Monthly Archives: December 2015

Quality Italian – Locals Trap

Quality ItalianIn my adopted home of Turks and Caicos (I’m not worthy) there’s a little famous place called The Conch Shack, nicely situated right on the beach.  Its an island institution of sorts, appearing on various “best Caribbean shack” lists and quite popular with tourists and locals alike.  The same fame also means an occasional “Tourist Trap” tag given by visitors with less than stellar experiences.  A rather unfitting tag considering the establishment lacks the number one ingredient for a “tourist trap”… location.  To get to the Conch Shack visitors need to hire a car, or take an expensive cab ride.  There are other reasons why the Conch Shack is far from a tourist trap, like the constant need to protect a reputation, but the bottom line as far as I’m concerned is location, location, location.

Times Square and much of Midtown Manhattan is on the other end of the spectrum.  As tourism continues the steady yearly rise, rents continue to skyrocket, and restaurateurs need to stay on top of the tourist game.  In a sea of establishments that are strictly in the business of making tourists happy (think today’s Little Italy), there are plenty of reputable establishments that can’t afford to release clunkers out of their kitchens.  Spots like Ma Peche, Marea, Betony may not satisfy everyone, but you get the sense they care about every single dish they put on the table.  Up until last weekend I thought Quality Italian and Quality Meats were in that same company.

It took about 5 minutes to realize that I’m sitting in a slightly fancier, tourist filled Rosa Mexicana.  Except that in RM I would be attended to initially without asking for it.  For the 5 of us this evening, we opted to share a yellowtail crudo (good, though I prefer the flat skinny cuts over cubes), Ricotta (very good), a few pastas, one steak and the world famous chicken parm shaped like a 12 inch pizza pie.

The Bucatini & Clams was actually quite good.  Covered by a rich, pleasantly peppery ragu with potatoes.  But it comes with a price tag, $33, which is $11 more than the listed online price (at the time of this writing showing $22).  Same price discrepancy with the Agnolotti and the rest of the pastas, not so much with other items on the menu

Quality Italian Bucatini

On occasion we do see price discrepancies between actual and online menus, but not quite to this 50% extreme.  Perhaps I dont frequent mega touristy area restaurants often enough, but how the hell do they get away with this.  Whether this is a mistake or not, after several tries I have not given any explanations from Quality Meats representatives.  The closest to that was a “Oooh really, we’ll let our marketing dep’t know”

On top of that I was not even given the opportunity for redemption.  A bone-in filet was dry and flavorless.  Dont believe me? ask my 13 year steak aficionado daughter who picked up on that before I took my first bite.  A recall a similar cut at Del Frisco’s nearby that was much more successful.  At a place known for their ways with the meat, this was as shocking as the pasta-gate.

The legendary Chicken Parm has been talked about since QI opened.  Bloggers, Yelpers, Eater, children books written about this famous dish.  The cost:  $64.  The verdict:  It tastes approx $10 better than Mrs Ziggy’s version.  Its a decent bite initially, but the sweetness of the sauce takes charge before you even finish the first slice.  And if the sauce is not sweet enough, among an arsenal of condiments to justify the cost, you also get honey.

As we say bye bye to 2015, let this post be the beginning of the new and angrier improved Eating With Ziggy.  The reason I finally got to experience Quality Italian was because I was looking at something to eat before the new musical School of Rock and seeing the new tree which to me looks exactly the same as the previous 30. And if there’s one thing I learned from School of Rock is that when the time comes, sometimes, you just gotta STICK IT TO THE MAN!

Quality Italian
57 W 57th St
Recommended Dishes:  Ricotta

Quality Italian Chicken Parm


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Hibernia {Anguilla} – The Umami of Dining Experiences

Anguilla Hibernia 3

December 17, 2019 Update

Another epic meal at one of my Caribbean faves.  Its a timeless menu in a timeless setting.  We went for lunch again to mimic the previous experience and ordered pretty much the same dishes.  The one addition was a grilled Mahi seasoned with turmeric and other gingers.  Its worth getting it just for the accompanied butternut squash, bok choy and shiitake gratin.  It’s a sum-of-all-parts kind of dish with the mild seasoning letting the fresh fish do the talking.  The trio of smoked fish and and the outrageous Foie Gras are still the strongest stuff on the menu.  Impeccable attention to detail throughout.  This is a major go for lunch or dinner!

