Restaurant Review: Le Bistro d’à Côté

Le Bistro d’à Côté
1590 1st Avenue
New York, NY 10028

FullSizeRender 11Last Sunday was Mother’s Day, so it is almost required that you have some sort of meal with mom. Some years we get together with cousins for a big BBQ, sometimes we have family over, etc. This year we wanted to something a little more low key, so settled on a nice brunch with just the four of us — me, mom, dad and my brother, Dan.

FullSizeRender 5Dad ordered the Soupe a l’Oignon ($11), or French Onion soup. The broth was very rich and aromatic with a great onion flavor. It wasn’t too sweet, and still had a solid alcohol flavor, which probably came from red wine. It might’ve been cognac though. The swiss cheese gratin crust was thick and delicious, with the classic, nutty flavor that comes from using Gruyere cheese. Plus, the cheese passed the all-important stretch test. The croutons in the soup were soft and soaked up a good amount of the flavorful broth.

FullSizeRender 8FullSizeRender 2While dad opted for the soup, mom, Dan and I split the Le Croustillant De Chèvre Chaud ($15) appetizer, which featured warm goat cheese and spinach wrapped in phyllo over mixed greens. The greens were dressed lightly, and the dried cranberries popped with flavor. They were a little sour, having absorbed some of the vinaigrette, which was a nice burst of acidity to cut through the richness of the dish. The goat cheese itself was so creamy and the phyllo paper delicately thin. The sliced baguette bread that came to the table was hot and crisp on the outside, but perfectly fluffy in the middle. I loved the crunch as I bit into the baguette—it was great for scooping up some of the goat cheese.

FullSizeRender 6Mom ordered the Oeufs Nordique ($15), a delicious, bistro version of smoked salmon Benedict, served with roasted potatoes and mixed greens. The smoked salmon was chewy, slightly salty, meaty and surprisingly creamy. The eggs were perfectly cooked, and the english muffin was soft and absorbed the yolk well. The hollandaise over the top of the Benedict was textbook in its richness, but was also wonderfully light.

FullSizeRender 10The Oeufs Florentine ($13), or eggs florentine, was also tasty. The spinach was still nice and crisp underneath the eggs, and the diner staple of feta cheese wasn’t missed. Again, the eggs were beautifully cooked, and tasted great with a sprinkle of salt. The salmon Benedict didn’t need any salt because of the inherent saltiness of the smoked salmon. My only critique was that the potatoes were not very hot when the dish came to the table.

FullSizeRender 9I opted for a Croque Madame ($13.50), which is simply a French spin on a ham and cheese sandwich, covered with a Béchamel white sauce and broiled. The difference between a Croque Madame and a Croque Monsieur is that the Madame has a fried egg on top as well. I ordered mine with no ham, and was slightly worried that it would be dry, but my worries were unfounded. The dish wasn’t wet and also not dry, but rather got softer and somewhat creamy as I went inward. The egg on top was (again) cooked well with perfectly runny yolk. The fries were crisp and hot, and tasted great with some Dijon mustard—very French. The greens were dressed with some simple oil and were a great vehicle for a sprinkle of the sea salt on the table.

FullSizeRenderThe final dish of the meal was the Risotto aux Champignons des Bois ($19), or wild mushroom risotto. The risotto was in a word: delectable. The rice was cooked al dente and wasn’t too creamy, but very hearty. The dish was very earthy, and had a wonderful deep flavor from the mushrooms, as well as the black truffle oil. It was garnished with small strips of shaved parmesan over the top. The risotto was actually perfect for brunch since it had at the appearance of a bowl of oatmeal.

FullSizeRender 4The restaurant presents itself in a simple, French bistro style with exposed brick, redone hardwood floors, and a narrow but still spacious dining room on one side and a bar on the other. There was relaxing jazz music playing—they actually have live jazz on Sunday nights. Large wine cabinets in the bar and restaurant areas were prevalent, with a simple table setup in the dining room.

FullSizeRender 3I usually avoid talking about any major negatives, but I have to point out that the restaurant’s website indicated that Sunday brunch came with a mimosa, Bloody Mary, juice or coffee if a brunch item was ordered. When we asked about this, the waitress said at first that it was only for their “hangover brunch,” which was a choice between two specific items only (2 eggs any style or a ham and cheese croissant). When she finally came back when plates were cleared away, we asked again and were told that it was for their brunch, but not on holidays. In actuality there was no special Mother’s Day menu. To me, that was false representation and slightly marred the experience.

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Overall, the service wasn’t very enthusiastic, mostly from the waitress, however the food and prices were very good. It reminded me very much of a cafe or bistro in Paris. Solid place to get some traditional bistro fare, and hopefully a glass of wine next time. Ah oui!

