Midtown West

My Top 10 NYC Pastas

Lincoln StrozzapretiHi, I’m Ziggy.  I love pasta!  I had pasta last night, for lunch today, and I will have plenty of it in the next few weeks as I embark on another trip to mother Italia.  I think about pasta more than.. you know… Sports!  And before I leave you idle for a few weeks I figured to leave with a bang, a post about one of my favorite subjects.  My favorite pastas in NYC in no particular order…

Trenette Al Pesto Trapanese at Mercato.  From the port of Genoa sailors brought Trenette al Pesto to Trapani, Sicily where the dish was perfected even further with the addition of almonds.  Homemade chewy dried Trenette cooked to al dente perfection, with almonds, garlic, tomato and basil.  Its fresh, simple, and quite tasty.  I havent seen this dish anywhere else, and at $12, I feel like I negotiated something at the shuk with just a stare

Mercato Trenette

Fusilli with Octopus and Bone Marrow at Marea – One of two NYC classics on the list, and perhaps the most celebrated pasta in NYC America.  Articles, blog posts, children books (Goodnight Fusilli with Octopus!) have been written about this clasic.  The twisted homemade Fusilli is tossed with the most addictive fresh red sauce you will ever taste, with Sangiovese braised octopus, and bone marrow being the culprits.  A no brainer on this list

Marea Fusilli

Strozzapreti Con Aragosta at Lincoln (top) – Perhaps the best dish I’ve eaten this year.  Calling it simply Strozzapreti with lobster should be punishable by Italian law.  The beautiful Strozzapreti, which most likely were invented when someone envisioned a pasta shape while witnessing a priest being strangled to death (Strozzapreti means priest chokers) are made with lobster coral hence giving them the orange look.  They are mixed with not only sweet chunks of lobster but also lobster and scallop sausages (my favorite part) which is like eating the most glorious chicken skin you can imagine.  The sauce is zesty, light, and the perfect compliment to this delicate dish.  A classic in the making.  Not always on the menu, and preparation may differ based on season.

Uni Tagliatelle at Cull & Pistol – Fresh squid-ink egg noodles tossed in uni sauce and topped with tomatoes, bread crumbs, squid and Santa Barbara uni.  Marea’s uni pasta is perhaps the best I’ve had, but Marea is already on the list, and C&P’s version is pretty darn fantastic and quite different.  The sweet uni reins supreme with that rich sauce, and the smoky squid and bread crumbs add more texture to this dark beauty.  When a place makes only one pasta, its very often a good one.  Balaboosta, The NoMad come to mind as well

Cull and Pistol Tagliatelle

Spaghetti with Fresh Tomato Sauce and Basil at Scarpetta – Simple isnt it?  Well, why dont you try it, and invite me for a tasting.  Recipes are all over the internet.  Chances are unless you are Scott Conant reading this (hey Scott) you will not succeed in matching the flavors of this classic.  Its fresh, bright and every ingredient suddenly comes to life.  Scarpetta’s signature dish and the most celebrated Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce and Basil this side of wherever they make the best Spaghetti with Fresh Tomato Sauce and Basil.  Pure awesomeness.

Scarpetta - Spaghetti

Homemade Pappardelle With Sweet Sausage at Da Andrea – There are a lot of similar Pappardelle pastas in NYC with all sorts of tasty ragus (Bar Pitti makes a good one with either rabbit or wild boar), but none of them made so many locals happy for so long.  Ok, its only been 14 years but still.  A staple on the menu since they opened in another location (Hudson st).  The purists may turn up their noses at the thought of “fake truffles” when they see Truffle Oil being used, but we dont have truffles or wallets growing in our backyards in NYC.  Not yet!  And besides, unlike many truffle oil dishes I’ve had in this town, this one got that aroma which convinces your brain that you are eating the real thing.  And dont forget to order some Tigelle with Prosciutto, another Emilia Romagna specialty

Da Andrea - Pappardelle

Half Portion

Agnolotti at All’onda – This is a tricky one since its not even the most popular pasta at All’onda (that honor goes to the Bucatini or Garganelli), nor the second or third most popular actually.  But in this town, its more unique and interesting to me than the others.  Not your average Agnolotti, nor “Plin”.  They are Mortadella filled with pistachios, and a crazy homemade XO sauce made with dried shrimp, scallops and soppressata.  XO is a sauce that Cognac laden Hong Kong chefs invented in the 80’s, except they forgot to add the key ingredient, Cognac.  This version of the sauce adds a funky aroma, and  plenty of depth, to otherwise good but basic Agnolotti

Bonus mention:  Sort of a bizarre marriage between the Agnolotti and the Cull & Pistol dish in a way is the splendid Bucatini with black garlic and Dungenese crab at Piora.  I didnt taste enough of it to include it

All'onda Agnolotti

Tonnarelli a Cacio e Pepe at Maialino – Open the drawer in the kitchen where you keep the pens, ribbons and paper clips (just in case that paper clip emergency comes), take a pen and write the ingredients for Tonnarelli Cacio e Pepe… Tonnarelli, Cacio, Pepe!  The Romans like to keep it simple (Carbonara, Gricia).  And when I was in Rome last year, in a way I was disappointed that I wasnt exactly blown away by all the wonderful Carbonaras and Cacio e Pepes because Maialino quite frankly spoiled it for me.  If you’ve never had this dish before perhaps because “pasta with cheese and pepper” doesnt sound very enticing, now is a good time to have it.

