New York City

Locanda Mariella {Calestano} – The Perfect Meal

Ziggy:

Busy busy, with various projects and no time to post. Here’s one of my favorite meals from last year

Originally posted on Eating With Ziggy:

Locanda Mariella eggsWhy are we here?  How did we get here?  What exactly made Kim Kardashian famous?  When is an egg no longer an egg?  I feel like starting this one like Anthony Bourdain starts some of his shows, with deep, philosophical nonsensicalness that grabs your attention and never lets go… until commercials.  Its the perfect prelude to what’s to come, whether its “The best soup in the world” (Vietnam – last episode), “Best Duck Feet I ever had” (Beijing), or “Best Meal I ever had” (French Laundry).  Because somehow “The Perfect Meal” or “Best Egg Dish I ever had” would simply get lost in the shuffle of this blog if I dont start with a deep Kim Kardashian question.  Makes sense?  I thought so

Locanda Mariella OutsideWhat makes a perfect meal?  When you are hard-pressed to find any little detail that worked against your enjoyment of the meal.  From the food, the host, the wine, the room, the environment…

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HK Just a Bit Outside Update

Blue Ribbon Sushi Oxtail Fried RiceTime to update that good ol’ Hell’s Kitchen Survival Guide once again, the bread and butter of this blog.  Well, not from the financial standpoint as I haven’t made a dime yet (I made 8 cents so far total, so almost there).  The theme this time, purely accidental, is as Harry Doyle put it “Juuuust a bit outside” of Hell’s Kitchen, but closer to most readers staying in or near Times Square

Adding Blue Ribbon Sushi on 58th st (near Columbus Circle).  My monthly dose of their oxtail fried rice with bone marrow (top) is becoming more of a religious experience.  As of late I also bring co-workers and visitors to Kung Fu Steamed Buns Ramen for their… you guessed it.. soup dumplings (top of the menu labeled “pork buns” or something like that).  And almost just around the corner is Bibble and Sip for dessert to complete the one-two punch.

Pork Buns

Categories: Midtown West, New York City | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Lupulo – A Taste of Lisboa in… Chachkitown?

LupuloOh oh.  We may have our first “Where the hell is this place” situation on EWZ.  Is it in Chelsea?  Is it KoreaTown?  Is it the newly formed NoMad neighborhood?  Or is it the even newer “Midtown South” whatever it is.  I’m pretty sure its not Flatiron, I already established that.  Although its in Flatiron according to Yelp.  You see, up until a few months ago there was really no good reason to visit this area unless you have a cheap Chachkies fetish or in desperate need of a groin massage.  I suppose Chachkitown is another possibility if we are  inventing names as we’ve been doing for the past 20 years (“Clinton”? no thanks.  We are proud of Hell’s Kitchen thank you).  So I’m filing this under Chelsea until Chachkitown catches on.  And then when we are ready we can move on to Nocita. North of Chachkitown

George Mendes’ new gig Lupulo is the sexiest spot in NYC at the moment, which really means North America when you think about it.  It all feels very sexy, with a sexy staff, sexy bar, and those sexy light bulbs, but that vibe sort of diminishes once you get to your table.  From the semi-comfortable table vantage point, it feels like a casual, bustly Portuguese cervejaria.  Mendes who was Michelined with Aldea has something pretty cool going here

My food critique below may seem a little too critique as overall we enjoyed the buzzy atmosphere and most of the food.  Other than one outstanding dish there wasn’t anything particularly noteworthy, nor bad.  But I still recommend Lupulo for some fun Portuguese comfort food like the Chicken Piri Piri which is a Lisbon staple.

Lupulo derives from Humulus Lupulus which has almost nothing to do with hummus I’m pretty sure, but hops.  Beer is the name of the game here, though what I ordered failed to impress as the Mitten and the Saison fell rather flat.  The Saison (forgot the name of the brewer.. “Home” or something like that) came about 30 minutes after I ordered it, but there were no other hiccups I should mention

Bread:  Terrible.  I read somewhere that it comes from a Portuguese bakery in Newark.  Might as well come from the deli across the street.  Mendez should talk to chef Guerrieri of City Sandwich who also gets his bread from a Portuguese bakery in Newark

Chicken Liver Pate – On the drier side with decent flavor.  The lack of creaminess adds to the difficulty of spreading the thing on thin gap-filled crisps.