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The Secret to Perfectly Fluffy Scrambled Eggs

When I asked people what their favorite breakfast food was, I got a lot of answers—French toast, pancakes, oatmeal, smoothies, Cheerios, etc. The most common answer I got was eggs. The incredible, edible egg is a common, but delicious ingredient. It can top your burger to give you that runny yolk that adds a new level of decadence, be incorporated into a cake batter, baked into a quiche for company, or just hard-boiled. Personally, I love a great plate of soft scrambled eggs. It makes a fabulous breakfast, or a simple, weekday dinner. There are a lot of methods that people use to get their eggs perfectly scrambled—some with sour cream, milk, oil—I am an egg purist. The secret to my perfectly fluffy scrambled eggs: extra egg…and patience. This recipe takes some time, but it’s worth it!

Ingredients:

3-4 eggs

1 tablespoon (or ⅛ of a stick of butter)

Salt + Pepper

Cooking Steps:

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  1. Crack 2-3 eggs into a bowl.
  2. Crack the last egg and add just the yolk into the bowl—you can save the egg white, maybe whip it for a meringue or incorporate it into a protein shake. While egg yolks may have a higher amount of cholesterol, they also contain lots of vitamins and iron. The extra yolk in this dish not only keeps the eggs moist and soft, but also helps it keep its distinctive yellow color.
  3. Add a pinch of salt and black pepper to the eggs.image3image2
  4. Using a fork, beat the eggs in a counter-clockwise direction from top to bottom. If it helps, tilt the bowl as you whip the eggs in the circular motion. Mixing the eggs this way will also help with the fluffy texture.image4
  5. In a medium sauté pan, add your butter and heat on lowimage5
  6. When the butter starts to melt, add your egg mixture to the pan
  7. Using a rubber spatula scrape the bottom and sides of the panimage6
  8. Keep cooking, continually moving the eggs around in the pan for 5-10 minutes. The eggs will start to solidify and come together, just make sure to constantly mix it upimage7
  9. Once the eggs are cooked, but still shiny and look slightly wet, turn the heat off and get your toast or sides ready—it might seem raw, but the eggs are cooked and safe to eat.image8
  10. Sprinkle a pinch of sea salt on the eggs to finish them off. The mixture will be fluffy, moist and you don’t need cheese with these eggs since they are so soft and luxurious. A nice addition might be some fresh herbs though, like dill or parsley. Yum!image10

Recipe – Passover Edition: Matzah Brei

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It’s Passover this week, and I’m not back home after spending the past weekend eating big Seder meals and a lot of matzah. So, I felt that it was not only a good idea to share one of my favorite Passover recipes, but an obligation to dedicate a post to this delicious Passover tradition. We usually serve it for breakfast, but it’s delicious for lunch or dinner, and even when the holiday is over. In fact, many of the diners in NYC growing up would also make matzah brei around the Passover season.FullSizeRender

Matzah Brei, also called fried matzah by some, is almost akin to a matzah omelet, but so much better. It has great texture, delicious flavor, and is a great way to use up all that leftover matzah and eggs too! There’s a big divide about whether it should be served savory or sweet, but my family is sweet all the way! Although, this dish would also be delicious if you added some smoked salmon and onions to the egg mixture, and maybe some cream cheese on top—a play on Lox, Eggs & Onions. Sweet is really the one to beat though. Anyone else have a good matzah brei custom in their house? I’d love to hear all about it!

Ingredients:

2 sheets of matzah—say about 2 sheets per person, but you can make as much or as little as you want

3 eggs (per person)

1/4 cup of whole milk—skim is fine too, but whole gives a richer flavor

1 tablespoon and 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

4 tablespoons of white sugar

1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg

1/8 of a stick or 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter

1 pinch of salt

To Make the Matzah Brei:

  1. Use your hands to break up the matzah sheets into a colander—I recommend a colander with small holes or mesh so that pieces of matzah don’t fall throughIMG_1751
  2. Cover the matzah with water for 45 seconds to a minute—I know this seems weird, but it helps make the matzah pliable
  3. Drain the matzah really well
  4. In a medium to large bowl, crack the eggs and add the milk
  5. Whisk the eggs and milk together
  6. Add the salt, 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon, nutmeg, and 1 tablespoon of sugarFullSizeRender-2
  7. Once the mixture is homogenous, add the matzah to the liquid and toss to coat all of the matzah with the eggsIMG_1752
  8. Heat a frying pan to medium heat and add butterFullSizeRender-5
  9. When the butter has melted, add the matzah and egg mixture to the panFullSizeRender-4
  10. Use a spatula or spoon to spread the mixture and shake the pan to get as much surface area exposure to the heat as possible. You should hear a bit of a sizzleIMG_1750 FullSizeRender-1
  11. While it’s cooking, mix together the cinnamon and the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar to make cinnamon sugar. This is also great for cinnamon toast or for mixing into oatmeal!FullSizeRender-10
  12. Keep cooking until there are crispy edges and the eggs have dried up a bit—cook it to your desired consistencyFullSizeRender-8
  13. Plate the matzah brei and sprinkle the cinnamon sugar all over. The hot matzah brei will absorb the sweetness of the cinnamon sugar. Maple syrup is also a common matzah brei topping.FullSizeRender-7

Enjoy your delicious Passover breakfast!