Maialino - Cacio e pepe

Stracci at Osteria Morini – From the one who knocks I bring to you the one dish that you will not find in Emilia Romagna out of that splendid ER inspired menu.  Wonderfully chewy wide ribbon pasta inherits the juices of the succulent braised mushrooms.  I would be happy with just the mushrooms.  It was love at first Stracci at one of my favorite Italians in town

Osteria Morini Stracci

 

Pasta with White Truffles At ?? – Ok for this one you need to do a little bitsy homework.  Its white truffle season at the time of this writing and you can enjoy your Tagliatelle, risotto, scrambled eggs, pizza, car keys or anything else you desire with White Truffles from Alba, Tuscany or Umbria.  I know Lincoln, Maialino, Marta have it currently and last year The NoMad (below) offered it at cost.  Its a feast for all senses, especially the nose.  Me?  I’m not touching the stuff this season in this town, as I’m heading to the source, Alba white Truffle festival.  Buon Appetito!  Ciao, Ziggy

628

Categories: Chelsea, Gramercy, Flatiron, Midtown West, New York City, SoHo, NoHo, Nolita, West Village | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

I Rank Empanada Mama’s Empanadas

photo 2A Hell’l Kitchen Guide staple from day one, this mama hasnt skipped a beat since it opened.  Even when things seem slow everywhere else in the neighborhood (between lunch and dinner), these guys are busy.  I’ve gone on a special empanada diet for the past few weeks.  And for the purpose of this post, I picked 10 Empanadas which consists of all the popular ones, plus a few I was just curious about (e.g. polish).  Scoring is 1 to 10 Z’s, with 10 Z’s being the best.  Congratulations to the winners.

ZZZZZZZZZ (9) – SPICY CHICKEN.  The creme de la creme.  Chunks of chicken breast slowly cooked in mama’s special picante sauce which is reminiscent of the Israeli S’chug, a fiery delicious Yemeni spread.   This is the definition of “pleasant Heat” that stays with you for a few hours.  Fairly spicy, not for everyone

ZZZZZZZZ (8) – BRASIL – Traditional Brazilian style empanada with ground beef, olives, sauteed onions, and potatoes.  Juicy, flavor packed with excellent depth.

ZZZZZZZz (7.5) – CUBAN – Slowly roasted pork, ham with mozzarella cheese and a touch of sofrito sauce.   Very nice!  The ham and the sauce take this to another level

ZZZZZZZz (7.5) – DESAYUNO COLOMBIANO – Colombian sausage, cheddar cheese, eggs and Spanish onion.  A solid breakfast snack that’s available throughout the day.

ZZZZZZZ (7) – VIAGRA – Seafood stew with shrimp, scallops, and crab meat.  The shrimp half is a bit boring, but then when you get to the other stuff.. oooh boy!  Nice fishy flavors.  The Viagra especially goes well with the Brazil!

ZZZZZZZ (7) – TJC – Mama’s tuna melt with cheddar cheese and jalapenos.  While I didnt rate it here because I havent had in a while, the Tuna/Jalapeno Empanada (no cheese) may be even better

ZZZZZZZ (7) – MAMBO ITALIANO – Roasted Italian sweet sausage with red and green peppers, onions, mozzarella cheese and a touch of tomato sauce.  Pretty much exactly what you’d expect…  Sausage and Peppers

ZZZZZZ (6) – POLISHPolish sausage (Kielbasa) sauteed with sauerkraut.  Good if not a bit bland.  I like my Kielbasas a bit tangier.

ZZZZZ (5) – REGGAETONCaribbean style roast pork with sofrito seasoned yellow rice and peas.  I’ve enjoyed this in the past but now finding it a little dry and in desperate need of that green sauce.  Would have been better without the rice

ZZZZ (4) – CHEESESTEAKSkirt steak with mozzarella cheese and a Latin twist.  The latin twist is it squirts all over the place when opened!  Steak a bit tough, no flavor, no likey

Even though I ranked the Polish and Reggaeton at the bottom, the only one I would avoid is the last one.  Reggaeton is fairly popular.

The green sauce is nice.  Red sauce not so much

photo 3photo 1

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

Five Pre-Theater Restaurants to Target

Taboon inside

Taboon

The other day I was checking out a restaurant in the theater district for a friend and the very first line of the first Yelp review made me almost spit out the Shawarma I was eating.  “Theater District is well known for its dining”.  What? Where? Boise?  If you say it out loud to someone in the subway you will get crazy stink eye stares from the locals.  The pre-theater bunch on 46th street and around has plenty of decent options like Carmen’s, Becco, Basso56 and its not necessarily a bad idea to dress up and go to one of those.  Most likely the average place is an upgrade over Boise.  But considering the level of cooking you find everywhere else in NYC, the truth is that Theater District dining is close to the bottom of the pack.

But the point of this post is not to slam Theater District dining, though I do get some pleasure from it it seems.  The point is to make it easier for the Hell’s Kitchen’s guide followers to pick a solid, affordable but somewhat unconventional place to eat before or after your show.  The HK guide is one big mishmash of mostly cheap ethnic eats, not really suitable for pre-theater unless thats what you are after.  So to make it easier for the readers I’ve flushed out five places out of the guide where you can have an exceptional meal.  All these places are not in the district but close enough (5-10 minute extra walk on average depending on the size of your heels).  Or you can just take a 5 minute taxi ride that will add $5 to your $500 evening.  I think you can afford it

Taboon (Middle Eastern)

In that spot (10th/53rd) you gotta be good to succeed.  Nothing but data centers, a liquor store, a deli and appartment buildings surround you.  Taboon utilizes its good looking “Taboon” oven to create the type of Mediterranean/Middle Eastern dishes that will make your kids put down their phones and tell you about their day.  Yes, that powerful.  One of the top chefs in Israel help create the menu for Taboon initially.  Try any of their bread specialties, the chicken with the Israeli couscous (big and bubbly just like I like em), and the sick Silan, one of my favorites desserts in the city.

