Monthly Archives: October 2015

Jun-Men Ramen – Come for Nails, Stay for Italian

fried rice Jun-men ramen

Photo by Jun-Men Ramen

March 29, 2019 Update:

I cringe sometimes when I read things I wrote over 3 years ago.  I had to take an entire paragraph about Cialis, yes Cialis, from this post because its not very relevant or funny today.  But here it is.. an oldie but.. Ok, just an oldie.  Z-List staple Jun-Men is clicking on all cylinders, and established itself as one of the most important Chelsea neighborhood hangouts.  Well, you cant hang out for too long as the place is very small and waits can stretch to the corner.  But this is the only place I know where you add yourself to the list on the ipad in the front, where you can see exactly how many are ahead of you.  A good spot to go before Hudson Yards if you want to eat “local”

The Ramen here settled down to a silky smooth broth, losing, in a good way, some of that heaviness felt sometimes here.  The Spicy Miso is the way to go on a cooler day.  The signature Uni Mushroom “Mazemen” (brothless ramen) is still the same feel good creamy pasta goodness I crave every time I’m here, even though it includes truffle oil. Fake truffle flavoring rarely works but it does no harm here.  The wings I noticed later in the afternoon can get a bit greasier but that soy makes up for it big time.  And on a recent visit I was impressed by the elaborated quinoa based poke bowl (below).  What happened?  I simply woke up that day realizing I ate nothing but pizza, pastas, and burgers for 5 days.

Jun-men Ramen poke

October 28th, 2015 Post:

The historic Ramen attack of the 21st century has been in full swing for a while now in Hell’s Kitchen, lower Manhattan, Queens, and parts of Brooklyn.  And it has now infiltrated the belly, the pork belly of NYC if you will, Chelsea. This is a fierce, no prisoners, noodle assault on a city already overrun.  Even those who dont specialize in Ramen succumb eventually and add it to the name (Puff Cha Ramen specializes in Thai curry Puffs, started as just Puff Cha.  Kung Fu Little Steamed Buns Ramen specializes in steamed buns).  Its just a matter of time until this site is changed to Eating Ramen With Ziggy to boost more eye balls.  EWZ interns researchers report the Staten Island is the only place in NYC where 9 out 10 residents react with a “You mean like.. instant?” when asked for local Ramen advice.  The 10th will go “fughetaboutit” and direct you to his favorite eyetalian.

Jun-Men Ramen OutOutside Jun-Men looks like a swanky nail spa, especially when someone sits by the door facing the right bar/reception.  Inside however, Jun-Men looks like a swanky nail spa with an open kitchen.  Plenty of Instagram friendly natural light, communal table in the middle provide nice space for you and your phone, and then there’s counter seating facing a small army of pork belly torcherers.  Drinks, apps, four Ramen items (one not really ramen, but more on that later), and two desserts are all listed on one idiot proof page.  Considering the place is new, the kitchen seems to run things smoothly.  On our last visit, the main (Ramen) came a few minutes after the half finished appetizer, and we were given the boot (check) before we were asked if we want dessert or anything else.  But those are minor quibbles that will be corrected, if not soon, as soon as the first angry Yelpers mention it.Jun-Men Ramen Pork Bone

In this Ramen infested city, blogging about ramen is no longer considered sexy.  While there’s definitely some fine Ramen at Jun-Men, the sexiness lies in the other dishes, one of which is pasta disguised as Ramen.  The Uni Mushroom Mazemen may be considered dry even for Mazemen standards.  Its a well crafted Pasta with mushrooms, salty pancetta, Porcini butter and truffle oil.  The lower quality uni is just there for Instagram.  I would order it with or without the uni.  The tasty Kimchi Ramen featured unramen like juicy bits of pork shoulder, along with a solid broth.  On the other hand, the Pork Bone on the last visit wasnt nearly as good.  A bit too rich, too funky, too fatty chashu for my taste.  The fried rice even with the too sweet Chinese sausage was one of the best fried rice in recent memory (7 days give or take), and priced very well considering the the crazy fried rice prices out there.  The good looking wings will be next on the agenda, and maybe even some Matcha flavored cheesecake.  Go!

