|It just lay there like a dead fish.|
Meanwhile, in my limited free time, two gastronomic adventures to report:
1. Because I loved Gabrielle Hamilton's memoir so much, the first culinary goal of the trip was to refresh my tattered 8-year-old mental snapshot of her restaurant, Prune. I remembered it as tiny, shabby and merely okay.
Here's the new snapshot: Tiny, tiny, tiny, and shabby, but in a chic way (though not "shabby chic") and staffed by offhand young women in pink t-shirts. Pappadums instead of bread. Jars of what appear to be home-pickled onions for martinis on the bar. Open kitchen. Mirrors. Uncomfortable stools. Expensive. For appetizer I ordered fennel with butter and trout roe. The fennel, cooked to melting tenderness, bathed in a thick butter sauce and was saved from unctuousness by small orbs of salty orange roe that burst when you bit into them. It was dreamy.
Entree: less good. Ordered roast branzino, which I never see on California menus and which sounded exotic and enticing. I don't know exactly what I was expecting, but what appeared was a gray trout-size fish on a plate with a wedge of lemon and a few twigs of thyme. Not exotic, not enticing, and lacking relish, sauce, chutney, or side vegetable, not very interesting to eat. I like a bite of this, a bite of that, not just fish, fish fish, fish, fish, you're done. It was tasty fish, but too austere for me.
Overall an enjoyable meal, but I prefer Hamilton's writing to her restaurant.
2. After last week's bo ssam dinner and the Christina Tosi near-win in the Tournament of Cookbooks, I also wanted to try a David Chang restaurant. Last night a friend and I went to Ma Peche on 56th Street, behind and below Milk Bar where Isabel and I bought cereal milk soft-serve and compost cookies last summer.
Ma Peche has a vast and glamorous dining room, gauzily lit and theatrical. Could not be less Prune like. We were attended to by two waiters, both skinny boys in t-shirts who looked young, jaded, and tired. I like to think I don't gush too much so you will believe me when I say this was one of the best meals of my life. Not top 10, but probably top 100. Started with a "Last Flight to Mexico" cocktail, which is a mezcal-based Aviation and worth every single empty calorie. Each dish that followed was perfect: raw mackerel; steak tartare; broccoli salad; brussels sprouts. I wish I could offer more detail, but I didn't analyze, just ate and felt very lucky. There are lots of negative reviews of Ma Peche, like this one. I'm not going to let them sway me.
I wanted to try to try a Serbian burger this trip, but tomorrow is full so that probably won't happen. Home Sunday.