Two for Tuesday (LA): Peru and Israel

El HuariqueWelcome to Two for Tuesday™, a new column on EWZ, featuring two places that well represent another city, state, or country.  For the time being Two for Tuesday will be featured on the 1st Tuesday of every September.  But I may increase productivity if I get enough likes.  This one is for my LA readers (both of them).  We’ve been to LA many times, so its about time I write a little something about this wonderful little town where no one walks anywhere except to/from rehab, and everyone looks like the cast from Baywatch

El Huarique – Venice

Eclectic Venice Beach –  Tourists, hipsters, beautiful people, homeless, muscles, homeless hipster, Venice Beach got it all.  But finding good eats at places like this is like catching Miley Cyrus wearing pants.  So imagine my surprise when I found this hole in the wall that was some of the best simple Peruvian food I ever ate.  The Lomo Saltado, a Chinese like beef and veggie stir fry was on point.  The rotisserie chicken which the Peruvians do so well was seasoned to perfection and quite impressive overall.  Mrs Ziggy was especially taken by the Papa a la Huancaina, a boiled potato in a beautifully spiced cream sauce.  The ceviche did not disappoint.  This is a take-out place with maybe 6 or so seats as you can see, but oh boy what a hidden gem in Venice.El Huarique Lomo Saltado El Huarique Chicken El Huarique Ceviche

Itzik Hagadol – Encino

I saw a medium Igor, but “Big Itzik” or “Big Isaac” was nowhere to be found.  The food though spoke volumes.  Big sprawling family friendly place dishing out simple traditional Israeli  goodies.  One of those “I wish we would have this in NY” moment.  I can think of plenty of small falafel places, and larger haute Israeli, but nothing like this, where you can just come in announced with 15 of your closest friends.  Hummus with mushrooms was especially noteworthy among the starters.  Falafel tasted like proper falafel.  Good quality lamb chops, chicken kebabs (aided by a homemade s’chug.  Ask for it) and schnitzel.  They make their own Mititei, a Moldovan/Romanian kebab made of ground mixed meat.  This one was of the heftier, juicier kind.  Some Eastern European influence perhaps by medium Igor.

El Huarique – Venice
1301 Ocean Front Walk, Venice

Itzik Hagadol
17201 Ventura Blvd, Encino

Itzik Hagadol Hummus Itzik Hagadol Lamb chops Itzik Hagadol Salads

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Nargis Cafe – Uzbek Beauty With an Attitude


Another fun meal at Nargis Cafe…

Originally posted on Eating With Ziggy:

Nargis Cafe Samsa

8/30/15 Update:  Another great lunch in one of my Brooklyn faves.  You cant get this stuff in Manhattan.  The Plov is still Killa!  So are the Monti, those giant dumplings filled with cuminy meaty goodness.  The chicken kebabs and Lyulya kebab are some of the juiciest tenderest kebabs you will ever eat.  Among the starters I particularly like the red eggplant dish (over the green) and the avocado salad.  They make Lagman noodles but only offer it in soup (very good).  It doesnt look like they have Pilmeni any more but they do offer its fried uzbek cousin Chuchvara.  Wash it all down with the Szech draft beer (the second one, forgot the name) or their terrific Kompot (Russian fruit punch).  Very busy place, sort of approaching local institution status.  You cant get this in the city.  Did I already say that?  Well I’m saying this again.  I just read the…

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The Murals of Mission (San Francisco)

We came for Mexican food, we stayed for the murals.  Balmy Alley, Clarion Alley, 24th st, the magnificent Women’s Building.  You can easily spend half a day here and not see everything. California-2015 404

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Hellish Update

Mocu Mocu DishesIn my constant pursuit to bringing you the best bites in an area I call Hell’s Kitchen, I present to you this most pressing update.  Two in, two out

Out:  We fare adios to Bis.Co.Latte who lost their battle with the rising rent monster.  This means we are saying goodbye to over 50 flavors of Biscotti, but more importantly Hell’s Kitchen best soups.  Best of luck to Holly & Antone with the next venture.  Hopefully a soup truck right at my doorsteps.

