Mission Chinese 2.0: Possible

Mission Chinese DumplingsYesterday I got a disturbing text from my barber.  It wasnt so much about the content of the text, but rather the fact that I got a text from my barber that was alarming.  Initially I concluded wrong number, but then I remembered that my barber was the only person I know that calls me by the wrong name.  I gave up correcting him 5 years ago and simply play along.  “Terry, I moved to the other side of the mall, by Macy’s.  Please confirm that you received this text”.  After confirmation, he was very delighted that I showed understanding, and opted to stick with him!?!  Well, why on earth shouldn’t I.  Should I consider perhaps that other side of the mall is further away from my house.  Maybe he’s implying lack of parking.  I’ve only been with him for 16 years.  Should I drop him because the other side of the mall doesnt have an Auntie Anne’s soft pretzel stand, and hire one of the old schmucks taking a nap at 10 am.  I always show up to a Bunny Ranch-like lineup of sleeping barbers.

Mission ChineseIn similar fashion Mission Chinese Food moved from the LES to Chinatown, pretty much the same distance as my barber.  Danny Bowien, and MCF opened with a bang initially, even winning in a rather shocking fashion the coveted Best New Restaurant of 2013 from the New York Times.  Not too long after, it was closed by the Health Dep’t, reopened shortly after, only to close for good shortly after that.  For its fans this unfolding was difficult to watch.  As difficult as watching a baby seal getting clobbered to death.  If I would only have a nickle for every favorite Chinese restaurant closed at some point by the Health Dep’t, I would have a Quarter by now. Who cares if there’s evidence of mice.  As long as the mice and I are not there at the same time.

The new space, compared to the old, is comically stunning.  Like a bizarre cross between a fancy diner, a steakhouse, and a Lucky Cheng’s.  It kept some of the furniture from previous tenant Rosette, including a pizza oven which they utilize for pizza and bread.  Comfortable booths, chandeliers, and Lazy Susans unlike the Lazy Susans at my Doctor’s office where you just got lazy women named Susan.  When you add this all up, including the many mild additions to the menu, you get something you can bring your family, or even your in-laws.  But contrary to the way it looks inside, and the sign outside, it is very far from your average Chinese joint. Mission Chinese Tom Khallins

Started with one of the most unique drinks in recent memory (about a week give or take).  Tom Khallins – Old Tom gin, coconut milk, kaffir lime, lemongrass, ginger, chile, and sesame oil served in a small tea bowl.  After this and Pok Pok I’m really starting to get into those coconuty drinks.

The “Bread Service” is essentially a delicious smoky round Laffa with kefir butter spread.  It comes with a price tag ($7) that will make any Israeli or Arab shiver, a la the Jerusalem Bagel at Bar Bolonat.  Although the great free cilantro and scrambled eggs dumplings leave less room to complain.  One good reason NOT to get the bread is that it takes a lot of space on the table that you will struggle for very soon.

Mission Chinese Bread ServiceThe Cumin Lamb Ribs while on the fatty and chewy side were somehow more satisfying that the previous version.  The Dates in this dish alone are worth the price of admission.  On the other hand, the Kung Pao Pastrami went from my favorite to least favorite of the night.  The pastrami this time was much more charred, with texture closer to the potatoes it came with rather than that great pastrami of 1.0.  It wasn’t bad overall, but the rest of the lineup was just better.

Like the great Beef Jerky Fried Rice with Beech Mushrooms.  Wildly flavorful, but only the second best fried rice dish of the day (oxtail fried rice @ Blue Ribbon near Columbus Circle for lunch).  And if I would have to pick a favorite this night, it would probably be the Green Tea Noodles with ginger scallion, hoisin, and the great matcha flavor which makes the dish.  The only issue with this one is that the noodles are so stuck together (not so much in a bad way), that its difficult to remove a portion if you are sharing.  Eat this like Chinese eating rice.

Mission Chinese Food
171 E Broadway
$$$
Recommended Dishes: Tom Khallins, Beef Jerky Fried Rice, Green Tea Noodles, Cumin Lamb Ribs

 

Mission Chinese Pastrami

Mission Chinese Green Tea Noodles Mission Chinese Cumin Lamb Mission Chinese

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Is Maialino Turning Stale?

Malfatti

Malfatti

Maialino has always been one of those easy, solid, high probability recommendations over the past 3 years.  I’ve recommended it to people not only looking for “Italian” in NYC but also “Not Italian”, with the hopes that if anything will convert them this is it.  I’ve been singing its praise to restaurant owners from Naples to Alba while touring the country.  I’ve been a fan of Nick Anderer for years, and since meeting him at the Parla/Bonci event at Paulie Gee’s, had some fun conversations with him at Marta, which is one of my favorite new places in town.  Hence, its somewhat awkward for me to write this post, but I’m doing it out of love and appreciation, not hate. I would hate to see the place turn into another Union Square Cafe

