Midtown West

Hellish Update

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

The NYC Trip Report that Left Me Speechless

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rounding the top 20…

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

ABC Cocina – Spring Pea Guacamole with Warm Tortillas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best Wings in NYC

Kolkovna Olympia wingsOk, so we are all adults here.  We all know perfectly well that these are NOT the best wings in the city.  In the city that never sleeps, and never runs out of wings, there are hundreds of wings out there, not counting the simple bar wings you can find in every corner.  But I’m just one Ziggy, with different taste sensitivities than many readers, and I cant taste them all.  “Decent wings” or “favorite wings” doesnt sound as convincing, or Google friendly.  With that said, there’s only one certainty:  The competition is rather fierce.  And any new joint offering wings has to be creative, and deliver something more than palatable.

Since the average wings researcher has shorter attention than other researchers (eg Ramen), I’m only listing my favorite five, with more solid options at the end

Ma Peche – Jerk Wings.  If I have to pick one, this is probably it.  The love affair started with the wings being part of the cart service.  Whenever I would bring guests here, my attention span would drop to wings researcher levels until I’d finally spot the cart of dreams carrying them.  These days the wings are part of the menu and they are better than ever.  An explosion of complex jerky, zesty, habanero, brown sugary flavors fill your palate and stay for a few good minutes, or days sometimes if you don’t rush to wash those handsMa Peche wings

Distilled – Distilled Wings.  A former Momofuku alumni has been quietly dishing out great wings in Tribeca.  Distilled may be better known for their mixologist team as of late, but those wings have been on the menu since day one.  These are grade A quality hefty 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).  And they serve it with their own version of not too funky blue cheese dressing to cool things down.  Truly excellent wings.Distilled wings

Danji – Spicy ‘k.f.c.’ Korean Fire Chicken Wings.   Love at first sweat, around four years ago.  I like to bring visitors here on occasion, though I don’t love when they witness me lick my own fingers which may be considered rude.  What’s more rude me thinks is wiping off that awesome deliciousness with wet napkins.  Heat level has been steady all these years, so make sure to have the fantastic tofu before altering your palate.  This is pure delicious heat, as opposed to senseless heat.Danji - Wings

The Cannibal (Gotham West Market) – Chili and Garlic Wings.  These wings dont carry the same spice punch as the others.  They are milder, but far from lacking in flavor.  The wings are marinated, slow roasted, and breaded before cooked in the Cannibal’s high powered oven.  Space is limited in Gotham West so they need to be creative.  The zesty aioli and the little oniony salad served on top compliment nicely.  And the skin and the juicy meat are happily married.  And while you ate it, dont forget about the sick Pig’s Head Cuban.  This is quickly becoming my favorite Gotham West menuCanibbal - wings

Pok Pok – Ike’s Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings.  Unlike the other four, wing historians out there are probably already well too familiar with this legendary pick.  Articles, cookbooks, essays, children books (Goodnight Pok Pok Ike’s Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings) written about these wings.  Somewhat inaccessible to most people so you wont find any tourists or Staten Islanders here normally.  You can have the wings at the Whisky Soda Lounge next door while you wait for your table.   They wings are huge, spicy, garlicky, on the dry side, but packed with flavor.  Put this one on your bucket list.  Before the Great Wall of China, after Story Time with Bill Cosby.Pok Pok Wings

Other Notables:  Mighty Quinn’s, Mission Cantina, Bonchon, Mission Chinese Food (not a fan personally but it has a huge following), International Wings Factory

Categories: Brooklyn, Midtown West, New York City, TriBeCa | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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

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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

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

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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

 

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Best Dishes in Hell’s Kitchen – Round 4

Blue Ribbon Sushi Oxtail Fried Rice

Rest of the rounds can be found here

Oxtail Fried Rice at Blue Ribbon Sushi – Responsible for roughly 27% of my wet dreams.  We are blessed with all sorts of crazy fried rice dishes all over town (Ivan Ramen, Gato, Pure Thai), but this one may top them all.  Adding to the richness are bits of bone marrow, and on top of all this craziness is an egg omelette.  Once you mix it all, you get something really special.  This Blue Ribbon is inside the 6 Columbus Hotel, and depending on who you ask it may not be exactly in Hell’s Kitchen.  Some sites like Yelp think it is, and if you ask me, deliciousness should know no borders (I just came up with this)

Danji Tofu

Tofu at Danji – I smell this dish as soon as I go in.  Along with the fiery Korean Wings (some of the best in the city), Bulgogi sliders, the tofu is a must order for me on every visit.  The fact that its a tofu dish alone, and its on this list speaks major volume.  Four rectangles are flash fried, and topped with ginger scallion dressing, and that wonderful soy vinaigrette I smell upon arrival.  The result is crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside, and incredibly delicious throughout.  You will want to eat every single detail of this dish.