December 27, 2015 post

While we were wrapping up another gruesome beach day on Anguilla (someone has to do it), we noticed something peculiar happening next door.  A private table for two was being set up right on the beach.  Toes in the sand, under the stars, with soothing gentle waves just steps away.  Just you and the person you love.  Oh how lovely, how beautiful, how romantic… say other people.  For us however its the equivalent of being locked in an apartment for four days with only one channel showing Full House nonstop.  Lets forget the fact that you are potentially wasting a meal on an island known for some of the best food in the Caribbean.  Potentially!  I’m sure there are excellent private caterers somewhere out there.  The entire experience simply sounds torturous to us.  The sand flies, the darkness, the isolation, wind blowing sand.  Other people passing by going awwwwwe, taking pictures of you.  Toes in the sand.. pretty sure can cause a fungus.  And yes we’ve done it before, when we were younger.  Not our cup of tea.  Even the requirement of being close to the ocean during dinner faded for us over time.

Anguilla Hibernia 9On the other end of that spectrum, was our private lunch the next day at Hibernia.  If “private” means alone, than I suppose this was private, but not in the usual Private Dining sense.  Regardless, when we sit there and start bringing up our most memorable alone meals like at a small Portuguese wine making Quinta overlooking the Douro river, we are essentially in the midst of one of those meals.  But when we start talking about some of our most memorable meals ever, perhaps we are in the middle of something more special than that.  Describing the Hibernia experience requires me to dig into my emergency vocabulary vault and blow the dust of words like Umami, Mystical, Gorgeous, Divine, and Unicorns!  At some point during the meal I thought the only thing missing from this experience is a unicorn or a beautiful little yellow bird.  Moments later the latter shows up.

Hibernia is like one of those Thai temples I stumbled upon in my 20’s while drunk on the streets of Chinatown.  Except with a setting that would require me to be clinically Manischewitzed to stumble upon one of those here.  Pictures dont do this place justice, partly because its missing the sounds of silence, water, and wind chimes that work together like an orchestra.  Perhaps a video would have been more fitting in this case.  Mary-Pat who hails from Hibernia (ancient Greek for Ireland) & life partner Raoul have something special going on on the eastern end of the island.  A 30 minute trek for most folks here feels like a pilgrimage, and to the rest that we met… “Hibernia who?”  Its only one of the finest dining in the CaribbeanAnguilla Hibernia 7

Anguilla Hibernia 6But none of this would have matter – the setting, the sounds, the serenity, if the food didn’t feature the same kind of wow factor.  I’m not one that can be bought or lured into a cloudy judgment by things and friendly faces.  So when I asked Mary-Pat for some recommendations, I got the best answer food obsessed individuals could possibly get.  A puzzled look!  The look of “This is not your average big menu tourist spot.  If it wouldn’t be great, it wouldn’t be on the menu”.  I saw that look at Jacala as well earlier that week.  Here the menu consists of creative Asian inspired delicacies with a French mastery flair.  “Fusion” is the most misunderstood F word in the culinary world.  When its done right, it can be a beautiful thing.

You could not have written a better start to this script.  One bite of that silky smooth homemade Foie Gras Terrine and its angels singing time.  The accompanied red wine infused basil seeds was like a newly invented exotic fruit, the perfect compliment.  A syringe gently sprinkling some sort of alcohol, like IV for alcoholics was the icing on this cake.  There’s your Michelin Star right there.  The trio of smoked fish was another revelation of sorts.  And I’m just talking about the little salad in the middle of all that expertly prepared sea butter.  It tasted like a crazy cross between smoked white fish salad and cream cheese.  The lovely Mary-pat from Hibernia (sounds more mystical hence fitting) says its ginger infused cream cheese with horseradish, picking up some of the fishy smokiness.  Holy smokes this dish was good.IMG_7937

After those apps, the basil coconut milk with rice noodles was more like familiar flavors in a time and place that made them brand new, if it makes any sense (makes perfect sense in my head).  I eat a lot more Thai food than Mrs Z who enjoyed this tremendously.  Though I failed to find anything wrong there other than the crayfish (did I mention the crayfish) in that broth getting a little mushy by the end.  But that’s minor quibbling.  Various fillets of fish in a perfectly spiced Thai style broth was another winner. Wonderfully lemongrassy and pleasantly spicy even on a hot Anguilla afternoon.

