BEETS: abcV vs Nur
Beets are a welcome winter dish, and since I vowed to eat more veggies at the turn of the year, they have been attracting my eye. How did our two candidates do?
abcV: Served carpaccio style, these beets were as sweet as candy. To accompany the pretty babies was a little avocado puree, a creamy chili aioli, pickles, and lovage. As with most dishes at the ABCs, there’s always a ring or two of fresh jalapeños thrown in for a little kick. (These can sometimes be dangerous.)
Nur: The beet and citrus salad arrives as a hefty portion. What was surprising, though, was that these beets were spiralized—into 2-foot-long strings and set into a deceivingly neat mound. This made for tricky eating, especially since the beets are ripe for staining everything in sight. They were accompanied by pomelo, blood orange, and baharat-spiced walnuts. Also in the mix were strings of celery root, which were marinated in soy and chili.
The Verdict: ABCV is the winner due to the mix of creamy bits, the sweetness of the beets, and some hot-and-tart pickle notes thrown in for good measure. Though I am a sworn carnivore, I could eat here every night. Great spot if you are desiring more vegetables in your daily diet. Nur’s beets were not as sweet, more in the tangy category.
OCTOPUS: Gloria vs Milos
When Octopus is on the menu, it’s almost an automatic order for me. I love the texture and weight of the tentacles, and they provide a wonderful opportunity for a chef to show creativity. In the Milos vs Gloria Food Fight, both restaurants are known for seafood and produced excellent dishes.
Gloria’s Crispy Octopus is a colorful rendition. Served atop a bed of braised red cabbage and black rice, there is an unusual tartness plus sweetness added into the flavor profile. The texture of the octopus was perfect, just soft enough.
Milos imports their octopus directly from the Mediterranean every few days. In traditional Greek fashion, it’s slow cooked, then grilled and served with capers, lemon juice, grilled onions, and superb Greek olive oil sitting atop a nice bed of fava bean purée.
The Verdict: Milos wins due to the simplicity of the dish and excellence of the ingredients, and gets extra points for extra big chunks. Gloria’s octopus was cooked well, but I was not crazy about the braised cabbage, as some of the pieces were not cut small enough.
SCALLOPS: Nur vs Racines
Scallops can be tricky. They either are transcendently delicious or can be tasteless blobs. I am happy to report with these two challengers, they fall into the first category. Both were cooked perfectly and nicely sweet.
Nur provided a comfort-style dish with lots of rich accompaniments, including an egg yoke meant to be broken and oozed into the mix. Chestnut and cauliflower creams, sat in little pools, chanterelle and shimeji mushrooms sat atop the scallops, and small bundles of spinach made for a nice contrast to the richness.
Racines’ Scallops also had many little tastes to interact with the main attraction. I loved the mix of strips of greens with crunchy fried turnips as alternating textures. The apple cider vinegar jus was light, with a tart sweetness.
The Verdict: It was a very close match, but in the end, Racines presented a slightly more elegant dish, with flavors that worked really well together without being too much. This is one of those meals that I wished would never end. If I lived downtown, I would eat here all the time. Excellent natural wines on hand as well.
MUSHROOMS: abcV vs Gloria
There are so many nutritional benefits of mushrooms, I wanted to make sure to order some over the winter season, especially since they can boost your immune system. Both abcV and Gloria used impeccable ingredients to start with, but offered two interpretations. Read on.
abcV offers three mushroom dishes on its menu, but watch out! I almost ordered the combination of crimini, chanterelle and perigord truffles, but then noticed the price tag of $55. I’m sure its very good, however… for a mere $18, this combination of wild mushrooms and enoki really fit the bill. On the side was a dreamy pine nut mustard sauce, big bunches of caramelized fennel and roasted scallions. The texture of the large mushrooms were so dense, it almost felt like you were eating meat.
Gloria presented a nice selection of wild mushrooms in a light dashi broth. Particularly good were the hen of the woods.
The Verdict: Both were excellent, but Gloria’s dish felt more like a side dish, while abcV’s worked as an entree, and was far more imaginative. AbcV wins again.
[Gloria has since closed]