Pork Buns

Steamed Pork Buns at Kung Fu Little Steamed Buns Ramen – These are Xiao Long Bao, aka Soup Dumplings, not the pork buns we know and love (Momofuku, Ippudo).  In fact everything about the place is confusing.  The Ramen is not exactly Ramen, there’s no Kung Fu anywhere, and the pork buns are not pork buns.  But they are quite spectacular, once you develop the art of eating them properly.  You may want to hold a napkin in your right hand initially as you may splatter some juice on your neighbor.  But practice will make perfect , and after a few of these babies you will be eating them like a pro.  Just scoop it up unto the soup spoon (add some vinegar before or after), nibble once to make a hole, let the steam out for a few seconds… attack.  This is not a place to linger, nor for a fancy pre-theater meal, as you may share your table with common folk who may not be wearing Louboutin.

Pam Real Oxtail

Oxtail Soup at Pam Real Thai – This is a no-brainer since I included it in the Best Dishes of 2014.  Delicious lasting heat, complex broth, with two hefty meaty bones.  Fatty in all the right places, like slow dancing with your mother-in-law.  If my mother-in-law could cook like this, I would have an affair.  I believe it has miracle powers (cured all my flu like symptoms, and frontal balding).  It’s my favorite soup in the city of Ramen.  Disregard the lazy, minimalistic decor at this old timer (compared to the rest of the Thai in the area).  Though once you try Pam’s cooking, the decor will look like something out of a contemporary French country catalog

City Sandwich Egg Tarts

Pastel de Crema at City Sandwich – Yes, we are listing the city’s top sandwich stop and not having a sandwich.  Criminal in a way.  Until you try these things at this Portuguese inspired joint.  Yes, I suppose you can find them in your nearest Chinatown as well (They were introduced to China via Macau while under Portuguese rule).  This is the Portuguese national snack.  A creamy egg custard inside a flaky crust.  But if an egg tart is not to your liking, try their mini Panna Cotta

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

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

What to Eat in New York City

 

Best Pizza

Best Pizza

Oh no you didn’t…  Oh, yes I did!  A post on.. well.. everything.  I’m not writing about pizza or Indian food, or where to get the best Cheesecake, this is a post on everything.  A one time stop for the confused visitor that knows only what he reads in his guide book, and Trip Advisor ranking.  In other words, just a tad smarter than Klauss.  I have news for you Mr visitor.  We New Yorkers don’t eat Cheesecakes, Knishes, and Manhattan Clam Chowders.  Well, the last one on occasion, but having the word “Manhattan” in it should not automatically qualify it for the guidebooks.

A month ago at our company we had visitors from Minnesota.  When we ordered food for lunch, there was a moment that shook me a little.  One member of the Minnesota gang pointed to something and said “What’s that”.  To which I replied “this my friend, is a Falafel”.  Locals eat more falafels than Cheesecakes, Knishes, and Manhattan Clam Chowders combined in NYC, but you would never guess by just reading the guidebook.  Let me help set you straight

I will try my best to make it as comprehensive as possible, and update as often as I can.  Something to chew on before I leave for yet another trip to Turks (lobsta calling my name).  But there’s a chance I may forget a few things, so I would appreciate some help via comments if that indeed happens.  Its essentially a guide to help you understand what you should be targeting in NYC.  Here we go…

Eat Pizza – Yes, we eat a lot of pizza.  Every block where I live has these 3 essentials.  Pizza, Bagels, and a pharmacy to help you cope with all that pizza and bagels.  There’s great pizza everywhere in NYC and I’m not going to even attempt to name all the best spots, but here are a few

Merilu (2)

Merilu

   Slice – You have the usual suspects like Joe’s on Carmines and Di Fara in Brooklyn, but the truth is that there are plenty of solid slices out there and the 50th best slice is not really that far behind the 2nd best slice taste wise.  Consider Sacco in Hell’s Kitchen, Prince Street Pizza, Best Pizza” in Williamsburg might very well be best with their wood burning oven slice, and for something a bit different and not very New Yorky consider the thin squares at Merilu.  BTW, for those Di Fara bound, the pilgrimage may cost you half a day of travel and waiting for quite a while for your slice.  Not worth it if yo ask me, but if you must…