Green Peas, chorizo and egg – Nice, light and springy.  The peas were enjoyable, as was the occasional okra that was almost as rare as the chorizo.  If you put chorizo in the name, put it on the plate too

Red Snapper crudo – By far the best dish.  Just about the spiciest crudo I ever had, but the heat is more of a delayed, back end heat allowing the fish to shine without much interference.  Great dish, though at $18 its Marea price Crudo, and should really be in the small plate column, not “fish”

Octopus Rice – Did not suck.  Essentially a mini paella priced as a regular paella ($26 or $24) with maybe one octopus leg sliced inside it.  Although I was assured the octopus came from Spain and passed immigration, it didn’t have the “balls” of a Portuguese octopus we enjoy sometimes.  Recommend still

Chicken piri piri – Simple, nicely cooked, good size, and a shockingly low price tag compared to the other dishes. How can this be $14 while the rice dish $26.  I would order it again even with the same overcooked Mcdolands fries.

Chocolate Salami – Minty, rich, with ice cream. Must have.

Pasteis de Nata – Egg tarts.  Misshapen and not very traditional looking (perhaps not on purpose), a little too greasy but not too bad overall.  Borderline recommend.  You cant go to Lisbon without having Pasteis de Nata after your chicken Piri Piri

Lupulo
835 Avenue of the Americas
$$$
Recommended Dishes: Peas chorizo and egg, Red Snapper crudo, Octopus Rice, Chicken piri piri, Chocolate Salami, Pasteis de Nata

***** Terrible iPhone pictures alert ********

Lupulo Pate Lupulo Peas Lupulo Octopus Rice Lupulo Chicken Lupulo Pasteis Lupulo Chocolate salami

 

 

 

 

Categories: Chelsea, New York City | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Battle of The Bridges: Seeking Best Pizza, Fuku, Wings

204Winter is coming!  Time to file some Citibike miles under the belt.  About twice a year the Hummus Whisperer and I take a day riding between the boroughs (Brooklyn and Manhattan) losing crazy amount of calories, while gaining back three times as much from munching in various places.  We try to hit at least 5 random spots, some are planned, some not.  This time HW couldn’t make it, but we did meet up at some point.  Here’s how the ride went

In my constant pursuit of great chicken wings as of late (another middle age crisis symptom), I targeted two year old Distilled in Tribeca.  Distilled originally opened as an interesting looking destination spot from a Momofuku Noodle veteran, and settled down into more of a popular neighborhood gastropub with a talented team of mixologists (partly judging by the exceptional Bloody this morning).  But the one constant since the beginning seem to be the glorious wings.  They are double fried to crispy perfection, and coated with a thick and messy layer of Gochujang (that fermented Korean sauce you put on your Bibimbap).  They serve it with their own version of not too funky blue cheese sauce to cool things down.  Really excellent hefty, top quality wings.Distilled wings

Back on the bike, sort of full after just 5 wings (I left one for good luck), where to go next?  Cutting across east I decided to bike the selfie stick happy Brooklyn Bridge.  With all the crowds and craziness, I still rather bike iconic Brooklyn Bridge than any other bridge.  Then down to Sands street, Flushing, and Kent before crossing the Jewish side of Williamsburg and parking by old favorite Zizi Limona.  The one big surprise here is the large Puerto Rican community in this part of the woods.  The big parade was in Manhattan this day, but I felt the celebration here in Brooklyn.  With Citibike, I feel like I’m rediscovering my own city

