C.K. Dezerter

On a recent business trip to Krakow I was looking for a good lunch spot to eat some dumplings and other local specialties and I was recommended this place.

It’s only a block off the main square but that basically keeps it off the tourist map and yet still very conveniently located.

The food and the ambience was great. At lunch only a few tables were occupied so I took the one by the window which allowed for some people watching.

I basically knew I wanted to have dumplings. I think I got a mixed portion and they were delicious.

I also wanted to try some other local specialties and so I got the chicken liver and the herring. Both were very tasty but, in spite of the fact that they were appetizers, the portions were huge so I quickly regretted ordering two things and I ended up not finishing the huge plate of liver.

I would definitely recommend this place for a local no-frills spot away from the tourists. Don’t get me wrong, the menu is in English and Polish, so it’s not like it’s a hidden locals-only spot, but I was the only non-local in there at lunch so it seemed pretty authentic and the prices were very fair as well.

Officine Degli Apuli

Great restaurant of Apulian specialties in the heart of Bologna.

Often times restaurants that offer meat, fish and pizza in the same place are not that great or not that great at all three of them. Not the case here.

I’ve been going back to this place almost every year and the quality is consistent. I’ve been there with just a few people and with large groups of 15-20 people on a busy night and service can sometimes be a bit slow but the food is amazing.

On my last visit we’ve had a mixture of seafood and pizza.

The cold and hot seafood appetizer was beautifully presented and a great balance of flavors and textures. The cold part includes tuna tartare, caramelized red onions, squid with zucchini, baby shrimps in tomatoes:

You can order a real burrata cheese appetizer separately. It comes from Andria (where the best burrata is from) and this was one of the best burratas I’ve had outside of Puglia.

The hot appetizers includes “pepata di cozze” (which are mussels baked with bread crumbs and lemon) and are a specialty of Taranto.

Jumbo shrimps in warm tomatoes sauce:

Squid ink pasta:

Linguine with clams:

Paccheri pasta with Ricciola (yellowtail) and cherry tomatoes:

Octopus on a bed of fava beans purée and chicory:

Pizza “Martinese” with stracciatella cheese and capocollo meat:

Almond Semifreddo dessert:

Pistachio Semifreddo restaurant:

Tosokchon Samgyetang

Get ready for very very very long lines here, unless you time your visit appropriately: but the reward is a healthy and delicious ginseng chicken cooked the traditional way like they do in Korea – in a dense rich broth that bubbles inside a stone pot and with plenty of side dishes too!

This is what the place looks like from the outside:

Granted I visited this establishment near Gyeongbokgung Palace on Xmas day, I got there JUST in time before a tour bus pulled up and dropped off 50 Koreans that stood in line for an hour braving the bitter cold. But don’t let the tour bus fool you. It’s not a tourist trap, it’s just a very old place that has gained a great reputation and therefore ended up on some must-go-place list in Korea.

Here’s what the line looked like when I walked out after my meal:

The inside of the restaurant presents itself like this (see pic below), and you can choose between regular height tables and chairs or traditional short tables where you sit on the floor cross legged.

In the middle of the atrium there is a HUGE pot of shredded Ginseng root that burns and gives the whole restaurant the right smell.

And then of course there are the chickens. The menu only has two types: the regular white chicken or the more expensive and rare black chicken. All chickens are the small Cornish Hen variety and every order gets you a full one in your personal pot, but they are much much smaller than the chickens you might be used to so fear not: You can do it!

There’s only 4 dishes to choose from and they start at 16000 won (about $15) and go to almost double that, in the following order: white chicken (see picture below), white chicken with extra ginseng dried roots to sprinkle, black chicken and black chicken with extra ginseng dried roots to sprinkle (see next picture).

The extra ginseng root you receive to sprinkle on your dish looks like this (it’s small but makes a sizeable difference in the price):

Along with your meal you get tea (of course!) as well as a shot of ginseng liquor. If you like it you can buy a whole bottle in a gift bag for less than $10 when you leave.

Here are some of the side dishes you get. All you can eat Kimchi of course!

The menu is small, only 2 pages, with a brief history, explanation of how to eat it (in Korean and English) and the four options available (plus some side dishes).

On the way out admire the huge ginseng roots on display and the liquor bottles they make (and sell).

Definitely worth a visit if you are in the mood for a healthy chicken soup. Can’t beat it if you feel under the weather or if it’s cold. Prob wouldn’t wanna do it on a hot summer day. Definitely make sure to go early for lunch, like 11-11.30 or so, before it gets crazy busy!

