Monthly Archives: August 2015

Nargis Cafe – Uzbek Beauty With an Attitude

Another fun meal at Nargis Cafe…

Eating With Ziggy

Nargis Cafe Samsa

8/30/15 Update:  Another great lunch in one of my Brooklyn faves.  You cant get this stuff in Manhattan.  The Plov is still Killa!  So are the Monti, those giant dumplings filled with cuminy meaty goodness.  The chicken kebabs and Lyulya kebab are some of the juiciest tenderest kebabs you will ever eat.  Among the starters I particularly like the red eggplant dish (over the green) and the avocado salad.  They make Lagman noodles but only offer it in soup (very good).  It doesnt look like they have Pilmeni any more but they do offer its fried uzbek cousin Chuchvara.  Wash it all down with the Szech draft beer (the second one, forgot the name) or their terrific Kompot (Russian fruit punch).  Very busy place, sort of approaching local institution status.  You cant get this in the city.  Did I already say that?  Well I’m saying this again.  I just read the…

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The Murals of Mission (San Francisco)

We came for Mexican food, we stayed for the murals.  Balmy Alley, Clarion Alley, 24th st, the magnificent Women’s Building.  You can easily spend half a day here and not see everything. California-2015 404

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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

 

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Montrio Bistro in Monterey – Don’t Fear the Reaper

Montrio SalmonChills, confusion, despair, butterflies, who shot Mr Burns, shaking, why is it so cold here.  Where the hell are we?  Where are the butterflies?

“Mom, what’s wrong with dad?  Why is he sitting in the corner, on the floor like that?”

“He just found out the restaurant he picked for tonight is #1 on Trip Advisor.  Just give him a moment and avoid eye contact.  It happened before.”

I know that voice.  Mommy?  More chills, hungry, it was Maggie, Maggie shot Mr Burns.  How many R’s in Monterey.  Where are the freakin butterflies.  She says they come in November, but I cant stay that long.  I need to visit Big Sur tomorrow.  What the hell is Big Sur anyway.  So hungry.

“Mom, he is drooling now”

“Don’t touch him!  That means he is getting better”

Ok, feeling better.  Off we go to the #1 as of this writing and dine with fellow tourists.  We are after all tourists as well, and do touristy things like ride cable cars, walk slow, and visit aquariums.  How bad can this be.  I considered a place called Passionfish, another long timer, near our Butterfly-less Grove, but opted to stick to the script.  This vacation is going just great.  Stick to the script.

Montrio PopocornIt’s just as I imagined.  Packed with visitors from all over the world.  I hear French, Italian, New Jersian… chills slowly creeping back.  But hey, we quickly get a table and.. crayons.  You would think that crayons will make the matter worse, but in this classy looking, mural filled joint its actually quite refreshing.  Imagine getting crayons at Aquavit.  I’m back to self, and in ordering mode.  The menu breathes Best of America.  California America!  There’s salmon, there’s chicken, there’s short rib.  Its a new revamped menu I’m told by a {gulp} British chef, and just about everything sounds orderable.  They even have a “Bites” section which suggests this check inflating trend is now nation wide.

We start with what else, popcorn.  They come cheesy, mixed with bacon bits.  The waitress goes “May I?”  “May I what, feed them to me?”  No, she picks up the cup and spills all the popcorn on the plate so we could easily pick them up with the chopsticks that come with it.  How fun.  Mac and Cheese was cheesy alright, and quite good.  But the polenta with mixed mushrooms, one of my favorite dishes on the planet fell a little short.  Leave that to the Italians.  Dungeness Crab cakes tastes like crab cakes should.  Wish there were more of that though.  Perhaps the fact that its not quite Dungeness Crab season here is to blame.  The “Crispy Calamari” comes shaped like chicken tenders, aided by a tangy Romesco (I heart Romesco) and house made hot sauce that came in a nose drop bottle.  And then came the Mussels.Montrio Calamari

The Mussels are paragraph worthy.  We are a mussels family, enjoying our east coast mainly PEI (thats Price Edward Island for the German tourists) mussels for years.  Yes, I know eating PEI mussels in NYC and in the source is like eating two different kinds of mussels.  But here on the west coast, chefs in the know, even British, are loving the mussels coming out of Penn Cove in Whidbey Island, Washington.  These mussels, cooked with a mild red curry broth, were some of the fullest, sweetest mussels I ever had.