Taboon

Danji (Korean)

An instant winner with the Michelin man, this Hooni Kim’s Korean inspired tapas joint dishes out greatness in consistent fashion.  When you sit next to your new friend at the Broadway show who will boast about her Filet Mignon at Joe Allen, astonish her with the Tofu with Ginger Scallion Soy Vinaigrette, and the fiery Korean Chicken Wings, Bulgogi Beef Sliders and the Pork BibimBop you just attacked at Danji.  And after you explain to her what a Bibimbop is, perhaps its also a good time to tell her that there’s also a Joe Allen in Miami Beach where she lives and/or she can get a decent filet mignon in Boise

Danji

Mercato (Italian)

You have a plethora of Italian joints in the area.  Plenty of mediocre ones with Becco and Carmens one of the better and most popular, especially with families seeking family style dining.  But I have a different spin on “family style”.  Instead of sharing one huge chicken parm and penne alla vodka (Carmens) or order the all you can eat pastas of the day (Becco) why not share four or five different pastas that are much closer to the true south Italy cooking, vs the the south Italy cooking Americans often confuse with.  Pastas like the stupendous but simple Trenette with garlic, almonds, tomato and basil, or the rich gnocchi with finger licking beef and pork ragu, or the pasta of the day like the Cavatelli.  This is true Italian, by Italians, with Italian accents (for those with a Fish Called Wanda syndrome)

Mercato

The Marshal (American)

Sysco, Cargill, Fats R Us, are some examples of names you will see if all the area restaurants would require to print their distributors on the back of their menus.  But at the Marshal you will see the 14 local farms they deal with to produce just about every ingredient on the menu.  This is our answer to Slow Food in Italy.  If something is no longer on the menu it means its not currently grown.  A brilliant sides lineup, along with the best bread and butter in the area, followed by roasted chicken, meatloaf, best mussels this side of Newfoundland, and an amazing ice cream sundae to boot.  American food, in America, cooked by Americans (with a little bit of help by Central Americans!)

The Marshal - Bread

Ippudo (Ramen)

You may not be able to hear each other,  but you will have more fun than 96.5% of all the restaurants in the district.  Between all the shouting of the staff every time someone comes in (“welcome”), leaves (“Thank You”) or goes to the bathroom (“aim well”), and the slurping of the best noodle soup you will ever have, you wont have time to talk to your spouse anyway.  Dont be surprised if you are the only none Asian couple in the room (unless you are not a non Asian couple of course).  The best pork buns in the city (I tried a bunch) and you will be hard pressed to find better Ramen than the splendid Akamaru Modern

Happy Eating!

 

Ippudo

 

Categories: Midtown West, New York City | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Hell’s Kitchen – What’s Up?

Pad Ped Moo Krob at Larb UbolI haven’t eaten much to write about lately.  Partly due to religious holidays where I either had to eat at the in-laws or survive the annual semi fast (eat light, not brush teeth..).  So I’m taking this opportunity to update you all that there are no updates to the Hell’s Kitchen guide.  “That’s it.  He officially ran out of things to write about”  So, so not true.  I have plenty of things to write about.  Like, about the wonderful fan mail I’m finding in my Spam box lately (Brazilian girls are big fans apparently, all sorts of Russian marriage proposals, quality of life improvement suggestions…).   Anyway, here’s what’s happening in the neighborhood of Hell’s Kitchen lately

Pizza.  New gourmet pizzas are popping up everywhere these days in the area.  I already discussed Pamela… err I mean Annabel (confusing spam email fans).  Vinyl owners teamed up with NYC-LA-Back to NYC chef Jason Neroni to open B-Side (Get it? Vinyl, B-Side?  I actually don’t get it). It looks very promising and I plan to check it out very soon.   There’s another place on the Capizzi side of the area that I’m long overdue for a first visit.

Larb Ubol (above) – Big Mazal Tov to LU for joining the coveted Michelin Bib Gourmet list, awarded to best cheap(er) eats.  Although awarding the same distinction to Khe-Yo means that I dont quite understand the qualification or I should probably get half of my Khe-Yo check back

Danji – Losing their Michelin star this week.  Does this mean it should be avoided?  My theory is that the Michelin inspector sat in the same seat as I did a few weeks ago where I couldn’t open the drawer at the bottom to get the menu out as it was hitting against the side of the wall.  That’s the only explanation I have since the menu hasn’t changed since they got the star, and the dishes come out in consistent fashion

Oxtail – One of the best things I’ve eaten lately is the Oxtail soup at Pam Real Thai.  With two Thai places already on the list I’m not so quick to add a third, but this soup is tremendous.  Pleasant heat, A LOT of pleasant heat, with deep lasting flavors and a coupe of hefty meaty bones.  There are all sorts of amazing soups in the area I’m enjoying lately, perhaps worthy of a post?

No Addition – Not that I’m not trying new places.  Briciola – Feh! and awkward.  Puff Cha – Dido.  But trying desperately to like it.  I’m completely content however with the current list and dont feel the need to add anything.

Now, back to fan mail…

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

Meet Dave!

DaveDave is a husky, meaty fella with a fiery personality.  He answers to no one and a master of his own domain.  When opportunity knocks and he’s not home, opportunity waits.  You get the idea?  Dave is the latest City Sandwich sandwich I tried and quite possibly my new favorite in this Portuguese Sandwich mecca.  With ample amount of fresh minced sausage, chili pepper, garlic, olive oil, melted mozzarella, and peppers for the occasional much needed acid.  This was meaty, sharp and pleasantly fiery with a great finish.  Winner!

