L’Appart (Restaurant Review)

A little over a week ago, I had what very well may have been one of the best dining experiences of my entire life. I was completely and utterly blown away by every aspect of this place, which just so happens to be located right in my office building at Brookfield Place in the Financial District. There’s a phenomenal French marketplace called Le District on the first level off the atrium, and I was invited (plus guests) to experience their new venue L’Appart during their friends & family soft opening weekend. I jumped at the chance, and what ensued was an incredible evening that blew any expectations my friends and I might have had completely out of the water.

Since they describe this venue so beautifully on their site, I’ll just share that with you:

The design of the dining room reflects that of a “chef’s living room” – sophisticated, intimate and relaxed with modern touches throughout, featuring just eight tables accommodating up to 30 seated guests.  The room mimics that of an open-concept living space with a state of the art kitchen, where guests can watch the buzz of the line over marble countertops while enjoying the aromas of the chefs preparing their meal, flanked by a glass wall with views of the Hudson River.

Tailored to provide the highest quality exceptional fine dining experience each night, guests will select a one-of-a-kind meal based on a multi-course tasting menu of extraordinarily fresh and unique ingredients procured daily throughout Le District’s markets. The menu will change weekly, if not nightly, and feature seasonal ingredients prepared under the direction of Chef de Cuisine Nicolas Abello and George Thomas in the room.

L’Appart, which means “apartment” en francais (you’re welcome), is designed to be just that: a cozy, apartment-style venue where the guests are made to feel welcomed into the host & chef’s home, and treated with the utmost respect and hospitality. It’s an open kitchen layout, so you can watch the chef making your courses as you eat. Loved that.

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The space itself is gorgeous. We were also fortunate enough to meet the interior designer, who is the wife of one of the owners, as she popped in for drinks later on in the evening. She was personable and rad and just added to our favorable impression of everything.

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The staff is a highlight here. Both the apartment host/maitre’d and the chef de cuisine are lovely, charming, personable people with a true knack for creating a warm, enticing environment that offers everything a guest could want: great service, charming conversation, exquisite attention to detail, and absolutely delicious food & wine. We felt rather doted upon and extremely comfortable, and could not stop talking about what an amazing time we were having (basically as soon as the 4 of us walked in). 🙂

When we entered, we were greeted with a sweet little vermouth cocktail sporting some muscat grapes, which we welcomed happily…

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before immediately zipping ourselves into Chef Nico’s personal space. I was not about to miss out on capturing anything from this evening.

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You know those moments in life when everything just feels exactly right? When you’re in a lovely place, with the exact people with whom you want to be sharing that moment, and you can linger there indefinitely and feel like you’re precisely where you’re meant to be in the world? That’s the closest I can come to describing this evening. I was with three amazing girlfriends who warm my heart and make me love life, in an intimate, darling place where everything was just right, and none of us would have changed a single thing.

And so, the food. What can I say about the food except that we loved every course and were amazed by how much flavor and detail was included in such small bites. We were served tiny course after tiny course, each entirely different and unique and hand-crafted by the chef from his own personal whims and tastes, and we loved them all. He was also overly accommodating to me and catered to my no dairy/no gluten/no red meat preferences, which is utterly ridiculous for a chef to do on a tasting menu and I was so grateful.

Here’s a glimpse of some bites from our amazing tasting menu, with unofficial descriptions as close as my memory can serve up:

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cucumber bites stuffed with poached lobster

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beet & goat cheese stacks

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goat cheese zucchini bites

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avocado bite with cauliflower garnish

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tuna crudo (i loved this, right up my alley)

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i can’t recall what this was — fish i think? — but it was delicious & these signature plates were amazing

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shaved ice topped with cubed pineapple over rum

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apricot sorbet over blood oranges

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dessert display of mini berry dough bites and this rich sea salt dark chocolate infused with lime

Everything was so unique and so meticulously crafted and so consistently amazing. The other girls had lamb in place of my chicken (unphotographed), and there was rosemary bread, and a course of cheese and bread as well. We also had two bottles of delicious French wine (their Chenin Banc was perfection), and they sent us over complimentary glasses of some wonderful bubbly while we were choosing our wine. Seriously! This place could not have been any better.