The meal wasnt terrible by any stretch.  But the name carries certain expectations, and anticipations, especially when its a special birthday dinner with the family.  I always think about that walk to the park with my friend Val and his Bulldog Rocco who out of sheer excitement, farts his way the entire length of the walk until he finally gets to his favorite pooping spot.  You can feel and smell the anticipation along the way.  But imagine if after all these years, Rocco finds out that his spot has been discovered by a Yorkshire Terrier, or worse, replaced by a condominium development.  Something was off the other night, and I’m hoping it was just a Sunday night off-night

The Salumi here has never been a strong suit to begin with, although I found the selection plate still orderable partly due to lack of other desirable options (where’s that octopus when you need it).  The Mortadella for example is cut thick with texture and taste resembling its bastardized Bologna more than actual Mortadella.Maialino Salumi

The Cacio e Pepe and Carbonara still delivered, although the Cacio carried a little less magic than in the past.  But that Guanciale in the Carbonara, I can chew on that forever.  Or more like 5 minutes, which is like a lifetime in Guanciale years.  The Pappardelle was just fine.  Chunks of tender nicely cooked pork with light cream.  Not your typical Ragu, and missing that beautiful marriage between meat and pasta.

For main we shared another pasta, the Malfatti with the braised Maialino (suckling pig) and arugula.  But wait a minute, this dish looks familiar.  As in 7 minutes ago familiar.  Way too identical to the Pappardelle, but sounded much different.  “Malfatti” I suppose is a very loose interpretation of something misshaped or badly formed, and I’ve always associated it with ugly pasta-less (more like gnocchi) ricotta/spinach dumplings as in Al Di La in Brooklyn.  But here it looks like hand ripped thin pasta, like Pappardelle “squares”.  The pig had decent flavor if not a bit one-note (salt), but by this point we were craving for something more Raguish.  The Garganelli which I enjoyed in the past with rabbit could have filled the void but was missing in action.

Very often one dish can make or break a meal, and in this case the decider was the Oxtail.  When I had the dish before, the beautiful tender meat was easily falling off the bone in liberal fashion.  This time I had to work hard managing the unrendered fat, distributing the kill like a mother wolf feeding her three babies.  The surprising highlight of the evening was the panna cotta look-alike Cheesecake with sour cherries.  Hope I’m still welcomed at Marta, but if not I’ll understand  Maialino Pappardelle Maialino Carbonara Maialino Oxtail Maialino Cheesecake

 

Categories: Gramercy, Flatiron, New York City | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

Turks and Caicos – Seaside Cafe

Ziggy:

An update on an old favorite…

Originally posted on Eating With Ziggy:

Seaside - tuna sashimi

March 21st, 2015 Update:

Get the Fish Sandwich for lunch people.  Its a couple of pickled carrots shy of being the perfect Banh Mi, although I sort of prefer this simplified version.  Toasty baguette courtesy of Caicos Bakery filled with expertly blackened fish grilled to flaky perfection.  Great little sandwich.  Moving on from Vietnam to Peru, Amazing Race style.  The Peruvian Conch Salad brings out our animal instincts, each time without fail.  If there’s one tip I could offer to the 15 TCI viewers I get per day (over 200 look at the Hell’s Kitchen Survival Guide alone, 15 at TCI), get some of that Peruvian.  We dont even need to open the lunch menu here.

We also had another outstanding dinner later on.  Nice and springy flatbread with goat cheese, pesto, and arugula.  A new discovery was the Conch Chowder that may have cracked our top three.  More of the delicious Tuna Sashimi…

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Crackpot Kitchen {TCI}

Crackpot Kitchen LobsterFirst, the confession.  I was not in a rush to get here.  For selfish reasons I enjoy discovering new places on the island, and make an effort to visit them as soon as I can.  Some (Caravel) work better than others (Fresh Catch, Kalooki’s).  When we like a new place, we get this sense of accomplishment that fixes just about everything.. rashes, frontal baldness, etc.  The weather may suck but at least you are eating well, and unless they shutter for not being on the beach, you will eat well next time as well.  Crackpot was the exception, as I tried to avoid it for as long as I could.  “Unassuming” was just not the word one could describe this one after coming out of the gate rather strong.  Reports of Chef Nick indulging elsewhere just weeks after the opening added to the confusion, and intrigue at the same time.

Crackpot KitchenFast forward a year later (commercials included), chef Nik and company, not only weathered the storm, but managed to survive at what I call the closest middle of nowhere location in the world.  Taking over the former Lemon space, Crackpot is in the middle of a large abandoned development one needs to drive into even though its walking distance from some of the resorts.  And to get there, one needs to maneuver between a series of potholes, a can of coke, and three cats carrying a wounded cat on a stretcher.  Not much changed decor wise since the previous tenant left (after a nasty split, but that’s for another blog.  Divorce Courting With Ziggy?).

