10/18/11

A Culinary Journey

[Scroll to the bottom to find out how to get free samples of Fig & Proscuitto, as well as AMAZING ricotta cheesecake on Wednesday 10/19 from 5-8 pm]

With the myriad of epicurean options available in New York City, it's often hard to choose just one cuisine per meal. Thankfully Sojourn on Manhattan's Upper East Side steps in with its delicious dishes from places like Italy, Asia and Mexico all served tapas style like you would find in Spain.

Describing his restaurant's menu indicative of new American cuisine with global influences, owner Sammie Musovit invited me and a guest to come and check out Sojourn in all of its glory, and check it out we did. Sammie has worked at the legendary Mr. Chow, where he used to plan parties and events for people like Madonna, Andy Warhol, and Stevie Wonder, so he definitely understands the importance of ambiance in addition to amazing food. Chef Peter Petti has an inventive background in such kitchens such as Michelin star award-winning Eleven Madison Park, Al Forno and Felidia. His creativity in the Sojourn kitchen shines through in each and every dish.

It was an almost rainy Tuesday night and at 6 pm it seemed like the bar area of Sojourn was filling up with a crowd of "regulars" when I arrived. The bartenders made small talk with guests who had brought in friends from out of town and people seemed to relax in the comfortable, yet lively environment of the restaurant. While waiting for my friend to arrive, I sipped a Louisville Slugger ($12), the restaurant's signature drink, made up of Maker's Mark, muddled thyme, lemon, and Vermont maple syrup. This was a serious fall drink. Although I'm not usually a Bourbon drinker, this cocktail grew on me even though the pieces of thyme floating on the top kept getting stuck in my teeth.

Louisville Slugger

My friend ordered a cocktail straight out of a tiki bar in Cabo San Lucas, the Michoacan Man ($12), made of Sauza tequila, Canton ginger, muddled jalapeno, lime juice, agave syrup and soda water. I wasn't a big fan of the jalapeno kick, but my friend seemed to enjoy it. The rest of the cocktail menu, which we were informed by our uber-friendly waiter Jose, changes seasonally, yet looked extremely creative and seemed to take influence, again, from all parts of the globe.

Since the menu  is split into sections and all dishes are meant to be shared, we decided to try one option from each of the salad, savory, pasta, seafood and meat categories. The first two selections out were the Roasted Butternut Squash Salad ($10) and the Duck Spring Rolls ($12). Along with the succulent squash, the salad included Brussel sprout leaves, pear, toasted pecans, goat cheese and champagne vinaigrette. This was truthfully one of the best salads I've had in a long time and I'm not even a Brussel sprout fan. I just couldn't stop eating this salad and probably could have made a whole meal out of it if I didn't remember how much food we still had coming. The spring rolls served with spicy plum sauce were also delicious. They reminded me of something that would be served at a high class Chinese restaurant, except for the fact that maybe an exquisite French chef swapped out the ingredients for the inside of the rolls. The duck was perfectly crispy, like confit should be, but the flavors were mostly Asian. The plum sauce also nicely complemented the meat.

Roasted Butternut Squash Salad
Duck Spring Rolls
Next up was the pasta. We had the hardest time deciding on a selection from this category as EVERYTHING sounded amazing. We simplified our decision down to the black linguine with lobster arrabiatta, gnocchi with spinach and pink sauce, and ricotta and swiss chard ravioli with truffle butter. On recommendation from Jose, we went with the ravioli ($15). Given my love for all things truffle, this was an excellent decision. Four pillowy ravioli were served to our table lightly dusted in parmesan cheese. What surprised me about this dish was the al dente quality of the pasta. My friend commented that ravioli is usually "mushy," and while that's not necessarily a bad thing, it's nice to actually taste the texture of the pasta once and a while. The filling was simple, yet scrumptious and we felt like (maybe) we were getting some nutrients out of the swiss chard buried in this cheesy dish.

Ricotta and Swiss Chard Ravioli
For our seafood choice, we went with the Roasted Salmon ($16) with morel and crimini mushrooms, Brussel sprout leaves and, you guessed it, truffle oil (I just can't get enough!). This salmon was cooked perfectly. The crispy outside was met with a medium rare center - I just don't know how they do that! The portion was also perfect given that we were sharing other dishes as well. However, if I were in the mood for salmon, I would come back just to order this dish for myself and it would be a perfectly portioned meal.

Roasted Salmon
Our last entree was recommended to us by Sammie as Sojourn's most popular dish. The Skirt Steak ($18) with Asian pear and soy marinade, served with scallion fried rice, was the biggest portion we were served all evening. In fact, we couldn't even finish it (so keep that in mind when ordering one dish from every category). However, the flavors were delicious. The rice wasn't much more than anything I've ever had before, but the meat was juicy, tender and full of flavor. I could see why people would order it again and again.

Skirt Steak
By this point, the dining room was filling up a bit, but the crowd was definitely on the older side, which surprised us given the restaurant's proximity to all of the Second Avenue hotspots. At the same time, the amount of regulars who seemed to be present in the dining room could be a testament to the stability of the stellar cuisine and ample hospitality. Although I had read several negative reviews regarding the service of Sojourn on Yelp, I was happy to find that we had zero problems. Jose was one of the most personable waiters I've had in a while, offering menu suggestions and actually seeming interested in what his customers wanted out of their meal.

After taking a bit of time to digest, we decided that to get the full impression of Sojourn, we had to try their most popular dessert, the Blueberry and Ricotta Cheesecake ($10). When what I referred to as a "hunka hunka" piece of cheesecake arrived at our table, I was in heaven. If you've never had ricotta cheesecake, it's way better than whatever you're used to. More light and fluffy and less sticky sweet, this graham-cracker crusted delicacy was topped with blueberries and port wine sauce. Super creamy, this dessert is one of the best ways you could round out your meal. Perhaps I would have been in favor of a slightly smaller piece of cake for a few dollars less, but this dessert was too spectacular to care about portion size all that much.

Blueberry and Ricotta Cheesecake
On top of their spectacular food (be sure to check out the reasonably priced brunch menu), Sojourn offers various wine tastings and special dinners. Wine dinners generally run around $60 and include five courses, each with a different wine pairing - a steal especially for Manhattan, where these dinners can run upwards of $200. The dining room is also a rotating gallery for local artists.

Having lived on the Upper East Side for 3 years, I was surprised that I had never heard of this gem of a restaurant. However, Sojourn seems to be interested in widening its market, recently appearing on the Bloomspot deals site. Sammie also informed me that Sojourn will be offering free samples of two of the restaurant's most popular menu items Wednesday 10/19: the Fig and Proscuitto as well as the Blueberry Cheesecake I tried during my meal. If I were you, I'd hightail it up to 79th Street between 5-8pm Wednesday for some of that cheesecake :) Tell them Awesome in New York sent you.

Sojourn on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

  1. That Blueberry and Ricotta cheesecake looks delicious!

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