Jun-Men Ramen
249 Ninth Ave (25/26), Chelsea
Rating: 2 Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that
Recommended Dishes: Fried Rice, wings, Uni Mushroom, Kimchi Ramen, Spicy Miso, Poke Bowl

Jun-Men Ramen

Uni Jun-Men Ramen

Borrowed from Jun-Men Ramen

Jun-Men Ramen Kimchi



Categories: Chelsea, New York City | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Lazy Post – Random San Francisco

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Reviver Mahi

Reviver Mahi

Random EWZ food news, announcements, and other nonsense

Ziggy gains weight!  This means two health plays entering the Hell’s Kitchen Survival Guide.  Fairly newish Reviver is a small take-out fast food spot on 8th ave with a varied health, gluten-free conscious menu.  And Mooncake Foods, a chainlet with three locations offering various Asian inspired meals like tuna, salmon over rice, and some excellent soups I’ve been enjoying the last few years.  Perhaps I should finally join… what’s that thing called… Googling… a Gym (stop laughing family, friends).  The closest thing to a gym in my life was when Mrs Z brought me the wrong deodorant one day, just so I could come home from work a little stinky, or manly, as if I’m coming from the gym.

Mark the date.  The Ziggat 50 is coming, December 9th!  The Ziggat 50 (will be changed to the Ziggy 50 once I get sued) will feature Ziggy’s favorite $10-100 meals in NYC.  This means it will feature places that are generally less than $100 per person (no Marea, Ko, etc), and more than $10 person (no pizza slices, cheap tacos, etc).   A list for the rest of us 99%.

Capizzi Pizza

Capizzi Pizza

Staten Island Pizza – I’ve always said that the only reason to cross bridges to Staten Island is for Sri-Lankan.  Well, I’ve been saying that for years while secretly enjoying some amazing pizza in SI as of late.  Joe & Pats, Giove, Nonna’s, Lee’s Tavern, the inventor of the bar pizza, and of course the classic, always busy Denino’s.  Check out this recently produced One Minute Meal on Denino’s.  And in a couple of weeks there will be another big name joining the gamg, Capizzi of Hell’s Kitchen.  Owner Joe is no stranger to Staten Island.  He’s converting his old classic NY-American La Bella on Hylan blvd, promising to dish out pizzas just like in Ziggy fave Capizzi.

Bruno Pizza – one of my favorite new restaurants of the year is getting a lot of attention as of late.  Pete Wells gave it zero stars in his somewhat bizarre, disgruntled yelp style review.  The attack on hype machines along with other things has instigated heated discussions on Chowhound, and hype praising articles.  Try it yourself, order what I recommend, and judge for yourself.

Hell’s Kitchen Food Tour is closed for the season, and maybe for good.  I’ve met so many great people during the last few years, some of whom are now friends.  On a recent tour with a photographer I brought my big boy camera as well for an upcoming blog post detailing the entire tour.  Stay tuned for that one.  I haven’t made up my mind if this is something I want to continue doing next year

Peace and Love


Bruno Pizza fluke

Bruno Pizza fluke

Categories: New York City | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

Eating in Salzburg

2454Salzburg did not leave a mark in my imaginary culinary little black book.  I dont exactly have wet dreams about it’s Salzburger Nockerl.  You wont hear me say things like “oh I would die for another Schweinhaxen just about now.  And with some consideration to where I live, I’m not going to miss its ethnic, seafood, fine dining scene either.  But in a way, that is what makes this post so important.  While there was nothing particularly spectacular about the food, in a city not renowned for its culinary ingenuity, we managed to eat fairly well.  Hooray to research?  Possibly.  As always, I did spend a significant amount of time researching, especially considering we had four days to fill.  And considering the spectacular day trips one can make from this base, four days is the minimum one should consider1241

We started off the bat with a foxy one, Alter Fuchs, one letter away from losing its Google friendliness.  The soups here in particular were satisfying.  A solid veal schnitzel, and something we haven’t seen much during the trip, spatzle, which came with pork cubes and gravy.  When in Salzburg… you gotta have the great looking Salzburger Nockerl, but the higher sweetness levels proved a little too much for our palates.  Contrary to what its website said this fox is open on Sunday, a rarity in Salzburg.1249 1246

After a long day trip, like in the scenic Salzkammergut region, Die Weisse and its sprawling garden is the perfect retreat.  The place is somewhat secluded in a residential area away from those pesky tourists.  Full menu featuring a cheesy Kaspressknodelslsuppe (beef broth soup with cheesy dumpling), a brighter more acidic than usual goulash, and other classics like the Teleschpitz with an oniony gravy.  Innviertler dumplings were interesting and  flavorful.  The place was packed with locals, enjoying good food, and one of the better beers of the trip (their own).  It seemed like we were the only pesky ones there1900 1901 1905 1903