Servers, efficient, albeit acting as if they just graduated from server academy.  Nick, the famous son of Smoky, and local cooking show personality stopped by apologizing for his attire, although it was way too dark to even see what he was wearing.  I apologized for my attire as well and we moved on.  The place overall felt as if Coco Bistro and Flamingo’s hooked up, got drunk and produced a crack baby.  But food wise, everything worked for the most part

Crackpot Kitchen Conch FrittersThe conch salad was a little different than the norm.  On the zestier, fruitier side of things, with bits of pineapple, and melon finely intermingled among the usual conch salad suspects.  Not bad at all.  The lobster salad was of the cooked variety, essentially a crab salad gone wild.  Conch fritters were more like conch kebabs, skewered, surprisingly delicious even while lacking that outside crisp.  The ribs here were quite wet and with good flavor.  More sauce on side (for the Stern fans) was totally unnecessary.  Not sure where they rank on the island but somewhere behind Chinson’s and Caicos Cafe’s version I suppose.

Got my Goat fix here and I must say this was a good goat curry.  Minimal dryness, and quite addictive, although this blogger is a bit more obsessed with Goat curry than the next guy.  They also have a good looking Oxtail cooked with Guinness.  The one glaring fail of the evening was the Grilled Lobster.  A dry, overcooked mess with stuffing, and other various concoctions on the side that didn’t work.Crackpot Kitchen Lobster salad Crackpot Kitchen Conch Salad Crackpot Kitchen Ribs Crackpot Kitchen Goat

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A Gentleman’s Guide to Pok Pok

Pok Pok WingsAnthony Bourdain’s “Parts Unknown Thailand” with Andy Ricker is one of my favorite food episodes of all time.  It was real, it was fun, and it gives you a good size glimpse of what exactly is behind Ricker’s motivation… women!  Yes, food and the culture are probably high up there, but its probably the women that made the man move back and forth and back again for 20 years.  Even some of the servers at Pok Pok NY including the boys were a sharp reminder that you are at a Ricker establishment.  I vividly recall one particular moment from that episode where they visit a family run shack somewhere remotely, where Ricker starts flirting with a girl pretty much in front of her parents.  Now that is some Chutzpah.

The last time I was accused of being a gentleman was the last time we visited Turks and Caicos, where I kept opening the car door for Mrs Ziggy.  But that was because I can never get used to the location of the wheel and keep opening the wrong door.  At Pok Pok blvd in Red Hook Brooklyn, Mr and Mrs Hummus Whisperer and us got to open three different Pok Pok doors;  The Whiskey Soda Lounge while munching on the famous wings (the only item available from the flagship menu), Pok Pok NY (the flagship), and Pok Pok Phat Thai (Pk Pok light) just for the hell of it.  A fun meal overall, and vastly different than the 9th Ave Thai some of us are so used to.  Here’s the food rundown

Pok Pok Boar Collar

Pok Pok Boar Collar

Ike’s Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings.  I don’t know who this Ike guy is but I’m guessing he is a good guy, and an honest citizen, and probably a fantastic cook.  These are plus size Amish wings that are seasoned in such a way that you will contemplate not washing hands for a few days.

Het Paa Naam Tok – Spicy forest mushrooms with soy sauce, lime and chili powder dressing, shallots, lemongrass, mint, cilantro and toasted rice powder.  Perhaps the only dish I didn’t care much about.  Sounds exciting at first but the result was way too much acid for those delicate mushrooms.  Probably works better with meat

Kaeng Hang Leh – Northern Thai sweet pork belly and pork shoulder curry with ginger, palm sugar, turmeric, tamarind, burmese curry powder and pickled garlic.  This was really good.  Super tender pork in a rich, sweet but tasty brown curry.  An important note to Yelpers:  Pork Belly is in fact fatty

Muu Paa Kham Waan – Boar collar meat rubbed with garlic, coriander root and black pepper, glazed with soy and sugar.  Grilled over charcoal and served with chilled mustard greens and a spicy chili/lime/garlic sauce.  Even the slightly overcooked Boar didn’t stop it from being the dish of the night.  Its all in the sauce of gods that could even make your car keys eatable.  Fantastic dish!

Pok Pok Khao Soi

Pok Pok Khao Soi

Khao Soi Kay – Northern thai mild curry noodle soup made with curry paste recipe and coconut milk, served with house pickles mustard greens.  A little trickier to share but Khao Soi as good as I ever had

Cha Ca “La Vong” – Vietnamese catfish (or as they call it in South Florida,  Grouper ;)) marinated in turmeric and sour sticky rice, fried in turmeric oil with scallions and dill, served on rice vermicelli with peanuts, mint, cilantro and mam nem.  One of my favorite dishes here and something I’ve had before.  Before you even take your first bite, the herbs aroma make their mark and tell the brain “this is gonna be exquisite”

Winged Bean Salad – This was a special.  Florida grown crunchy sliced Winged Bean pods mixed with prawns, pork and a hefty amount of Thai Chilies.  The spiciest dish of the night by far, and something I would definitely order again.

Dessert was as exciting as Thai desserts can get.  A not so smelly Durian scented creation on sticky rice with coconut milk.  Slightly less successful than the similar pumpkin at Pure Thai Cookhouse.  The Affogato was your good basic Affogato but with Churros-like doughnuts.  The lone clunker was the ice cream sandwich which didn’t work for any of us.

