Meeting Floyd Cardoz – A Gentleman in the Culinary World

During my last business trip to Portland OR, I took one night off to attend a dinner at Feast Portland at Irving Street Kitchen that was hosted by Floyd Cardoz and Sara Shafer.  I bought tickets in advance and bribed a friend into going with me.  The break from the craziness from work was very welcome.  We had a fantastic meal paired with local Oregon wines and a fun evening.

At the end of the dinner, Chef Cardoz & Chef Shafer came around to the tables to chat with us.  I have been a fan of Mr. Cardoz since his days at Tabla restaurant in NYC where he put an elegant spin on the kathi roll, an Indian street food and used innovative ideas to fuse other Indian dishes with the Western palate.  At a time when all other Indian restaurants in New York were boring and predictable, he made food interesting.  I’m ashamed to admit that most Indians don’t appreciate such bold moves and downright turn their noses at them.  I imagine other ethnic groups might have similar reactions to change in traditions though.

I had a lovely conversation that night with Chef Cardoz, and explained to him that my son would be jealous that I had a chance to meet him since my son followed the chef’s journey on season 3 of Top Chef Masters right through to his ultimate victory.  He immediately handed me his business card and asked that I email him and let him know when I’d be bringing my son to his new restaurant in NYC called North End Grill in Battery Park.  I took his card thinking “sure I’ll email, but the likelihood of getting a response is unlikely”.

When I returned home I did email Chef Cardoz and told him that we would be in the city on October 14th and would very much like to dine at North End Grill, and that my son was looking forward to meeting him.  Lo and behold, I got a response.  Not only did he respond, but he offered to make the reservation for us.  And he had read my blog post on Portland so I was thrilled!  I wasn’t a skeptic due to my lack of faith in this particular chef but my son had been burned once before when he had met and challenged Bobby Flay to a biryani throwdown with me which Mr. Flay accepted but of course never actually showed up for.  So here was my disappointed seven year old waiting for Bobby Flay to show up any day now and realized eventually that it would not happen.  So you can imagine he was beyond excited for October 14th to arrive.

I took the day off yesterday since it was  a school holiday, and my son & I spent the day in New York City.  We got a late start and began our day with lunch at Mangez Avec Moi on West Broadway.  We were craving Thai food and Pok Pok Phat Thai was too far to travel from where we scored a street parking spot.  This place seemed to have great reviews and while it is known for Vietnamese, they also serve a few other popular Asian dishes.  The food was very good and the restaurant was constantly packed with a few people waiting at all times for the next available table.  The hot sauce (like a sriracha) is quite good.  Satisfied with our Pad Thai and Fried Vegetable Dumplings, we made our way toward the 9/11 Memorial. 



I had not yet been to the memorial since it opened.  A part of me wasn’t ready to go yet.  The towers were a very special place for me in so many ways and a big part of many fun times in downtown Manhattan.  I also know several people impacted by the tragedy and was myself thinking of making my way downtown with a friend that tragic morning while five months pregnant with my son.  So I decided it was time.  I’m not sure I could describe my feelings very well in words but emotional, surreal, sad all come to mind.  The memorial is very well done and I’m happy to see the resurrection of the whole area with the building of the new towers and the revamping of the World Financial Center that is scheduled to be complete next year.  New Yorkers can get through anything!!

Visiting the memorial put both of us in a somber mood and my son wanted to sit down and read his book.  So after a walk by the river and a cup of Earl Grey each, we made our way back to the car to freshen up, do a quick shoe & jacket change for dinner, and made our way over to Atrio, a wine bar in the Conrad Hotel one block from the restaurant that would be our final destination for the evening.  Atrio is kind of cool!  It’s large and very modern.  The wine selection is good and they have an open kitchen that sends some nice aromas your way.  I ordered a glass of Sancerre and some roasted olives and we sat in silence for the next 90 minutes, me enjoying my wine while reflecting and my son reading his book.  It was the coolest way to spend some quiet time together I thought.