If Salzburg is in the middle or end of your meat heavy itinerary, chances are you are ready for a change at this point.  And by change I mean Korean.  Koreasküche HIBISKUS in the Mozarteum is an odd location for the town’s lone Korean.  The apps here were a little weak, but the rest of the offerings featured plenty of  those Korean bold flavors.  Bibimbap was one little egg shy from completion (ask for egg).  Chicken with curry sauce was all too familiar in a good way.  Fried tofu came with exceptionally tasty veggies.  The winner was the spiciest dish in the form of porky goodness sautéed with fire.  Mozart would be proud, and confused.2224 2220 2228

At Stadtkrug hotel we enjoyed some farm to Ziggy flair and one of the more memorable meals in Salzburg.  Italian owner (my favorite kind) Luciano walks around treating everyone like long lost relatives.  The bulky sweet white asparagus was something I couldn’t get enough of during the entire trip.  An outstanding Beef Stroganoff with a side of yet another rare spatzle.  And a fine entrecote with flavors meant to forgive and forget its slight overcookness.  Another one of very few open on Sundays1454 1458

The friendly smiles in one Michelin Esszimmer will win you over, if the food doestnt do that first.  Four seafood and vegetable heavy fixed menus to choose from, may frustrate those looking for them online.  I already blogged about this one here

At Pescheria Backi we were transported to a Key West fisherman’s shack.  A family affair dishing out fresh seafood of all kinds right in the middle of Salzburg.  Other than the squid that could have used a little less salt, very good seafood all around.  For an appetizer you can ask them to make you a plate of various seafood salads and spreads, but verify the price first, and consider getting for one or two less people (if you are a group of 4, get for three, etc).  Popular with locals2383 2379 2375

Highlights outside of Salzburg:  Sausage stand at Bad Ischl (Esplanade/Wirerstrasse corner by the bridge) gave me some serious sausage envy!  It was just pure juicy, spicy awesomeness.  Gaststätte Echostüberl on Konigssee was another highlight which I mentioned briefly here.  Beautiful setting, great fish and meat dishes.

Buon Appetito friends!

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

10 Dumb Things Tourists do in NYC

Prisoners walking the HighLine

Prisoners walking the High Line

First let me just explain that I’m not calling anyone here dumb.  Some of these may be a little dumb, some are just perceived as such, and some are just things that can be attributed to lack of information, or having access to the wrong information (guidebooks).  I’m sure Mr and Mrs tourist reading this can relate to the many dumb things American tourists do in their home town.  The first one on the list is what prompted this post.  Something I witness on a daily basis but never before like the horror yesterday.

Take pictures with SOL.  No, not that Statue of Liberty.  The ones walking around on 42nd and 7th along with Mickey, Mini and the rest of the characters.  It looks like so much fun at first and they look so adorable when they approach you and take the pictures with you.  But then the AGONY, the look on the unsuspecting tourist when they learn about the price and those cute characters suddenly turn into a collection agency for the local Mexican mafia.  Yesterday I saw one tourist hand in $20!

Eat in Little Italy – Little Italy is in all the guidebooks, and even some local guides like Time Out recommends that people should check it out.  But the truth is that Little Italy is nowhere near what it once was.  There are no longer Italians living there and its really now just a street in the middle of Chinatown.  Its strictly there just for tourists, the definition of a tourist trap.  What the guidebooks dont tell you is that some of the best Italian restaurants in the city like Osteria Morini and Rubirosa are just outside Little Italy.  Its actually surrounded by some of the best dining in town.  You are in the right neighborhood, but the absolute wrong street.

Dont get familiar with the grid – Its quite alright to stop in the middle of a busy sidewalk with your family of 17 and open that giant map to get oriented. But for a young dude, sporting Prada sunglasses, to look for MOMA on 53rd and 11th ave is inexcusable.  Twice now, I met tourists who got confused into thinking that 11 or any other low number on 53rd street must mean its close to the water or the beginning of 53rd st, not 5th avenue.  Get familiar with Google Maps and find all those places before you visit, not during.

Dont Tip properly – I can start a rant very easily here, but I will just keep it simple.  Its not that hard people.  And you dont have to think about it too much.  Like your service? 20%, Thought the service was a little shaky? 20%.  Just do what the rest of us locals do — tip 20%.  Check the bill for automatic service charge that may be included, and add to it if needed to make it 20%.  Its not rocket science.

