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the sweet scoop
the sweet scoop
With a multitude of restaurants at our fingertips, New Yorkers are often asked, “What type of food are you in the mood for?” While South African may not be a common response, Kaia Wine Bar might just ingrain this cuisine into your arsenal of go-tos. This darling Upper East Side restaurant offers seasonal South African-inspired small plates in a rustic, 50-seat setting.
Kaia, which means “home” in Zulu, is a candlelit neighborhood gem that’s perfect for a romantic date night or fun evening out with friends. Focused solely on authentic South African flavors, chef Ivan Giani’s eclectic menu features biodynamic and grass-fed meats, organic produce, local cheeses and a sustainable fish program. Beverages include South African and New World wines, along with a selection of American craft beers.
A starter of wild boar sliders topped with smoked tart cherry compote set the tone for an intensely flavorful meal. Along a narrow plate, creamy scoops of ostrich tartare alternated with watermelon radish slices and toast rounds over white chocolate mustard; the myriad of tastes and textures really impressed us when assembled together. Chilled tilefish ceviche mingled with diced kiwi fruit, oranges, red peppers and lime juice for a citrusy and refreshing warm weather dish, best enjoyed when spooned onto the accompanying crisped bread for added texture. Other meal highlights include the vibrant “Jacob’s Nootjes” scallops atop sweet corn purée peppered with mango relish, and the savory “Spear and Shield” dish: bacon-wrapped asparagus resting on portobello mushrooms smothered in cheddar cheese and a rich green peppercorn sauce.
Will I be craving South African cuisine on a regular basis now? Absolutely. The delicious, high quality cuisine and cozy, unpretentious atmosphere make me want to call Kaia my new home away from home on the UES.
My review as published in the Clean Plates Manhattan 2014 Restaurant Guide Book (purchase it here) and on CleanPlates.com. Photo courtesy of Zanda.com.
In Provincial France, a Mas is known as a country farmhouse that grows all the products to nourish the estate onsite. Though located in the heart of the West Village, Mas (la grillade) seeks out seasonal ingredients from small, organic and sustainable farms in communities surrounding New York City—thus forming its “estate.”
Since 2004, chef Galen Zamarra has been a leader in farm-to-table dining at Mas (farmhouse), his first WV establishment. Utilizing his years of experience, farmer connections and sustainable approach to fine dining, Galen opened Mas (la grillade) in late 2011. He showcases a seasonal menu of locally grown, sustainably raised foods cooked solely over fires of oak, apple and other hardwoods. When you open the Seventh Avenue South doors, you’ll be greeted by the sweet fragrance of smoky, burning wood. A small bar and glass-walled wine room open into an elegant split-level dining room filled with wood tables, white tablecloths and a bright skylight ceiling.
The prix fixe and à la carte menu debuts fresh starters, like a salad of sliced roasted beets, pickled onions, marinated cucumbers and velvety smoked ricotta. Precise fire-grilled preparations let the flavors and beautiful qualities of the ingredients shine in each dish. An entrée of grilled duck presented succulent smoky medallions, rimmed with a thin layer of fat beneath the skin, plated over tender Swiss chard. Perfectly seared scallops laid atop a bed of grilled fennel and spring greens, drizzled with vibrant saffron-dill aioli. A subtle smokiness permeated every element on the plate; it was lovely.
Grilled vegetables, like wild ramps and hen of the wood mushrooms, along with fruit-based desserts, artisanal cheeses and house-made ice creams complete the menu. Creamy ricotta and local honey ice creams were already melting when placed on our table; nonetheless, they provided a tangy, refreshing finish to an overall wonderful meal.
My review as published in the Clean Plates Manhattan 2013 Restaurant Guide Book (purchase it here) and on CleanPlates.com. Photo courtesy of Mas (la grillade).