Pok Pok NY
117 Columbia St, Brooklyn
$$$
Recommended Dishes:  Wings, Catfish, pork belly and shoulder, Boar Collar, Curry Soup

 

Pok Pok Catfish

Pok Pok Catfish

Pok Pok - Bean Salad

Pok Pok – Bean Salad

Pok Pok Mushroom Salad

Pok Pok Mushroom Salad

Pok Pok affogato

Pok Pok affogato

Pok Pok Durian

Pok Pok Durian

 

 

 

Categories: Brooklyn, New York City | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

15 Shades of Caicos Café

Caicos Cafe - Tuna TartarLadies and gents, brace yourself.  Its the moment you’ve been waiting for.  Ever since you discovered the Turkey and Cascos Islands as your co-workers call them (“You back… how was Turkey and Cascos”), the question you always wanted to ask but were too afraid for some reason;  What to order at Caicos Café, the top restaurant in Providenciales.  If you agree, great.  If you disagree, even better.  You just need a little help that’s all.

Although I live 1300 miles away, and have a serious eating disorder (NYC did this to me), I’ve written about Caicos Café more than any other restaurant in the world (trying to sound dramatic, but really it doesn’t mean anything.  I could have said NY but I chose not to).  I’ve written stories, reviews, blog posts, mentioned them in every WWH Seven dishes column, and children books (“Goodnight Grouper”).  So instead of writing yet another boring blog post about our recent meals there, I decided to write about what dishes you should target on your next visit (which is really the same thing, but sounds much more interesting, doesnt it?).

Resume: somewhere between 15-20 meals.  Here are the up to date standings of the most visited restaurants:

1)  Pure Thai Cookhouse (NYC) 60-70 meals

2)  Chicken Over Rice Guy around the corner (NYC)  50

3)  Caicos Café (TCI) 15-20

4)  Mom (Brooklyn) 12

We often joke that we could potentially eat every dinner of a week’s long trip at CC, and have a great and different meal every night.  One day we may finally do it.  And you can bet your sweet tooches that we’ll have some sort of combination of the following

Grilled Calamari Skewer – Starting with the no-brainer.  On the menu since pretty much day one, and something we must have on just about every visit.  Spiced grilled Calamari on a skewer, sitting on top of cannellini beans, mussels, grilled bread with the most perfectly complimentary light sauce.  Great dish

Caicos Cafe - Grilled Calamari

Gnocchi – Another must for us.  A dish that saw many iterations, but the result is always the same.  Fresh homemade potato Gnocchi, whether with tomato sauce, mushroom sauce, bigger Gnocchi, smaller Gnocchi, doesnt matter.  Pillowy, melty goodness without fail each time.

Caicos Cafe - GnocchiLobster Salad (Seasonal) – A delicious recent discovery.  Not sure what took us so long

Escargot – Rivals the former Caicos Cafe, and the current Le Bouchon du Village for best on the island

Wahoo Carpaccio – An occasional special, and another absolute must.  This is the only way I can truly enjoy this firm dude, and now I have to order more because my entire family is into it.  Like eating sea butter

Caicos Cafe - Wahoo CarpaccioLobster Fra Diavolo – Possibly the most popular dish during lobster season.  Flambeed with Brandy, along with chili, parsley, garlic, light tomato sauce, and most importantly plentiful of tasty, tender, never chewy lobster morsels.  Other similar dishes on the island pale in comparison

Caicos Cafe - lobster fra diavoloSeafood Tagliolini – Another one of those menu staples.  Pernot flambéed with various fish and shellfish, spices and a hint of parsley and lemon juice.  Love the flavors in this one

Caicos Cafe - TaglioliniOrecchiette – A seafood break for the meat lovers.  Orecchiette means “small ears”, normally mixed with sausages and Broccoli rabe.  Here Chef Max blends in a sweet and spicy sausage ragu with Broccoli and Parmesan cheese.  Another menu staple

Caicos Cafe - OrecchiettePumpkin Ravioli – A new favorite in the Ziggy familia.  I normally hesitate ordering it (its pumpkin ravioli!), but one bite is like a shock through the system.  Roasted pumpkin, 5 various cheeses, pecans, brown butter, thyme, and more Parma cheese to top it all.  More flavorful than all the Tortelli di Zucca we’ve had in Parma.

Caicos Cafe TortelliSeafood Casserole – This is a very popular dish outside of the Ziggy circuit.  The only time I ordered it I was too sick to eat anything, but I’ve enjoyed similar creations by Chef Max.

