the restaurant he had been working at since 1950 at the age of 16. The Tang family has operated the restaurant ever since, and today, Nom Wah is managed by Wilson Tang who not only carries on the tradition but has taken the restaurant to a new level of excellence.
When you walk into Nom Wah, you are transported into Chinatown’s past but the food will take you to a place you have never been before. In most Dim Sum restaurants, carts are wheeled through the dining room where you select the items that you want. At Nom Wan, everything is cooked to order, yes, a la minute. This is a complete game changer! Because the dim sum are not prepared in bulk and then left sitting in a massive steamer, the product is pristine, intense and flavorful beyond expectation. Wilson’s vision of serving in this manner has elevated these delicious little bites into a culinary masterpiece of freshness and big flavor.
So, the food is outrageous, and so is the service. The staff at Nom Wah are friendly, helpful and knowledgeable not only of the menu, but in the history of the food and the community. We ate, laughed, drank and left feeling like family which is exactly what Wilson wants you to experience. Nom Wah is all about friends and family. Once you eat here, you are adopted into their extended family and will be welcomed back with warm and genuine hospitality that has been past down through generations. Make is your mission to visit Nom Wah and let Wilson know that we sent you!