Rum raisin ice cream to a rum raisin freak like me was like eating it for the very first time.  It’s the freshness and the rum stupid, that delivers an initial punch and makes you wonder what the fu#$ have I been eating all those years.  Chocolate covered brandy infused prunes with chestnut ice cream was another solid finisher.  (I was toying with the idea of bathroom joke here but I’m too much of a pro for this)

“This Raoul dude is a keeper” I whispered to Mary-Pat from Hibernia before leaving with the kind of satisfaction we very rarely experience.  The kind that adds that much more fuel to travel addictionsAnguilla Hibernia Smoked Trio Anguilla Hibernia Fish in Thai Broth Anguilla Hibernia Prunes Anguilla Hibernia Rum Raisin Anguilla Hibernia Anguilla Hibernia 8 Anguilla Hibernia 5 Anguilla Hibernia 4 Anguilla Hibernia 2IMG_7959

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San Rasa – On Top of the Sri Lankan Ziggurat

San RasaOn the way to Staten Island’s Sri Lankan gem San Rasa the other day, I felt a little uneasy.  I was quickly losing yet another argument in my head.  I’m bringing another couple with me and I don’t have reservations on a Saturday night.  That is because the young man on the phone (I feel a little old today) told me I don’t need to make reservations.  And not because he knew who I was!  “Are you sure?  Its Saturday, prime time and its the four of us”. Emphasizing on the number 4 which can be very large on a Saturday night across the pond.  “Yes, I’m sure sir.  You don’t need reservations”.  Fine!  But if  we come in to a full house and we don’t get a table.. oooh boy.. watch out.  Sentences that begin with F words like “Forget this, we are going to Lakruwana ” will be flying out the door.  Forgetting to take the young man’s name however was the mistake that lead to losing the argument in my head.

We show up to an empty restaurant!  And I don’t mean empty as in a couple in the corner, and a family from France that read about the place on EWZ in the other corner (like last time).  I mean there was no one there.  “Should we leave and check out Lakruwana” briefly entered our minds.  But this is after all, Staten Island’s lone entry in the coveted Z-List, and we made it this far unharmed.  I’ve been to San Rasa for lunch, and dinner at the old location, but this was the first dinner at the new and improved San Rasa.  Seeing it empty disappointed but did not totally shock me.

San Rasa BiryaniWithout upsetting too many people, San Rasa is simply too far for most folks who appreciate good food.  There are plenty of people on the island of Staten that appreciate good food, but not nearly enough to fill a quarter of San Rasa on a Saturday night.  Staten Island doesn’t deserve and cant really appreciate something like this.  Give em a buzzy American Italian trattoria, a pizzeria that serves chicken parm, a few Russians to satisfy the Russian communities, a few glorifies diners like Z-one, Z-two, [Name any chain], and the residents are more than satisfied.  Like any residents in the burbs would I should add.  For most residents the ferry area is quite a schlep (30-40 mins for many) and the true island gems like Sri Lankan Lakruwana, San Rasa, New Asha, and other gems like Enoteca Maria are unrecognizable names.  The ferry area is almost like a Manhattan extension, albeit too far and arguably not interesting enough for Manhattanites.

But as often said on this blog, Sri Lankan food is the number one reason to stay after you take those selfies with lady liberty off the ferry.  The new San Rasa is not only walking distance, but its décor is now much closer to the Sri Lankan museum-like Lakruwana.  The old place was too bare bones and cold looking.  Not that I mind when the food is that good.  Sunday at all the Staten Island’s Sri Lankan is Funday.  By that I mean, some of the best, most unique buffets in the city.  For $12 you get a nice array of vegetable, rice, egg goodies, along with two meat specialties.  Exceptionally great value and the only buffet I take my family.