Caicos Cafe SeafoodBaby Back Pork Ribs – This is where that crazy versatility is showing.  I imagine a full blown Italian style scheduled transport strike if this is taken out of the menu.  Its that popular.  Marinaded with Jalapeno, honey, paprika and lime juice, wet rubbed with Bourbon BBQ sauce… Winner

Grilled Local Grouper – Only available as a special, which means you are getting a fresh locally caught grouper.  Not Swai, not Tilapia, not Carp!  Simply grilled to perfection with vegetables sauteed in lemon-mint extra virgin olive oil, fresh tomatoes, capers, olives & basil salsa, mashed potatoes.  Hint:  notice the weather is lousy?  Guess what, no grouper today, as the weather is lousy for the local fishermen as well.  What you’ll get on the other menus is the frozen or [Enter your favorite Vietnamese catfish here]

Anything with Octopus – Pay close attention to the specials here.  When he gets those Portuguese Octopuses via Miami, oooooh boy, watch out.  Grilled just by itself, or as part of a pasta like Troccoli alla Chitarra utilizing his guitar (Chitarra).  So so good

Caicos Cafe - TroccoliAffogato with Bailey’s – A traditional must for us, and something we order often in NYC as a result, leaving us almost always disappointed

Pear and Mango Tart –  Honey, Butter sauce, vanilla ice cream.  Sometimes apples, sometimes pear, always delicious.

Buon Appetito!

Caicos Cafe - Apple Mango Tart

Categories: Turks and Caicos | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

When Ziggy Met Zizi {Limona}

Ziggy:

More on Zizi Limona after dinner with friends

Originally posted on Eating With Ziggy:

Zizi Limona Cowshuka

March 9th, 2015 Update

Another fun meal at Zizi with friends.  You know that you are eager to get somewhere when you park in front of a fire hydrant and don’t realize it.  Like a Bulldog going to his favorite poop spot.  Everyone enjoyed the meal.  Aunt Trippo is now my favorite aunt by default.  My only requirement is the ability to make a decent falafel.  I’m very east.  Grilled Beets, surprisingly appetizing for a non beet supporter.  Crazy Baba is still Meshugenah, and the Shishito with white beans is a fun little snack

The tender Chicken Tagine was a winner, spiced properly with Moroccan spices, with chickpeas and Israeli Couscous (bubbly tiny pasta balls).  Some enjoyed their fish with tomato based sauce a la Taboon.  My Short rib was as tender as short rib should be if not a little gamey (in a good way).  It came with Risotto style Freekeh (a Farro…

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The Caravel {TCI} – New Fish on the Block

Caravel TacosWhen East Met West, sparks and tuna rolls flew, until East abruptly left, leaving  just light fixtures behind.  What took its place?  Ice Cream, from West.  No thank you.  But wait, putting my prescription snorkeling goggles reveals an extra “A”.  So to lure people in while avoiding franchise fees?  No.  The extra “A” is for Authentic, as in local food.  How’s that for banal.  The writing, not the place.  I’m not quitting my job, dont worry.  Mrs Z said no.

Caravel is for the ship, not the ice cream.  A rather new local hotspot on the main road just east of Ocean Club West.  In addition to the former Sora lights, you have a bar with TVs, and big boy camera friendly oversized tables.  The place was packed with chatty happy locals.  So in order to take that new, fresh shot below we had to ask everyone to get up, clear their plates and wait outside for a second.  Because with quality cooking this good, there’s no way the place can be empty, right?  Ok, maybe the word is still spreading.  Lets expedite that spreading shell we.Caravel

There’s a quiet ongoing war on the island for the rights to the island’s top Fish Tacos.  Cabana’s Bar and Grill at Ocean Club East makes a batch so satisfying that they require a password to get in to park.  ‘Somewhere’ certainly has its fans somewhere, though I’m still searching for the fish in those.  Hemingway’s even with the slight sweet tone courtesy of the mango chutney was the front-runner.  The Caravel version is almost like a nice combination of the three.  The former Mr Grouper chef packs fried fish with cheese, and various veggies inside toasty flower shaped tortilla shells and serves it with an Arsenal of sauces.  “Fried” is a turnoff, but its lightly battered, and expertly cooked to flaky perfection.  And none of the other ingredients overwhelm the delicate fish.  Unless you go a little crazy with that sick homemade hot sauce.  Add any of the three you prefer, but the hot one added a nice oomph for my palate

I wasn’t expecting much from the Jerk Chicken plate that disguises as a chicken sandwich on the menu.  We just wanted some jerk as we normally crave on the island.  It didn’t disappoint.  Liberally spiced, juicy, and just tender enough.

Well done Caravel with an “A”.  I hope unlike Sora, you stick around a little longer.  Much longer.  In that location, quality and a specialty dish will be key, and from our vantage point, all the ingredients for success are in place.

To get to Caravel, walk or drive east past Seven Stars, Caicos Plaza, entrance on the left right past Ocean Club West.

