Midtown West

HK Guide Update

Annabel PizzaA Frenchman walks into a bar with a chicken on his head. ‘What the hell is that?’ asks the barman. The chicken replies, ‘I don’t know – it started as a wart on my ass and grew.’

A little French chicken humor for ya to set the mood.  The list is getting bigger, my sense of humor is getting smaller, here’s what I’m adding…

Pizza and Beer – Annabel.  Just tried it a few hours ago (the things I do for you people.  And for what?).  Just opened last week.  Kinda striking, woodsy space.  Great Neapolitan like wood oven pizza with nifty toppings like ricotta, duck prosciutto, blueberry chutney, an even better looking craft beer menu on tap, fresh pasta and more.  Cant wait to explore the rest of this menu.  Behind the name is another cow story

Vietnamese – Co Ba 53.  About time we get some decent Vietnamese here.  Nice Pho (soups) and Bahn Mi and very affordable combinations for lunch. Try the Banh mi thit -assorted cold cuts, grilled honey plum glazed pork, house made pickles, cilantro, jalapenos, and mayo.  For something a bit more exotic but really exceptional try the Bun Co Ba – Crispy spring rolls with grilled tiger shrimp, and honey plum glazed pork over rice vermicelli with fresh herbs, served with a chili lime dressing and peanuts.

Sushi – Ageha Sushi - So I went on a Sushi Sabbatical of sorts in the neighborhood and discovered.. new Italian bars that I’m very excited about!  And yes, decent sushi can be found here indeed.  At Ageha I felt most comfortable alone, and with a group.  Sashimi is nice and fresh, and the Chirashi although not too traditional, was plentiful and very satisfying.  For something slightly higher end looking but just as affordable consider Shimizu which also has excellent lunch deals.

Rotisserie Chicken – Poulette.  Little French Chickens invading Hell’s Kitchen.  Young French dude, quits his job in finance to follow his dream.. manufacture French style Rotisserie Chicken.  Only a few weeks old.  I tried the half with 2 sides which turned out to be a bit of a struggle to finish for a big eater like me, so a quarter chicken next time.  This thing was love at first bite — Moist, delicious, coated with plenty of herbs which was the difference.  Some of the best Rotisserie I’ve had.  This is more of a fast food place.  If you require more of a restaurant for your chicken needs, try Inti on 10th for Peruvian style Rotisserie chicken, and Ceviche.

Stay hungry my friends!

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Best Dishes in Hell’s Kitchen – Round 3

Pad Ped Moo Krob at Larb UbolPad Ped Moo Krob at Larb Ubol (above) – Everything I love about Thai food is bundled oh so nicely in this dish.  Crunchy, well cooked fatty pork, sweet pleasant chili heat, green peppercorn galore, that wonderful curry paste, and plenty of veggie action including Thai eggplant which I cant get enough.  Perfection on a plate, but not for the heat sensitive.  Dont confuse this unassuming Thai on 9th/37th with the rest of the mostly mainstream Thai on 9th and 10th.  This is Isan (North) cooking at its finest.  However, if you still hesitant to trek to Hell’s Kitchen out of fear of being kidnapped by the Westies,  Zabb Elee in East Village may do the trick