San Rasa MulligatawnyBut dinner is when the fun really starts.  San Rasa turns out is under new management and new chef.  While the empty house did not exactly look promising, the result was best San Rasa ever.  Meet chef Lalith (one name like Madonna) who has taken the great chef Sanjay lead, adding his own bolder, spicier spin.  You feel it right off the bat with the Mulligatawny soup.  Unlike the prior Mulligatawny, this one is a little creamier, nuttier, spicier, and simply has more oomph.  Thats the only starter I recommend.  Save room for the goodies to come.  Like the Lamprie, an old dutch colony classic that is the one must get here.  The pictures here can only set the bar low, or prevent you from ordering it altogether.  But that would be a mistake.  Proceed with the hoppers and egg hoppers (not available on this day) before hitting the “Ziggurat” shaped String Hopper Kottu, all with your choice of your favorite curry.  And with that my friends I’m announcing the addition of “Ziggurat” to my vocabulary.  A fittingly bizarre combination of Ziggy and Borat (for those that know me too well).

Add the award winning Chicken Biryani to the list of musts here.  It comes oddly decorated as if it just came from a Bar Mitsvah in the Staten Island Hilton.  But I’m betting its the flavor profile that gave it a third place finish in a recent NYC Biryani competition.  Mounds of crispy fried chicken on top of gorgeously spiced basmati with more succulent chicken inside was like no Biryani I’ve ever seen.  And instead of dessert, finish with a fiery sizzling Deviled something.  We usually do shrimp.

San Rasa – better and emptier than ever.  “Ayubowan” – May you live long!

San Rasa
19 Corson Ave, Staten Island
Recommended Dishes: Mulligatawny soup, Lamprie, Hoppes, Kottu Roti, Chicken Biryani, Deviled Shrimp

String Hopper Kottu San RasaSan Rasa Deviled ShrimpLamrais San Rasa

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Sarjai’s – Anguilla Idol

Sarjai's Staff“It’s not Sanjaya, it’s called Sarjai’s” I kept telling her all week.  “You are thinking of American Idol”.  It didn’t matter as she wouldn’t budge.  Brains are on vacation too.  By the 4th day I said good morning at 8 pm, to a cactus, without anything to drink of significance.  And by the 6th I was calling it Sanjaya too.  We needed to be on the same page to survive this brain freeze.  We talked about Sarjai’s often partly because I wanted to break our #1 rule.  But she wouldn’t go for it.  First trip to foodie powerhouse Anguilla and you want to eat at the same place twice?  That stands against everything our ancestors stand for.  Our ancestors been to Anguilla?

Sarjai's ConnorsOn our first dinner in Anguilla I was like a 9 year old girl at a Justin Bieber concert.  Forget the appetizers… the Caesars, the Capreses, the Crispy “anything but the F word, fri@#d” Calamari are just the warm-up acts that no one cares about.  Bring me the Bieberlicious!  4 Mains, nothing less!  “Oh thats just Meshugenah.  My Xanax from the flight hasnt even fully kicked in yet”.  3 Mains!  The fourth was the infamous Steak au Poivre, the most delicious thing on this vacation I haven’t had.  After all, it comes with something called Aunty Joan’s Home-made Curried Fries.  And if there’s one thing I learned during my travels is that anything with the word Aunty in it is a must get.  Think about it.  Have you ever had something that made you say, “this is great, but that aunty side suggests this Aunty needs a stint or two at Le Cordon Blue.  Get rid of her”.  Most likely never.