   Pies – While the guide books will guide you across the bridge and make you stand for 30-90 bone chilling minutes on a long line (and fail to tell you that the real Grimaldi is actually next door dishing them out at Juliana’s), you can get similar or better quality all over the city.  Consider Capizzi in midtown, where you will not find any long waits whatsoever.  Or how about the thin vodka pies at Rubirosa, an offshoot of the great Joe and Pat’s in Staten Island.  For your fancy Neapolitan pies there are a lot of great options and I strongly suggest to try at least one.  Consider Motorino, Don Antonio, Keste, Paulie Gees, and Roberta’s at a food festival near you (if you cant Bushwick it).  You can even get a decent pie in Eataly.  Also consider the Neapolitan archenemy, the mighty Roman pie at Marta.  Well, its not very mighty with its matzoh like thickness, but its quite delicious, not to mention everything else Marta offers.  You can have a great meal here without even touching the pies

Marta Patate alla Carbonara

Marta Patate alla Carbonara

Eat Burgers – As with pizza this is a very difficult topic to cover as there are so many choices, and so many kinds.  You are not only dealing with a plethora of Burger joints but you also have them on just about every French/Italian/American, you name it menu and everyone trying to outdo each other.  For your fast food smallish burger, yes, I suppose Shake Shack will do, and the pain that comes with it (long lines, fighting an old lady for a seat).  But head to Gotham West Market, and you can find another solid burger at Genuine Roadside where you’ll find no lines, and no old ladies to fight.  Try the terrific Chicken Sandwich too while you at it.  For the middle of the road, regular burger try Corner Bistro, Island Burger and Shakes and the rest of my Hell’s Kitchen picks I outline here

Dutch - Burger

Dutch – Burger

For the fancier stuff, Minetta Tavern’s Black Label is still the king, as one of a few burgers out there where the meat is so good, you can get it practically naked.  Meaning the burger!  Also consider Minetta’s sister Cherche Midi’s much hyped burger these days.  Bowery Meat Company uses the same supplier for its excellent patty (though I wish the fries would have been better).  Other solid players include the Breslin’s terrific Lamb Burger, Bar Sardine’s popular Fedora burger, The Gender’s burger with beef aioli, and the Spotted Pig with its addictive fries.  But if you’d point a gun at my head and make me choose one, I would ask you to please put the gun down, then proceed to kick your ass and call the cops.  Once you are out, I would direct you to the NoMad Bar where you’ll find the best combination of quality burger, fries, and ease of getting a table (No reservations tho)

Spotted Pig Burger

Spotted Pig Burger


Eat Bagels, Lux
 – No shortage of great bagels all over town.  With Absolute Bagel, Pick-a-Bagel in midtown, Ess-a-Bagel, and Murrays you pretty much have all the corners covered.  And while Russ & Daughters doesn’t bake their own, their Brooklyn Supplier is as old school and solid as they come.  R&D is an icon, and so very touristy for good reason.  But once you experience it, consider something like Shelsky’s in Brooklyn, or Nordic Preserves in Essex Market, for much of the quality and none of the pain.

Russ and Daughters lox

Russ and Daughters lox

Eat Italian – In NYC, one should take advantage of our Italian dining. Even Italians coming from Italy do so, and appreciate the wide array that NYC has to offer.  From the amazing seafood of Marea, to simple neighborhood spots like Da Andrea.  Consider Mercato and its southern Italian fare (real southern, not Brooklyn southern), or perhaps Bat Pitti in the village.  How about All’onda, and Piora for some Asian influence.  Or a taste of Emilia Romagna in Osteria Morini or Salumeria RossiMarta can certainly enter the discussion, and its sister Maialino is perhaps my favorite of all.  If you need to choose one, thats the one.  Or consider Scarpetta whose menu includes many popular staples.  Babbo is possibly entering icon territory, Del Posto may be already there among the high ends, while the inventive Lincoln remains under everyone’s radar.  In NYC we also have the classic New York Italian, aka red sauce American Italian cuisine that one may try.  The Guide Books will direct you to the Theater District and Little Italy, but for proper tasting consider something like Rubirosa or Carbone