Rotisserie Chicken at Poulette - Little French Chickens invading Hell’s Kitchen.  Young French dude, quits his job in finance to follow his dream.. manufacture French style Rotisserie Chicken.  Only a few weeks old, and not in the Guide quite yet, but will be be very soon.  I tried the half with 2 sides which turned out to be a bit of a struggle to finish for a big eater like me, so a quarter chicken next time.  This thing was love at first bite — Moist, delicious, coated with plenty of herbs which was the difference.  Some of the best Rotisserie I’ve had.  This is more of a fast food place.  If you require more of a restaurant for your chicken needs, try Inti on 10th for Peruvian style Rotisserie chicken, and Ceviche.  Mrs Z wont allow me to quit my job and do what I do best… hard boiled eggs Rotisserie Chicken at Poulette Al Pastor Tacos at Tehuitzingo – Midlife crisis is pushing me into a taco craze as of late.  When I don’t eat out with my lunch buddies, I construct a little taco tasting in a neighborhood abundant with Taquerias and Bodegas.  Tehuitzingo, a bodega turned Taqueria is always the last stop, and their porky goodness Al Pastor is second to none.  When they closed, food tour leaders went on a collective hunger strike (only two meals a day), but not only they reopened, they multiplied (second branch on 9th/41st). tehuitzingo al pastor Ceviche Mixto at Inti – Talking of Inti, why not feature one of their specialties.  The Peruvians, I bet you didn’t know, invented quite a lot of things that keeps society ticking.  Transportation systems, roped bridges, Pisco Sour, and yes they invented the ceviche.  At Inti you get fresh chunks of fish, shrimp, octopus and calamari marinated in lime juice and mixed with red onions, cilantro and rocoto hot pepper, and served with sweet potatoes and baby corn.  Good luck finding this in a Pio Pio near you. Inti Ceviche Ice Cream & Popsicles at the Brooklyn Kitchen – “Winter Is Coming” says Game of Thrones.  Get the summer goodies while you can.  Enter Gotham West Market, go straight, look down, deliciousness awaits.  Amazing artisenal ice cream sandwiches, and popsicles from popular area vendors like La Newyorkina.  No mass production stuff here.   Small batches and high quality ingredients is key.  You will not taste anything better than this

Ice Cream Sandwich at Brooklyn Kitchen La Newyorkina Popsicle

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So I Shaved and Went to Marea

Marea OctopusI Ziggy the II, bite my nails!  I dont do it because I’m often nervous, gamble, or watch “The Bachelor” a lot.  Its just a habit I developed as a child that never really went away.  And after reading a report on Twitter by a reliable source that, get this, people who bite their nails tend to have a stronger immune system & rarely get sick, I’m not stopping any time soon.  I may even offer to bite other people’s nails if they suffer from this fetish.  I do very rarely get sick.  I also have this thing where I need to lick my fingers before using a napkin, no matter who I’m eating with, and where I am.  Using napkins on saucy fingers just feels very wrong.  I may have been also a tiny little bit stinky before this particular meal, after a 4 hour walking tour of Hell’s Kitchen I was conducting right before the meal.  Not to mention the bike run to Tribeca for Nish Nush Falafel for lunch.

MareaSo here I was…slightly stinky, tehina smelling, unmanicured fingers, on our anniversary dinner at the oil tycoon section of 2 Michelin Star Marea.  Being surrounded by big glamour, and wealth I felt as comfortable as watching a Cialis commercial with the kids.  But, after 2 drinks it didn’t take long until we settled down and enjoyed another fine meal at one of New York’s finest.  By the way, I did shave for this one.  I’m not an animal!

 

1st Course:

Crudo trio –  Pretty forgettable overall.  Exhibit A:  I don’t remember much of it.  Tried the razor clams, langoustine, and snapper.  The snapper (Dentice) had the most flavor, and the Razor Clams not nearly as good as little sister Costata.Marea Crudo

2nd Course:

Astice –  I was totally wowed by this a few years ago, but not this time.  This dish if you recall won a spot at the ultra coveted EatingWithZiggy Best dishes of 2012.  This time I felt the supporting cast.. the basil seeds and eggplant forgot their lines and stumbled on their faces.  All I was tasting was the lobster and your average burrata.  Nevertheless it was still far from terrible, and a dish I recommend targeting for first timers.  After the initial impression I was just expecting way too much

Octopus – (above) Outstanding!  Some of the most tender, flavorful octopus I’ve ever had.  Loved the accompanying smoky potatoes and the salad (onions, radish, chilies).  I twitted this dish after the meal and a response from Marea followed saying this was on the menu from day oneMarea Astice

3rd Course – Both half portions:

Agnolotti – (half portion) Stuffed with milk braised veal these pillowy ravioli simply exploded with flavor as properly made Agnolotti should.  Enjoyed this one a lot even though I was disappointing by the little tiny cube thingies they call “Porcini”.  We are from the amazing Porcini we had in Siena

Strozzapreti with Crab and uni – (half portion) One of their classics which they mistakenly excluded from the online menu at the time of this dinner.  So if you don’t see it on the online menu, don’t believe it.  Perfectly al dented, chewy “Priest Stranglers” with the Uni dominating in a very good way.  The sauce seems a little different this time around than two years ago but still quite lovelyMarea Agnolotti Marea Strozzapreti

4th Course

Fusilli (full portion) – Of course I had to have this again.  This is one of the most celebrated pasta dishes in town and I may have enjoyed it even more now.  Generous amount of octopus, perfectly cooked Fusilli but the red sauce with the bone marrow is as addictive as red sauce can be.  A joy with every scoop

Halibut – I wasnt too sure about this one.  I mean its a freakin halibut (firm, mild, dries quickly), and very often for us after all those rich primis, fish just doesnt deliver much.  This one did!  Halibut cooked nicely, not too dry, but what made the dish was the Fregola Sarda, little bubbly Israeli couscous-like pasta.  With a little pleasant heat the pasta worked very well with the mild fish.Marea Fusilli Marea Halibut

5th Course

Aria Mascarpone – very good sponge cake with pistachio cream and an excellent robiolina (cheese) gelato.  After two meals and having some of the their most popular items like the Bombolonis I still dont have a solid dessert recommendation.  But, cant recommend Marea highly enough.  Just make sure to shower

Marea
240 Central Park S
$$$$
Recommended Dishes: Astice, Octopus, Agnolotti, Strozzapreti, Fusilli, HalibutMarea Dessert Marea Check

 

 

 

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Danji – One of a Kind

Danji Bibim - BopI will make this one nice and quick, just like a lovely lunch at Danji in Hell’s Kitchen.  Photos this time courtesy of the Iphone 5 with semi sweaty palms.  Spring was cancelled this year in case you haven’t noticed, so we went from winter straight to sweaty palms

Danji, the only restaurant in the world that owns both a Michelin Star and a spot in Ziggy’s Hell’s Kitchen Survival Guide.  No one else can claim this dubious distinction.  Hakkasan, the only other Michelin Star establishment in Hells Kitchen, tried but failed.  Maybe next year Hakkasanians.  Don’t know how Daniel and Masa alumni Hooni Kim feels about this accomplishment, but my gut tells me he probably doesnt even know.  I mean seriously, how many people you know even heard of Michelin Stars!  Certainly none of my Korean American friends.

Anyway, Danji is the type of place you take your sexy new coworker for lunch to introduce her to the neighborhood.  I cant think of a better culinary introduction to Hell’s Kitchen, even though Danji is not located on the prettiest block (ugly industrial looking office buildings + an army of people waiting for a table at Totto staring at their phones).  Reservations arent accepted for parties less than 6, but I never had any trouble getting a table for 2 and something 4 for lunch.  The menu, which you will find in a drawer under your table is full of a Korean inspired fancy bar food.  Mostly small plates.

After several lunches with family, friends, loved ones, here are 4 dishes that will make your taste buds go Gangnam style

Tofu W. Ginger Scallion Dressing soy vinaigrette – Creamy interior, crunchy exterior, delicious all around.  One of the best tofu dishes I ever had.  EWZ historians claim that this is the only recommended tofu dish on EWZ

Danji tofu

Spicy ‘K.F.C.’ Korean Fire Chicken Wings honey, garlic, four chilies – These are simply some of the tastiest wings you will ever have in NYC.  Plenty of heat, plenty of joy, and plenty of finger licking followed by Gynecologists convention like finger smelling session

Danji - Wings

Bulgogi Beef Sliders spicy pickled cucumber and scallion salsa – One of Danji’s specialties.  Small and explosive

photo (12)

Kimchi Pork Bibim-Bop satur farm vegetables, jidori egg, and aged kimchi w. pork – My latest discovery (top picture, below mixed).  Mix in all the goodies with the sauce  and you got a beautiful medley of textures and flavors.  Note, my vegan friend, lets call her Phoebe (because thats her name) really liked the veg version.  Bring your vegan friends here.

