Archive for January, 2011

Hillstone Restaurant Review

January 31, 2011 1 comment

Hillstone: Manhattan Midtown
153 E. 53rd St, New York, NY

Upon entering the Hillstone Restaurant in Midtown East, my guest and I were received warmly and welcomed by friendly greeters who told us that it would be approximately 20 minutes until we were seated. I gave the host my name and sure enough, we were seated in the expected time that she had told us. While waiting, we listened to festive live jazz. As I surveyed the beautiful dining room, I took notice of the open kitchen, a particular point of interest where I witnessed employees in the kitchen pasting barbeque sauce on racks of eager ribs, making my mouth water. The openness of the kitchen physically allowed for customers to see their food being prepared, establishing a transparent dynamic between the clients and the restaurant. People knew exactly what they were being served and how it was being prepared. This ideal complemented my perception of Hillstone’s friendly service that fostered a feeling of family and community.

The décor was simple, yet elegant. The dim lighting offset by the maple-colored lampshades well complemented the wooden tables and booths. The use of booths, big and small, really promoted an intimate environment, where customers could not only be seated and lounge comfortably, but also have easily accessible face-to-face contact.

Upon being seated, our server, Aaliyah, introduced herself and clearly portrayed a great familiarity with the menu and knowledge of the food, having her own preferences and favorites. I was particularly pleased with the setup of the menu; its simplicity and variety worked well with the seasonal nature, being the fall menu. My guest and I started our dining experience with the Grilled Jumbo Artichoke (I saw these being prepared while waiting and had to try it!). Having questions about a few items on the menu, I inquired with Aaliyah who provided well-versed answers, sharing her insight and experience. After hearing her personal suggestions and the nightly specials, I chose the Wild Striped Bass with Crispy Rock Shrimp, while my guest selected the Stacked Barbeque Ribs (he couldn’t resist either).

Throughout the entire meal, our glasses were never empty. We were well attended to, and our server invited any request. She truly showed investment in our dining experience, answering our questions and accommodating our requests for condiments to be held on the side, extra plates and an inquiry about whether peanuts were in our dessert (my guest had an allergy). Aaliyah’s friendly and warm demeanor and extremely hospitable attitude made me curious about what her experience was like with Hillstone. When I asked her about it, she shared that she had just moved to New York, but had worked in restaurants before. She expressed a deep fondness for the working environment that Hillstone promoted, confessing that it was unlike anything she had ever been a part of—she truly felt like a part of a progressive and cohesive team. Because servers attended to no more than 3 tables at a time, she could give her undivided attention to the customers that she served and be involved in making their dining experience comfortable, something which was apparent to us, her guests, as well. Aaliyah also articulated a gratitude for the learning experience that she’s had at Hillstone to learn such quality values about service and dining.

My experience at Hillstone confirmed and exceeded the great expectations that I had, not only for the food, but also the quality of service and the entirety of my dining experience. I was truly impressed and fascinated by the professionalism of the restaurant, which was a great reflection of Hillstone’s internal values of teamwork and cooperation. Each employee that I observed seemed genuinely happy to serve and value the customers they catered to. As a guest, I certainly felt valued and accommodated for, from the moment I stepped in the restaurant. I really appreciated the way that Hillstone sought to enrich every aspect of my experience.

Hillstone embodies the values of dining that I find of the utmost importance. First, it places an emphasis on the experience, which is composed of delicious food, great service and a warm atmosphere. Secondly, the way that the restaurant values its employees just as much as its customers is truly indicative of its care for each and every individual’s experience. After having been involved in a variety of service organizations, primarily in social justice and community service, I have an understanding of what it means to work on behalf of another, to advocate for them and their needs and the effort it requires to hold this kind of responsibility. Meeting the needs of individuals, familiar and unfamiliar, is a difficult task that requires a great deal of support. Understanding this, Hillstone revolutionizes the way work in a restaurant is done by establishing an environment that sincerely encourages its employees to not only cooperate with one another, but also be invested in the customer collectively. I’m drawn to Hillstone for this reason, more than any other organization or company, because it integrates my affinity and desire to work in business and hospitality. This desire stems from my yearning to achieve goals; in the restaurant business, these goals reside in overcoming obstacles in order to continue to improve the quality of food and service. Moreover, I am a leader by nature who possesses a keen eye for what needs to be accomplished and enhanced, an active ear for feedback and compelling voice to unite and serve individuals. I am an individual who thrives by working on my feet and is dynamic in a team setting, and likes the challenge of thinking critically, which is exactly what Hillstone promotes. At Hillstone, I would like to contribute to and better its innovative vision for successful service and increase its novel efficiency in customer satisfaction. I truly believe that Hillstone is a great fit for me to learn, voice my thoughts and ideas, and make a great impact on the experiences of the many individuals who work for and dine with Hillstone.