Best PizzaMy next destination is a slice of Pizza.  Yes, I biked all the way here from Tribeca for a slice.  But lets go back for a sec.  About a year ago, when I had one of those cherished free days, I decided to drive around Brooklyn for various iconic slices I haven’t had in a while and more.  I had the great L&B Spumoni, the legendary Di Fara (after a 45 minute wait), and then drove to Williamsburg for Best Pizza which proved to be Best of the bunch especially while factoring in some of the pain involved getting some of the others.  The funny part is that Roman based food writer Katie Parla did something similar a month later, and also proclaimed Best Pizza as the winner.  Now, back for yet another NY style slice (need to save room for the next most highly anticipated stop) from the wood burning oven, with that signature basil leaf in the middle for added aroma.  Great slice again with an unusually well balanced cheese/sauce proportions.  Owner Frank has an extensive pizza resume, along with a stint at the Culinary Institute of America.  The paper plate art alone including the “Jews love Best Pizza” plate is worthy of a schlep.Best Pizza art

photo (18)Back on the bike, and back to the “city” via the much quieter Williamsburg Bridge.  The emptiness means more freedom to move around so you can fly like a bold eagle!  Until you realize you are on a Citibike, and you are dangerously close to being passed by an 80 year old woman (that actually happens often to me in Italy).  Its hard to look cool on those little blue bikes, especially in Central Park.  The only chance you have is to ride in the rain (not drizzle, rain), or with just one hand.  Until you face another blue frontal balding biker riding with one hand and you realize it doesn’t look as cool as you thought.

Anyway, sometimes the most anticipated items prove less than thrilling at the end (see Best vs Di Fara).  Such is the case with Fuku, the hottest sandwich in town at the moment from David Chang’s Momofuku empire (As some of you know, I’m a fan).  Perhaps I got Fukued.  My 30 minute wait was about half outside, half in after paying for it.  “Credit Only for now” is something I haven’t heard anywhere yet I don’t think.  After paying, you get a number with a stick, and you can stand with your number just about anywhere looking like a dork, for the order girl to eventually find you.  Sort of like one of those bachelorette games…”bachelor #23 if you were a kitchen appliance, what appliance would you be”… Eventually the “spicy fried chicken” arrives.  Its a flat almost schnitzel like, thigh meat sandwiched by a tiny potato roll that is meant to serve as a handle.  Not the sexiest looking thing.  There are also sliced pickles in there somewhere that serve almost no purpose.  The first few bites were interesting, featuring decent flavor, then the struggle took over.  Stringy, uneven texture throughout, with crust and meat not so happily married.  Not very spicy for a sandwich called Spicy Chicken. It wasn’t a total mess, but far from that hot, much anticipated item I was so looking forward to.  Try for yourself!Fuku

photo (99)A Battle of the Bridges is incomplete without my favorite thirst quencher which happens to be nearby, the Grasshopper from Liquiteria.  Its not cheap at around $9, but so refreshing on a hot day.  I proceeded then west, cruising 13th st, passing Da Andrea, All’Onda and eventually Santina on the way to meet Hummus Whisperer and baby Hummus Whisperer at the new Whitney Museum by the Highline.  There I rediscovered the joys of quirky American art, and the joys of watching quirky American art while holding hands of a baby surrounded by the striking Manhattan upper class.  Its a a scientific theory that’s proven time and time again; Babies, preferably cute ones, are babe magnets!  The museum is actually very cool.  You can couple it with the Highline, and dinner/lunch at Untitled (thats the name) inside the museum, or Santina a few steps away.photo (16)

I said goodbye to HW and baby for hire and headed uptown via Hudson River Park, perhaps our most important and one of the most scenic bike paths.  Between the rotating art in the 50’s and 60’s, various parks (another good place to bring your neighbor’s babies!), piers, people watching, and stops along the the way like Chelsea Market, Gotham West, I can easily spend a whole day here.

My last stop was at one of the newest Hell’s Kitchen bakeries, Bibble & Sip.  Well technically just outside Hell’s Kitchen but got all the making of another unique Hell’s Kitchen bakery.  Nice place to sit, relax and BS all you want!  The Earl Grey Banana Bread is quickly gaining neighborhood fame.  Add the Matcha Cream puffs, various scones, the occasional English Muffins sliders and all sorts of rotating goodies.  I visited it three times before, and on this day the Earl Grey Panna Cotta proved to be the perfect finisher to a fun day.

bibble photo (13) photo (14) photo (15)

 

 

 

 

Categories: Brooklyn, East Village, Midtown West, New York City, TriBeCa | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Note From the Food Network

feature-choppedI figured I’ll help out one of my favorite food shows looking for young talent…

Food Network is now casting the most talented kid chefs around the country!
Does your kid/teen cook like a professional chef?
We are in search of young culinary masterminds between the ages of 9 and 17 who have what it takes to compete on Chopped!
If you’re a culinary prodigy that can take the HEAT in the kitchen and the competition, we want to hear from you!