Finally at 6:20 we left Atrio and made our way to North End Grill.  We were promptly seated at a great table that overlooked North End Avenue and gave us a view of the setting sun on the Hudson.  Our server was very nice and very professional.  The restaurant was packed, much more than I expected for such an early hour.  Upon perusing the menu, my son ordered the Red Snapper Crudo with Wasabi & Tamari for the first course and the charcoal oven roasted Sea Bream for his main course.  He does me proud when he orders like that.  I chose to order the charred Shishito peppers (to connect the experience to Portland perhaps) and the Tuna Tartare with Fried Quail Egg as my main course.  In looking at the selection of wines by the glass I spotted a Francois Gaunoux, Clos des Chenes, Volnay 1er Cru and decided to treat myself.  I was not disappointed with the elegant and well balanced elixir that was poured into my correctly shaped wine glass.


Along with my glass of wine came some amazing bread with soft butter.  You can’t imagine how much we both dislike cold, hard butter served with bread at so many restaurants.  Soon after we were served our first course, Chef Cardoz himself walked over and presented us with a plate of baby beet salad served with baby watercress and homemade lemon ricotta.  I introduced him to my son and he hung out and spoke with us for a bit, even asking when my son was going to cook breakfast for him.  I could tell my son was nervous (a rarity for him as he’s generally full of conversation), but he did great just the same.  We proceeded to enjoy all three of our first courses and my son only shared a small piece of the crudo with me – it was THAT good!!  I had a similar version of it made with Pacific salmon at the dinner in Portland so I let him have his plate to himself.  I enjoyed the beet salad which was equally delicious served with a piece of grilled bread.


We moved on to our main courses and I ordered a second glass of the amazing Volnay.  Again, my son polished off his plate of fish and I loved every bite of my tuna mixed with the runny quail egg, capers and just the right amount of fried shallots to add a bit of crunch.  As I finished, the server brought over another plate compliments of the chef – Nova Scotia Halibut with pine nuts & green raisins in a clam broth.  We love food but we’re not big eaters in terms of quantity, but since the chef had gone out of his way to make this plate of food for us, we were determined to eat it.  And so I started on my second main course as I knew my son would likely only eat a bite or two.  Well this dish completely blew me away.  I had looked at the halibut when ordering but didn’t do so because of the raisins.  You see the Maharashtrians (referring to those of us from the state of Maharashtra in India) have a tendency to put raisins and nuts in a lot of food and growing up I never cared for the combination in savory dishes.  Usually the raisins would be mushy and make the dish overly sweet and so I decided the halibut was not for me when I placed my order.   After taking the first bite however, I couldn’t put my fork down.  The ingredients on the plate, from the perfectly cooked fish, to the briny & slightly spicy clam broth, to the crunchy pine nuts and yes, even the sweet raisins just worked in harmony with each other.  This was my favorite dish of the evening.  Quite possibly the best fish dish I have ever eaten!!!



My son decided to take a walk around the block, while I finished my wine, in order to make room for dessert.   He ordered the Sour Cream Cheesecake with poached nectarine, pistachios & lemon verbena ice cream.  I got one bite of the cheesecake and all of the ice cream, which he didn’t care for, to enjoy with my cup of coffee.    It was a truly memorable day that ended on a high note with a truly memorable dinner.  We wanted to thank Chef Cardoz for his hospitality but unfortunately he had already left to go home so I had to do it in an email.  I look forward to enjoying his food again sometime soon.  I also realize that my son’s taste has just gotten a bit more expensive!!

I definitely recommend you try both the restaurants we went to on this wonderful day in New York City. Two completely different yet yummy experiences.

Information:

North End Grill
104 North End Avenue
New York, NY
Ph: (646) 747-1600

http://northendgrillnyc.com

Mangez Avec Moi
71-73 West Broadway (b/w Murray & Warren)
New York, NY
Ph: (212) 385-0008

http://www.mangezavecmoi.com

Bon Appetit!!



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