Walk the High Line – Ok, I imagine this could raise some eyebrows, as it surely raised my wife’s.  The High Line is a park on an elevated abandoned railway track running along the west side.  Its a park that due to its history and uniqueness jumped to the top of every tourist must list, who then come back to say “overhyped” “too crowded”.  A few days ago I was there with the wife and at some point it felt like a single file of prisoners, getting a fresh air fix.  Its a cool idea, great project but at the end of the day its a park, meant to be serene, an oasis for the locals.  But now, its a bare museum, filled with selfie sticks and fake monks.  Not sure if this was the original intention.

Stay in Times Square – I dont mean “Stay in Times Square”, I mean “Stay in Times Square” (you see the difference?).  As in the entire time!  Most visitors stay in the vicinity, eat terrible food in the vicinity, and dont leave much.  Walk the 5 minutes to Hell’s Kitchen.  Go downtown to the village.  Visit the outer boroughs.  Why come to NYC at all, if you are not gonna see NYC.

Call it Ice Hockey – Its just “Hockey” here.  Even when Field Hockey eventually catch on here it will still be hockey (and we’ll come up with another name for field hockey).  You are going to a Hockey game, not ice hockey.  The “Ice” part simply removes the machoism from the name, and makes it sound closer to ice dancing.  “Hey Mordechai did you see the ice hockey game yesterday” is something you will never hear at office water cooler chats and may even result in a punch in the face by Mordechai.

Go by Trip Advisor Restaurant Rankings – Trip Advisor is for tourists, by tourists.  Yes, there’s a good chance that you will eat well when going by the rankings.  But there’s also a great chance that you’ll have mediocre meals surrounded by other tourists doing the same thing you do, while locals go elsewhere.  TA is a great tool, the forum is a great tool, but its restaurants reviews and ranking in NYC are useless.

Must Stay Near the Subway – Ok, another controversial one.  Something we always preach on the forums is to try stay near the subway.  I may have even done it myself at some point.  We strongly advice tourists to visit and explore other neighborhoods, while at the same time escape the area where you stay ASAP.  We have a great and reliable subway system, and you should certainly take advantage of it, but walking 10 to 15 minutes to the subway doesnt sound that terrible to me, and the less you take the subway the more you’ll see of New York City.  Pass on the hotel breakfast, go eat with the locals at the local cafe, and you are already halfway to the subway.

Take Selfies at the 9/11 Memorial.  Nuff said!

Categories: New York City | Tags: , | 4 Comments

Cull & Pistol – Escape the Room

Cull & Pistol LobsterWhen we were done with our meal at Cull & Pistol the other day, right before we stepped out, we paused for a few seconds.  “Its like a scene from the walking dead out there” I told the hostess who nodded nervously, almost as if she was saying, “I hope you got the proper protection”.  I did not.  I never do.  We felt safe inside, but out there they were in large numbers, walking gingerly and awkwardly in one direction, some even salivating.  And before the hostess had a chance to call the manager, we had no choice but leave.  And there we were again walking among them, slowly, in the same direction, toward the same goal… ice cream.  Five minutes into the walk, we only made it to Lobster Place next door.  We reminisced about the meal we had five minutes ago.

Cull & Pistol is more than just an oasis in this lobster, taco, zombie, Chelsea Market frenzy.  And its not exactly a new-comer to EWZ.  I already blogged about it here, and here.  I can’t even update the latter ‘here’, because I visit C&P or sister Lobster Place on just about every Chelsea Market visit these days, including three visits in the last 4 weeks.  Why?  its the fresh seafood stupid (Its just an American expression, I’m not calling any of my readers stupid, again)

What I like at Cull and Pistol doesn’t really matter much, because chances are, unless its lobster or fish and chips, it wont be on the menu by the time you visit.  The menu is not only seasonal, changes based on sister Lobster Places availability, but also benefits from a chef with a menu OCD.  One of my favorite chefs on the planet suffers from a menu OCD – a chef that will ride the hot stuff, but also likes to dare, experiment and invent.