My first wife and travel companion believes there was a Welcome to Anguilla sign at the ferry entrance, and she has pictures to prove it.  My eyes meanwhile were fixated on an Anguillan goat.  That was my Welcome to Anguilla sign.  That same night, the stewed goat at Sarjai’s was spot on.  Tender, succulent, fatty in all the right places, like slow dancing with your mother in law.Sarjai's - Goat

The perfectly flaky creole snapper could have come just a perfectly flaky creole snapper with some rice and peas as in so many places like this, but not here.  It arrives with delicious curried cabbage (buried under that fish – oh what fun) and coconut sweet potato dumplings that chef Darren’s grandma makes. Those dumplings grew on us in a hurry, and next thing you know we can’t get enough of them.  A brilliant dish that set the bar nicely for many more snappers to come

And our first foray into the Anguillan Crayfish was quite a success. Crayfish in Anguilla is essentially spotted spiny lobster and has no resemblance to the sea roaches of New Orleans.  At Sarjai’s they come plentiful, sweet and buttery even without the help of the butter on the side. Not overcooked at all unlike some of the Crayfish we enjoyed the rest of the week.Sarjai's Snapper

I enjoyed the warm coconut pie, especially since the wife wouldnt touch the stuff. When she tries anything with bits of coconut in it, her face turns into Robert de Niro and she starts spitting profusely. She did enjoy her passion fruit cheesecake.

Sarjai’s, named after chef Darren Connor’s daughter, delivered the kind of vacation debut I can only wet dream about.  Chef Connor, like a true Anguillan idol, represents Anguilla from time to time in cooking competitions.  Fresh from his trip to NY and Omaha where he learned more about the art of beef, shows the kind of passion and skill you dont normally see in places like this.  Places without a sommelier or dedicated stool for your man’s purse.  Its the kind of place you are free to run around like a two year old, and talk to the chef like an old friend.  I need more friends like this.  Ok, one will do for now.Sarjai's Crayfish Sarjai's Dessert Sarjai's


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This is Anguilla

IMG_7596 IMG_7608 IMG_7621 IMG_7639 IMG_7797 IMG_7810 IMG_7713 IMG_7654 IMG_7819 IMG_7823 IMG_7871 IMG_7963 IMG_7882 IMG_7937 IMG_7636 IMG_7613 IMG_7875 IMG_7599 IMG_7672 IMG_7761 IMG_7816 IMG_7900 IMG_7852 IMG_7845 IMG_7959 IMG_7822 IMG_7799

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The Z-List

Annisa Squid

Updated: October 2nd, 2019

The motivation behind this post can be found here so I wont go over it again.  Its essentially just another top 50 list, except that its unlike any other.  Only rule as explained in the previous post is $10-100 per.  Meaning nothing that would cost over $100 or under $10 per person.  An affordable list for the people, by the people (Ok, by one person, but you get the idea).  Here we go, in no particular order.  Big Mazal Tov to the winners!


The granddaddy of New York’s haute Israeli/Mediterranean, or “MiddleTerranean” as they coin it.  Located on a lonely corner of Hell’s Kitchen, close enough to the theaters, but far enough from the theaters!  Taboon means oven in Arabic, and that striking Taboon oven is the main greeter on arrival.  A fine Focaccia, Sambusak (bread stuffed with feta) just some of the goodies coming out of that magic oven.  Try the specials or classics such as the Heraim, Branzino, or Chicken Taboon with Israeli Couscous.  And if you leave without properly ending with the Silan, you will leave without properly ending.  773 10th Ave (Hell’s Kitchen) 

Ssam Bar

This one is a no-brainer pick.  “Momofuku cool” was probably invented by someone sitting at one of those communal tables next to a tower of napkins.  Perfect place for first and last date, since on both the goal is to see the other side sweat.  A playful, brilliant, meat and veg heavy menu that features seasonal veggies to go along with classics like the pork buns, country hams, and one of my personal New York faves, rice cakes with spicy pork sausage ragu, broccoli, and Sichuan peppercorn.  You can wait for your table at fuku owned Booker and Dax next door, and have dessert across at the Milk Bar in this all Momofuku corner of East Village.  207 2nd Ave (East Village)

Ssam Bar Fried Chicken

Ssam Bar Fried Chicken


I imagine the Italian Tennessee Williams who is a big foodie, saying something along the lines of:  There’s Parma, Bologna, and Rome.  Everything else is Cleveland.  Often overlooked however is the culinary paradise between the first two, Modena, the main inspiration for Rezdora (Meaning female head of household, not Grandma as other publications say).  While many restaurants in NYC claim to do Emilia Romagna cooking, none are as daring, and authentic as Rezdora.  Try the Tagliolini al Ragu, and pretty much anything on the menu.  27 E 20th St (Flatiron)


