Restaurant Remake: Carol Han Brings Tea & Sympathy’s Lemon Cake Home

Milk & Mode is the personal blog of Carol Han, who’s gigs in the fashion world include editor, writer, and, currently, one half of digital consultancy firm CA Creative. She’s also an incredibly prolific home cook, which is why Milk & Mode explains how to prep quick and delicious recipes in a shoebox-size city kitchen like Han’s own cook lab. Here, she shares her recipe remake of Tea & Sympathy‘s Sugar-Glazed Lemon Cake for you to attempt at home – or to inspire you to place an order.

The Dish: Sugar-Glazed Lemon Cake Restaurant:Tea & Sympathy When to Eat It: On a lazy Sunday afternoon when you’re hanging around the house, reading the weekend paper, and sipping tea or coffee. Level of Difficulty: (Scale 1-5) 2 Restaurant vs. Home: I love the atmosphere at Tea & Sympathy—a friend brought me there for the first time a few months ago and I fell in love with the tiny tables, the saucy waitresses, and most of all, their old-fashioned beef stew. I was so enamored with it that I went next door to buy their cookbook right after our meal, and made this lemon cake from it the next day. It comes out absolutely delicious, but if you’re craving the whole experience, I would highly recommend making a stop at the restaurant. Drink Pairing: A strong black or green tea.

Recipe: Sugar-Glazed Lemon Cake adapted from Tea & Sympathy, by Anita Naughton and Nicola Perry Ingredients: For the cake: 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter 3/4 cup sugar 2 large eggs, beaten 1 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour 1 teaspoon baking powder Juice and zest of 2 lemons 1/4 cup whole milk For the glaze: 1/2 cup sugar Juice of 4 lemons

Directions: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

To prepare the cake: Grease and flour an 8 x 4 1/2 x 3-inch loaf tin. In an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. With a spatula, fold in the flour and baking powder. Add the lemon juice and zest and the milk a little at a time.

Transfer the mixture to the loaf tin and bake for about 1 hour, until the top is a deep burnished brown, and soft and spongy to the touch. It is done when a knife inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.

The Dish: Traditional Provençal Bouillabaisse at Le Gigot

Bouillabaisse: it rolls off the tongue with the same delicacy as it does the spoon. It’s the stuff of myth—the soup that Venus fed to Vulcan—and its origins date back to the time of the Phoceans, an Ancient Greek people who founded Marseille in 600 BC. It’s a simple dish, a fish soup containing various kinds of cooked fish and shellfish and vegetables, but one whose recipe varies household by household, not to mention by restaurant by restaurant, each of which is vying for the most authentic dish. Perhaps surprisingly, the most authentic New York version of this storied dish is found at Le Gigot, a lesser-known, 12-table gem folded into the winding streets of the West Village.

Le Gigot has mastered Gallic fare, as confirmed by the bundles of French ex-pats sitting shoulder-to-shoulder in a space small enough to overhear them argue the merits of this “poor man’s stew,” done with the sort of seriousness and pride that would belong only to natives—no matter how far removed from Marseille. Trust me, on a recent Wednesday night, the matter drew debate from a boisterous twosome eager to discuss the culinary traditions of their homeland. Our tables near enough to play cards, the blond duo insisted, “Je suis une habituée,” regulars here at their beloved “Gig.”

Conventional recipes call for four types of fish, but some restaurants serve six different types. Le Gigot’s Senegalese-born chef, Alioune Ndiaye, serves a saffron seafood stew with shrimp, scallops, salmon, mussels, red snapper, and calamari paired with a tawny rouille. It’s meant to be plumped with accoutrements—to be covered in grated gruyère, and soaked up by a crisp, toasted baguette. At first glance, the dish seems delicate and subdued, but it’s thick in consistency, robust in flavor, and incredibly fragrant—made to conspire with a bottle of Cotes de Provence Rose wine.