Cull & Pistol

If you have to pick just one lobster roll in NYC, this is it.  To me around 90% of the lobster rolls out there carry very little value, and are as filling as a Doritos snack.  A very expensive snack.  C&P stuffs theirs with a lot love – sweet, juicy, claw meat kind of love.  And they pair it with excellent almost shoestring fries (though a little bit less salt please).  Another must for me as of late is the Spanish/Portuguese octopus.  A few weeks ago it was a Portuguese beauty that came with a porky and veggy mix of some sort.  One of the best octopus dishes I’ve had in NYC.  Nowadays, its a heftier Spanish stallion, simply paprika’d, and served with crispy fingerling potato.

The highlight from the last meal was four Ecuadorian head-on shrimp baked with tarragon-vermouth salt.  They were huge, sweet, and missing the funkiness/fishiness of similarly sized gulf shrimp.  Oysters and happy hour always one of the main draws.  Yesterday I grilled their succulent salmon burgers which are on the menu and can be purchased next door.  Two nights before we sauteed their excellent garlic shrimp and served over pasta.  Another hit on the current menu is the whole Dourade fried Thai style with mango, coconut, Thai basil, cucumber, chili, mint and fish sauce on the side.  I found this more expertly done than in some Thai places where the fish is often dry and overcooked.

Great drinks is the norm, outstanding chocolate mousse for dessert.  One of my NYC favorites at the moment.

Cull & Pistol
75 Ninth Ave (Chelsea Market)
Recommended Dishes: Lobster Roll, Octopus, Shrimp, Thai style Dourade, Salmon Burgers

Cull & Pistol Shrimp Cull & Pistol Octopus Cull & Pistol Mousse Cull & Pistol lobster RollCull & Pistol Dourade

Categories: Chelsea, New York City | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Monterey Bay Aquarium

California-2015 1167A couple of months ago we visited this very special Aquarium in Monterey, CA, considered the best in the nation.  According to EWZ historians, Aquariums have never been featured on the site, so for one to be featured, it’s got to be extraordinary (rule 35.8 section g).  We only had about 90 minutes to explore, after a longish trip from Yosemite that included two food stops (I eat like a baby on vacation, every 2.5 hours) but we got a lot of it covered.  And I already posted about dinner that night, another highlight on a great day

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Categories: California | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

Hell’s Kitchen Taco Crawl



I have to make this one short and sweet.  My oldest who is now obsessed with everything zombies, finally convinced me to catch up with the Walking Dead.  That’s pretty much my evenings this week, between throwing out the garbage and taking out the dishes (I havent proved yet that I can put them IN the dish washer yet, but I’m getting there).  I dont even have the time to produce some nice pictures for you on this one, but I may do it later.  Besides, tacos I find, are the least photogenic food items out there.  Many look sort of messy or the same, and as soon as I get them I want to eat them quickly before they get cold.

In Hell’s Kitchen these days you cant sneeze outside anymore without a Mexican resaturant owner going “gazuntai, come on in, we have something for that”. It seems like every week something new opens up, and we are suddenly spoiled for choice.  This walk will give you a nice taste of the Hell’s Kitchen Mexican scene, and at the very least some ideas on where you can get some nice meals.

Shrimp Taco at Otto’s Tacos (9th 48/49).  One of the newer kids on the block, and a nice intro to the taco scene.  Get your Horchata here too (as opposed to the other places).  The rest of the tacos are fine as well, but this is my favorite

Fish Taco at Ponche Taqueria & Cantina (49th 9/10).  I would ask for grilled instead of tempura’d.  Al Pastor here on the sweet side but nice flavor as well

Al Pastor at Tehuitzingo (10th 47/48).  And/or the Lengua.  And/or the Goat.  Oh fuck it, get all three and share.  This place is getting very popular for good reason

Carnitas at Parada 47 (47th 10/11).  Former bodega recently reopened with the same cook David (say hi from Ziggy).  I like it here because its not discovered yet (and I’m doing such a great job keeping it that way).  Its like my little Mexican oasis.  Go to the front, order, sit, repeat

That should fill you up.  For dessert head across the street for a Canotto Dolce at Sullivan Street Bakery, or better yet head to Gotham West Market for the sick Ample Hills Creamery salted crack caramel.  If you still want more tacos, you can have more at Choza at Gotham West, or better yet try the fish tacos at Genuine Roadside.  While not a taco, a spicy chicken empanada from Empanada Mama can also be included in the walk (after Otto)

Enjoy!  let me know how it goes

Otto's Tacos

Otto’s Tacos

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

Sim Sim – Staten Island’s Lone Uzbek is Legit

photo (4)The island of Staten is not exactly blessed with great dining.  Other than Sri Lankan I cant think of any reason to pay the hefty toll to go there.  Did you ever wonder why Enoteca Maria and Vida are on the Michelin Bib Gourmand list for what seems like forever.  The French inspectors are just way too busy to make room for Staten Island on their schedule.  Some may say pizza is another good reason to come, and to those I’d say you can find just as good or better in the other boroughs.  You just need to know where to look to find them.