Danji - BibimBop Danji

 

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Scenes From the Ninth Avenue International Food Festival

Warning:  Some of these images may be disturbing.  They may include large crowds, pictures of alcoholic beverages, tender grilled octopuses (yes, octopuses is not only acceptable but rolls off the tongue better.. try saying it a few times.. Octopuses) and ways in which we can cheat the system and walk around holding an alcoholic beverage on the streets of NY.  They may also include scenes way too familiar to the average NY food festival goer including pictures of Shish Kebab, corn, and strange looking dudes sporting cats and giant beer bottles on their heads.

I’m also taking this opportunity to award the first ever ZAG award to the vendor showing excellence via most palatable eats.  The ZAG (Ziggy Against Gyros) goes to Empanada Mama and their terrific Brazil and Spicy Chicken Empanadas.  Congratulations guys.photo (9) photo (8) photo (25) photo (24) photo (23) photo (21) photo (18) photo (19) photo (20) photo (17) photo (15) photo (14) photo (11) photo (12) photo (13) photo (10)

 

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As The World (of Hell’s Kitchen Bodegas) Turns

tehuitzingoSome changes to the Hell’s Kitchen Bodega scene prompts me to make quick changes to the guide.

A bodega, for those who dont know, is a Mexican deli or mini market that often serves food (tacos, burritos, etc) as well.  Its sort of a NYC thing, and a good way to experience authentic Mexican in a city not exactly known for it

Hell’s Kitchen theses days is suddenly packed with all sorts of exiting Mexican in different price points.  That includes some of the best bodegas in town.  Unfortunately, one of my favorites Guelaguetza now appears to be closed, and I wish David and his family all the best.  I already miss munching on their terrific burritos while watching Dora the Explorer with their kids.  And it was the good stuff, with Diego around.

But thats no reason to cancel your holiday if you ask me.  Lately I’ve been on the hunt for some good tacos (midlife crisis Stage IV) all over the area and the undisputed winner is Tehuitzingo.  Their tacos are so good they are now multiplying, opening yet another Taqueria on 9th and 41st while at the same time renovating the original to look more like a Mexican disco than a bodega.  Try the Al Pastor taco, roasted marinated pork.tehuitzingo al pastor

 

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HK Guide Update

capizziA few additions to the guide

Dessert (about time eh?) –  Kee’s Chocolates, Little Pie Company

Doner/Turkish –  Adding Turco (needed some convincing) over Hansi (need more convincing but lunch deal is good)

Farm to Table – The Marshal.  A solid Addition to the neighborhood

Pizza – Capizzi.  A nice alternative to Don Antonio

Best HK dining that’s not actually in HK – A new category for theater goers and those who want to experience some of NY’s finest just outside the area.

Tried other candidates which fell short.  Spent a lot of time at Gotham West which saw its first casualty already (Little Chef).  “An exciting replacement” according to a GWM rep will be announced soon.  In case you missed the recent post on Gotham, here it is.  Also added links to the recent “top dishes” posts.

Hell’s Kitchen Survival Guide

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Best Dishes in Hell’s Kitchen- Round 2

Pure Thai Ratchaburi Continuing the best of hell series where I feature 5 dishes from Hell’s Kitchen.  Round one can be found here.  Will try to make it a monthly feature pending approval from my gastroenterologist

Ratchaburi crab and pork dry noodles at Pure Thai Cookhouse (above)- The neighborhood’s dry(er) noodle offerings are intensifying as of late, but this is perhaps the original and still the one to beat.  The noodles are handmade in house in the Thai shophouse-like setting (in fact originally Pure’s name was Pure Thai Shophouse until Chipotle made them change its name – long story).  That dry but tender bright delicious pork, the wonderfully chewy tasty egg noodles, the sweetness of the crab, and nuttiness of the “I cant believe its not Broccoli Rabe” Yo Choy.  Add some of the citrusy broth from the bottom for added flavor.  Easily one of my faves, named after the Ratchaburi region in Central Thailand where one of the owners (the wife) came from.  BONUS:  For an app get the Ribs (below)Pure Thai Ribs