Apply now at http://www.JSCasting.com

Categories: New York City | Leave a comment

Aquavit – How to Train Your Pastry Chef

Aquavit Bird's NestTo become the second female in the country to get a second Michelin Star, after Dominique Crenn of SF (Suzette Gresham, also from SF joined the list since).  Quite the feat for Stockholm native Emma Bengtsson.  In a city where Michelin stars are randomly distributed like candy (my mom has one.  Found it on Craigslist), the action, the crème de la crème usually starts with the ultra coveted #2.  Although, more often than not, when the time comes you are more concerned about losing a star, as opposed to hoping to gain one.  Aquavit, a name that’s been hanging around like that balloon your kid brings home, hovering all over the house for days until it loses its luster and scares you in the bathroom in the middle of the night with its new wrinkled dog look which normally means its time to get rid of it.  Where was I?  oh yes..  Aquavit is a rejuvenated gem, rejoining the city elite.

Pete Wells who awarded Aquavit with a three star review last month, mentioned an overall stiffness, with servers suffering from “Michelinitis”.  In comparison to that, our dinner was a Swedish House Mafia post concert party.  The staff was extremely professional, but friendly, loose and engaging.  We felt comfortable, and you get a sense that the patrons around you are as well.  Maybe its Wells, whose bust is Googleable, making everyone nervous.  Though I do agree with him about the chairs, which weren’t the most comfortableAquavit

There are 3 different menus as you can see on their site.  While all offer a nice glimpse of Emma’s greatness, to take full advantage one should look left, at the Chef’s Tasting.  Eight dishes are listed, but with all sorts of fun surprises in between, its more like 15.  I cant recall all the details (the meal is now a week old) but I do recall much.  The other night I had trouble sleeping because both of us couldnt remember Daniel Craig’s name with no electronic devices next to us.  She wanted me to go downstairs and look it up (which would also mean bringing yogurt), but I refused.  At 1 am I finally figured the first name is Craig, at 3 I realized its the last name, and in the morning I saw the hard truth: Turns out Daniel Craig’s name is Daniel Craig, and we are pathetic.  But thats for another post.  Here’s the long rundown of the meal at Aquavit.

The bread – A great meal must start, and end (and some in the middle) with great bread, and this one did not disappoint.  In fact Emma herself was also in charge of bread service before the big promotion.  The Danish rye and the brown butter in particular was simply… wait for it… Divine!

Aquavit - Gravalax and AsparagusGravlax Asparagus – Starting with a bang.  Like a full plump egg ravioli, with layers of salmon coating more salmon bits, with essentially an asparagus ménage à trois.  Asparagus panna cotta, apsaragus tips (let me know when I start sounding like Bubba gump), asparagus ribbons, and asparagus espuma.  Ok, so there was no espuma.  But there was something exceptionally delicious in this dish that I havent found in any gravlax/lux before.

King Crab and Rhubarb –  With nutmeg butter, you can see the ingredients clearly below.  The least favorite dish came in early.  Not much wrong with it, but lacking the brilliance of the others.  You are supposed to eat all three together, and you quickly realize that you include too much of the tarty rhubarb.   And on your second bite you realize that you have too much butter.  By the time you find the right balance you are left with a quarter of the king crabAquavit King Crab

Calf’s Liver and Cucumber – I dont know what Pete Wells was eating, or perhaps they adjusted this dish after the review but I thought this was one of the strongest dishes.  A hockey puck of creamy calf’s liver wrapped inside this cucumber gelatin, with a surprise inside in the form of braised oxtail, and sliced cucumbers adding a nice crunch.  Spectacular looking, and tasting dish

