eater's digest: new taste of the upper west side (part 3)

Saturday night I had the pleasure of attending “Best of the West“, an event honoring legendary food critic Gail Greene. As suggested, the evening featured many of the tastiest establishments on the Upper West Side, regaling attendees with more of an fine dining feel than the previous evening’s “Comfort Classics.”

Seafood dominated the night’s selections, and undercooked was king. From crudo to cured, the fish was delicate and fresh across the board, but for me, there was one clear winner: the scallop crudo from Nick & Toni’s Cafe. Paired with just a dash of flake salt and a few firm, bright peas, this simple scallop stood out from the pack.

Another memorable selection was Gastroarte‘s “Tomato Six Ways.” Fresh, sundried and even gelatinized, chef Jesús Núñez’s take on the omnipresent fruit was an inventive reminder that there’s really nothing better than a spectacular tomato.

Yet if the aforementioned plates were refreshing departures from the realm of over-thought restaurant eats, it was two more intellectual plates that truly surpassed my expectations for the evening.

The first was Jean Georges‘ gorgeous avocado and asparagus salad. Creamy smashed avocado enveloped the most perfectly cooked asparagus my teeth have ever encountered. Tender, yet still al dente, the vegetable’s iconic bitterness that lasted just long enough to impart flavor, but vanished before becoming unpleasant. Topped with sorrel flower and toasted sesame seeds, the dish left a lingering nutty memento on the tongue.

The second was Dovetail‘s quail egg, cured carrot and chicken feed. The words “chicken feed” by no means enticed me, but these nutty, grains offered an exquisite chew  - definitely the best texture of the night. The quail egg also had a great, creamy mouth-feel, and the cured carrots offered a bright, acidic crunch.

And finally, a few more-than-honorable mentions:

  • Chef Michael Psilakis proved his worth in proteins…
    • with his moist, deeply flavorful Kefi meatball (the best meat of the weekend, in my humble opinion)
    •  and a perfectly balanced corvino crudo from Fishtag (impressive, considering the fish was paired with a bevy of potentially overpowering ingredients).
  • The Tangled Vine confirmed its reputation for winning seasonal eats, serving a cured mackerel and a medley of barely-cooked spring veggies.

    Fava Bean Raviolo, Nice Matin

  • Nice Matin‘s creamy fava bean raviolo had me rethinking my allegiance to all things al-dente

For more photos of the evening’s offerings, check out my profile on Instagram or this album on Facebook.

eater's digest: new taste of the upper west side (part 1)

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This year marks the fifth year of the annual New Taste of the Upper West Side, the largest neighborhood dining event in NYC. Just nearing my second anniversary as an UWS'ider, I jumped at this opportunity to rub elbows with other hyper-local foodies and to sample the neighborhood's most outstanding eats. Last night kicked things off with a refined, vegetarian feast at Dovetail. The dinner was inspired by Chef John Fraser's Monday night dinners, which go beyond "meatless" to craft dishes where vegetables are truly the star, rather than the supporting cast.

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My favorite bites of the evening were the delicate, green chic peas in Brown's asparagus dish, the creamy cheese/wild nettle fusion in Robbin's risotto, and the textural contrast of the crunchy greens adorning Dieterle's spring truffle raviolo. But I truly felt all the chefs did a remarkable job, working under Top Chef challenge-like constraints (sharing an unfamiliar kitchen with an unfamiliar crew and co-chefs). I'm looking forward to seeing what they have planned for Friday's "Comfort Classics" and Saturday's "Best of the West."

Proceeds to benefit the Columbus Avenue BID’s streetscape beautification projects, as well as the Greenhouse Classroom and Citymeals-on-Wheels. To learn more, visit: New Taste of the Upper West Side.