Chicken Shawarma at Azuri Café – I hear disturbing reports lately that Ezra from Azuri is cracking smiles at tourists.  I’m not sure if it means a change in attitude, trouble with Mrs Ezra, or?  This is simply not the neighborhood Ezra we know and love to hate.  With that said, the falafel is still the best in the area.  But you can get good falafel all over town, and lately its the Shawarma that’s winning me over.  After a good amount of shaving from the turning spit, he cooks it a little longer on the griddle with secret sauce and spices.  Then he stuffs the goodies in the whole wheat pita with the fresh salads in the same careful technique that made his falafel a neighborhood icon.  And in true Israeli style adds some Amba sauce (Mango based condiment), pickles, and if you want… spicy “Harif” S’chug.  You have to say “HaRIF” with the jewish spitting Chhhh if you want it though.  The result is a glorious mess of flavors thats worth the extra Shekels.Azuri Cafe - Chicken Shawarma

Trenette at Mercato.  There are quite a few excellent pastas at my favorite casual Italian in Hell’s Kitchen, but if I have to pick one, its the simple but addictive homemade Trenette.  Almonds and garlic used liberally, tomato and basil contribute to the flavor explosion of this $12 dish (yes, a $12 pasta in NYC).  Save some of the bread for this one and I dare you to leave anything on the plateMercato Trenette

Empanada mamma Spicy ChickenSpicy Chicken Empanada at Empanada Mama – Ok, I keep trying various empanadas and every time I go, I must order at least one Spicy Chicken to enjoy last.  I especially need one good one to cool me down after the Viagra Empanada, perhaps my second favorite of the bunch but for different reasons.  Hey, I don’t name them.  Chunks of tender, mouthwatering chicken slowly cooked in Mama’s special picante sauce creating this super pleasant heat.  Just like mama used to make!  Well, its just an expression, my mom has no idea what Empanadas are?

Silan at Taboon – Vanilla ice cream with puffed rice and date honey sprinkled with caramelized pistachios and topped with shredded halva, SHREDDED HALVA!  Need I say more.  I probably should.  But I’m tired!  Laila Tov!

Stay hungry Amigos!Taboon Silan

 

 

 

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Lincoln – Orange is the New Crack

Lincoln Strozzapreti
I never had crack cocaine!  Its a well documented fact that I was smoking cigarettes at the young age of 5 and wearing a patch 9 months later, but I never had crack cocaine nor do I have any idea how it tastes like.  Does it taste like Strozzapreti made with lobster coral (egg sac)?  Does it taste like lobster and scallop sausage with the look and texture of loose chicken skin?  Or does it taste like sweet lobster meat gently floating in a delicate sauce with lemony hints?  Is it like all of the above put together smelling like the sea as soon as it arrives?  If the answer is yes to any of the above, where do I sign up?

Lincoln RestaurantIs it too early to name the dish of the year? Probably.  But a few more like this bright Strozzapreti (most likely named after someone envisioned a pasta shape while witnessing a priest being strangled) this year and I will be a very happy Ziggy.  The chicken skin-like lobster/scallop “sausages” especially gave me a ratatouille moment that almost made me drop my iPhone.  Other dishes I enjoyed between two meals in order of deliciousness….