Sim Sim is not another reason to travel all the way to the Midland section of the island, but it’s a solid alternative, and new experience for the islanders.  While Manhattan is not exactly known for great Uzbek (I cant think of one decent), you do have plenty of good ones in south Brooklyn (Kashkar Café, Nargis to name a few).  But the island residents have finally a legitimate Uzbek that can perhaps open the doors to some competition.  And competition, as always, is the healthiest recipe.  When you bump into the lone Indian restaurant in Pocatello, Idaho, you can bet your Vindaloo that you probably did not exactly discover a jewel.  But Sim Sim is closer to the exception than the rule

At the helm in the kitchen is an Uyghur cook (ethnic group living in villages all over Asia), dishing out all the Uzbek classics… Manti, Samsa, Plov (this one with raisins) and those chicken kebabs that require that special Uzbek touch.  The Uzbeks know how to grill em.  The cook comes early in the morning to start the preparations that includes pulled Lagman noodles, at this point only available in soup form.  The place is small and homey.  Freshly renovated and decorated to resemble a casual Uzbek hang out place.  The owner is Russian who operated the previous incarnation of the space, but now somewhat bravely, trying to insert some freshness into the island.  No alcohol permit here, so bring your vodka, though a solid Kompot (Russian fruit punch) is always available

Sim Sim Staten Island photo (1) photo (2) photo


Categories: New York City, Staten Island | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

EWZ Editorial: Michelin is the Devil



So yesterday the unimaginable finally happened.  Just thinking about it gives me the chills.  I left my office for lunch and 5 minutes later I realized that I left my phone in the office!  My choices were… 1) Go back to the office to grab the phone, and 2) Continue walking and risk the unknown.  I havent walked out without the phone in a very long time, hence, “unknown”.  I once left to throw out the garbage without it, but I quickly came back unharmed.  So I decided to brave it out and risk it all.  As a result I immediately changed the food plan and opted for something quicker and nearer, convincing myself that the reason being is that its a little nippy outside (by nippy I mean my nipples were starting to erect).  Throughout the walk I kept touching my left pocket as if the phone could miraculously reappear.  No doubt someone thought I may have been groping myself.  The entire 20 minutes felt like a scene from Naked and Afraid, except much much worse.  While waiting for my sandwich, I actually had to talk to another human this time.  Did she forget her phone as well?  I even had enough time to go to the liquor store next door and discover a 2009 Barolo for under $50 before my sandwich was ready.  Two bottles of wine, $55 lighter, and meeting a cute Russian girl later, I can tell you that this phoneless 20 minutes were not so bad.  I may even try it again in a year or so.  Why Ziggy are you showering us with this nonsense in a post about Michelin.  Stay tight.  I have a transition…

Simply put Apple, Samsung, and your other favorite phone manufacture got us by the balls.  Its the constant need to be connected at all times that is like a most powerful drug.  What is the first thing you do after a flight, or a meeting.  Connect!  Sad, isnt it?  In a way after 11 years, Michelin took the restaurant scene in NYC by the balls as well.  How did they do it?  Proper PRing, fame, and doing something no one else is doing.  Dishing out stars.  Like parents dishing out stars to their two year olds after pooping in a potty.  The other day, the stars for 2016 were announced, and before that the Bib Gourmand list was announced.  The anticipation is Oscars like, and the results always result in tears, anger, tears of joy and plenty of controversy.  For the controversy, you can Google to your heart content and read about it on Grubstreet and Eater.  Instead, I will try to explain in 500 words or less why Michelin should be much less relevant in NYC than it currently is.

