Monthly Archives: July 2015

Bar Pitti – The Confucius of NYC Dining

Bar Pitti Taglierini Black TrufflesEverything has its beauty, but not everyone sees it – Confucius

The legend of Confucius is so legendary that in modern times he is often compared to Jesus.  Both men were great thinkers and preachers whose believes written down well after their death.  Confucius, much like Jesus is viewed as a religeous figure.  Except that.. he wasnt really.  He was a teacher and a great philosopher, but not so much a preacher.  Confucius, as the name implies… a misunderstood figure.  Even some of his philosophies are either misunderstood or misapplied

Ignorance is the night of the mind, but a night without moon and star – Confucius

Just like great thinkers like Confucius and Donald Trump, I feel that Bar Pitti is misunderstood.  Perhaps the most misunderstood restaurant in NYC.  If you are to visit NYC and read reviews about this place on Yelp, chances are that you will likely pass on it.  Which is fine I suppose.  There are plenty of Branzini in the sea.  What you will read is mostly about service.  “I did not get the special board right away”, “The board was too confusing and heavy”, “The wait staff is hurried and rude”, “We were hurried”.  “The owner walks around like he owns the place”  I can go on and on.  You can read about it yourself.

When you hit the wall, it will hurt for a few days – Ziggy

But the truth of the matter is, Bar Pitti is just about as Italian as it gets in NYC.  The owner and the entire staff are Italian.  The chalk board is in Italian.  Everyone speaks Italian.  And if you ever set foot in a true Italian Trattoria in Italy (not Staten Island) you may have noticed the contrast.  Italians are more direct.  Just like the rest of the world, they dont work for tips.  The “wait staff” is not there to “serve” you.  It may be the owner, the sister, the cousin that takes your order, brings you the food, and helps you select the wine.  But the biggest difference the way I see it, is that the number of workers in a typical Italian restaurant in NYC far outnumber a similarly sized Italian Trattoria in Italy.  In another words, they work their ass off.  That work ethic translates to “Hurried” by some here.  The directness and the language barrier may translate to rudeness.  Their policies (like cash only) are… well.. their policies.  Its all in the open.  If you choose to eat their anyway, you dont have the right to complaint.  Its like saying “This Pizza place sucks because they dont sell slices.  Only whole pies.  AVOID!”

Some girls are bigger than others. Some girls mothers are bigger than other girls mothers – Morrissey

Bar Pitti Veal Milanese

You know who doesnt think there are service issues at Bar Pitti?  NY celebrities.  Bar Pitti is one of those NY celebrity magnets.  Which also means good looking people lining up the sidewalk waiting for a table.  Its a places to see and be seen, partly due to that wide sidewalk and prime West Village real estate.  Jake Gyllenhaal was in the next room while we dined there the other night, joining a slew of celebrities dining there at some point.  Bar Pitti is also one of the only restaurants in its class that has no website.  Reservations for four and over are taken like in Italy, the old fashion way… via conversation.  which means you can score a table even on a busy Saturday night.  Want to stay for a while?  Keep ordering.  This is not a place to linger, unless you are Jake Gyllenhaal

You can observe a lot just by watching – Yoggi Berra

Yoggi Berra is talking about the specials board at Bar Pitti.  That’s where the action is.  Starting with the great Pappardelle Rabbit ragu or whatever meat ragu, and ending with the Taglierini with summer Black Truffles.  One of the only NYC places offering black truffles the entire summer.  The Burrata is another strong board option, and so is the Veal Milanese.  This place will also make you question your ban on creamy dishes, starting with the Pappardelle Alla Fiesolana, perhaps the most popular dish of the house.  For mushroom lovers, the oyster mushroom app is an absolute must.

Bar Pitti is old school at its best.  And I pity the fool who passes on it

Bar Pitti
268 Ave of the Americas
$$$ (cash only)

Bar Pitti Pappardelle Rabbit ragu Bar Pitti Burrata photo (17) Bar Pitti

 

 

 

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Oiji – Men at Work. Korean Men!