Beef Tongue and Nasturtium – While I truly enjoyed this one, the name of the dish should really be”Potatoes”.  Marbles potatoes baked in ash, some of the smokiest, tastiest potatoes I ever had.  Yes there were tender strips of beef tongue and Noma-esque Nasturtium (flowers and sugar are two common Aquavit elements) among other things, but it was the potatoes that took center stage.Aquavit Calf's liver

Mackerel and Pistachio – Perfection!  Mackerel’s strong personality was well contained, and the result was quite flavorful.  Simply put, perfectly cooked.  Candied pistachios, more flowers, foam contributed to the fun.  This is the dish that showcases Emma’s style the most

Lamb and Spring Onion.  Essentially this one is lamb and spring onions!  Onions posing in every way shape or form, Kardashian/Jenner style.  Lamb, slowly cooked for three days had a nice crispy top layer and a fatty middle layer.  Nice flavor overall, but a bit more fat than we like

Aquavit HavgusHavgus and Walnut – One of the havgus cheese strips was still alive when it showed up, and eventually unrolled itself.  There were more candied nuts, along with thinly sliced fresh peaches and birch syrup, though the Havgus midway proved a bit heavy and tiresome.  And tiresome is the last feeling you want to have before the next dish

Arctic Bird’s Nest (top) – This is the star, the main event. the Thrilla in Manila of the tasting menu.  You anticipate it, you know its coming, and at some point you think maybe its not a good idea to have that third Danish rye with brown butter, because we are not here for Danish rye and brown butter.  I cant think of another such place in NYC whose menu’s star is a dessert.  I’m sure it exist, but I cant think of any.  The Bird’s Nest was as selfie worthy and spectacular as we imagined.  There was a “cookie” nest, Goat cheese parfait eggs, snow dusting of frozen yogurt, blueberry and raspberries sorbet, a hint of gold and more than a hint of brilliance.  Well done!

Aquavit
Park Avenue Tower, 65 E 55th St
$$$$
Recommeded Dishes: Get the Chef’s tasting menu

Aquavit sorbetAquavit Lamb and Onion Aquavit  Mackarel Aquavit Oyster 010

 

Categories: Midtown East, New York City | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Santina – Lucca via Miami Beach

Santina CecinaA lot of firsts for me at this new Carbone/Torrisi team hot spot.  The first time I took a picture of my napkin.  The first time I had Cecina in NYC.  And the first time I caused an incident of mammoth proportions.  Mammoth!  But lets start with the first first.

The Napkin – I will just let the pictures do the talking.  You may see a cinamon bun, though I immediately see the rolling Bowery steak from Bowery Meat Company in that napkin.  Maybe I should see a mental health professional about that.  Its not just the napkin.  I didnt take a picture of the outside umbrellas and server attire but I urge you to google this place.  On both visits I felt like I was missing a white sweater around my neck and a tennis racket.  Miami Beach Chic under the the High Line.

Santina

The Cecina (pictured above) is like a crepe, or pancake, made from chickpea flour.  Its a specialty of the Ligurian Sea coast spanning from Nice to Pisa.  In Lucca, we saw them bake the Cecina in a wood burning pizza oven.  Its thicker and can be eaten alone with just some seasoning.  Here the Cecina is more like a thin spongy crepe, like the Ethiopian Injera.  Not intended to be eaten alone I dont think.  So when I see other bloggers say to avoid this because its flavorless, I say the point is being missed here.  Combine it with any of the 5 “toppings” (tuna tartar, mushroom, shrimp, lamb tartar, avocado) for a very playful and tasty snack.  So far I had the lamb and tuna.  You can make four little wraps using the four Cecina slices (pronounced Chechina), or you can just tear some to scoop the toppings like in a druze village.  There’s no right or wrong way of eating it, and I highly recommend it and the rest of the menu