Where to go for Steak?  A common question on Trip Advisor.  Cote is the unconventional sexy pick these days.  Its one of those enthusiastic recommendations but not quite a concept I frequent.  A “Korean Steakhouse” which is essentially an elevated Korean BBQ managed by Michelin crowned people.  Here you want to get the Butcher’s Feast, right after you take selfies with the red light district of meats downstairs.  16 W 22nd St (Flatiron)

Pinch Chinese

Take a break from Armani Exchanging in Soho and relax in this quirky elevated Chinese. Its an offshoot from Din Tai Fung, a popular Taiwanese Dumplings chain.  The Dumplings reign supreme alright but dont miss out on the ribs, Dan Dan Noodles and the sensational “Snow Crab in Chinese Restaurant”.  Not to mention the great lunch specials (that sweet cauliflower!)   A serious looking crew behind the glass (like watching surgeons doing brain surgery) is balanced by jokes all over the place.  From the bathroom where uncle is watching to make sure Employees wash their hands, to the menu where you may find Yelp quotes as item descriptions.  177 Prince st (Soho)

Pinch Chinese Crab in Chinese Restaurant


Hail to the pig.  I’m discovering more and more Roman eats and dishes all over town these days.  But when its time to recommend just one, Maialino, the always buzzy trattoria inside the Gramercy hotel, is still the safest.  The menu constantly changes, but classics like the Tonnarelli Cacio e Pepe are constant and as good as anything you will find this side of Trastevere.  Thats partly because chef Nick Anderer spent a significant amount of time in Rome learning the craft with the best of them.  The table is still a relatively hard get after all these years, and its also popular for breakfast, lunch and brunch.  This Piggy (Maialino means Pig) got your entire day covered.  2 Lexington Ave (Gramercy)

American Cut

Picking a good steakhouse in NYC can be as difficult as picking our next president.  This is always one of the most common questions asked on Trip Advisor forum (somewhere between “How much should we tip” and “How illegal are the illegal apartments in NYC anyway”).  Since so many of the steakhouses are essentially doing the same thing while sourcing their meat from the same places, I lean toward the establishments that do things a little different.  What I love about AC is not just the freakishly outstanding cuts like the bone-in dry aged, Pastrami spiced Rib Eye, but the rest of the menu.  Not only you get fantastic appetizers, but they also feature some of the most brilliant sides in the business like the Brussel Sprouts infused with spicy Bang Bang sauce from half sister Khe-Yo.  363 Greenwich St (Tribeca), 109 E 56th St (Midtown East)

Tone Cafe

This Brighton Beach inclusion may surprise some, but I frequent it too much not to include it.  Its the sum of all parts in this case.  A bakery producing incredible, crispy Georgian bread, and a delicious array of Khachapuri (cheese-filled bread).  A place where I occasionally stop by for my favorite soup to go (the best Kharcho in Brighton Beach – yes, I tried many).  And most of all, this is a very solid Georgian restaurant helmed by a talented chef, and the best place to try the Adjaruli Khachapuri (below).  While in Manhattan, this is a hip, ultra instagrammable dish, in this part of Brooklyn, its called Wednesday.  265 Neptune Ave, Brighton Beach, Brooklyn

tone cafe - ajaruli khachapuri

The Marshal

In a sea of Thai, Ramen, Mexican and Tarot card readers in Hell’s Kitchen, the most refreshing opening the past few years has been one offering exceptional good ol’ American cooking.  I don’t agree with the “New American” tagline (I’m looking at you Zagat), unless “New” stands for Farm to Table.  Relationships with over a dozen farms and skilled cooking allows The Marshal to offer solid Meatloaf, roasted Chicken, Mussels (some of the best we’ve had in NYC) and much more.  The menu also features a a huge array of seasonal sides, and some of the best bread and butter in the business.  Its a small neighborhood place, so make sure to reserve.  628 10th Ave (Hell’s Kitchen)