Out:  Co Ba 53.  While I wouldn’t be so quick to remove a place closed by the health dep’t, the last couple of meals helped with the decision.  I wish them the best, and please if you do reopen, get rid of the stupid tablecloth.  It makes you look fancier than you are, and it doesn’t fit the place and the neighborhood (Update:  Just passed by them and they already reopened.  Oh Well)

In:  Otto’s Tacos.  The first addition I didn’t even need to try.  I’m already well too familiar with their East Village spot, and those shrimp tacos (hmmm, how you doing).  But I did of course had my fix on day two of this most important Hell’s Kitchen opening since Gotham West.  I’ll be seeing more of them

In:  Mocu Mocu.  More Japanese goodies in the hood, though there’s really nothing like this in the area.  Artsy, nifty but very casual spot that is still trying to find its bearings.   Essentially all sorts of Japanese street food and snacks.  Takoyaki (octopus balls), Oshinko (homemade pickles), soups like the terrific white bean and Sausage Miso, Okonomiyaki (savory pancakes), Obanyaki (dessert pastries), decent wings.  I’ve been here three times already and each time I discover something new.  This project is a collaboration of two sisters and Hiroko Shimbo, an acclaimed cookbook author.  Unlike the new atrocity across the street El Original, this place hasn’t spent a day on any hot list, while flying under everyone radar.  Its all in the marketing, and word of mouth.  That’s why I’m here

Buon Appetito!Mocu Mocu Miso Mocu Mocu Otto's Tacos


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Montrio Bistro in Monterey – Don’t Fear the Reaper

Montrio SalmonChills, confusion, despair, butterflies, who shot Mr Burns, shaking, why is it so cold here.  Where the hell are we?  Where are the butterflies?

“Mom, what’s wrong with dad?  Why is he sitting in the corner, on the floor like that?”

“He just found out the restaurant he picked for tonight is #1 on Trip Advisor.  Just give him a moment and avoid eye contact.  It happened before.”

I know that voice.  Mommy?  More chills, hungry, it was Maggie, Maggie shot Mr Burns.  How many R’s in Monterey.  Where are the freakin butterflies.  She says they come in November, but I cant stay that long.  I need to visit Big Sur tomorrow.  What the hell is Big Sur anyway.  So hungry.

“Mom, he is drooling now”

“Don’t touch him!  That means he is getting better”

Ok, feeling better.  Off we go to the #1 as of this writing and dine with fellow tourists.  We are after all tourists as well, and do touristy things like ride cable cars, walk slow, and visit aquariums.  How bad can this be.  I considered a place called Passionfish, another long timer, near our Butterfly-less Grove, but opted to stick to the script.  This vacation is going just great.  Stick to the script.

Montrio PopocornIt’s just as I imagined.  Packed with visitors from all over the world.  I hear French, Italian, New Jersian… chills slowly creeping back.  But hey, we quickly get a table and.. crayons.  You would think that crayons will make the matter worse, but in this classy looking, mural filled joint its actually quite refreshing.  Imagine getting crayons at Aquavit.  I’m back to self, and in ordering mode.  The menu breathes Best of America.  California America!  There’s salmon, there’s chicken, there’s short rib.  Its a new revamped menu I’m told by a {gulp} British chef, and just about everything sounds orderable.  They even have a “Bites” section which suggests this check inflating trend is now nation wide.

We start with what else, popcorn.  They come cheesy, mixed with bacon bits.  The waitress goes “May I?”  “May I what, feed them to me?”  No, she picks up the cup and spills all the popcorn on the plate so we could easily pick them up with the chopsticks that come with it.  How fun.  Mac and Cheese was cheesy alright, and quite good.  But the polenta with mixed mushrooms, one of my favorite dishes on the planet fell a little short.  Leave that to the Italians.  Dungeness Crab cakes tastes like crab cakes should.  Wish there were more of that though.  Perhaps the fact that its not quite Dungeness Crab season here is to blame.  The “Crispy Calamari” comes shaped like chicken tenders, aided by a tangy Romesco (I heart Romesco) and house made hot sauce that came in a nose drop bottle.  And then came the Mussels.Montrio Calamari

The Mussels are paragraph worthy.  We are a mussels family, enjoying our east coast mainly PEI (thats Price Edward Island for the German tourists) mussels for years.  Yes, I know eating PEI mussels in NYC and in the source is like eating two different kinds of mussels.  But here on the west coast, chefs in the know, even British, are loving the mussels coming out of Penn Cove in Whidbey Island, Washington.  These mussels, cooked with a mild red curry broth, were some of the fullest, sweetest mussels I ever had.

The mains here did not disappoint either.  The last time I ordered salmon and chicken together was 25 years ago when my source of income was tips from pizza deliveries.  The chicken was fine for a #1.  The salmon (top) I get isnt meant to be eaten by itself.  A spoonful of salmon, creamy risotto, Nduja Sauce, and fried brussel sprouts leaves was, I’m using it, divine!  And I couldnt find much wrong with that short rib.  Damn its super tenderness, and juiciness!  A proper finish with a sticky toffee pudding and a waitress recommended bread pudding that is particularly popular here (great for NY standards, average in New Orleans)

Crisis overblown.  We enjoyed this one enormously.  Kudos to the chef, the waitress, and crayon makers.  This did not feel like a tourist trap, but a local established that cares about the product, and what their customer eats.