One of my biggest fears while dining out happened during the Cecina course.  And I don’t have many fears to be honest.  The only fears that come to mind are death, falling while putting pants on, and dying after falling while putting jeans on.  No one in the history of the world ever died while putting their pants on, and I don’t want to be the first.  When I’m spending my hard earned money while dining out, my biggest pet peeve is getting the dishes too quickly, or at the same time.  It happens far too often lately, and its getting a little annoying.  Here I got the Shrimp Zingara middle course not even five minutes after the Cecina.  I wasn’t even halfway done with both the cecina, and fantasizing about being back at the beach in Villefranche-sur-Mer.  The servant quickly realized the situation and asked me if I want him to take it back to keep it warm in the kitchen, which I never know what to say to that for so many reasons.  “Hmmm, I suppose.  Will it still be good?”.Santina Zingara

Shortly thereafter, after I finished the Cecina, another server came over to take the plates away including the bottle of the green salsa verde that came as part of the Cecina arsenal.  I then watched in horror as the green bottle, almost in slaw mo, lean over, coming down crashing.  A team of scientists could not ungreen the floor after that.  I felt particularly bad about this incident because moments earlier I made a mental note to put the bottle back in the allocated spot after using it a few times, and I never did.  The waiter may have assumed the bottle is secured in its spot after picking up the tray, and oops.  I apologized to him three times about this faux pas, but the staff can not assume the patrons are in the habit of putting everything in its place.

The moment was gone.  I’m suddenly on the wait staff shit list, and I’m about to get a dry shrimp Zingara that was prepared 20 minutes ago and probably missing its Zingara by now.  But to my surprise the shrimp dish arrives good as new, as if it was just prepared.  The shrimp didnt toughen and were soft as a baby bottom.  The rice was toasty, nicely al dented and had plenty of zing to it.  The only issue was too much capers, as by the end I found myself separating them away from the action.  Maybe they indeed made two Zingaras because I mistakenly was charged for two (or was it a shit list confirmation)

Putting service and personal issues aside, everything else I had was original and well prepared.  On a previous visit with a friend we shared a Cecina, and an ingenious Guanciale e pepe.   The name resembles the familiar Roman Cacio e Pepe, but the ingredients bring it closer to the rice version of Gricia, a lesser known Roman pasta.  Guanciales, black pepper and grated Pecorino play together ever so nicely.  I also really liked the simple, herby whole grilled porgy with sliced hearts of palm so sweet they taste like pear.

Looking forward to taste the rest of Santina.  If I’m welcomed.

Santina
820 Washington St (under the begining of the High Line, south end)
$$$

Santina Guanciale e pepe Santina Porgy

 

 

 

 

Categories: New York City, West Village | Tags: , , , , , | 5 Comments

The Book of Danji

Danji TofuA rare phenomenon in my personal dining experience.  Something I very rarely see and actively try to avoid was all around us this time.  The walking dead has nothing on these guys.  The lone approach of avoiding direct eye contact didnt work in this particular case because they were everywhere you turned.  I’m talking about.. you probably guessed it by now..{gulp}… theater goers!  I know, scary stuff.  We saw them on the way to Danji, inside Danji, and even by the theaters!  We saw them walking in and out in a bizarre orderly fashion (a line?) out of the mothership which they call, Ellen Stardust, or something like that.

But it turned out not too painful at the end.  In fact, while I was in the process of suggesting the tofu to the couple next to us in German (“Der tofu ist ausgezeichnet, ich KILLA”), I realized something.  Theater goers are just misunderstood.  They are simply regular working folk, just like you and I.  And thanks to blog posts such as this one, they are able to eat well after watching puppets having sex on a stage, or Book of Mormon.  It also hit me that after many lunches this is my first dinner at Danji and I was simply not emotionally prepared for this change of scenery.

The book on Danji is this.  A playful menu that includes more than one signature dish in a cozy setting that feels nothing like your average pre-theater dining spot.  The menus are inside the drawers in front of you, and no matter how many times I go there, I always, without fail, hand the menus to the waitress only to be reminded again that I can just put them back in the drawer.  One of these days.  Here’s what to get at Danji

Lunch:

Tofu – I’ve already written about this one extensively.  Quite possibly my favorite veggie dish in NYC.  Normally what I do is let someone else have the extra chicken wing and pretend to be polite, in order to get the extra tofu.  I throw them a bone (literally) and they fall for it every time.  Not Mrs Ziggy however, though she did split the last one.  This is pure awesomeness.

