After high anticipation I finally made it out to the GORGEOUS Mondrion SoHo to Chef Sam Talbot‘s Imperial No. 9! To be honest, I’m tired of going to places that are all hype and decor but total lackluster in food.. This was SO not the case. I have been on a crazy good streak of delicious seafood… especially with just having gotten back from a trip filled with fresh seafood in Hawaii… and now this? Most places would not be able to compare, but THIS is definitely one of the best meals I’ve ever had – especially one that was ALL seafood.
Let’s begin with the chef….
Feel like you’ve heard the name or recognize this gorgeous face?
Of course you have, Top Chef Season 2 where he finished third….
Other things about him… he’s diabetic so he promotes diabetic awareness. This is a big deal to me since both my parents are diabetic, as are many members of my family.
Wherever he goes, Sam’s cooking is always a reflection of his insistence on fresh, healthy ingredients. That is part and parcel of who he is as a diabetic—one who also volunteers extensively with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and who uses his newfound celebrity to increase awareness of the disease. To that end, Sam and JDRF have established an annual series of events to raise money for their fight against juvenile diabetes.
Very awesome. Also, Imperial No. 9 is a sustainable seafood restaurant – how awesome is that?! Makes it even more appealing….
“At the highly anticipated Imperial No. Nine, located just off the lobby, Chef Sam Talbot introduces his sustainable seafood concept with a 150-seat restaurant. A long bar serves as a casual imbibing spot with a selection of handcrafted cocktails by John Lermayer, for which Morgans Hotel Group’s nightlife destinations are famous. The garden building at Imperial No. Nine boasts a timeless setting complemented by an elegant crystal chandelier collection and accented with potted plants and natural ficus trees, all beneath the shelter of a dramatic glass roof. The delicate, over-sized glass sculpture centerpiece, crafted by acclaimed artist Beth Lipman, serves as a reference to Cocteau’s story in which seduction takes the form of an elaborate feast, prepared nightly.”
He’s also the exec chef at The Surf Lodge in Montauk…. haven’t been but if it’s anything close to my meal here at Imperial, it’s a must-go :]
All dolled up and ready to chow down!!!
The gorgeous walkway to the hotel… [looking out towards the street]
Sam next to the gorgeous chandelier….
Ok ok, enough beauty shots of the restaurant and the chef, time to get down and dirty [in an oh so good way] to the main reason why we’re here and I’m writing about this. The food, food, food and THE FOOD!!! Okay, because we DO continue though, I need to apologize for the horribly lit photos. The room was dark and I didn’t wanna ruin the atmosphere with stupid flashe of light from my camera.. you’re just gonna have to go on my description to make up for my crappy photos.. My b.
Iberico Lardo & Sea Urchin
Charred Scallion, Pressed Stecca, Maldon Salt
The bread was soooo crispy and delicious. Buttery [in a yummy EVOO sort of way], a delicious large slice of lardo and milky delicious uni on top. There were four pieces and I was MELTING over the amazing bread. Usually bites like this are too much bread but this was just perfect. Great textures, crunch and creaminess… the tart yogurty sauce that the bites were put on top of was a GREAT addition to the flavors. I love how this was IBERICO lardo, not just regular.. usually you just hear of the jamon and not much else…. YUM
Craving more stecca [the bread]…so we asked for some…
They were steamy hot and delicious! Just a touch of EVOO and a hint of garlic… soooo delicious and crispy. Tasted almost buttery without the fatty animal taste. Amazing!!!
Special of the Day: Mussels
To be honest, I don’t remember the specifics of the dish.. it was absolutely freaking delicious. The mussels were steamed/cooked to perfection. Tender and just super fresh. There was a light broth of what I’m guessing to be an Italian large leaf parsley and shallots?!?!.. it was very subtle and light. Great broth to dip the stecca in. YUM!
Slow Cooked Octopus
Jalapeno Soffrito, Lime, Soy
I found this to be perfectly cooked. I always get slightly nervous with octopus… it can be easily cooked wrong – basically overcooked.. but this was tender and FULL of flavor. Tasted like an asian dish out of my mother’s kitchen or something.. Definitely not overpowering though.
Frozen Coconut, Chili Water, Chinese Black Vinegar
This was so super unique.. I kind of wanted to try the raw cubed tuna, but what got me was the thinly sliced frozen coconut on top of the fresh fluke. Not fishy at ALL – which sometimes I find fluke to be, clean but definitely fish tasting… the black vinegar totally cuts through the sweetness and the whole bite finishes off with a touch of heat from the chili water. Clean, delicious and addicting.
Heirloom Blue Corn Shrimp and Grits
Aged Cheddar, NY State Maple Jus, Slow Poached Egg, Coffee Oil This just may be my most favorite shrimp and grits I have ever had. The grits were fine and creamy… and then the chunks of blue heirloom corn kernels just added so much texture and chew to the dish. The egg was perfectly cooked, lightly lightly poached, so much that the egg white was just barely past translucent. The shrimp were fresh and cooked to a tender chew which just added to the plethora of textures and flavors of the dish. I think this may have been the best dish of the night, and, like I said, the best shrimp and grits I’ve ever had.
Special of the Day: Pacific Halibut a la Plancha
Served on top of a fresh Tabuleh
To be fair, I will say that the first plate we got was cold :[ But they were quick to change it with a plate of freshly cooked tender halibut. I rarely get halibut that is so succulent and sweet… usually I find it to be slightly overcooked and more stiff – kind of like a swordfish – but this is one of the first and few times I’ve realized that halibut can have a silky soft texture. The star of the show was most definitely the tabuleh though. Wait, is that fair to say? I adored it, usually there’s too much cracked wheat, but this was perfection… great balance. AND they have some delicious sundried tomatoes. OMG… amazing!!!… tub of this please.
We actually wanted to get the seared scallops as well, but our waiter felt like it would be too much food — so not the case, totally could’ve eaten more… but they accidentally still brought it out for us – confused – but afterthefact, I wish we had accepted it or had ordered it anyways….. it looked amazing… and I can always eat more.. I guess that’s why I have to come back again to try the rest of the menu [since it’s sustainable and seasonal, I’m guessing it’s ever-changing!]
Banana Bread Pudding
Maple Bourbon Fluid Gel, Honey Comb Semi Freddo, Nutella
The bread pudding was warm and the semifreddo was cold. So fun to eat. The semifreddo was TO. DIE. FOR. Like, literally. I could NOT get enough of it — slight taste of honey and fluffy like a marshmallow :D I LOVE banana bread so I was a HUGE fan of this… I could NOT stop eating it
Salted Caramel Ice Cream, Sweet Popcorn Powder
This was actually one of our waiter’s favorite desserts. BTW, I forgot his name but he had sick ass glasses and looked like Lenny Kravtiz… swanky… anyways. THIS WAS SO GOOD. Salty Ice Cream, reminiscent of Resto’s…. but then more salty a la L’Artusi’s sea salt gelato… OMG FREAKING AMAZING…. I know this is a PG..er.. PG-13? Sort of porno food blog but I want to break out in a song of dirty words to describe this… well this dessert and those SHRIMP AND GRITS [gawddamn I can’t stop thinking about it] The powder was soft and fluffy like Smartfood Popcorn [okay weird comparison but it’s true] BUT OMG POPCORN POWDER!!!…
And because I’m sure no one will complain…. :] Another photo of the chef ;D