Lets start with the main issue.  These guys are not from here.  What would the French think when New York Time starts dishing out stars in Paris.  Or perhaps something more appropriate like Goodyear dishing those stars.  How much merit would I get if I start telling Parisians on Chowhound where they should go eat in their home town.  Exhibit A:  Michelin just awarded Hometown in Red Hook a Bib Gourmand (“exceptional good food at moderate prices”).  Fine.  But does this mean that a visitor to NYC should schlep all the way to Red Hook for  decent BBQ?  Did the inspectors ever inspect the glorious Mighty Quinn beef rib, or the brisket from Briskettown?  How well does Michelin really understand our BBQ scene?  Better than Grub Street or Eater?  Hometown has good stuff no doubt, but certainly not superior to MQ, and is perhaps the most uncomfortable BBQ joint out there with its long painful lines

Issue two:  What is up with the I shall giveth and I then shall taketh it away just like that.  Michelin is like a life-time achievement award that chefs dream about from young age.  No other achievement is as newsworthy including stars (more like grades after reviews) given by New York Times which understand the dining scene here much more.  Its that perception that results from the name that always gets us intrigued and chefs extremely proud.  You show me a chef that says Michelin is meaningless here, and I’ll show you a chef without Michelin stars.  The ones that get it proudly display theirs above everything else, including NYT stars, and even Eating With Ziggy.  Even if you were under the opinion that Michelin Stars were meaningless before, you showcase those stars out of fear that you may lose them and the new-found status.  But how much do those stars mean when the god-like inspectors simply take them away a year later.  Does that mean that Annita Lo who is one of our most celebrated chefs, cooking for a state dinner at the white house in fact tonight, forgot how to cook and is no longer star worthy.  What would that reason be anyway?  A dry snapper, overcooked chicken, or just a bad day?  Maybe a slight menu divergence or inconsistency that is not consistent enough with “Michelin Star Establishments”.  Can star restaurants have bad days?

And what exactly did Danji do to lose that star last year.  Their menu has been practically unchanged since they got the star.  I’ve been eating their signatures (wings, tofu, sliders, bibimbap) and more ever since they opened and in all my visits those items were prepared the same exact way.  Was the expectation for chef Hooni Kim to up the ante and make every item, every nightly special, and every daring move work like a charm just because he now owns a Michelin star?  That’s well above my expectations from the casual Danji.  Mercato’s menu is even more stable.  In fact in all those years I’ve been frequenting Mercato I dont believe I’ve ever seen a menu change.  Like a true trattoria, one should pay attention to the nightly specials, and I certainly wouldnt expect every nightly special to be magical.  So what exactly did Mercato and their long time chef do to be removed from the Bib Gourmand list.

And what qualifies as a Michelin Star establishment anyway.  Something tells me even the inspectors are still confused about that.  “Exceptional good food at moderate prices” – that is a recipe for a Bib Gourmand inclusion.  Ok, we get that.  To be more specific, the magic number is $40.  As in you can have a solid two course meal for $40.  Was that their bill when they awarded the tag to Ssam Bar?  Highly doubt that.  I cant walk out of Ssam Bar without paying around double that.  Untitled at the new Whitney?  No way I’m walking out of there with under $150 for two.  Somtum Der?  Yes, that’s more like it.  But wait a minute, Somtum Der is no longer on the list.  Instead they were just awarded a STAR!  Which means they moved up from “Exceptional good food at moderate prices” to “A very good restaurant in its category”.  I like Somtum Der just like the next guy, but Michelin Star it is not.  Its that perception of Michelin I mentioned earlier that gets people excited, and part of that perception is the standards one expects from a Michelin Star establishment.  Somtum Der doesnt even have a little bench for your man purse!  How can we send Michelin experience seekers to a Somtum Der over something like Annisa.  Somtum Der replaced similarly priced Zabb Elee in the star column which is another strange move.  Since ZE stardom is so short lived, that begs the question, how long can Somtum Der keep its star.  Both would be solid choices as Bib Gourmands instead.  Michelin simply put is having trouble keeping up with the NY pace and the magnitude of our diversity.  Eating in NY is much different than Europe

There are good names on those lists no doubt.  But I would never send someone to a Baci & Abbracci over Mercato or Bar Pitti, or Osteria Morini.  And where’s Maialino and Marta.  Someone quick tell the line at Mission Chinese Food and Totto Ramen that they are not Michelined.  And when was the last time the inspectors crossed the bridge to Staten Island for long time Bibs Enoteca Maria and Vida, or try something new like the many great Sri Lankans the island has to offer.  Where are the great recent year additions of Contra, Cosme, and Estela.  Is the list better than a list die hard local hounds can put together on Chowhound?  I highly doubt it.  But to Mr and Mrs average visitor, that’s the NY food bible, written by a visitor.  And as long as its called Michelin, this devil is here to stay to {possibly} stir you wrong.

Categories: New York City | Tags: , , , | 9 Comments

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