Oiji Jang-Jo-RimFirst, an apology to you readers, both of you, for the lack of quality posts as of late.  Busy with work, family, various projects, avoiding Obama.  Yes, Obama visiting the Daily Show the other day causing major havoc to many New Yorkers trying to go home or just go about their business.  Have you ever seen an American president stuck in traffic?  There’s no such thing.  At some point the entire 52nd st was converted to Obama freeway where no cars or pedestrians could cross from north to south.  Close to three hour commute.  My friend and fellow blogger at Smum County told me today about the commute nightmare of his daughter’s camp that day.  Even the homeless guy on 52nd and 11th had to be temporarily displaced, and knowing him and his apparently very annoying invisible friend, I feel sorry for the poor cops that were tasked with that one.  And for what?  15 minutes of American entertainment.

But I digress, quickly.  Since not even Obama can steal the spotlight of this post about one of the best meals we’ve had lately.  No coincidence it was in East Village.  No coincidence from young chefs opening their first restaurant.  In a way this place reminds me of Tuome nearby.  Very young chefs (I was told 12 years old by our waitress but it was a little loud), playful Asian inspired menus, no desserts (I dont consider the chips dessert) and that overall casual, buzzy East Villagy feel.  In fact since this was a last minute rezzy, I was wondering if perhaps I was underdressed for the occasion after reading on Chowhound that this was more of a chic, romantic joint.  So I asked the guy on the phone if sexy long shorts with sandals (and desperate need of pedicure depending on the light) were ok and he just burst out laughing.  As for the food, plenty of hits, and no bad dish in sight

Fried Chicken –  Started with a bang.  Tapioca flour coated, far from your ordinary battered fried chicken.  Shredded Leeks was a nice touch

Cold Buckwheat noodles – Excellent!  Pretty much exactly what you expect but with the much added bonus of spring Ramps preserved from the previous spring. Those ramps soaked in a lot of punch

Jang-Jo-Rim – Enjoyed this one.  If I have to pick the weakest dish this might be it, though its more of a testament to the other dishes and I still recommend you get it.  Buttered rice once mixed in with the egg and everything else had a nice flavor.  The King Oysters Mushrooms was my favorite part, but the beef shank could have been a little warmer

Truffle Seafood Broth – Best dish of the night.  Mussels, Shrimp, two Crispy Rice “Sheets” that sizzle when the broth is poured table side, need to be softened a little for best taste.  But its all about the beautiful, dark, rich broth that makes this a winner.  Just a small hint of truffle, perhaps not enough to be part of the name, but just right to round up the perfect broth

Oxtail – Finger licking exceptional good.  I was concerned that it would be too sweet but it wasnt.  Pick it up and suck on the bones for the true affect.  More tasty root veggies here.  Really liked the use of veggies throughout the meal.  Their mama must be proud

Potato Chips – The most disgustingly addictive thing I ever ate.  Apparently a thing in South Korea nowadays.

Go!

Oiji
119 1st Avenue (7/St Marks)
$$$
Recommended Dishes:  All of the above

Oiji Fried Chicken Oiji Buckwheat noodles Oiji Truffle Seafood Broth Oiji Oxtail Oiji Potato Chips

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

Santina – Lucca via Miami Beach

Update on Santina…

Eating With Ziggy

Santina Cecina

Update 7/20/2015:  Get the Squash Carpaccio people.  Whether you are into such veggie dishes or not is irrelevant.  Thinly sliced squash with pumpkin seeds adding a nice texture, crème fraiche dropped like Hershey kisses, brown butter, pink peppercorn and other spices and herbs.  The peppercorn especially complete this dish.  Tastier than many beef carpaccios I’ve had.  Another new must is the Potatoes side.  Flash fried, then sautéed with onions, hefty amount of chili paste and other goodies.  Reminded me in a way of the Momofuku rice cakes with meat.  Addcitive stuff.  The light and satisfying Santina fusilli is an interesting combination of lamb and the mussels which you wont find anywhere else.  The bright red chicken with a tangy guajillo sauce was tender and tasty as well.  Don’t overlook this gem when you visit the High Line or the great new Whitney Museum

Santina Squash CarpaccioSantina ChickenSantina Fusilli

Original Post 5/9/2015:

A lot of firsts for me at this new Carbone/Torrisi team hot spot.  The first time I took a…

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The Strange and Bizarre Art of Prague

636Mostly by David Cerny, one of the most controversial sculpture artists in the world.  Finding his sculptures all over Prague is like an adult scavenger hunt (probably too boring for kids).  The only one we didnt get a chance to see because its out of the way is what I can only passionately describe as the “A-Hole”.  You climb the ladder, stick your head in there and watch some propaganda videos.  Cant quite imagine this working in Central Park or anywhere in the US.  The only issue we encountered that got Mrz Z truly upset for some reason was that the Pissing Fountain wasnt pissing and wasnt fountaining on this particular day.  It was just two men holding their Chorizos statue