Bulgogi Beef Sliders – Another one of the signatures.  You get two sliders but you can add more if needed.  Small, and packed with sweet deliciousness.  I’ve written about them before as well.

KFC Wings –  I can only think of a few wings in town that I prefer.  Ma Peche’s jerks , maybe Pok Pok.  Plenty of joyous heat and complexity in this one.  The key is not to wash your hands for a few days after eating them, or until your next convention.  Whichever comes sooner!

Bibim-bap – This is  a traditional rice dish with marinated veggies, egg, spicy gochujang sauce and the item you choose (beef, pork, veg, etc).  I’m partial to the Kimchi Pork, but its all good.

Danji tofuDanji SlidersDanji - WingsDanji Bibim - Bop

Dinner:  Any of the above except Bibim-bap which is not available, plus…

Garlic honey wings w. sesame seeds – My guests this evening actually preferred this over the spicy wings

Spicy Yellowtail Sashimi –  This was a surprise in a way since I was expecting more of a basic Yellowtail Sashimi, but instead they were wrapped around some veggies sitting on top a lovely chojang sauce.  Good flavors throughout.

Soy-Poached Black Cod W. Spicy Daikon – Last week we were invited to Fushimi one of those Nobu wannabes in Staten Island.  Inexplicably Fushimi removed their Black Cod from the menu (we were there before) to Mrs Ziggy’s chagrin.  So ordering this classic at Danji was a no brainer, and it did not disappoint.  Sweet, perfectly cooked cod, along with a hefty piece of daikon that was braised until it had the texture of a potato.

Kimchi Bacon Spam Wet Fried Rice – A grower.  One of those dishes that kept growing on me to the point of not able to stop eating.  There’s ham, bacon, pork belly, egg on top, more of that spicy korean sauce, and plenty of toasty socarrat for the occasional crunch.  Excellent stuff!

Spicy Octopus w. thick noodles – I’m a bit more on the fence on this one.  I enjoyed it, but I couldnt help but wonder if the dish would be better served with a milder sauce perhaps to bring out the flavors of the octopus a bit more.  Still, I pretty much demolished this thing and recommend it

No dessert.  Just walk along 9th and go to something like Annabel, or if you have the time, Gotham West Market for Ample Hills Salty Crack Caramel.

Danji
346 W 52nd St
$$$

Danji Sashimi Danji Cod Danji Fried Rice Danji Octopus Danji

Categories: Midtown West, New York City | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Capizzi – Fughetaboutit!

CapizziI figured the best way to express myself this time around would be by sharing the latest clinical results from my team of doctors.  The monthly report is normally 38-50 pages long but here I will just share the “thoughts” pie chart on page 17.  The chart varies from month to month but the big players are more or less constant.  And since my Islanders were ousted last night, I expect Hockey to be replaced by sex, pasta or a combination of sorts very soon.  But as you can see, I do think about pizza often.  I recently had to impose a limit on my pizza intakes and now I’m down to just twice a month.  So when I have a bad one on occasion, I do get cranky a little.  I need to make it count.

meta-chartAnd so to make it count I either go to Don Antonio or Capizzi these days.  Sure a slice or three from Sacco, or Merilu, or a combination of the two (my current preferred method) does the trick.  While Don Antonio is one of the best in the Neapolitan business.  But there’s something magical going on at Capizzi, which is just about my favorite pizza in NYC at the moment.

The pizza at Capizzi is as solid as it gets.  It’s the Pat of the NY Pizza scene.  Sometimes it looks more Neapolitan, sometimes more NYC like.  Its somewhere in between really, and always delicious.  I would even say it gets better with age.  The ingredients are fresh, some ingredients like the sausages are made in house.  The dough is first rate, and the pie comes out of that wood burning oven (built by Joe the owner) with a thin crisp bottom, and the perfect char.  The ingredients on top speak for themselves.  In Italian!