City SandwichBut as with any other sandwich at City Sandwich, it all starts with the bread of dreams.  Naples born Chef Guerrieri who spent a lot of time cooking in Lisbon, fell in love with the Portuguese bread and spent a lot of time looking for the right formula.  Thankfully we have a large Portuguese community in NJ where he was able to find that diamond in the rough.  To me its like the perfect Po-Boy baguette.  A hollow interior, and an exterior that has just enough teeth friendly crunch.  This is as good as sandwich bread gets.

Other than Dave, there are plenty of other winners here.  Todd is perhaps the most popular… Smoked Portuguese Pancetta, Tomato, Seasonal Lettuce, Honey Dijon and Yogurt Sauce.  Yogurt and olive oil is what you’ll find here generally instead of mayo.  And before you complain about the +$10 prices, just try to buy these ingredients (including bread) separately.  Besides meat sandwiches, there are also vegetarian and egg sandwiches like Bench Girl which I had a few weeks ago.  Omelet, Portuguese Alheira sausage, spinach, Melted Mozzarella and olive oil.  The egg took center stage at this one in a very good way.   They also have daily specials which at times can be seasonal like the Sofia below, with battered Zucchini blossoms.  This is perhaps the only sandwich in NYC that is destination worthy.

City Sandwich has been in Hell’s Kitchen Survival Guide from day one as the lone sandwich representative.  There’s a very simple explanation on why you dont see any Eating with Ziggy mentions on their front window.  There’s no more room.

If you check-in via Yelp while waiting for your order (you just need to install yelp and check in) you get a free Panna Cotta.  And somehow I missed the fact that they make those little Lisbon style Pastels that we’ve been munching on daily when we visited Portugal, which remains near and dear to our hearts (the country, not that pastries.  Ok the pastries too)

City Sandwich
649 9th Ave

Sofia

 

 

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

Best Burgers in Hell’s Kitchen

The Marshal*** Please excuse horrible iPhone pictures.  I get light headed if I don’t eat the burger right away and I rush the picture taking process.  I do think of you audience, but not at that moment *****

First of all, let me just be the first blogger to say this… most likely these are NOT the best burgers in Hell’s Kitchen. There are way too many places providing quality burgers in the area, and contrary to popular belief, I am human and cant possibly eat all of them and/or judge accordingly.  This list is also a list of places where you can most likely find locals as opposed to tourists.  So no Shake Shack, Bareburger, 5 Napkin, and not even the napkinless Five Guys.  That’s not to say my picks cant match against any of those guys.   I’m also trying to mix and match different types of burgers even if it means including something that’s not even considered a burger but worth mentioning.  Special attention is also paid to the fries and the place itself.  Another reason why you wont see Shake Shack.  “So why are you calling it Best Burger, Ziggy”?  Good question tommy.  For the same reason everyone else does.  Its much more Google friendly than “exceptional burgers”, or “decent Burgers”, and besides, they might very well be “The Best”

Island Burger and Shakes – Perhaps the obvious one and the place I frequent the most.  Great Burgers and.. you guessed it.. Churrascos!  Churrascos are chicken sandwiches grilled in over 30 ways – blackened, or spiced any way you want it.  The same goes for the top quality burgers where you have all these combinations to choose from including various toppings like Au poivre, pesto and even peanut thai sauce.  And 6 types of bread including a fine Ciabatta.  But don’t be afraid to try a very simple one with swiss, and perhaps sautéed onions or mushrooms.  What separates them from the rest is that they always grill the burgers to perfection (unless you are with a group of 8 as happened to me yesterday).  A medium rare is usually a medium rare.  Fries here are good but extra, though I usually share them with someone.  Oh and I’m noticing lately lunch specials of $10 that includes a plain burger, fries, beer, and a flue shot.

Island Burger

The Marshal –  (top) I already discussed The Marshal extensively but haven’t discussed the burger. As with anything else on the menu, attention to detail here is key.  An oven roasted fatty patty, a combination of chuck, brisket, and hanger along with kidney fat produces a perfect 80/20 fat ratio. This is the juiciest thing I’ve had since college!  No fries here but the duck fat potato chips and slaw make up for it.  The menu changes regularly so if you show up and the burger is not on the menu, I suggest you make a scene (how else they gonna learn).  Or just have something else for a change

Genuine Roadside – Essentially a Shake Shack fast food burger without any of the pain.  Every time I pass by Shake Shack on 8th ave I just want to shake a random German sock and sandals tourist and explain that there’s nothing in the land of pizza and burgers worth standing in line for.  Because you can find similar quality just about everywhere.  My only visit to this Shake Shack location was as much fun as a Vasectomy.  At Genuine, in food mecca Gotham West, you walk in, order, get a beeper, and wait a few minutes at one of the many booths available, instead of the standing room only Shake Shack.  Get the Double Stack, with american cheese, sweet pickles and house sauce which is essentially a mayo, ketchup, and mustard blend.  The patties are 80% chuck, 20% hanger, on the small side like Shake Shack and generally cooked well.  Fries are extra and well worth it.  But the one item on the menu I prefer over everything else is the Buttermilk Chicken Sandwich

Genuine Roadside

Brickyard Gastropub – For the health conscious.  If you noticed that burgers with diet coke is not helping you lose wait, try beer with Bison Burger.  You see what I did there kids?  Bison meat is leaner than cow meat and has more nutrients.  Brickyard offers regular burgers of course, and bison burgers that are slightly gamy and very tasty.  But you must pinky promise that you will order the truffled fries as well.  On first look they will seem greasy, but than you suddenly cant stop eating them.  A total opposite than my experience with the truffled fries at the super popular Umami.  But the burgers at this sport bar are solid overall.  And a cute Irish bartenderess that knows her food can only be a major plus