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Categories: Austria/Czech Republic | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Best Wings in NYC

Kolkovna Olympia wings

Updated 1/24/17

Ok, 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. (Upate 9/19/16:  Havent seen them on the menu in a while due to rotating chefs.  Shame, shame, shame!).  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 awesomeness 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.Danji - Wings

Biang! – Chicken Wings Skewers. This dish prompted me to bump up this post.  In fact it was as soon as I finished my wing, and right before trying to convince my daughters that its way too spicy and there’s more food coming.  It didnt work, as they gobbled those things in full force.  One can easily overlook them because Biang! is known for just about everything else but wings, but dont make the mistake.  Like Pok Pok below these are full high quality wings, and oh so nicely seasoned to absolute perfection.  And while you at it, also try the Cauliflower skewers.  Yes, not a typo.  Cauliflower!

biang-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.  Kitchen 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 dont forget about the sick Pig’s Head Cuban.  This is quickly becoming my favorite Gotham West menuCanibbal - wings

Jun-Men Ramen – Chicken Wings.  A must order for me on each visit since discovery.  4 plain looking wings, but far from plain tasting.  They are double fried to give them a nice crisp, but retain plenty of juice and strong peppery notes from the secret Jun-Men sauce.  Even without the wings this is one Chelsea favorite.

jun-men-wings

Pok Pok – Ike’s Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings.  Unlike the other wings here, 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.   The wings are huge, spicy, garlicky, on the dry side, but flavor packed.  Put this one on your bucket list.  Before the Great Wall of China, after Story Time with Bill Cosby.Pok Pok Wings

Pondicheri – Masala Wings.  These wings are as complex as the name.  Is it Masala wings? Is it Madras?  Doesnt matter, its all good.  The wings are slow baked, liberally coated with Garam Masala, and Mango Powder seasoning and served with two chutneys including chili and tamarind.  They are aromatic and delicious, with the proper texture in and out.  And while you at it, try any of the Thalis for breakfast or lunch, followed by anything from the unique bakery like the ice cream sandwich

pondicheri-masala-wings

Bar Goto – Miso Wings.  Black Sesame, Scallions, House Spicy Miso Sauce.  These are some of the best bar wings you will find in NYC.  But in this semi-classy tiny Japanese cocktail joint, they will test your high-toned manners.  You may find yourself sitting at the bar, talking politics with the bartender, while in desperate need of extra napkins to wipe the Miso glaze around your lips and sponge your sweaty forehead (these are hot!).  And while the bartender exclaims his views on Trump, all you can think about is “Is it Miso, or is it Buffalo”.  And once you think you got your classiness under control, you cant help but lick your fingers.  All of them.  Slowly.

goto-wings

Han Dynasty – Dry Pepper Chicken Wings.  For a white, spicy lover like myself, these are what the Mission Chinese Food wings should taste like.  They are marinated in sherry, cayenne, garlic, white pepper, and ginger. And stir-fried with a hefty dose of chili paste, chili peppers, garlic and scallions.  They are more subdued than Mission’s, but not without its share of nice pleasant heat.  Some of the pepper action bunched together into something reminiscent of a Yemeni S’chug (hot pepper spread).  The skin is as crispy and delicious as it comes, which made me wish for more flesh to balance.  Wonderful stuff!

han-dynasty-wings

FOB – Spicy Chicken Langkawas.  This one is all about the sauce.  When the waiter takes the plate before you are totally done with that sauce, you stare at him like he’s a bully trying to take your food.  The wings are grilled, so not so much of a skin crunch.  But the flavor is there thanks to the wonderful, addictive thick salsa of chilies, lime, and coconut milk.  I’m starting to think that finger-licking-good was invented in the Phillipines, with all that Adobo, and various sauces they make.  The wings are one of many inspiring goodies coming out of this homey Filipino kitchen in Brooklyn

fob-chicken-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

Dining in Vienna

3098Our first foray into the Vienna food scene was quite successful.  Hooray for research!  The best I can describe Vienna is like eating at your mother-in-law after shipping her to the Culinary Institute of Mother-in-Laws for a year.  Feel good home cooking at its finest, filled with all sorts of familiar tastes.  Even the touristy places had enough hits to award recommendation tags.  The golden schnitzels, goulashes and cordon blues were the only rays of light during our sunshinless four days.  Here’s the recap…