The Spongata, a superb honey and nut cake came with a satsuma sherbet that was so heavenly it could probably thrive on the dessert menu alone.  Reginette, curly ribbony pasta was perfectly cooked and topped with a chunky veal, pork and beef, would most likely satisfy any Bolognese Ragu craving.  A mild creamy Burrata with fava beans, peas, spring onions and a light minty sauce got a tremendous boost from the sensational prosciutto-like cured pork shoulder.  The only dish I didnt quite know what to make of was a trio of Mortadella, prosciutto, and a thin head cheese slice sitting on top of a puffy fried dough on some fruity sweet sauce.  Do I like it together? Separate? without the sauce?  I found myself experimenting just like the chef was.Lincoln Burrata

Every few months the menu changes to include dishes from a particular Italian region, although you could arrive in between regions as I did yesterday and still enjoy well crafted food.  As is the case with most fine Italian in town, the strength in Lincoln is with the pasta.  And long time Per Se and French laundry alumni Jonathan Benno is widely considered a pasta virtuoso.   Lincoln Ristorante is of course part of the Lincoln Center complex.  A 20 million design triumph includes floor to ceiling windows, 3 dining rooms, and a spectacular open kitchen.  The service ranges from friendly to cold depending on the day of the week.  And the open kitchen may also mean you could hear what they plan to do with you depending on where you sit…

Server just picked up first course from your table:  “Number 37 is done with the first course”

Chef:  “Lets give him a minute to gather himself and pick up his phone.  Give him some more bread”

Lincoln Ristorante
142 W 65th St
$$$$
Recommended Dishes: Strozzapreti, Reginette, Burrata, Spongata

Lincoln Ristorante Lincoln Trio Lincoln Reginette Lincoln Spongata Lincoln

 

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Ma Peche – I Luh Ya PaPi

Ma PecheI have to make this one short and sweet and to the point before the wife comes home (which means I will need to stop writing and talk to her do something around the house most likely).  The point is that Ma Peche is quickly becoming one of my midtown faves, and in true Momofuku fashion keeps reinventing itself with new formats.

On what should really be a national holiday, Baseballs opening day, I took 3 of my least pickiest co-workers for a special lunch that’s becoming a Monday norm.  One doesn’t do spicy, one doesn’t do mayo and seafood, and one doesn’t do anything that is yellowish.  A perfect group for Ma Peche’s new “Passed Plates” sort of like Dim Sum cart ladies format.  Except instead of dumplings and cart ladies you get razor clam ceviche, foie gras, and hipsters.  You can see today’s potential passed items on a piece of paper on the table, and your waiter will put a check next to each item you order (can I come with an eraser in case I eat something I don’t like?).  In addition to that you still have a handful of a la carte “Chef’s Specials” like the awesome fried chicken and the awesomer Brussels Sprouts.Ma Peche - Brussels sprouts

For what amounted to $23 per person, you simply can not get better value in NYC.  While the salad carts were circling, the Habanero Fried Chicken (half chicken $24) and Brussels Sprouts quickly arrived.  The softer, saucier than the usual sprouts with ginger-scallion, cherry, and calabrian chili surpassed Alta as the city Brussels Sprouts to beat.  Is there a restaurant in town that does not have a Brussels Sprouts dish, or kale?

Ma Peche - Pork BunsThe pork buns were the first items we picked from the passed plates and I was slightly disappointed by the overall size and taste compared to buns you get at Ippudo for the same price.  I still gobbled the heck out of this one though.  The spicy rice cakes then followed.  Ok, let me tell you something about those rice cakes.  Similar to Ssam Bar’s spicy sausage dish these pillowy “Korean Gnocchi” with just enough meat ragu and pleasant lingering heat were simply outstanding.  I may be addicted to the Momofuku rice cakes.

Then we sort of waited for the chicken wings to pass by but they never did.  The waiter asked if we would like anything else, we said “wings” and voila.. 5 minutes later we get 8 wings that tasted so much better than they looked (kinda burned).  These wings were tender, perfectly seasoned, and really some of the best wings in recent memory.

Ma Peche
At the Chambers Hotel
15 w. 56th street
$$$
Reccommended Dishes:  Fried Chicken, Brussels Sprouts, wings, rice cakes

Ma Peche - Fried ChickenMa Peche - Rice Cakes Ma Peche - Wings Ma Peche from above

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