Caravel Jerk Caravel Fish Tacos

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What to Eat in NYC – The Ethnic Plays

Taim falafelContinuing the What to Eat in NYC miniseries.  Part 1 is here.  Ethnic food is a big part of our daily diet hence it requires its own page.  What should you target in NYC of course depends on where you are coming from, but these are generally the areas of excellence in NYC…

Eat Thai – NYC has a thriving Thai food scene, and for reasons unknown to me the area known as Hell’s Kitchen is leading the Pad pack.  New Thai restaurants keep opening and existing ones keep multiplying right next to each other.  Yum Yum 1,2,3 all on the same block, and Wondee Siam with its three locations is another example.  But my favorites are Pure Thai Cookhouse with its vibrant menu, and fun vibe, and Larb Ubol specializing in Isan (North Thailand) cooking.  Lately however I’ve been cheating on those two with an old timer, Pam Real Thai.  Outside of HK, you got the great Somtum Der in East Village, and the popular Uncle Boons not too far.  Zabb Elee is another excellent Isan, and if you can somehow make it to Pok Pok in Brooklyn, you are in for a treat.  While not exactly Thai, the Laos inspired Khe-Yo is quite unique in itself and deserves a mention

Pure Thai Ratchaburi

Pure Thai Ratchaburi

Eat Indian – We eat a lot of Indian food, and the scene overall is fairly competitive.  Between Curry Hill and Curry Row in the East Village alone you have a slew of very good options.  In the East Village, guidebooks and TV shows may direct you to the Gimmicky Bricklane Curry House, but I suggest heading to Malai Marke around the corner.  In Curry Hill you have Chote Nawab, the vegetarian Vatan, and the southern flavors of Kokum and Anjappar.  Moving uptown, Moti Mahal Delux is part of a worldwide chain known for their butter chicken, and newcomer Awadh across in the west.  But if you are mesmerized by the Times Square lights and cant leave, Basara on 9th may do the trick

Moti Mahal Cauliflower

Moti Mahal Cauliflower

 

Eat Middle Eastern -Middle Eastern plays a big part in our Mediterranean diet.  You got a few mini empires fighting for the top rights.  Einat Admony with Balaboosta, Bar Bolonat and Taim is perhaps the biggest Israeli name at the moment.  While Taboon continues to be a strong option in midtown, especially now with its original chef coming back.  Baby sister Taboonette dishes out unique healthy[ier] street food in Union Square.  Modern Lebanese hot spot Ilili has been around for some time now.  Gazala showcases her Druze specialties in two location, Gazala’s and Gazala’s Place.  And Zizi Limona in Williamsburg is a product of three veterans who know how to treat the classics well.  Speaking of which…

Bar Bolonat - Creme Brulee

Bar Bolonat – Creme Brulee

Eat Falafel – While visitors seek that perfect New York Cheesecake, keep in mind that we New Yorkers argue more on who has the best Falafel.  Is it Taim  in the village?  Is it Azuri in midtown where watching Ezra make it is like watching Picasso paint.  Or is it the nostalgically cheap Mamoun’s.  None of the above.  Top marks go to Nish Nush which is yet to be discovered by many locals, and those who did will certainty not appreciate me touting it.  But the others, especially Taim’s marvelous platter, and Azuri’s sandwich and Shawarma will do you just fine.

Nish Nush - Falafel

Eat Ramen – We are in the midst of a ramen revolution in NYC, and I dont hear anyone complaining.  Except for Mrs Z perhaps who wants to go to Ippudo now on a regular basis including Jewish holidays.  In Hell’s Kitchen alone you can feel that craze.  Even former none ramen establishments are joining the fun.  The delicious Akamaru Modern at Ippudo is leading the pack, while the Spicy Ramen at Totto is not far behind.  Ivan Ramen in Gotham West is another option, though I would be tempted to get the Smoked Salmon Donburi, formerly known as Smoked Whitefish Donburi instead.  But to get a fuller taste of the Ivan without sounding too dirty, one must go to the downtown location.  One option that gets overlooked by many is Bassanova in Chinatown with its fiery and unusual Green Curry Ramen.  And while you ate it, give the lemon and pepper Ramen a shot as well.

Ippudo - Akamaru Modern

Ippudo – Akamaru Modern

Eat Chinese – Some folks familiar with the Chinese scene here, may be asking themselves at this point, how is this guy going to cover our entire Chinese arsenal in one paragraph.  I cant, and I wont, but I’ll offer a small glimpse just like with the rest.  Some of the best Chinese Food is offered outside of our many Chinatowns, like the Szechuan Gourmet empire (I frequent the one on 56th st).  A recent discovery for me is Kung Fu Little Steamed Buns and their addictive Shanghai style soup dumplings.  Talking of which, Prosperity Dumplings is perhaps the biggest value in town, and that’s saying a lot.  Mission Chinese Food is the hottest Chinese play in the city right now, and may even be when you read this a year from now.  Han Dynasty, a Philly chain is doing a lot of things right seems like.  And do check out at least one of our Chinatowns.  Dim Sum in Golden Unicorn, or if you feel adventurous, East Harbor Seafood Palace in Brooklyn’s Chinatown, followed by cruising along tourist free zone 8th ave.