Lincoln Strozzapreti

Lincoln Strozzapreti

Eat American – This is another big topic.  The one place that always comes to mind where you can get that old quintessential NY feel is Minetta Tavern.  Eleven Madison Park light, The NoMad is another solid choice with its celebrated Chicken for two.  In Midtown consider Betony, runner up for James Beard’s Best New Restaurant award last year.  Louro is a dependable neighborhood joint with rotating menus, and theme dinners on Mondays.  Consider the Dutch and its terrific fried chicken and more, which brings us to Root and Bone where the bird reigns over a solid southern inspired menu.  The veggies reign supreme at Narcissa, and the Marshal is not only extremely veg friendly, but covers all the classics well.  For something different consider the winter game festival at Henry’s End.

You also have a slew of Asian inspired American like the inspiring Annisa, and the David Chang’s empire, especially Momofuku Ssam Bar, and Ma Peche.  Consider a visit to newcomer Tuome, featuring a young chef with an attitude.

NoMad Chicken

NoMad Chicken

Dicksons pastrami

Dicksons pastrami

Eat Pastrami – Yes, yes go to Katz’s.  That’s not a tourist trap, but the real deal.  In Midtown, Carnegie Deli keeps chugging along, while Eisenberg’s Sandwich Shop in Flatironhas been raising New York’s cholesterol since 1929.  Try perhaps the Montreal Jewish style pastrami at Mile End.  Or for something completely different, consider the pastrami sandwich at Dickson’s the great meat purveyor in Chelsea Market where the pastrami is more marbled and comes with a smear of apricot chutney or however they do it that day.  Yummo!

Eat Steak – Visitors come to NYC looking to eat steak in something called a “Steakhouse”.  It’s one of the most common questions on Trip Advisor… what is the Best Steakhouse.  Well, you do have the icons like Keen’s, and Peter Luger that folks will no doubt pick over Wolfgang’s which started by an employee that worked for Luger for 40 years and offers a similar Porterhouse.  But the beauty of NYC steaks is that just like burgers, you can get great steak anywhere pretty much including in modern “I cant believe this is not a steakhouse” steakhouse.  Consider the Bowery Steak at Bowery Meat Company, which consists of the Ribeye cap (the best part of the ribeye).  The Minetta Tavern Cote de Boeuf is perhaps the most celebrated cut in Manhattan.  Though for us, that honor would go to the Costata Tomahawk Ribeye which like the Cote de Boeauf, can feed a small Armenian village.

Costata - Ribeye

Costata Ribeye

Eat French – Classic french, new and old are still plentiful in the city.  You got the usual haute suspects with Per Se, Le Bernardin, Jean-Georges, Bouley, Daniel (who am I missing.  I dont want to upset anyone and get hate mail).  Then you have the bistro fair like Balthazar, and yes even Minetta Tavern which I’m adding to just about every category here (they even have a take on the Italian Carbonara, called Pasta Za Za).  Consider Benoit in Midtown, and Chez Napoleon may be as old school as it gets.  For something different however, consider Le Philosophe for a fresh take on old classic

Le Philosophe - tournedos rossini

Le Philosophe – tournedos rossini

Eat BBQ – A few years ago, the proper recommendation would be to skip BBQ in NYC.  But time, they are a changing.  In midtown if you must, head west to Daisy May’s BBQ USA, in case you forget what country you are in.  In Brooklyn you have Fette Sau and BrisketTown which also sells its sick brisket on the High Line in the warmer months.  But the mightiest of all might very well be Mighty Quinn’s which you can enjoy in both West and East village, among other more remote locations.  For the “I cant believe this is not BBQ” experience that almost no one talks about, consider Georgia’s Eastside BBQ in the Lower East Side.

Eat Ethnic – Need to take a break.  More to come after these words from our sponsors…  Are your menopause changes causing bleeding, irritation, pain during sexual intercourse?  Try Premarin, a Virginal Cream you can count on.

Ok, I have a confession.  This was not a real commercial!  But, I do need to take a break, as my arm is tired and I already used all the adjectives known to me on one page

The ethnic plays will have their own page when the time comes.  Stay tuned…

Mighty Quinn's Brisket

Mighty Quinn’s Brisket

 

Categories: Brooklyn, Chelsea, Chinatown, East Village, Gramercy, Flatiron, Lower East Side, Midtown East, Midtown West, New York City, SoHo, NoHo, Nolita, TriBeCa, Upper West Side, West Village | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments

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