The chef came over and chatted with us a bit at the end, which was a sweet touch, and we were able to gush over how much we adored everything and thank him for the wonderful experience (and assure him we’d all be back). And to top it all off, they gave us little boxes of delicious chocolate to take with us when they escorted us to the door, lil souvenirs to remember them by. As if we could ever forget this evening. 🙂

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So thanks to L’Appart for such an unforgettable evening. We could not have possibly enjoyed ourselves any more than we did, and we can’t wait to return. It’s perfect for dates, perfect for girls’ evenings, perfect for — well, okay. It’s just perfect.

Grand Banks: the classy NYC boat bar

so if you know me, you know that i’m rather vocal about my love for boats. i’m pretty sure i could live on one, actually, my water-baby dreams run that deep. i maintain that i had little choice in this matter and was luckily born into a boat/water/beach crazy family, as some of my earliest memories revolve around my tiny self shrieking in glee as my dad’s speedboat bumped and bounced along the Hudson River. my mom loves to tell people that she wanted kids, and my dad wanted a boat…so naturally, the boat came first, and then Ry and i were allowed to exist. we’re very fair in my family — we like to keep everyone happy and let them have whatever their little hearts desire. it’s a nice system.

it’s only fitting, then, that i try to take advantage of any opportunity to get myself on a boat here in NYC, regardless the intent: like the lobster boat near my apartment, which is just the most fun casual boat experience; or, the classier, more intimate sailboat bar docked just a few blocks from my office called Grand Banks.

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i really, really like this spot. the boat’s site boasts it as an “award-winning oyster bar aboard a historic wooden schooner, the Sherman Zwicker.” i’ve never tried the food (i’m not such an oyster person, but i’m determined to make myself get better at that and conquer the fear of the slimy/brainy-ness), but they certainly make it look appetizing:

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however, even if seafood isn’t your thing, the ambiance and cocktails should be more than enough to entice you to board this lovely boat. i’ve tried a few of their signature cocktails, but for me, there’s just something so summer-magical about sipping rosé on a sailboat. the two just go hand-in-hand in my book.

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it truly is the perfect classy summer spot, in my opinion, unless you get seasick, as it definitely rolls & rocks and gives you the full “i’m on a sailboat” experience. i spent a few hours on it recently and woke up in the middle of the night that night thinking i was on the rolling sea…which actually made me smile in my sleep.

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bring on the waves, baby. i love ’em.

happy Friday, friends!

Any fun plans for the weekend? i’m going to Charleston!
Verdict on oysters: love ’em, hate ’em, want to make yourself like ’em? i’m the third choice — trying to overcome!

The Dead Rabbit

i’m Irish.
i like a good prohibition-style cocktail bar or a place with a historical, unique vibe.
i like checking out new hot-spots that get rave reviews and seeing if they really do live up to their reputations.
enter: The Dead Rabbit, a new 19th-century style Irish bar with some serious charm and class.

photo via examiner.com (Andrew Kist)

photo via examiner.com (Andrew Kist)

okay, so as a former little girl with a bunny obsession, the name of this Irish-style cocktail bar isn’t my fave. i’d probably prefer it to be called, oh, anything else. (but the story of how it got its name is pretty cool, and you can read that on its information-overload website…think Gangs of New York era.)

however, once you get past the roadkill name, it’s pretty rad. if you read the (very cluttered) text on their home page, it’s gotten quite a few accolades in the past year…like World’s Best New Cocktail Bar and a Best Bar in America for 2013. especially considering all of the competition in NYC, they’re doing something amazingly right.

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located way downtown in the Financial District, it’s not in the most populated area, but the place was absolutely packed with an after-work thirsty Thursday crowd, and we had to wait an hour to get a table upstairs in the cocktail parlor. when we sat, the server brought everyone at the table a little dainty tea cup of their house punch. i can’t really recall what it tasted like, exactly…i was more enamored with the whole tea cup presentation. so darling.

photo: courtesy of The Dead Rabbit

photo: courtesy of The Dead Rabbit

as little as i enjoy going to bars, especially lately, i have to say this was a cool spot with a very specific niche and a hip vibe. all of the little details made the place: the tea cup apertifs, the hardcover book-type menus; the specialty drinks; the various black and white photographs tacked all over the ceiling and beams in the bar downstairs. it’s those little details that really give a place character and make it memorable.

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if you’re looking for a little history to mix in with your cocktails (which also all have historical significance), this is definitely your place. all-in-all, a fun and unique experience.

Question:
What’s the best bar in your city, in your opinion?
Are you into cocktails, or stick with beer/wine?