Sunday, April 10, 2011

New York | M Bar at the Mansfield Hotel

I love recruiting season. Not because I look forward to joining the workforce, but it is all about the perks that come along when interviewing. To me, on-site interviews are like free trips to New York City or wherever the company is. Typically, the firm will provide you with airfare, hotel accommodation, taxi, as well as reasonable food expenses. Seriously, what do you want more? Last January, I think I expensed as much as $2,000 in the span of a few days when I was interviewing with banks.

For my interview with Morgan Stanley, I was put into the Mansfield Hotel, a boutique hotel in Midtown Manhattan. The hotel is situated in the historic and prestigious Club Row, where many ivy leagues' alumni clubs reside in New York, and it is just blocks away from the touristy Time Square. Instead of having a stipend for my breakfast, Morgan Stanley paid for a nice morning meal at the hotel's lounge - the M Bar.

I woke up a bit early on the day of my interview and went to breakfast with my casual clothes. The M Bar is a small and intimate room on the lobby level of the hotel. The grand dark wood finishing at the bar brings out the sophisticated and classy vibe of this historic site. I sat at the table next to the window, which overlooked the 44th street.

The M Bar from

The waiter approached me with a smile and greeted me immediately. The breakfast selection on the menu all seemed very tasty and appealing. I decided to order the poached egg brioche with truffle oil, which came with applewood smoked bacon and a side salad. Coffee or tea was also included with the order.

I absolutely loved the truffle essence that instantly transformed the simple egg dish to something exquisite and more appetizing. The smokey bacon was fried to the perfect crispy state. Not to mention, the soft texture of the brioche bread was my favorite. A bite of the half cooked egg and toasty brioche with bacon brought a complex divine taste that would literally bring you to heaven.

Poached Egg Brioche with Truffle Oil, Applewood Smoked Bacon, Side Salad

As I enjoyed my dark and robust English breakfast tea, I casually read through the Wall Street Journal and checked out recent exciting IPO and M&A deals on my iPad to prepare for my coming interview. When I asked the waiter for more hot water, he also brought me extra tea bags, which was really nice of him. I am never a morning person; however, I actually really enjoyed this early meal at the M Bar.

Though known for its classy and high end night lounge, the breakfast at the M Bar is deliciously prepared, and the waiting staff is very attentive and made me felt very cozy and relaxed as I enjoyed my meal. It was definitely a very special breakfast experience in New York City. Thanks to Morgan Stanley!

M Bar at the Mansfield Hotel
12 West 44th Street
New York, NY10036

Recommendation: 4 Stars
Very classy and cozy hotel lounge in Midtown Manhattan, which offers delicate meals and a great selection of cocktails and wines.

The hotel room at the Mansfield is tiny though......

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Miami | BOND ST Lounge

We all know that South Beach, Miami is not known for its affordable food and restaurants. Not only does fancy restaurants cost a fortune, some plain cafes can be pretty pricey as well. Anyways, because of an incredibly terrible food experience the day before (don't even want to think about it...sigh), we wanted to spoil ourselves to ease the painful encounter. Nobu and BOND ST came up to my mind, but since I've been to Nobu twice in LA and New York, I decided to try something new!

BOND ST Lounge, the Miami outpost of the famous Mahanttan sushi restaurant, occupies the lower level of the Town House Hotel in South Beach. Instead of traditional dining tables, BOND ST uses high tables and chairs to create a hip lounge setting. The minimal and simple decor made me feel relaxed and cozy, while I enjoy my green tea martini and have a good time with my friends.

The chef designs dishes that serve traditional Japanese cuisine with a classical French twist. One thing I absolutely love about Japanese fusion restaurants is their to-die-for appetizers - sashimi tartare, carpaccio, beef tataki, asian salads, tempura, grilled small bites......and the list goes on.

I don't know why, but many Japanese chefs seem to like their glasses hanging near the tip of their noses. Looks so pro!


Cold Appetizers: I normally like seaweed salad, but the one we had was very dry and grassy, even though they used both green and pink seaweeds, which is quite unique in the U.S. The mouth-watering blue fin toro tartare was prepared from very high quality fatty tuna and gave a strong umami and creamy taste.

Seaweed Salad with Ginger Dressing

Blue Fin Toro Tartare Seasoned with Sansho Pepper

Hot Appetizers & Skewers: In addition to hot appetizers, the BOND ST dedicates a section for skewers on their menu. One of their specialties is the Chilean sea bass skewers, which was lightly grilled with sweet miso sauce. When I had a bite of this diced delicacy, it literally melted in my mouth, and a savory aroma followed immediately. I would say the sea bass was the best dish of the night, and I am pretty sure my friends will agree, too! The skewers also came with a side salad, which was great for balancing off the strong and heavy aftertaste of the sauce.