Brickyard Gastropub

Bulgogi Sliders at Danji – If the overrated Montmartre Patty Melt can be seen on “Best” lists than I’m adding sliders.  Its my blog, I make the rules, and those sliders will make you break the rules.  In a CNN 2011 reader’s poll of the World’s 50 most delicious foods, Bulgogi, a Korean style marinated beef was voted #23.  Soy Sauce, garlic, sake, car keys, and a whole bunch of stuff go into a typical marinade, and you can sample this deliciousness at Hooni Kim’s Danji with a lovely spicy pickled cucumber & scallion salsa.  Add the tofu and KFC wings while you at it

Happy eating and stay hungry my friends

photo (12)

 

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

Ivan the Formidable

Ivan Ramen Salmon DonburiWe all heard the story before hundreds of times.  A Jew from Long Island moves to Japan to teach English, moves back to the states, attends The Culinary Institute of America, leaves his heart in Japan so comes back to Tokyo, gets bored out of his mind and learns how to cook Ramen (just about the last thing that crosses my mind when I’m bored).  So he opens the first restaurant in Tokyo, finds success and opens another… moves back to NYC to open the Slurp Shop at Gotham West market and the flagship Ivan Ramen in East Village.  10 months later, over a dozen visits to the Slurp Shop and over a dozen whitefish Donburis, two visits to the new joint in East Village, and needless to say… Ziggy is a fan of the Ivan.

The Slurp Shop

I’ve already written extensively about Hell’s Kitchen’s main attraction these days, Gotham West Market, the home of the first Ivan outpost.  The Slurp Shop is normally the last stop of my monthly food crawls.  Problem is by the time we get here more often than not, tummy is already full.  The menu settled down over the year and features some unique staples like…

Slow-Cooked Pork Donburi - Another fun rice concoction with super tender pork shoulder, scallion, salted plum wasabi, and chunky roasted tomatoes proving nice balance and much needed acidity.

Ivan Ramen - Pork Donburi

Roasted Garlic Mazemen – I must admit the Mazemen here is more exciting to me than the traditional Ramen.  Mazemen is almost brothless ramen, but packs in more flavor and intensity.  This one comes with Nori, dashi, chicken broth, pork belly chashu, and the same rye noodle as the traditional ramen.  Garlic lovers especially may find this dish quite formidable.  Yes, I’m officially adding formidable to my vocabulary.

Ivan Ramen - Garlic Mazemen

Ramen – I cant find any pictures of any of the Ramen I tried here.  Most likely due to the way I attack them once I see them.  I believe I tried all of them except the vegetarian one and all are quite good in their own way.  The Tokyo classics Shio and Shoyu are cleaner and purer than most of the modern Ramens out there.

Whitefish Donburi – Perhaps my favorite dish in GWM but admittedly not for everyone (what is really).  White rice mixed with sweet soy dashi and topped with cucumber, scallion, salmon roe, and beautiful smoked whitefish.  Jewish heritage meets Japanese school girl.  Or something like that

Ivan Ramen Whitefish Donburi

Ivan Ramen

Lower East Side is the new East Village.  I can spend a year here and eat something delicious and different every day.  The new Ivan Ramen flagship complicates things even further for those locals that cant decide whether they are in the mood for Burritos, Ribs, Ramen or Israeli Scotch Eggs.  This is more of a sit down than the Slurp Shop, which basically means slurping isnt as encouraged here.  And the menu is quite different and fuller…

Pickled Daikon – shaved daikon (the radish white milder shy cousine), dried shrimp, scallop chili oil.  I expected fishier flavors from the shrimp but it was more reminiscent texture wise of the most freakish tasting bread crumbs ever.  Get this!

Ivan Ramen Pickled Daik0n

Chinese Broccoli & Garlic – Another cold winner.  You taste the Broccoli with that sweet garlic soy sauce and go “well this is nice..”, but then you taste the pickled garlic and the world suddenly beginning to makes sense again

Ivan Ramen Chinese Broccoli & Garlic

Pork Meatballs – Its texturally impossible to come up with more tender balls.  Garnished with bonito flakes, buttermilk dressing, and Japans official unofficial sauce, Bulldog brown sauce.  Marvelous dish!  And no, I’m not adding “texturally” to my vocabulary because its not a real word

Ivan Ramen Pork Meatballs

Tofu Coney Island – A playful and enjoyable take on the Nathan Hotdog.  Fried tofu topped with miso mushroom chili, mustard, and scallion.  Enjoyed this one

