For my family’s dinner on the second day of the (Chinese) year (we cooked a feast on the day of Chinese New Year), we headed out to North End Grill. I was curious of Chef Floyd Cardoz’s food since his days at Tabla, where he cooked robust, vibrant Indian dishes and I’ve been following Pastry Chef Tracy Obolsky since she was at Esca.
North End Grill is an update of the American bar and grill in Battery Park City. When you enter the restaurant, your eyes would fall on the modern, sleek black and white checkered tile floors, clusters of large white domed lamps that looks like abstract flowers (white “petals” of the concave lamp dome, long stamen dropping which has the light bulb on the end) that lined the ceiling. The first room is a lounge with a bar and toward the back is an open kitchen with a long counter for diners could sit, dine, and marvel the chefs manning the grills.
I know it’s sort of a trek to come down to the area and cross over West Street but the restaurant does cook very solid savory fare and if you do like creative yet familiar desserts, this is where you want to eat.
We started the evening with glasses of a crisp, floral white Bordeaux Graves Blanc, Clos Floridene 2010 ($18) and a hoppy, brooding American stout by Barrier Brewing Company ($8). We were presented with nicely grilled, charred country bread and butter.
Our appetizers of a refreshing Maine crab salad with avocado and pomelo ($16) and lovely grilled Vermont Quail with friseé, grilled pineapple and bacon ($16) gave the meal a good start. The crab salad wasn’t too creamy with the slightly tart-juicy pomelo segments, the sweetness of the crab still shined. The grilled quail was the better of the two appetizers. The smoky grilled quail worked nicely with the sweet pineapple and crisp cubes of bacon. The frisée added a pleasantly bitter note to contrast the hearty flavors of bacon and quail.
The seared sea scallops with grilled cauliflower purée, cauliflower and bacon dust ($34) was our favorite savory dish of the evening. The scallops were perfectly cooked and the what made this dish was the vibrant curried cauliflower purée. The grilled monkfish with navy beans, clams, linguiça sausage and Taggiasche olives ($34) reads vibrant flavors on the menu but it fell a little short on the plate. Otherwise, each element of the dish were cooked well.
The evening’s special was a large 24 ounce grilled t-bone steak ($70) served with a side of chimichurri sauce. While it was a good steak that’s cooked to a perfect medium rare but it oddly seemed to be served cold and the steak could take a bit more salt.
We finally arrived to dessert and goodness, it really arrived (as you see on the above photo of our table). We ended up having about half of Chef Obolsky’s amazing desserts and they were consistently delicious (each plated dessert was $9, except for the funnel cake that I will talk about soon). Let me count the ways how these beauties are awesome.
The stuffed doughnut holes with vanilla bourbon pastry cream were wonderful. Little bite sized doughnuts that were made to order and stuffed with the not too sweet bourbon spiked pastry cream reminded me how much I missed fresh doughnuts. The smoked maple syrup served on the side gently echoed the smokiness of the bourbon. My father liked these doughnuts a lot and oddly, he was inspired to smoke his maple syrup.
The yogurt cheesecake with blood orange and sesame brittle was the most delicate cheesecake I ever had. The cheesecake was practically a cloud when I had a bite of it and the sweet-tart blood orange segments and the nutty, crunchy brittle added some nice texture.
I admit this, I’m not a rice pudding fan. Rice pudding is fine but the bits of rice against the silky texture of pudding is what I’m not fond of. So, when Tracy’s team brought out this sundae, I was slightly skeptical when I was about to dip my spoon in that beautifully constructed sundae. But the ladies proved me wrong.
The rich ice cream base was infused with toasted rice and then strained before it was poured into the ice cream maker. The sundae contained scoops of creamy, nutty toasted rice ice cream was layered with toasted rice, caramel sauce, sweet raisins and a quenelle of fresh whipped cream. Oh, I was enamored! I hogged that entire sundae after my family took their own bite of it. (At least I’m shared some of it.)
We were bestowed the honor of having the preview of the masala chai spiced funnel cake with assam tea ice cram and orange scented caramel. The crispy funnel cake was heavily dusted in chai spices that the notes of bergamot really sang (for those who aren’t too familiar with that citrus flavor, think Earl Grey tea) and the orange caramel bolstered the citrus and added a hint of sweetness. The assam tea ice cream was wonderfully creamy and tied up the tea flavors of the funnel cake nicely.
We also had scoops of chocolate mint and smoked vanilla ice cream. The chocolate mint was a wonderful balance of not too bitter chocolate and fresh mint. I mean, this fresh mint tasted like the mint leaves were just plucked and infused into the mix, not that extract stuff that gives you this odd alcoholic aftertaste on the back of your throat. The smoked vanilla maybe my new favorite vanilla ice cream. The rich vanilla ice cream handled that heavy smoke flavor so well that I was imagining I was eating vanilla ice cream by a campfire.
But the pièce de résistance of the night goes to the passion fruit and coconut meringue tart with mango. It wasn’t a surprise that this dessert would be the most loved. My mother is crazy for any dessert made with passion fruit. This tart trumps any fruit meringue tart because of the bright complexity of the passion fruit curd, cradled by a delicately crumbly, buttery crust. The smokiness of the toasted meringue added depth to the tart. The diced fresh mango enhanced the sweet complexity of the passion fruit and the logs of meringue added some crunchiness. By the time we all had our taste of this dessert, we were in awe how great it was. Even we’re stuffed, we’re kind of tempted to order another round of this tart.
If you manage to come down to Battery Park City, you will not be disappointed. Heck, if I had a date around the area and finished the evening with Tracy’s desserts, I would be a happy woman.
To view more photos of this meal, please view the slideshow below (or CLICK HERE):
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North End Grill
104 North End Avenue
New York, NY 10282