Gourmet Szechuan 56 - Shredded beef

Gourmet Szechuan 56 – Shredded beef

Eat Mexican – Lower your eyebrows and listen up.  The notion that there’s no decent Mexican in NYC is sooooo 2013.  In the last few years a slew of exciting young chefs like Alex Stupak has given us some very cool options.  Stupak perhaps is leading the rat pack with the Empellon empire… Empellon Cocina is the flagship, Empellon Taqueria is the high end Taqueria, while the new Empellon Al Pastor is the more basic Taqueria highlighting the namesake Al Pastor.  Other options include Tehuitzingo, the fine taqueria in Hell’s Kitchen and its bigger neighbor Tulcingo Del Valle.  Visitors flock to the more polished and Toloache practically in Times Square, and while I don’t have any quarrels with it (I recommended it myself), I tend to feel more at home in the previous two.  Los Tacos #1 at the Chelsea Market is another great option if you can brave the crowds, though I would opt for something more along the lines of Otto’s Tacos which is in the process of opening a branch in Hell’s Kitchen.  Another one to consider is Mission Cantina, home to the best Burrito in NYC, not surprisingly coming from the Mission neighborhood in SF

Mission Cantina Tacos

Mission Cantina Tacos

Eat Eastern European – Perhaps this is more for the Coney Island bound tourists who should keep in mind that there’s much more to downtown Brooklyn than a Hot Dog.  The area adjacent known as Brighton Beach is loaded with all sorts of great Uzbek, Russian, Georgian and even Uzbek/Korean delights.  Consider Cafe Glechik on Coney Island Ave, sort of a Russian institution in the area.  Or perhaps Tone Cafe, aka Georgian Bread for the great Adjaruli Khatchapuri.  Uzbek/Uyghur specialty Kashkar Cafe is an absolute gem, and one of my favorite restaurants in whole of Brooklyn.  For a livelier Uzbek filled with Russians on a daily basis there’s Cafe Nargis a few blocks north on Coney Island ave.  Cant leave Manhattan but still want a small taste?  Veselka, Oda House, and Uncle Vanya in midtown should be able to take good care of you.  Unless you are a vegeterian

Kashkar Cafe - Geiro Lagman

Kashkar Cafe – Geiro Lagman

Eat Tapas – Basque, other Spanish, Mediterranean tapas galore all over.  In Chelsea alone you can Patata Brava to your heart’s delight, starting with tiny Tia Pol and ending with Toro near the Chelsea Market.  In the East Village you have the fun Cata, and lately I’ve been itching to go back to her sister AltaTertulia has its fans in the West Village, while I’ve been enjoying its sister El Colmado in Gotham West Market lately.  Many locals are in love with Casa Mono, but I need a bit more convincing.  And watch out for newly opened Espoleta, some big names behind this project

Casa Mono Razor Clams

Casa Mono Razor Clams

Eat Miscellaneous – Do you honestly need more ideas?  I didnt think so.  But all of this is just scratching the surface of what the greatest food city in the world has to offer.  In Staten Island for example, you can take advantage of the large Sri Lankan community by trying the museum-like Lakruwana, San Rasa or New Asha.  Vietnamese food, while still lagging behind other cities, is getting better.  Try Co Ba and Co Ba 53.  How about some Korean like Danji, Jungsik, HIT Korean Deli or Food Gallery 32Filipino inspired?  We got plenty of that too.. Lumpia Snack Shack, and Maharlika are just some

Overwhelmed?  Join the club.  I only live here.

Jungsik Steak

Jungsik Steak

Categories: Brooklyn, Chelsea, Chinatown, East Village, Gramercy, Flatiron, Lower East Side, Midtown East, Midtown West, New York City, SoHo, NoHo, Nolita, Staten Island, TriBeCa, Upper West Side, West Village | Tags: , , , , , | 11 Comments

Provo – Food for Thought 2015

Caicos Cafe - Grilled Calamari

Caicos Cafe – Grilled Calamari

Another fun eating trip on the island we call Providenciales.  The weather was a mixed bag of sun, clouds, wind and seaweed.  An island version of Guess is in the works, where you try to guess which hotel got the seaweed this morning.  February may not be the best month to experience Grace Bay at her best, but its the best month to escape the Gotham frozen tundra, among many other reasons.  We are back rejuvenated, even if a little bruised.  The seas were angry for much of the week, and the palapas were just standing there.  “Why the scar?  Did you belong to a gang?  Tough childhood? ”  “Nope.  Ran into a  a palapa”.

As I stated in the past I dont write negative reviews for various reasons.  One of which is the increased cost of Krav Maga trained body guards these days (my depandant duo unexpectedly quit last month).  However, since this is just a harmless not so Google friendly recap, I offer a rare glimpse of the good and the ungood…

Kalooki’s – The new kid on the Blue Hills block produced mixed results overall.  A mature, promising feel, friendly knowledgeable service in an inviting location by the water.  Lemongrass Seafood Chowda was the New England creamy kind, good but forgettable once compared to other chowders we had later on.  The cod fritters were like thin plain latkes that Jewish moms throw out because they didn’t come out as the other latkes.  Jerk Chicken and Ribs were missing that oomph that Sailing Paradise used to deliver just down the road.  Whole fried Snapper was a little over fried, but manageable with good flavor.  No comparison however to what they do with it in Bugaloos.  Not terrible by any means, but there’s plenty of room for growth.