Taste/Pain Ratio  is something I talk about sometimes.  The formula that measures the level of taste to the level of enjoyment or suffering one must endure for it.  Like women’s shoes.  Your sexy new heels will not look very sexy if you are in pain and cant walk straight.  You may think you are sexy, but you are not.  Grimaldi’s may dish out a decent pie, but it demands quite an effort to get there and stand on line, resulting in a low Taste/Pain ratio.  Tourists do the pilgrimage to the legendary Di Fara in Brooklyn, spending half a day door-to-bite, convincing themselves that its worth it, while not realizing that there’s around 20 places that would suit them just fine in Manhattan.

Capizzi may very well have the highest Taste/Pain Ratio in NYC.  There’s never any sort of wait.  Yo get a comfortable table and personal service each and every time (both aspects may be lacking sometimes in Don Antonio and the busier Tavola across the street.  Busier than Capizzi that is).  Capizzi is old school Brooklyn without the rich history of a Lombardi’s, and the sexiness of a Don antonio, hence not very touristy.  Joe Calcagno’s has been making those pies since he was a child in Brooklyn, helping papa.  Capizzi (a small town in Sicily where grandma came from) is one of several current Joe holdings including a popular restaurant/pizzeria in Staten Island.  Its where I go for my pizza fix

Capizzi
547 9th Ave

Capizzi Out Capizzi in

 

Categories: Midtown West, New York City | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why I Like to Take Groups to Da Andrea

Da Andrea TigelleWhat is your favorite Italian?  The most confusing, challenging subject since sex education in High School.  Not only I don’t really know, but I also don’t have a clue what is your definition of “Italian”.  Italian can mean 21 different things, for the 21 very different regions including the Italian region of Staten Island.  It could also be a steakhouse (Costata), a pizza joint (Marta, Don Antonio), or a fusiony place like Piora.  Many of the so called “Italian” dont really have much in common.  In fact whenever we talk to Italian chefs in Italy about what they do and where they eat in NYC, they often mention Italian restaurants.  Because to a chef from Piedmont, a Roman restaurant may be just as foreign as Korean.  Ok, maybe not.  But to them there’s no such thing as Italian restaurants.  They are just restaurants.

But if you would ask me which of our so called Italian restaurants I frequent the most, the answer is fairly simple. For lunch, Mercato.  For dinner, Da Andrea.  Ok, maybe not as simple as I thought, as you can see.  Da Andrea is not what I would call a foodie destination.  Its a fun, fairly popular family operated neighborhood joint specializing primarily in Emilia Romagna cooking (owners from Bologna).  We’ve been frequenting Da Andrea since they were located on Hudson street deeper in the Village.  Back then they were half their current size, with lines around the block sometimes.  They didnt take reservations then, and they dont do now, unless you are 4 or more.  When I have to pick a place for groups between 4 and 12, Da Andrea is the first place that pops to mind.  Why?Da Andrea Calamari

1)  As busy as they are on a nightly basis, it’s easy to reserve large tables with a phone call.  Otherwise, trying to reserve large tables in Manhattan is like having a three day root canal

2)  It’s cheap.  At least for NYC standards.

3)  The food is generally good and family/group friendly.  My idea of family style dining is not Carmines where the dishes are super-sized low quality.  Regular size dishes can be just as family style.  You just need to know what to order and how many of them.  At Da Andrea, we must get the Tigelle, Modenese style baked to order flat buns that come with Prosciutto di Parma.  The simple, always fresh grilled calamari here is fantastic.  The tower of veggies is normally a big hit.  And as far as pastas go, the Pappardelle with sausage ragu and truffle oil has to be one of the most popular pasta dishes in town.  Its my guilty red sauce pleasure.  Although, admittedly I didnt detect much truffle flavor or scent last time.

4)  The house wine is good (and cheap)

5)  You can linger.  Chances are your large table isnt booked for another party, so you can take your time.  In fact last time, our waitress advised us to order our mains later on, in order to have ample time between courses.  You can take your time here

6)  100% success rate.  If it aint broke, why fix it.  Generally, everyone enjoys this place (you can tell), and at the end of the day that is really what counts

Da Andrea SpaghettiDa Andrea CapreseDa Andrea Veggie tower Da Andrea Pappardelle Da Andrea Cavatelli

Courtesy of https://whyhaventwebeenherebefore.wordpress.com/

Categories: New York City, West Village | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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