Ivan Ramen Tofu Coney Island

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

Tourist in My Own Town – Day 3

053Not really needed on one of the best eating days of the year but to ensure proper drool action, lets start the weekend with my Friday lunch with the boys at work.  It’s becoming a company tradition where I take my coworkers to lunch like on a school field trip (single file, no holding hands). We call it Eating With Ziggy.  This time it was a special occasion so I took them to Danji, a sort of favorite go to spot lately.  I got the usual suspects to share… the addictive tofu, KFC wings, Bulgogi sliders (rule number one of fight club – order the sliders) and both bibimbaps.  Cant recommend this highly enough.  Well, I can, but choose not too.  Slightly different menu for dinner where all those dishes are available and more.
Danji Bibim - Bop
This time we left the house at 8 am much to more confusion from the neighbors (where are their kids, why are they stuffing a suitcase in the car again, are the kids in the suitcase).  We don’t talk to the neighbors on the left who’s main mission in life is to see all their neighbors suffer.  But I digress.  Very light breakfast at home was necessary in order to save room for what turned out to be one of the best eating days of the year.  Hmm, I believe I already said that.
The entire morning centered around the brilliant Summer Streets.  It’s like the biggest baddest block party imaginable. Ok, perhaps not the baddest.  For three Saturdays in August the entire park avenue and connecting streets from Brooklyn bridge to around 70th st or so is closed to traffic the entire morning, or from 7 to 1 to be exact.  Bikers, walkers, babies, joggers take advantage with the help of volunteers from New York Cares that control traffic, and even try to entertain sometimes while controlling traffic.  Some seem happier to do it than others but I give big kudos points to all of them.  In addition, you have all sorts of pit stops along the way… Zip Lining, Yoga, Whole Foods giving away free food, concerts, free walking tours, wall climbing, bicycle riding lessons, and much more.  A great way to spend the morning with other New Yorkers.  We parked near our hotel of choice (more on that soon), and rode the bikes to around 30th st in order to walk inside the Park ave Tunnel to the sound of water and waves.  If you ever wondered how Cast Away middle of the ocean feels like, you wont get that feeling here.  They choose a different artist every year to for the sounds.098 095 093 099 058 052
The end of the tunnel you pretty much at Grand Central Station, so like true tourists we took the opportunity to visit it.  Their was a wedding couple taking pictures while posing way too proper for the purpose.  We tried to take an audio guide tour but couldn’t quite wait the extra few minutes for the audio guide person to come back from her break.  It said “will be back in 15″ and I swear we waited over 7!  Ok, we are not the most patient people.  I’m waiting for someone to bring me a Cronut directly so I could finally try it.  Right before entering the station we found ourselves at the Grand Hyatt, which felt just (slot machine sounds) shy of a Vegas hotel
063 061
089We then proceeded to the Public Library Main branch and proceeded to do what every normal parents normally do in town without their kids.. go to a children book exhibit.  The ABCs of It exhibit was more interesting than I expected.  History of famous children books and their importance.  Stories like that of a couple who fled Paris right before a Nazi invasion carrying the drawings of a monkey named Fifi.  “Curious Fifi” would have been a better name than Curious George if you ask me.  A fun corner depicting the history of Goodnight Moon.  Nothing about goodnight Ipad, and my favorite classic Goodnight Schnitzel, but whatever.  Goodnight Moon was my favorite book because it was easy to read, short and sweet and I was able to go back to watching the hockey game in no time.  And upon exiting the library there was that wedding couple again following us with the same exact pose.073 091
Back to Summer Streets, we walked Park ave a bit to the Whole Foods pit stop where we enjoyed..nothing! due to the lines.  Picked up bikes and rode to the lower end of the “festival” where things got a bit more chaotic (in a good way).  But just before we picked up the bikes we did what every tourist to NYC must do, eat a hot dog.  I havent eaten in like 3 hours and I was starving
Our lunch was at Ivan Ramen flagship in the Lower East Side, with our young friend Victoria who recently moved to the East Village.  This is my second visit to this location, but I’ve been to the Slurp Shop in Gotham West many times.  They don’t share the same menu.  I will try to write a separate review if I have a chance but meanwhile here’s what I recommend to try at the LES flagship
Pickled Daikon – With dried shrimp that taste closer to breadcrumbs than shrimp but quite yummo!
Chinese Broccoli & Garlic – The pickled garlic is what did it for me
Ankimo Dirty Rice (dinner only) – Ankimo is essentially monkfish liver but dont be scared.  An absolute must
Pork Meatballs – Perfection.  Cant get any more tender this
Triple Pork Triple Garlic Mazemen (dinner) – Didn’t have it yet but perhaps the most popular dish here
Four Cheese Mazemen (dinner) – Rich and flavor packed
Salmon Donburi (lunch) – Like the whitefish Donburi at Gotham West but with Salmon instead.  Fantastic dish
106 102 101
110Not much dessert here but no worries.  One of my new favorite “I cant believe its not gelato” ice cream spots is not too far at the underrated Essex Market, Luca and Bosco.  Named after the owners dogs.  Two girls, one of whom picked up some valuable trade secrets in the gelato capital of the world, Florence Italy.  The Drunk and Salty Caramel with Bourbon is my pick  again but I urge you to try the rest
We then walked around East Village with Victoria and made our way to the hotel.  I don’t know if it was the beer or lack of sleep but exhaustion hit, and I was craving a hotel bed badly.  And yes, we went back to the Hyatt Union Square and THIS time I got the view I wanted, of the brick wall.  I suppose a view of the city would make more sense to the average tourist but I rather face peace and quiet.  Our room was away from the elevator this time as well, and while the design was a bit different, still the same great king size bed and pillows, decent size, nice shower, and here’s the kicker…  “Great Location” is something you see in just about every hotel review, whether the location is UWS, Times Square, no matter.  Its a cliché.  But, I honestly cant think of a better location than this.  You could come up with some other nearby hotels that may be slightly better situated than the corner of 4th and 13th st, but, this is as center as it gets to great dining, great neighborhoods, and everything else pretty much.  You can walk just about everywhere from here including Times Square.  We walked to Battery Park the next day.  Highly recommend this baby Hyatt.  From baby Hyatt to baby NoMad…113
115After some relaxing at the Hyatt we met up with friends and walked toward the most highly anticipated meal of the “trip”, the new NoMad Bar.  It was even better than anticipated.  Fantastic bay scallop, and carrot “tartar” starters, first rate duck sausage, and as expected a burger that can rival anything in NYC right now.  But that’s not all folks.  The NoMad famous truffled/foie grased chicken can be had in the form of the most luxurious and delicious Chicken Pot Pie ($36).  They bring you the pie with the Foie on the side, and mix it in table side.  Needless to say the most extrodinary Chicken Pot Pie you will ever have.  But that’s not all.  The infamous $110 Cocktail Explosion we shared was a big hit with everyone.  One of the most memorable meals of the year.
116 121
We then made a tourist mistake.  We took a cab to Washington Square Park just to cross it again to reach the next destination.  This time they had what looked like a Shakespeare in the Park session which I’ve never witnessed before.  Our destination was Comedy Cellar which was sold out of all shows, hence the mistake.  Oh well.  We briefly considered the Argentinian aerial acrobatics Fuerza Bruta but then settled for plan A, The Hundred-Foot Journey movie which dictated our next day dinner destination (second only to one of the best lobster rolls I ever had)
100 135
Categories: Gramercy, Flatiron, Lower East Side, Midtown West, New York City | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Tourist in My Own Town – Day 2

036******* YOU MUST BE 18 YEARS OLD TO READ THIS *********

WordPress issues last night published this thing prematurely

Day 1 can be found here.  Day 2 was interesting to say the least.