Kalooki's Fried Fish

Caicos Cafe – More of the same from our old fave after two more meals.  CC continues to hit on all cylinders, and chef Mad Max shows he still got tricks up his sleeve.  A food recap here may result in a dangerously long and tedious paragraph, so instead I will offer you these suggestions.  Pay close attention to the right side of the menu, the left side, and the specials insert page in between.  What I’m trying to say is over the years we pretty much had every single item on the menu, and the hits keep coming.  I will try to write a more detailed post about some of our favorites soon

Caicos Cafe Tortelli

Le Bouchon – Another must for us at this island institution.  They should really name a street after them, or a village at Beaches…  “Le Bouchon du Village” or something.  Julian and papa continue to fill the chalkboard with all sorts of French inspired goodies.  The classics continue to shine, including the always delightful Escargot.  More than worthy of garlic breath Mrs Z.  We love the soups here (conch chowder and black bean soup) especially on those cold winter nights when the temps dip from 82 to 80.  The great Steak au Poivre is still the main draw, while the grouper, and lobster were expertly grilled as expected.

Le Bouchon Escargot

Lupo – This is becoming a regular lunch spot for us.  I don’t see Lupo as an Italian restaurant, but more of a fun sidewalk café with an Italian inspired menu.  The smoky lettuce continues to be a favorite, the refreshing caprese continues to refresh, but the bulky Arancini, oozing with deliciousness, stole the show early.  The basic flatbread pizza filled one void, and the Orecchiette filled another.  Desserts are always good here, especially the top notch Tiramisu

Lupo Arancini

Crackpot Kitchen – Dubbed Crackpot-hole Kitchen by me on the message boards.  On the way to this closest middle of nowhere establishment you essentially need to maneuver between a bunch of potholes, a can of coke, and three kittens.  I wasn’t sure what to expect from this place which came out of the gate rather strong.  But we liked it enough to return and recommend.  The conch fritters (more like kebabs) were different and quite good.  The lobster salad was essentially a crab salad gone wild.  The conch salad was fruitier and zestier than the norm.  The ribs were of the wet and flavorful variety, and the goat curry was that island goat curry we know and love.  The glaring big miss was the grilled lobster, a dry overcooked mess.  But we’ll be back for sure for more

Caravel – Brand spanking new, in place of Sora which closed last year.  The funky Japanese lights remain intact which gives the place a rather strange look, and the ice cream-like name doesnt help.  But the few items we tried by the former Mr Grouper’s chef were very promising.  In particular, the fish tacos; lightly fried to flaky perfection, inside toasty flower shaped tortilla shells.  Add the homemade hot sauce and you got perhaps the new fish tacos to beat.  The jerk chicken was another winner.  Its on the menu as a sandwich, but they can plate it.  Go!

Caravel Fish Tacos

Bugaloos – Another regular spot for us after a morning at Taylor Bay.  People enjoy the coconut cracked conch and the conch salad is always a winner, but we come here for the magnificent Sautéed Whole Snapper.   Gorgeously cooked with onions, bell peppers, thyme, garlic, and coconut milk producing this light sauce that compliments the fish well.  For the time being Bugaloos has replaced Las Brisas for us on the south side, but you still need to get to LB at least once to for the views.

Bugaloos - Snapper

Via Veneto – Broke my heart, Fredo style.  Not even Al Fredo could have saved these pastas.  Sadly not much worked on this particular night.  Between the bland Gnocchi with Shrimp, the Carbonara that got boring in a hurry, the stringy, chewy lobster with the linguine, and the pricey Fettuccine whose truffles lost their luster.  I was a fan after the first meal when they first opened, but I dont think we’ll be back.

Coyaba – After a long hiatus we decided it was time to revisit this old friend, and the result was a mixed bag overall.  Wine menu filled with 2010 Barolos all over $100 is the first clue about the price levels.  Lobster Bisque was still satisfying but the creamy Gnocchi got even creamier.  The Thermidor was still good, but felt heavy sooner than expected.  Same kind of heaviness was present in the Ravioli, while the lone shining star was the $60 Snapper for two.

Coyaba Snapper

Flamingo’s – Another regular lunch spot for us.  Rum punches are strong, and the Curries Groupers are even stronger.  Don’t worry if the menu doesn’t mention them… “x Curried Groupers please” one for each person.  And if another item does some magic, like the jerk chicken did on this day, consider its a major bonus.

Flamingos Grouper

Seaside Café – A lunch and a dinner is now firmly part of the rotation.  The Blackened Fish Sandwich and the Peruvian Conch Salad are still the lunch musts, while the Tuna Sashimi and the Lobster Risotto are the staples for dinner.  New discoveries were the excellent Conch Chowder, and a Japanese style Salmon that was the topic of conversation for the next few days (we really need new topics to talk about)

Seaside Salmon

Hemingways – Only half of the family made it here this time, for the great fish and chips and fish tacos fix.  Nothing changed.

Sweet T’s – Still the best deal in town.  On the way from the airport last time, on the way to the airport this time.  As you exit the Airport road, and start smelling that fried chicken, just follow the smell to the round pink building.

Sweet T'sSweet T's Chicken

Coyaba Molten Cake

Coyaba Molten Cake

Categories: Turks and Caicos | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

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