The Dish What: Provençal Bouillabaisse with shrimp, scallops, salmon, mussels, red snapper and calamari served with a rouille, gruyère, and toasted baguette. Where: Le Gigot, French outpost in the West Village helmed by French culinary master Alioune Ndiaye. Ideal meal: When you are feeling nostalgic about your last trip to France, or when you’re craving authenticity and seafood—lots of it, and in all shapes. Because: The ambiance hints at romance, though you’ll have the opportunity to learn French from your neighbors. Tastes like: Subtly spicy with garlic and saffron, it features a multitude of flavors—thanks to the six species of fish—and can be adjusted to taste with bread, cheese, and rouille Bottom line: $28 for a taste of the gods.

The Dish: Not Your Average Egg at Graffit

What a wonderful sight to behold: vegetables in chirpy primary colors and pastel shades lie like brush strokes against the black backdrop of a small pan. The array of colors are joined by a sunny egg yolk cushioned by cauliflower puree inside a laquered egg shell. Such artistry is the hallmark of Spanish chef and former graffiti artist Jesús Núñez, who likes to perform in the kitchen. In his equally detail-oriented Upper West Side restaurant, Graffit, Núñez treats each dish like a piece of art, and this colorful vegetable fricassée with farm fresh romanesco, Brussels sprout leaves, asparagus, and carrots, all surrounded by a delicately poached egg—captured in video form—is evidence.

I can think of no better setting for brunch, as we teeter on the edge of the approaching Spring, than Graffit’s cacophonous dining room, which bursts with the colors of Chilean artist Dasic Fernández’s spray-painted murals. The tapas bar is lined with cheery patrons who clamour to order from decks of madly illustrated cards (art, again, by Núñez). Graffit is focused on pigment, shade, chroma: its rooms overflow with it. The front bar is snappy, with jutting metal and gangling tall tops, while the main dining room is warm, dotted with amber chairs under a wall of colors. There’s also a garden room that feels like a modest greenhouse.

Graffit—not to be confused with Graffiti, which just filed a lawsuit againsts the newer restaurant for trademark infringement—is a place where Núñez can channel his love for splashy street squiggles and bright art into the dining experience, the menu centering around inventive Spanish cuisine that nearly always features similarly loud, variegated dishes. Case in point: the lush fricassée appetizer dish, “Not Your Average Egg,” which he demonstrates in the video below.

The Dish What: Not Your Average Egg, with sautéed seasonal vegetbles (now brussel sprouts, asparagus, and carrots), fresh romanesco, and a poached egg hidden under a capote of pureed cauliflower. Where: Graffit Ideal meal: When you’re world is lacking color pixels. Because: The chef plays with his food, and this rich, imaginative plate will give you pause. You’ll likely bust out the camera phone when the runny egg washes over the asparagus. Tastes like: A pallette of colors and textures bursting on your tongue. Bottom line: $13 for an optimistic app.

The Dish: Kittichai’s Unlimited Thai Hot Pot

You may have noticed that the temperature in New York is starting to drop, and when that happens, restaurants around town tend to slightly alter their menus to satiate their customers’ need for warmth. This season, there might not be a better (and more delicious) option than the new Thai hot pot at Kittichai.

What: A scalding, spicy tom yum broth, perfect for cooking everything that comes with it: thinly-sliced slabs of marinated pork and hanger steak, salmon, mussels, squid, shrimp, and a variety of Asian veggies. After you’re done cooking, the waiters will bring you a bowl of noodles and douse them in the tom yum broth, which has now been seasoned with all the meat. Where: Kittichai, that sleek, modern Thai resto at Soho’s 60 Thompson, featuring star chef Ty Bellingham. Ideal meal: They start you off with a sweet papaya salad as a kind of calm before the storm. Get the $45 unlimited offering, which is exactly what it sounds like. When you run out of offerings, they will bring you more of whatever you want. End your meal with the aromatic Thai hot chocolate with Mekong whiskey, perfect before confronting the frigid night air. Because: While $45 might seem like a lot, the unlimited option truly ends up being one of the best dining deals in New York. Otherwise, you’ll have to order each item individually and it quickly adds up. The ingredients here are quality. The shrimp is plump, the salmon fresh, and the red meat comes rapped around asparagus spears and broccoli stems. The variety of it all can’t be matched. Tastes like: Whatever you want it to taste like. That’s because they provide you three different dipping sauces, and if you’re the heat-seeking type, they’ll bring you three chili-infused hot sauces for maximum burn. Bottom line: You’ll not only leave feeling gastronomically satisfied, but there’s also a satisfaction with the level of control afforded to you throughout the experience. You cook what you want, when you want, for as long as you want. Few experiences in New York’s culinary world are as satisfying.