There’s something about spending the evening in NYC while knowing you don’t have to drive home soon.  Although my favorite part  is waking up in the big city.  There’s this level of serenity, like the great calm after the storm.  Beautiful young drunk boys and girls are coming home after their one night stands, one reminder after another that you went to sleep way too early last night, and you are just old.  People talking to themselves without ear pieces, is another early morning phenomenon.

NY-Times-theaterThe best advice I can give a real tourist (as oppose to the fakes like me) is to skip the hotel breakfast option.  Come out, explore, follow your nose to the nearest bakery, coffee shop, etc.  A Frenchman walks into a bar with a toad on his head.  The bartender asks “where the hell did you get this”, the toad replies “In France, they got a million of those”  So is coffee shops in NYC these days, and bagels everywhere you turn.  Squirrel seekers can even find a plethora of flat whites all over town these days.  Instead of sharing a hotel dining room with sandal and socks wearing tourists, come out and eat where the locals eat, and meet some of them.  Like Everyman Espresso around the corner from the Hyatt Union Square. Voted by the Daily Meal as one of the best coffee in America, where we enjoyed some fine latte and flavored muffins.  A light little breakfast, to save room for a great lunch and dinner, is the way to go in NYC

We then checked out of the hotel and started walking toward our next destination, the one that crashed Trip Advisor.  A trip without walking through Madison Square Park is a like a trip without sunshine.  Its not only the squirrel capital of the world and the place to see unique art installations, but this is also the place where magic happens… Shake Shack.  Well, the original one at least.  Shake shack employees and a few squirrels joined together for a pre-opening meeting this fine morning.  It occurred to me how large this SS operation really is.026 032

Whenever we look for parking in that area with the kids, somehow, for some bizarre Freudian reason we find a spot right by the Museum of Sex.  The kids are too shy and embarrassed to ask any questions about this, and we are too embarrassed and lazy to explain.  Since wifey and I are now kidless we decided to pop in.  Would you believe it if I told you that this was not only fun and unique, but educational?  You got an interesting exhibit dedicated to Linda Lovelace.  Funland, a playground for adults that features a new spin on Kentucky Derby horse racing, Grope Mountain climbing!, and a bouncy house where you are surrounded by inflatable fake breasts, some of which were more wrinkly than others I noticed! And who witnessed a German tourist breast suddenly pop out while bouncing?  This guy!  The educational part:  Animals and sex.  Very interesting facts and tales like about ducks raping other ducks after chasing and killing them.  Another floor offers extremely interesting displays that I can not possiby describe here, and the first floor is a store offering among other things, new pasta shapes I havent seen yet.  A new meaning to Al Dente (firm… get it?)045 s 048 044042

050We proceeded to walk toward our first culinary highlight of the day, but first we pass Eisenberg’s Sandwich Shop and it occurred to me..  I havent been here in 13 years since I worked at Forbes.com around the corner.  That brought back memories.  “Just browsing” I told the clerk, as I had brunch plans.  This is not the place for browsing.  You attack this thing with full force.

Add the burger at The Gander to the list of NYC growing must eat burgers.  This beauty is priced well at $16, available for lunch/brunch only.  28 day dry-aged beef, cheddar – adding anything else to it except for the bone marrow mayo that comes on the side would be criminal.   Juiciness level I haven’t experienced since college!  Confit Duck Hash, Poached Duck Egg, Port Béarnaise, Duck Chicharrónes was very good, while could have used some acidity in the form of roasted tomatoes or something, but enjoyable nonetheless.  Good drinks, great service, nice looking rooms (got filled up a few minutes after the picture was taken).  Will be back for more at this 2 month old for sure053 057 051 058

We then took a walk along 6th ave toward midtown to witness one of our great holiday celebrations… The Dominican Day Parade (special thanks to TER and ZTAKS from Trip Advisor for this suffering ;))  It was actually quite fun though a tad too crowded.  We overheard one visitor ask a police officer if this was the American Independence Day parade.

A mistake on my part.  Plan at this point was to walk all the way west to 12th ave, Hudson River.  The 20 minute walk turned to be challenging due to the heat.  And on top of that, the Citibikes in that station (12th and 40th) had problems with credit cards and 24 hour passes.  I have an annual pass but Mrs Z doesn’t.

069 071 075

We managed to get bikes a block away and Mrs Z managed quite fine for her first bike ride in the city without any incidents.  I chose the Hudson River Park as its flat, carless, and quite Obama-care friendly.  We then parked the bikes in West Village and took advantage of the green space on that end of Hudson River Park, one of my favorite parks in the city overlooking the Hudson and Jersey City.  Manhattan has pretty cool parks these days, something I wasnt able to say 10 years ago.  We then walked all over West Village all the way to the hotel crossing the always vibrant Washington Square Park yet again

077 078 079 080

Although we already checked out of the hotel, we were able to use the facilities to make ourselves pretty, or make Mrs Z pretty for our dinner at Ma Peche with friends from Brooklyn.  Cant say enough about this place, their new cart service, the fried chicken, and those addictively sick rice cakes (Korean gnocchi on crack) I constantly dream about.  Highly recommend Ma Peche. Try the Seven Spice Sour cocktail if you go

We capped off the night at one of my favorite bars in town, the rooftop at Ink48.  Glorious moon, glorious views, and another glorious day in the city I call home!

