Friday, April 4, 2008


remember sam, from top chef (season 2)? of course you do. he was the ruggedly handsome (long hair) yet vulnerable (diabetic) one who really deserved to win but was robbed of his victory because the producers would rather have seen the drama unfold between that whiny pre-pubescent wolverine wannabe, marcel, and ilan, the reasonably talented one-trick paella-making pony, than watch sam and ilan pal around good-naturedly in the kitchen. you remember.

anyway, in the days before taking top chef by storm, sam worked in a humble little restaurant near union square: punch. we've been hearing good things about their dinner appetizers, so we finally made time to grace them with our (and our friend hannah's) appetites.

there were at least a dozen appealing items on the menu, so our limited budget and stomach capacity prohibited us from giving you a full view, but we were very pleased with the sampling we did get. first, there was the salmon tartare:the grilled naan bread that came with it was warm and moist and fluffy, with enough crispiness to hold up to the tartare - which itself was an unexpectedly flavorful combination of salmon and apple. it sounded weird to us too, but the flavors mix really nicely.

because we can never get enough raw (or quasi-cooked) seafood, we had to try the maine crab and avocado rolls with yellowfin tuna sashimi:
i didn't even realize that's what these were when they arrived - they just looked like tuna on sushi rice - but, upon closer inspection (and tasting) i realized that they were so much more. the avocado flavor is mild, and contributes primarily to the smooth, creamy texture of the roll, enhancing the crab taste (which, in my opinion, all too often is lost in dishes like this) and the texture of the tuna.

roasted pumpkin hush puppies?! in april?? you betcha. these seemed like a safe investment, as they were one of the cheapest items on the menu, but we were not disappointed:
the description didn't really do them justice, as they did not look or taste anything like hush puppies to me. they were, rather, creamy little pumpkin-y nuggets with a delicately crispy exterior that was hard to penetrate without spurting the filling out on the plate. becca and hannah were uncomfortable with the idea of pumpkin in springtime, but not me. along with peppermint, it's one of those fall/winter flavors that i enjoy all year round.

last, we took a chance and ordered the vegetable tasting with vegetable lasagna, described as "best of the market" (how could we say no?). its essence was vaguely omakase-esque, since the vegetables included are whatever is fresh and abundant, but we're pretty sure that that's generally a good thing. in any case, it definitely was this time:

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