Amaya

Amaya is one of the new restaurants in Mexico City and it’s in one of these neighborhoods that used to be sketchy but are becoming more popular and, shall we say, hipsterish. In fact it’s right across the street from the Parker Lenox jazz club / night club.

Their menu changes daily and they have a large wine list that includes wines from the no-sulphate movement and they also sell wine in case you try something you like.

On my visit our party tried 5-6 different things and everything was delicious.

Tostada de Ceviche. Delicious.

Salad with eggplant hummus. Very delicate.

Aguachile. Like a ceviche in small cold soup. Delicious.

Grilled octopus on a bed of artichoke purée. Super tender.

Chirimoya pannacotta with mandarin sorbet and persimmon. Exquisite.

Meauxbar

After working with U2 in New Orleans my crew and I definitely needed a well deserved meal to celebrate and although there was no time to hit the usual restaurants everyone knows about, we decided to try something that got good reviews and was on the way to the airport.

Meauxbar is sort of a farm to table bistro with some very interesting dishes. Nothing fancy but good food and nice atmosphere in which executive chef John Bel and his team provide sober renditions of inventive dishes that are a joy for the palate and are easy on the eyes and the body.

I’m a lover and a connoisseur of burrata and I have had some incredible ones in Southern Italy (where burrata IS from), some really bad frozen ones in Italian restaurants around the US, some decent ones from stores, farmers and restaurants. Well let me tell you, this burrata was one of the best ones I’ve ever had in the US! I don’t know how they do it but I asked the waiter and he said it was not imported from Italy but made by a nearby Louisiana cheese maker which really surprised me. Served on a bed of summer squash, sunflower seeds and peaches vinaigrette, honestly this burrata was so authentic tasting that it might as well have been served on a bed of rocks and it would have been delicious anyway!

Would have been a shame to be there and not have some gulf products so we tried the special of the day (scallops on a bed of kale and rice) and the Gulf Fish courtbouillon, both very good.

The $35 pre fix lunch came with a dessert and I had the fennel mousse which was truly exquisite as well!!

Eins Unter Null

What sounds like Rammstein song title is instead the name of an exquisite new restaurant in Berlin, in fact, probably one of the best new restaurants in Berlin. Smack down in the middle of Berlin's Mitte, EinsUnterNull already received their first Michelin star so I'd recommend going while you still can get in.

Given the city's affordability one can still enjoy an inventive, adventurous, multi-course luxurious lunch or dinner for half of what this meal would cost in NYC, for example.

The 5 course lunch menu was only 45 Euros and there is also a 3 course option for 29 and a 4 course for 37.
Dinner is much more expensive and starts at 82 Euros.

Eins Unter Null means "One Below Zero", and that's because their main dining hall is in the basement. However I went for lunch and the downstairs was closed so I was seated on the ground floor with sunlight and a view of the street.

The style of the restaurant and the kitchen is very modern and minimalistic, lots of wood (tables, chairs and even some utensils) almost Dutch or Nordic I would say.

The kitchen is in full view but behind a wall of glass so you can observe without being bothered by the noise. The place is actually very quiet. The staff is obviously very nice but very knowledgeable. Ask for the Italian hostess/waitress Martina who is also an accomplished musician and works here because when she ate there "the place blew her mind", she said!

The food was incredible indeed and the menu is so interesting.

The absolute winner for me was the so called "Mushroom Bread with onion blossoms and linseed oil", basically a layer of super thinly sliced mushrooms that smell so fresh you can imagine the moss and the trees. But the rest of the menu was as imaginative as it was delicate as it was tasty.

Even the desserts were delicious, from the crumbly one to the beet root chocolate cookies.

This place will be the first restaurant I go to when I return to Berlin.

Sugarfish

Sushi master chef Kazunori Nozawa was also known as “the Sushi Nazi” because allegedly he used to throw people out of the restaurant if they asked for dipping sauces or tempura or for a “California rolls” (apparently even famous people like Charlize Theron got thrown out).

After having run a restaurant in Tokyo with his mother he opened his first restaurant in Los Angeles in the mid/late eighties and  Sushi Nozawa quickly became a world renown restaurant. In 2012, after 25 years, he retired from making sushi and opened Sugarfish, for which he and his sons still select the freshest fish every morning.

Sugarfish has become a hit and has 10 locations in Los Angeles and one in New York. The first ever location is now closed so I visited the second location, which is now the oldest one and is located in Marina Del Ray, near Venice Beach.