Day 1

Day 3

Day 4

088

 

 

 

 

Categories: East Village, Gramercy, Flatiron, Midtown West, New York City, West Village | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Tourist in My Own Town – Day 1

photo (9)There’s very little doubt as to what is my 12 year old’s favorite store in the entire world.  M&M’s World. Whenever we enter the store, her eyes bulge, and she’s not sure what area to hit first.  She’s like a kid in a candy store!  In a way, I felt similar symptoms when I found myself kidless for 9 days for the first time in 14 years.  There’s only one thing I love more than exploring NYC with my beautiful daughters.. exploring without them.  Although I normally feel free to eat wherever I want, this is a brand new level of culinary freedom, with endless wants and possibilities.  Instead of skipping town, Mrs Z and I decided to stay put and play tourists.  We wanted the real Australian tourist experience which includes staying in a trendy hotel, complaining about hotel A/C noise, and taking pictures of squirrels.  Day 1 out of 4…

*****Mostly iPhone pictures on day 1 as I wasn’t planning to do this post.  I don’t want you to think that I’m a terrible photographer.  I am, but I don’t want YOU to think that.

My weakened  eating adventure started the day before where I enjoyed a Don Antonio Diavolo pie and a shared this pizza Fritta, a giant fried calzone stuffed with mozzarella, tomatoes and salami.  Don Antonio to me is the closest to eating pizza in Italy due to the style, ingredient quality, and female employees speaking with Italian accents

Don Antonio Calzone

We started our day 1 around noon in Hell’s Kitchen, where we met Mr Hummus Whisperer and wifey for pre-matinee lunch at Ippudo. My goal for this weekend was to impress mrs Z with good food and get her dunk.  Good start so far.  The Akamaru Modern on point as usual.  Pork Buns so fine that will make you slap your mama.  Chicken wings, fried chicken (fried chicken won by a chicken skin hair), and some gelato and sorbet from Il Laboratorio del Gelato where the black sesame winning top marks.
Ippudo Pork Buns Ippudo Ice Cream
Book of Mormon. The show that upon purchase, made me tell my kids that they need to start being nice to their grandparents as they will need to rely on them for continued education from now on.  I believe its the most expensive broadway show in history.  And with all those inflated expectations, we still managed to enjoy it tremendously.  Like a bizarre, super clever Mel Brooks, Howard Stern collaboration that makes you want to “Baptize” someone in the next few days
photo (14)

I work in Hell’s Kitchen, and ‘Disiac lounge off 54th and 9th is the place my coworkers frequent the most.  I’ve seen the bar much more livelier than on this Saturday afternoon, but we did discover something important about us.  We don’t like CAIPIRINNA, the Brazilian national drink.  Getting mrs Z drunk – Failed!  We did enjoy however in this Israeli owned bar, a falafel platter, with hummus, babaganoush, grilled pitas, and fine red Yemeni S’chug.  My favorite Hummus in the area is still at Gazala’s however.

Hyatt Union SquareMy hotel of choice was the Hyatt Union Square, a stylish boutique with ultra modern rooms (the ones where you can see yourself shower), comfy bed and pillows, a magazine rack in the bathroom with magazine! (for those not willing to spend extra for wifi!), valet parking (if it costs $65 is that still considered an amenity), and perhaps my favorite amenity in any hotel.. A Flat Screen TV!  If there’s a flat screen TV in every single hotel in the world, is it still considered an amenity?  Why not list “Bed” as well?  But in all seriousness, this was a fine stay that would have been finer if they hadn’t put us next to the elevator.Hyatt Union Square Art

Washington Square ParkWe’ve been to Washington Square Park before many times, but never experienced it quite like this time.  A giant Star Wars flash mob cock fight.  It was quite a scene.  We didnt stay late enough but at some point we were told that they got divided into groups to fight each other to the death.  Or until their little Jedi swords broke, whichever came sooner.  There were also the usual park musicians and art like sand displays, and a fake birds eating fake pizza showing.

We capped off the night at Casa Mono, one of the premier tapas joints in town.  All 6 dishes including one dessert were quite good.  I especially liked the duck egg with potatoes, Mojama and some ultra perfumy summer black truffles.  The calamari like Razor clams were slightly overdone though still quite enjoyable.  Nice skirt steak with Romesco, reminiscent of the Gato scrambled egg.  Goat confit was expertly prepared with avocado purée.  I can’t get enough goat lately.  Perhaps my favorite dish however was the Fideo with chorizo and clams. I don’t understand why I so rarely see fideo on menus.  The one big issue I had was the frequency of the dishes coming out.  Started with two right away, and the next 3 came in at the same time pretty much.  In a place like this where sharing is key you would think they would get it by now

A nice walk back to the hotel included a visit to Union Square Park where I saw the the youngest street performer I’ve ever seen (5 maybe?) among a group of many other dancers.  Day 2 coming up!  Any comments?  Question? threats?

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

 

Washington Square Park Star WarsCasa Mono Razor Clams Casa Mono Duck Egg

Categories: East Village, Gramercy, Flatiron, Midtown West, New York City, West Village | Tags: , , , , , , , | 34 Comments

Blog at WordPress.com. The Adventure Journal Theme.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 822 other followers