Montrio Bistro
414 Calle Principal, Monterey, CA

Montrio Mussels Montrio Crab Cakes Montrio Mac n Cheese Montrio Chicken Montrio Short Rib Montrio Bread Pudding Montrio sticky toffee

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Top 10 Reasons to Visit the NoMad Bar


Reiterating Strong Buy after another fun visit with friends. Get the burger, carrot, scallops and call me in the morning. I updated this top 10 to make it less offensive and more corny.

Originally posted on Eating With Ziggy:

116 Bay Scallops marinated with yuzu & pistachio

10. The place is sort of neat looking.  Like what you expect to find at a secret Playboy tunnel

9.  They have a Chicken Pot Pie that will make you wish you were Amish

8.  Their head bartender has more moves than Nicky Minaj.  Try the Start Me Up!

7.  Their carrot tartare will make you start eating carrots

6.  You now realize that on your previous trip you went to the wrong Nomad.  It happens quite often actually.  Like 1 out of 10 Asian tourists go to the wrong nomad.  Cabbies love it and make bets.

5.  Their Bay Scallops will make you start eating carrots (strange, I know)

4.  The Cocktail Explosion will make your 15 Instagram followers very jealous (and worried)

3.  The meaning of Life, Christmas, and Marriage will instantly be revealed once you try the 28 day Dry-Aged Burger with bone…

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A Man and His Lake – Tioga Pass (Yosemite)

Dog LakeEarlier this month we spent a day and a half exploring the sites off Tioga Pass road in Yosemite’s High Country.  Olmsted Point, Tenaya Lake, Tuolumne Meadows including hikes to see the Soda Springs, and the serene Dog Lake where I practice my Jesus walk above.  And since our accommodations were close enough (the amazing Evergreen Lodge) we were able to sneak in another visit to see the Sequoias of Tuolumne Grove.  Cant recommend this highly enough, especially Olmsted Point (hike down to the left to the actual point – views from the parking lot arent enough), and Tuolumne Meadows where you can easily spend an entire day.

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Olmsted Point

Olmsted Point

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The NYC Trip Report that Left Me Speechless

Annisa SquidAnd starving.  Like, literally starving to death.  There was a point where I realized that the safest time to read Aynat’s (Trip Advisor handle) daily accounts of her NY adventure is between 6 and 6:45, before my stomach wakes up from its beauty rest.  This was not Aynat’s first trip to NYC, and she already logged countless of great meals under her belt.  But this time it became apparent after day two (out of 27) that included a marathon meal at Ko (the best marathon there is), that Aynat picked up her game to almost unreachable levels.  From my vantage point (living room, transferring to kitchen soon) this is the Michael Jordan of trip reports.  The basketball player, not the chef.  Although the chef is pretty darn good too (miss Rosemary’s in Vegas dearly).

I read trip reports on various boards like Chowhound and Trip Advisor on occasion, and it usually doesn’t take long to get a sense of the due diligence involved.  Aynat on the other hand, essentially has redefined food research, and is probably already planning her next trip to NYC (best medicine to post vacation blues..  Alcohol.  Second best.. rebook).  This was 27 days of eating bliss and blissful eating.  After her trip was over, I figured it would be criminal not to write something about this on EWZ, but the challenge was how.  So I asked Aynat to compile a list of her favorite dishes of the trip and here are the results.  Top 20 dishes (comments are mine) with pictures whenever I could find them

Momofuku Ko – Chef’s Multi Course Tasting Menu.  Its impossible to pick one dish from this 18 dish ecstasy.  Its like asking Evander Holyfield which Illegitimate child is his favorite.  Perhaps the best eating experience NYC has to offer at the momenyMomofuku Ko Razor clams

Bowery Meat Company – Bowery Steak with Salsa Verde, Whipped Potato.  The ribeye cap, arguably the cows most delicious part is rolled into this hockey puck of dreams. One of the most delicious steaks I ever ate.  Aynat agrees.Bowery Meat Company Bowery Steak

Marta – Carbonara Pizza with Potato, Guanciale, Black Pepper and Egg.  I’ve watched Nick Anderer try to perfect this Roman beaut over the first few months, until he settled on arguably the best white pie NY has to offer.   Aynat also liked the Rabbit meatballs very much.Marta Patate alla Carbonara

Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Bistro –  Oxtail Fried Rice with daikon, Shiitake & Bone marrow. Aynat hesitated at first with this one.  “Why is he suggesting Fried Rice, in a hotel no less.”  Easily made the top dishes mark, along with the brilliantly simple sautéed squid (Ika shuga)Blue Ribbon Sushi Oxtail Fried Rice

The Marshal – Wood Oven Roasted Meatloaf stuffed with Mozzarella, Squash Carrots and Kale.  Sometimes a man just wants to eat meatloaf. Apparently same rules apply for women.  One of Hell’s Kitchen’s hidden gems, dishing out proper farm to belly American classics.The Marshal - Meatloaf

Annisa – Barbecue Squid with Thai Basil and Fresh Peanuts (top picture).  Aynat asked me about some of my favorite squid/octopus dishes in town and I directed her to one of Anita Lo’s best sellers.  Needless to say she liked it.

Ivan Ramen – Pork Meatballs with Buttermilk Dressing, Bulldog Sauce, Bonito.  Perhaps it’s the hypnotizing dancing bonito flakes, the tangy Bulldog sauce, or those tender juicy meatballs. Whatever that is, hope this LES Ivan branch keeps it on the menu for a while.Ivan Ramen Pork Meatballs

Alta – Shrimp and Chorizo Skewer with Avocado, Garlic and Sherry Vinegar.  Another winner at this old tapas staple.  Aynat also praised the Brussel Sprouts with apple, Creme Fraiche and pistachios.  The dish that essentially made us start cook Brussel sprouts.  And many chefs around town followed.

Balaboosta – Crispy Cauliflower With Lemon, Currants and Pine Nuts.  It’s not an Israeli meal without a cauliflower dish. (Hmmm, I knew something was missing from my meal in LA last night).  This is one Balaboosta mustBalaboosta - cauliflower

Nougatine at Jean Georges – Fried Calamari with Basil Salt and Citrus Chilli Dip.  Never been to Nougatine so never had it.  But I can just taste it…

Root and Bone – Crispy Free Range Fried Chicken, Tea Brined and Lemon Dusted.  Perhaps the NYC fried chicken to beat, along with Ma Peche’s Habanero infused bird.  The brine and the magic dusting gives it a deeper, lasting flavor. Aynat also really admired the Charred Asparagus with Fire Roasted Tomatoes and Crunchy Peanuts. And talking about deeper and lasting, Root and Bone apparently means something else entirely down under (where half of the owners are from.  Coincidence?)root and bone chicken

Santina – Guanciale e Pepe.  Aynat also hit some of the new kids on the block, and enjoyed Santina’s Cecina as well.  I’ve personally been to Santina three times now, so ye.. I’m a fan too.Santina Guanciale e pepe

Rounding the top 20…

The NoMad Restaurant – Suckling Pig with Ramps, Potatoes and Salsa Verde.  Been twice, never had it

ABC Cocina – Spring Pea Guacamole with Warm Tortillas

Timna -Lamb Saddle with Persian Lemon Dust, Black Garlic Mousse, English Pea Purée.  Along with Fried Cauliflower (doh!) with Homemade Labane, Curried Tahini and Sumac.  Top of my to do list

Inti – Ceviche Mixto.  Love this dish.  They make great ceviche hereInti Ceviche

Mercato – Gnocchi in Beef and Pork Ragu.  Havent had this in a while and got tomorrow free.  m..u..s..t r..e..s..i..s..t…

Kati Roll Company – Unda chicken roll.  Never had it.

Gazala’s – Sun dried tomato Bourekas with Hummus, salad and olives.  Still best hummus in town

Ample Hills Creamery – Salted Crack Caramel.  Seriously addictive ice cream (like seriously!) .  Aynat also gives major props to the Sullivan Street Bakery Bomboloni and Amorino gelato.

So there you have it.  There were many other great dishes Aynat enjoyed in this one, but these are the highlights.  This is a great starting point for those researching their next trip.  Thanks Aynat for this glorious report

Categories: East Village, Flatiron, Gramercy, Lower East Side, Midtown West, New York City, NoHo, Nolita, SoHo, West Village | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

Gotham West Market Top Eats


Leaving for a couple of weeks yet again, sorry gang. I leave you with an updated Gotham West Market top eats since I havent updated it in a while. Happy eating…

Originally posted on Eating With Ziggy:

Gotham West Market - Ivan Ramen

July 31st, 2015 Update:  Little Chef is long gone and I miss it dearly.  Choza (Mexican) took it’s place, and although my co-workers like it, I rather pay a visit to the many other Mexicans in the area like Tehuitzingo and the just reopened Parada 47 (former HK survival guide member Guelaguetza).  The bigger addition to the market is Ample Hills, one of the cities premier ice cream maker.  Their Salted Crack Caramel is the closest I will ever get to crack.  Add it to the list of musts here.  The chicken sandwich at Genuine is still crack like (I’m told), and the whitefish Doburi is now Salmon Donbui.  Although I miss the whitefish smokiness, this is still the strongest dish at Ivan’s.  Ivan also introduced an incredibly unique morning menu which I’m yet to try.  Canibal menu continues to impress and its quickly becoming one of my Hell’s Kitchen…

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Bar Pitti – The Confucius of NYC Dining

Bar Pitti Taglierini Black TrufflesEverything has its beauty, but not everyone sees it – Confucius

The legend of Confucius is so legendary that in modern times he is often compared to Jesus.  Both men were great thinkers and preachers whose believes written down well after their death.  Confucius, much like Jesus is viewed as a religeous figure.  Except that.. he wasnt really.  He was a teacher and a great philosopher, but not so much a preacher.  Confucius, as the name implies… a misunderstood figure.  Even some of his philosophies are either misunderstood or misapplied

Ignorance is the night of the mind, but a night without moon and star – Confucius

Just like great thinkers like Confucius and Donald Trump, I feel that Bar Pitti is misunderstood.  Perhaps the most misunderstood restaurant in NYC.  If you are to visit NYC and read reviews about this place on Yelp, chances are that you will likely pass on it.  Which is fine I suppose.  There are plenty of Branzini in the sea.  What you will read is mostly about service.  “I did not get the special board right away”, “The board was too confusing and heavy”, “The wait staff is hurried and rude”, “We were hurried”.  “The owner walks around like he owns the place”  I can go on and on.  You can read about it yourself.

When you hit the wall, it will hurt for a few days – Ziggy

But the truth of the matter is, Bar Pitti is just about as Italian as it gets in NYC.  The owner and the entire staff are Italian.  The chalk board is in Italian.  Everyone speaks Italian.  And if you ever set foot in a true Italian Trattoria in Italy (not Staten Island) you may have noticed the contrast.  Italians are more direct.  Just like the rest of the world, they dont work for tips.  The “wait staff” is not there to “serve” you.  It may be the owner, the sister, the cousin that takes your order, brings you the food, and helps you select the wine.  But the biggest difference the way I see it, is that the number of workers in a typical Italian restaurant in NYC far outnumber a similarly sized Italian Trattoria in Italy.  In another words, they work their ass off.  That work ethic translates to “Hurried” by some here.  The directness and the language barrier may translate to rudeness.  Their policies (like cash only) are… well.. their policies.  Its all in the open.  If you choose to eat their anyway, you dont have the right to complaint.  Its like saying “This Pizza place sucks because they dont sell slices.  Only whole pies.  AVOID!”

Some girls are bigger than others. Some girls mothers are bigger than other girls mothers – Morrissey

Bar Pitti Veal Milanese

You know who doesnt think there are service issues at Bar Pitti?  NY celebrities.  Bar Pitti is one of those NY celebrity magnets.  Which also means good looking people lining up the sidewalk waiting for a table.  Its a places to see and be seen, partly due to that wide sidewalk and prime West Village real estate.  Jake Gyllenhaal was in the next room while we dined there the other night, joining a slew of celebrities dining there at some point.  Bar Pitti is also one of the only restaurants in its class that has no website.  Reservations for four and over are taken like in Italy, the old fashion way… via conversation.  which means you can score a table even on a busy Saturday night.  Want to stay for a while?  Keep ordering.  This is not a place to linger, unless you are Jake Gyllenhaal

You can observe a lot just by watching – Yoggi Berra

Yoggi Berra is talking about the specials board at Bar Pitti.  That’s where the action is.  Starting with the great Pappardelle Rabbit ragu or whatever meat ragu, and ending with the Taglierini with summer Black Truffles.  One of the only NYC places offering black truffles the entire summer.  The Burrata is another strong board option, and so is the Veal Milanese.  This place will also make you question your ban on creamy dishes, starting with the Pappardelle Alla Fiesolana, perhaps the most popular dish of the house.  For mushroom lovers, the oyster mushroom app is an absolute must.

Bar Pitti is old school at its best.  And I pity the fool who passes on it

Bar Pitti
268 Ave of the Americas
$$$ (cash only)

Bar Pitti Pappardelle Rabbit ragu Bar Pitti Burrata photo (17) Bar Pitti




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