When I tried to visit the New York location in the first month it had opened there was a 3 hour wait, so I ate somewhere else. But in LA it’s much easier to get a table or a seat at the bar (although it’s not really a sushi bar, as the kitchen is off to the side). Expect a wait of at least 20 min (we waited 30 min on a Monday night at 9.30, which is a very off time…).

The food is amazing and surprisingly affordable. The omakase (or “Trust Me” as it’s called) is only $35 and there is a light version for $25 and a version with two extra specials for $45.

The fish is super fresh and the preparation is truly great. For example the salmon, and the eel were some of the best salmon and eel I’ve had and the large scallop had a tangy bite to it which was a bit of yuzu ponzu on it. Even the sushi rice was tastier than most: it is warm-ish and harder, almost “al dente”, I’d say, and with the right amount of vinegar. The only bad thing about the rice (and about the whole experience) is the consistency of the rice. The taste is great but you can’t pick up a piece of sushi with your chop sticks without dropping some rice on your plate. It’s impossible. Maybe I should have tried the old school japanese way (by hand)… And forget about picking it up and flicking it over to dip the fish in the soy sauce (which is the way you use soy sauce on sushi, fish side down!). It’s impossible! That was a drag but the taste of the fish made up for it. 

For a place with 10 locations I was amazed at the quality.

Rafael

As I’ve stated before in other posts, one of the many great things about travelling to foreign countries with weak currencies is that you can have amazing meals at a fraction of what they would cost in the US or Europe.

In Bogotá Colombia one such meal was at Rafael, a Peruvian restaurant with Lima-inspired meat and fish dishes as well as pasta and desserts. The bill came in at little under $50/person, but that’s including cocktails, wine, coffees and digestives, so really without drinking this could have easily been an incredible $30 meal!

Of course we started with pisco sours for the table, quickly followed by maracuya and lulo juices for me (the designated driver) and Argentinian Malbec wine for my friends and co-workers.


And for food of course we started with two different ceviche appetizers (of which the traditional version ruled over the other warm type), some pulpo alla gallega and fish cakes (which the waiter brought two orders of without us having asked for that).

For my main course I had a fluffy white fish  (the menu was only in Spanish so I wasn’t sure of the name) prepared in a typical Peruvian way (although the bed of rice in a green sauce didn’t convince me, but the baby scallops made up for). 

Unfortunately I didn’t take pictures of the main courses of my fellow diners but I can assure you the presentations were impeccable and the food was delicious according to everyone’s account (and I should mention that on this night two of my fellow diners were accomplished french chefs).

For dessert we ordered the typical Peruvian dessert called Sospiro, which came in an amazing spring-looking mousse/sauce over slices of the squishy-textured local guanabana fruit and a bed of dulche de leche emulsion. The second dessert are caramelized pears with a caramel praline slice and a vanilla-based fruity sauce. Both desserts came with small leaves of basil and berries.

Stay away from the coffee! Colombia has unfortunately never had good espresso (even though they produce great beans) but this place is definitely the proof of that. We ordered espressos and got what in Italy would have been a below par bad, bitter, way too watery and way too long coffee so we sent them back and asked for espresso ristretto and got the right amount of coffee but still way below par bad, bitter, watery coffee without the foam that comes from the right water pressure. Avoid coffee here at all costs if your standards are as high as mine for espresso.

Other than a couple of small hiccups with the service (like bringing two appetizers and charging us for it, charging us for a drink we didn’t order etc) this was a great meal at an affordable price that’s definitely worth a visit. 

I Love Paris

Who says you can’t eat good food in an airport? At Paris CDG you can! This stupidly named restaurant is in Terminal 2E and is the latest venture by Le Grand Véfour chef Guy Martin. It’s by far the best food I’ve ever eaten in an airport. That’s for sure!

Mushroom mousse for starter.

A burger cooked rare (because in Europe you can and you should!) with cheese and good fries.

The uniquitous Floating Island dessert you find in so many Parisian restaurants. Basically fluffy white egg beaten with sugar over a bed of caramel sauce and hazelnuts. Delicious.

52

This unassuming almost bistro-looking place surprised me with their presentations. I stopped here for a quick dinner before going to a show at New Moraning jazz club, in the heart of the Harlem of Paris. Affordable, beautifully presented and very tasty food!

When in Paris you must have escargot (snails!) and it’s not your thing or you don’t want a whole plate full of this dish is perfect because it had only one snail served inside a hollow breaded crispy shell with lard emulsion and some good raw ham right on top. Very classy!