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January 31, 2011 Leave a comment

103 W. 77th St., New York, NY

tuesday, january 25, 2011

I approached the restaurant located on the northwest corner of 77th and Columbus Avenue (next to Shake Shack), and I wasn’t quite sure which door was the entrance to the restaurant. The entrance was unadorned and quite unassuming, but I walked into what I thought was the entrance and was greeted by a friendly, welcoming host and hostess. I made my reservations online the evening before via OpenTable for a party of two during lunch for restaurant week. Unfortunately, however, my co-worker could not make it, so I was dining solo. I told the host my name and that I would not be accompanied by anyone else for the afternoon. The hostess took my coat and scarf, and led me to a table for two in the back of the dining room on the ground floor. The layout and décor of the restaurant reminded me of a 1970s living room in Southern California, like the one in the Brady Bunch. The dining room was well-spaced with a cozy and warm ambiance—lots of brown, oaky colors. The crowd for lunch on a Tuesday afternoon during restaurant week was diverse. Sitting to my right were an older man and woman who appeared to be friends, chatting about old and new films over post-meal coffee. In front of me sat a party of four young professionals, indulging in glasses of red wine to prepare their taste buds for the 3-course meal that would follow. The dining staff was extremely friendly; they kept my glass full, changed my plate and silverware settings promptly between courses and were sufficiently accommodating. From the restaurant week menu, I ordered a creamy risotto to start, braised lamb as my entrée and eagerly awaited my dessert, a guilty pleasure of mine—chocolate tart.

Before my appetizer was served, my server brought out warm, delicious bread to accompany my meal. The risotto was of humble portion, presented in a clean, tidy fashion. It hit the spot on such a grossly cold day; the duck confit was yummy. For the main course, I enjoyed the braised lamb, which was a dish with a vast array of flavor and texture. The presentation of the entire meal was very clean and simple; they had big plates with the food centered, surrounded by the whiteness of the porcelain. Each course was a showcase of culinary art, on display in the center spotlight of the plate. After enjoying the tenderness of the lamb, complimented by the subtle spicy kick of the persillade and the different textures of the crispy polenta, mustard and spaghetti squash, I progressed into meal cool-down mode with a cup of coffee (milk and 2 sugars). The delicious coffee went great with their baked chocolate tart, served with salted caramel, pretzels and beer ice cream. The saltiness of the pretzels accented the sweetness of the tart, which was rich and smooth. I had never had beer ice cream before, but I liked it so much, I almost asked for more. Overall, the food was well prepared, diverse in taste and elegant in presentation. I came, I saw, and I devoured.

My experience at Dovetail was one that I would happily repeat on another occasion and would recommend to friends, family and strangers looking for a satisfying meal in the Brady home, highlighted an warm, inviting atmosphere, friendly service and well-presented food. I look forward to going back and trying the rest of their menu. But don’t forget to try the beer ice cream!

Creamy Risotto – duck confit, rosemary, cabbage

Braised Lamb – persillade, mustard, crispy polenta, spaghetti squash

Baked Chocolate Tart – salted caramel, pretzels & beer ice cream.

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Conversation between Boy & Girl

January 16, 2011 Leave a comment

B: “I think you’re beautiful.”

G: “Is that so? Now, how do you expect me to respond to that?”

B: “Maybe, by saying ‘Thank you,’ and perhaps that you like me too.”

G: “Now that would be way too cliché. I supposed you would want to kiss me after too, wouldn’t you?”

B: “That wouldn’t be such a bad idea. We could start there.”

G: “Haha. You think you’re sly. Don’t you?”

B: “I have something to tell you.”

G: “What? What is it?”

B: “No really. I have something really important to tell you.”

G: “Okayyy. What is it?”

B: “I don’t care if you hate me for saying this, but I’m going to say it anyway. Okay?”

G: “Now, you’re kind of making me nervous. Go ahead with it.”

B: “Okay. You ready for it?”

G: “Yes, dammit. Tell me.”

B: “Alright, alright. I think you’re beautiful.”

G: “Was that it? You just said that.”

B: “Yeah, but now I’m going to kiss you.”

G: “Thank you. I like you too.”

Insert kiss [here]


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