Pulker’s Heuriger in Rührsdorf, Wachau Valley.  The one place that requires its own post.  Perhaps the most memorable meal of a trip that included a Michelin Star meal.  You essentially say “Ja” to the food option and get a mini feast of various home made goodies.  Pork fat spread, ham, fresh goat cheese, black pudding, fresh pork belly with crackling (revelation!), veggies, various spreads, and great homemade desserts.  All, washed down with the fantastic house whites.  Its slow Food at its finest, in the stunning Austrian wine country.  When its nice out, you can sit at the garden surrounded by vineyards.  Cant recommend this place highly enough.

Pulker's Heuriger Feast

Restaurant Sperl – If I can only give you one tip for Vienna its this:  Bring and umbrella.  But my second tip would be to eat at Sperl on your Belvedere Castle day.  Sometimes you just know you are in the right place as soon as you enter.  Best Goulash of the trip – most tender meat with even a bit of heat.  A very respectable Schnitzel (The tables next to us ordered 6 of them.  There were four people).  A rather flavorful creamy asparagus risotto.  And something called Geröstete Knödel mit Ei, essentially bread dumplings with egg and bacon (optional)… although tasted too familiar, it was a feel good familiar.  Our waiter was the Austrian Kevin Nealon2854

Appiano – Best meal in Vienna though also the most expensive (not outrageous by any means).  Austrian with a nice Mediterranean/Italian twist.  Starting with their excellent octopus app is an absolute must.  Quadratini pasta stuffed with beef shoulder was a pleasant surprise.  Pork schnitzel was pounded a little too thin for my taste.  Get the expertly cooked beef shoulder filet instead with mashed potatoes and asparagus…  melt in your fork tender awesomeness.  Our lone Cordon Bleu of the trip was a hit.  Appiano is somewhat isolated, away from via tourista, but close enough to many hotels in the center.  We were the only tourists there.  A month after this visit however, I got a note that they will shut down for the summer for health reasons.  Hoping for a speedy recovery chef2979

Café Central – Did not suck!  There was no mistaken that you are in one of the most touristy spots in town, but it wasn’t bad at all.  Goulash soup was actually one of the better soups of the trip.  Would make for a very nice ragout. “Sacher sausage” essentially a simple Vienna sausage.  Backhendl turned out to be quite acceptable, juicy fried chicken.  But its the torts (top) here that are the real draw, and I wish we could have spent some more quality time with them.  Not bad for a place with over 2500 Trip Advisor reviews.3099Gasthaus Pöschl – A little gem smack in the center.  Not the prettiest and most comfortable interior, but when the food is this good, who cares.  And they are open on Sundays.  Try the Reisfleich,  like a saucy plov with juicy pork cubes.  Veal Schnitzel was one of the better ones of the trip, and a bit more seasoned than the others.  Liver sauteed with potatoes was a big hit with our group.

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Konoba – Not one of the better meals, but I can see why locals flock to this Croatian seafood joint well outside of the center.  Octopus was a far cry from what we got at Appiano. Squid ink risotto had a nice flavor, though no so lucky with the grilled sardines . Platter for two was the saving grace. There was a whole Seabream, calamari, a few overcooked butterflied shrimp, and some filets.  If you go, try to get a table inside the lively room, as opposed to the side by the entrance.

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Street food –  Reserve Sunday lunch for street food, mainly around the church.  Not only its fun and one should always take advantage of street food wherever they go, but many restaurants are closed on Sundays.  Obviously you cant miss the fantastic pretzels and sausages (try the spicy ones).  Also the sausages at the Wurstelstand on Hohen Markt in particular the cheesy Käsekrainer were quite good.  We can use some of that action here in NYC.

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Sperl – Geröstete Knödel mit Ei

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Gasthaus Pöschl

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Appiano

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Appiano Cordon Blue

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Cafe Central – fried chicken

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Gasthaus Pöschl rice with pork

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Categories: Austria/Czech Republic | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Locanda Mariella {Calestano} – The Perfect Meal

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

Eating With Ziggy

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

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

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HK Just a Bit Outside Update

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

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

Pork Buns

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

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