Chilean Sea Bass Skewers with Sweet Miso

Shrimp Skewers with Teriyaki & Grilled Squid with Ginger Soy and Yuzu Mayonnaise

The goat cheese crab cakes tasted nothing like the traditional crab cakes I had before. The crispy crust of the surface layer was chunky and contrasted with the smooth and rich fillings. The chef mixed the right amount of goat cheese with crab meat, which allowed the scents of both to co-exist. Even Jennifer, who hated the smell of goat cheese, had some of the crab cakes. It was a fun and tasty dish to try.

Goat Cheese Crab Cakes with Carrot Lemon Coulis

The last but not least, we ordered the lobster tempura for our hot appetizers. As lavish as it sounded, the golden tempura actually had a pretty humble taste. The lobster meat, as usual, was divine and delicious, but it came with the very American mustard mayonnaise. I personally would call this plate "Popcorn Lobster."

Lobster Tempura with Mustard Mayonnaise

Sushi & Rolls

Growing up in Taiwan, I have a very high standard for sashimi, especially for the freshness of the fish. I haven't been to a Japanese restaurant in the States that is on par with those in Taiwan and Japan. However, the creative rolls and sushi, such as the popular rainbow roll, caterpillar roll, and the spider roll, are simply unheard of in Taiwan. It is always fun to order some crazy and interesting rolls.

We ordered 5 different rolls to share (Sorry I can't remember the names of them!). The aesthetic presentation made the rolls looked so tantalizing and appetizing; the tuna sushi was even decorated with real gold leaves. We finished the plate almost immediately!

6 Bond Nigiri: 6 Pieces of Exotic Nigiri Sushi
Hot Eel Dice with Sansho Pepper and Sliced Almond

Chocolate Lava Cake

Banana Crepes

I really enjoyed the atmosphere, lounge music, and the service at BOND ST. The chefs of the restaurant prepared many playful and mouth-watering appetizers, skewers, as well as rolls. The exquisite fusion dishes, along with some great friends, made an awesome night.

The dinner reached its height when Pat decided to pay all amount in excess of $250. I should've ordered more...

BOND ST Lounge
150 20th Street
Miami Beach, FL 33139

Recommendation: 4 Star
Great lounge restaurant for eclectic fusion bites and cocktails.

The South Beach location of BOND ST also offers some Miami specialities that you can't find in Manhattan!

also in other location: New York City

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Boston | The Blue Room

How awkward is it when your table in a restaurant is right next to your college advisor's? Even better, if he is with half of the department, including a TA from the class that you almost failed. Yeah, it happened to me last week.

I was totally shocked when I was getting seated at The Blue Room, a celebrated Mediterranean inspired restaurant in Cambridge. As awkward as it got, I managed to have a good time with my friend and tried not to peak at that corner.

The Blue Room is situated in the energetic business district in Kendall square. Dating back to 1991, the trendy and cozy restaurant has been a local favorite. Many people dine here for business as well as for a relaxing after work meal. Everyday the Portuguese executive chef creates delicate dishes from the freshest available local ingredients. You can also see him in action in the open kitchen at the back of the restaurant.

Neon Lights and the Open Kitchen

The appetizers were disappointing. Though served in beef broth, the bland pork and veal meatballs were dry and rough. And the squid came in cold, which tasted quite weird.

Pork + Veal Meatballs
beef broth, orzo

Sauteed Squid
borlotti beans, mustard greens

The hangar steak, oooh, was made to perfection. I can still remember every bite and every taste of the tender and juicy steak. Carved into generous slices, the heavenly prepared steak gave off a delightful flavor from its natural beef au jus. Both Justina and I loved it! Not to mention, the gorgonzola polenta, seasoned with exotic spices, was the perfect side dish for the steak.

Hangar Steak
gorgonzola polenta, mushrooms, rapini

The baked apple streusel kept the apple's skin, which added to the texture of the dessert and brought a pleasant sour taste. It would have been better if it was actually hot! The chocolate campari pots de creme was topped with fresh whipped cream and a mint leaf for decoration; it was a pretty average chocolate mousse.

Baked Apple Streusel
calvados raisin anglaise

Chocolate Campari Pots de Creme

The Blue Room is very busy at night, and the place can be really cramped. Besides the somewhat disappointing appetizers, the service at the restaurant was annoyingly slow. We finished two rounds of bread before our entrees came and had to ask the waiter to bring us water. However, one thing I thought was pretty neat about The Blue Room. On their menu, they recommend a wine pairing for every dish from appetizers, main courses, to desserts. Despite all of these, I might go back again for that amazing steak...

The Blue Room
1 Kendall Square
Cambridge, MA 02139

Recommendation: 3 Stars
Fantastic main courses and good collection of wines.
The restaurant can be really packed and busy, expect the service to be really slow.
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