The Dish: Candle Cafe’s Cajun Seitan Sandwich

What: Cajun Seitan Sandwich, with pan-seared seitan, steamed greens, caramelized onions, and avocado. Served on toasted focaccia with an ancho chili aioli and coleslaw. Where: Candle Cafe, the little sister to posh Vegan staple Candle 79. Ideal meal: For treating your Vegan sensibilities. Clean, country-home vibe is welcoming and staff members are very accommodating of non-Vegans make menu decisions. Because: Everything is farm-fresh and pure, perfect for guilt free, miserably hot summer eating. Tastes like: Just like chicken! Seitan is the vegetarian “wheat meat.” Cajun spices give the wheat protein a hearty bite and any sandwich on toasted focaccia is all right in my book. Bottom line: $14 for a PETA-pleasing lunch. Photo: Jocelyn Filley

The Dish: Tomato Parfait from Blue Hill at Stone Barns

What: Tomato Parfait with marinated tomatoes, tomato confit, cucumber, and fig leaf sorbet. Where: Blue Hill at Stone Barns, the Pocantico Hills sister restaurant to Blue Hill in Greenwich Village. Ideal meal: When you’re in need of a daytrip away from smoggy, trash-smelling New York City through rolling hills and green pastures to a magical farm-fresh oasis. Because: Everything on your plate comes from the farm’s fields and local Hudson Valley purveyors. There is no fresher fresh. Tastes like: Straight-from-the-fields crisp tomatoes, complimented with a summery cucumber-infused, light sorbet. Bottom line: Sunday Farmer’s Lunch includes 4 courses for $85. A bit steep, but you’ll quickly realize that the substance in every bite is really priceless.

The Dish: Georgica’s Gorgonzola Mashed Potatoes

What: Gorgonzola mashed potatoes, a strong, stand-on-its-own side dish. Where: Georgica Restaurant & Lounge, East Hampton’s resident gourmet eatery turned nighttime hotspot. Ideal meal: Open Thursday to Sunday, so plan accordingly. The perfect pre-game dinner for a big night out, beachy style. Because: Chefs Robert Hesse & Seth Levine of Hell’s Kitchen fame knows how to keep a menu in check, and owners Antonio Fuccio and David Schulman will make sure you’re dining with the upper echelon of the Hamptons set. Tastes like: Gorgonzola has an unusual bite that makes these mashed taters far from dull. Bottom line: $10 as a side. No complaints here.

The Dish: Marcony’s Veal Scaloppine

What: Scaloppine Alla Marcony veal medallion, fontina cheese, and prosciutto in a cream truffle sauce Where: Marcony, the midtown Italian oasis reminiscent of the Isle of Capri. Ideal meal: Date night, for sure. Or family dinner. Extremely attentive staff makes it feel like an important night out, no matter the occasion. Because: Reasonably priced and chef’s daily specials are worth a visit on their own. Tastes like: Tender veal medallions with a salty touch paired with prosciutto and topped with creamy truffled perfection. Bottom line: $22.50 for joining the Clean Plate Club.

The Dish: Fatty Crab’s Chili Crab

What: Chili Crab with crab, chili sauce, and white toast Where: Fatty Crab, Zak Pelaccio’s tiny, sometimes loud, and overtly hip West Village/Meatpacking Malayasian cuisinery. Ideal meal: When you’re craving some spice in your life and a strong cocktail to wash it down. Low lighting makes for an intimate vibe, but not a perfect date spot if you’re looking to get in some good convo. Because: It’s a hands-on meal—crab cracking necessary, but the payoff is outstanding. You’ll feel like you deserve it. Tastes like: The combination of sweet and spicy in the chili is sent straight from sauce heaven. And the crab, well, crab is always good once you get down to it. Bottom line: Market Price, and right now that means $50. Worth it if you can split with your dining companions. It is family style, after all.

Photo: Doug Schneider Photography