The mains here did not disappoint either.  The last time I ordered salmon and chicken together was 25 years ago when my source of income was tips from pizza deliveries.  The chicken was fine for a #1.  The salmon (top) I get isnt meant to be eaten by itself.  A spoonful of salmon, creamy risotto, Nduja Sauce, and fried brussel sprouts leaves was, I’m using it, divine!  And I couldnt find much wrong with that short rib.  Damn its super tenderness, and juiciness!  A proper finish with a sticky toffee pudding and a waitress recommended bread pudding that is particularly popular here (great for NY standards, average in New Orleans)

Crisis overblown.  We enjoyed this one enormously.  Kudos to the chef, the waitress, and crayon makers.  This did not feel like a tourist trap, but a local established that cares about the product, and what their customer eats.

Montrio Bistro
414 Calle Principal, Monterey, CA

Montrio Mussels Montrio Crab Cakes Montrio Mac n Cheese Montrio Chicken Montrio Short Rib Montrio Bread Pudding Montrio sticky toffee

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Top 10 Reasons to Visit the NoMad Bar

Reiterating Strong Buy after another fun visit with friends. Get the burger, carrot, scallops and call me in the morning. I updated this top 10 to make it less offensive and more corny.

Eating With Ziggy

116 Bay Scallops marinated with yuzu & pistachio

10. The place is sort of neat looking.  Like what you expect to find at a secret Playboy tunnel

9.  They have a Chicken Pot Pie that will make you wish you were Amish

8.  Their head bartender has more moves than Nicky Minaj.  Try the Start Me Up!

7.  Their carrot tartare will make you start eating carrots

6.  You now realize that on your previous trip you went to the wrong Nomad.  It happens quite often actually.  Like 1 out of 10 Asian tourists go to the wrong nomad.  Cabbies love it and make bets.

5.  Their Bay Scallops will make you start eating carrots (strange, I know)

4.  The Cocktail Explosion will make your 15 Instagram followers very jealous (and worried)

3.  The meaning of Life, Christmas, and Marriage will instantly be revealed once you try the 28 day Dry-Aged Burger with bone…

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A Man and His Lake – Tioga Pass (Yosemite)

Dog LakeEarlier this month we spent a day and a half exploring the sites off Tioga Pass road in Yosemite’s High Country.  Olmsted Point, Tenaya Lake, Tuolumne Meadows including hikes to see the Soda Springs, and the serene Dog Lake where I practice my Jesus walk above.  And since our accommodations were close enough (the amazing Evergreen Lodge) we were able to sneak in another visit to see the Sequoias of Tuolumne Grove.  Cant recommend this highly enough, especially Olmsted Point (hike down to the left to the actual point – views from the parking lot arent enough), and Tuolumne Meadows where you can easily spend an entire day.

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Olmsted Point

Olmsted Point

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

Gotham West Market Top Eats

Leaving for a couple of weeks yet again, sorry gang. I leave you with an updated Gotham West Market top eats since I havent updated it in a while. Happy eating…

Eating With Ziggy

Gotham West Market - Ivan Ramen

July 31st, 2015 Update:  Little Chef is long gone and I miss it dearly.  Choza (Mexican) took it’s place, and although my co-workers like it, I rather pay a visit to the many other Mexicans in the area like Tehuitzingo and the just reopened Parada 47 (former HK survival guide member Guelaguetza).  The bigger addition to the market is Ample Hills, one of the cities premier ice cream maker.  Their Salted Crack Caramel is the closest I will ever get to crack.  Add it to the list of musts here.  The chicken sandwich at Genuine is still crack like (I’m told), and the whitefish Doburi is now Salmon Donbui.  Although I miss the whitefish smokiness, this is still the strongest dish at Ivan’s.  Ivan also introduced an incredibly unique morning menu which I’m yet to try.  Canibal menu continues to impress and its quickly becoming one of my Hell’s Kitchen…

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