Yessss, season 20 of Bravo’s Top Chef is on, and getting more and more interesting. Hopefully you love the show as much as I do, and are glued to the TV every Thursday night. This year’s season is made up of runner ups and winners of seasons past, both American and International. It’s almost impossible to pick a favorite. However, my prediction for the finale is that Thom and Buddha will have an epic showdown. But we will have to wait and see. In the meantime, I’m out having dinner here in the Big Apple, and there is no shortage of restaurants owned and/or operated by prior Top Chef contestants. I said it before, and I’ll say it again: their restaurants never, ever disappoint!
I should have known that this was going to be epic. I visited Kwame Onwuachi’s restaurant Kith and Kin in Washington DC a few years back, and it was absolutely amazing. So, now he finally opened a restaurant here in New York (he’s from the Bronx like me, so I knew it was a matter of time until he opened a spot here), and of course I was there as soon as I could. May I say Holy Smokes? Tatiana is named after his sister, so I expected a beautiful restaurant, and I wasn’t disappointed. Located right in the plaza of Lincoln Center, it is impressive, with phenomal staff (LOVED our waitress), a vibe unlike any other, friendly people at every table, strangers having conversations with each other, just peaceful, joyful. If Kwame is trying to achieve an air of community and family, he succeeded with flying colors. (Chef Kwame appeared on season 13, and made it to the 6th place).
The food itself was also unlike anything you will ever find anywhere else. The flavors, and the dishes themselves were inspired by New York, its colorful neighborhoods, the seemingly endless cuisines of different countries, a lovely tour of my beloved New York by way of the dinner plate. Of course my daughter Sasha accompanied me, she wasn’t going to miss out.
Our first dish were Curried Goat Patties with Green Seasoning Aioli and Mango Chutney. This was 100% carribbean flavors, however, the patties were shaped like empanadas! I’m usually not a big goat meat fan, but these were outstanding, with the chutney adding to the flavor in the most perfect way. Next, we shared the Andouille Sausage with Celery Salt and Creole Mustard. Clearly a New Orleans dish, but then again, was it an ode to NYC’s hot dog? I loved it. Being German, the one thing that drew me in, was the short Rib Pastrami Suya with Coco Bread, but the thing that caught my eye was the Melted Red Cabbage, which is something I grew up with, and no restaurant I’ve ever been to here in the US, has ever gotten it right. But this was right on the money. Just like home. Unreal. And of course, the Short Rib and the Coco bread were exceptional. Were we stuffed at this time? You betcha. Did that stop us? No. We then had the Braised Oxtails with Rice and Peas, Thumbelina Carrot, and Chayote Spinach. So tender and flavorful! I can’t even find enough words to tell you how much I loved this dinner. It’s fair to say, I have a new favorite restaurant.
Wall Street Grill
Wall Street Grill is a kosher steakhouse! I love a good steak, so I was excited to go. I also love the Wall Street area, it’s so historic, so it was a win-win situation. The cherry on top was that the Executive Chef is Chef Joseph Paulino, a Top Chef contestant from Season 3. He made through 6 rounds of the competition, which was enough to have the audience fall in love with his typical NYC character, a hard-nosed, hard working Italian with a smirky smile. I’ve been wanting to go eat here for the longest time, and after my son landed a job on Wall Street, I could no longer wait. I wasn’t sure if Chef Paulino “just” created the menu and the dishes, or if he actually physically worked there. But when I showed up for my reservation, he was right outside, taking a break, so I was even more excited to have my meal there, I knew it was going to be great.
Our appetizer was an order of Crispy Thai Beef, and I never tried anything like it! Crispy and delicious, deep fried, sinfully good, The sauces that accompanied the dish made it even better. I asked the waiter which one of the dishes was going to be like Chef Paulino’s “baby”, I wanted to try something that was solely his creation. He pointed me to the Pearl Street Steak, because the name was closest to the name Paulino. I hope he didn’t misunderstand my question, because the restaurant is located on on Pearl Street! Either way, the steak came with a Mushroom Marmalade and Chimichurri, and it was really, really good. My son Nicolas opted for the Boneless Ribeye with Crispy Onions, which also was immaculate. I stole most of his onions. So good….
Plant based food is getting more and more popular. Having grown up in Germany, where I was literally eating blood wurst for breakfast, giving up meat seems like too hard of a task. That of course would never keep me from eating vegetarian, vegan or plant based food. As long as it’s delicious, count me in. Which brings me to PLNT Burger.This plant based burger joint is one of Spike Mendelssohn’s restaurants. I’ve been to a couple of his restaurants (most of them are based in Washington DC}, and I obviously loved them, the man knows what he’s doing. He appeared on Top Chef season 4, where he came in at 5th place. He comes across as dedicated, talented, and definitely funny. He has built a little empire of restaurants and eateries, always working hard.
I know that some vegetarians don’t necessarily like it when their food emulates meat, but for me as a carnivore, it’s a plus. And honestly, my friends, who are eating meat-free, appreciate it. Not to worry at this place. I loved it all! The cheeseburger was all that and then some. The patty is a Beyond Meat patty topped with New Fields American Cheese, caramelized onions, pickles, lettuce, Roma tomatoes and PLNT sauce, served on a potato bun. Amazing. It tastes just enough like beef for a carnivore like me, but not so much to turn off a vegan. Excellent job. The same goes for their Little Dippers, which are basically vegan chicken nuggets. The fries are Crispy Herb Fries, which come with an assortment of the most amazing dipping sauces. I also tried the vegan Chili Bowl, it’s a must, 100% delicious. Bravo.