Cedric Vongerichten (the son of Jean-Georges) latest in food heaven NoLita is a Tour de Force.  Aided by his Indonesian wife Ochi, Wayan dishes out all sorts of refreshing bold flavors.  The menu features Indonesian inspired recipes utilizing French techniques.  Try the Satays, Sashimi, Clams, Yellow Chicken, and do not leave without slurping on those sick Lobster Noodles.  One of the most exciting new openings of 2019. 20 Spring St (NoLita)  

Kashkar Cafe

This is where you get your Uyghur fix!  A gem like no other on this list, but you will need to schlep there.  Kashkar is located in Brighton Beach, a predominately Russian neighborhood except that its becoming less and less Russian and more Uzbek, Georgian, Kazakh.  And its reflected by the dining options all over.  Uyghur is an Ethnic group living in Eastern and Central Asia including Uzbekistan where Kashkar’s cooks/owners are from, and as far as I know Kashkar is one of the first if not the first Uyghur restaurant in NY.  One of the specialties here is the chewy hand pulled Lagman noodles that you can have as soup or dry with meat and veggie stews (try the Geiro).  The Kebabs are always good, and if you like your plov toasty (like socarrat), try it here.  Then try to figure out how to pronounce Uyghur.  Part of the fun!  1141 Brighton Beach Ave (Brooklyn)Kashkar lagman

Pig and Khao

More like Pig and Wow, what took me so long.  “Top Chef” Leah Cohen continues to dazzle with brilliant Southeast Asian creations, adding dishes seemingly by the day.  Classics like the Sissling Sisig (third generation Sisig with pork head and egg), and Khao Soi are there to stay.  But on a recent visit, its the newer stuff like a spicy Thai mushroom salad, Malaysian fried chicken, and corn that left me speechless.  Because I was eating non stop.  But what I like about this place is that after all those years, Mrs Cohen is still there taking care of business, instead of taking care of 5 businesses as so many celebrity chefs do.  68 Clinton St (Lower East Side)

Somtum Der

Isan by way of Bangkok.  New York has seen a Northern Thai renaissance of sorts the last few years led by this freshly Michelined Somtum Der.  Quite possibly the strangest Michelin Star in history once you consider Somtum’s casualness and low prices (Bib Gourmand is more like it).  But the place does rock with its bold, unbashful flavors.  Dishes like the fried chicken, marinaded grilled pork, and just about the entire fried rice lineup will make you happy (and sweat).  But the namesake Somtum, spicy Papaya salad is unmatched in NYC, and not for the faint of heart.  Colorful, sexy place for colorful sexy readers.  85 Avenue A (East Village)Somtum Der - Goi Hed

Osteria Morini

Michael White’s Osteria Morini would probably make my top 10 list.  Sure Mrs Ziggy would tell you that its loud, the tables are too close, and the seats sometimes make her look short.  And to that I’d say, let Mrs Z start her own blog, and she is in fact short.  But she forgets all about it once we get the food, not to mention that most of the places on this list suffer the same fate on the noise and comfort level. Out of all the Italians on the list, I actually find Emilia Romagna-esque Morini the most well rounded.  Some of the best Salumi in town.  Great Antipasti led by the squid (the breaded version is now an occasional special), and the meatballs.  A fine 60 day aged rib eye.  And the always dependable pastas like the Stracci with braised mushrooms and the Tagliatelle with ragu (the closest we’ve had to the real thing in Bologna).  218 Lafayette St (SoHo)

Cull & Pistol

I put on my helmet and designer protective cup and brave the crowds to eat in this Chelsea Market boat to table.  The seafood menu constantly changes.  But the high level cooking and freshness is constant, partly due to the seafood short commute, sister Lobster Place next door.  Try the lobster roll (done with a lot more love than next door).  Spanish or Portuguese octopus however they make it that day.  Whole Dourade is fried to Thai style perfection.  And if they have it, you must try the insanely good Ecuadorian prawns.  The oyster bar, and its happy hour is another draw.  Chelsea Market (Chelsea)

Cull & Pistol Lobster


Scampi is the Bomba!  Bomba is the simple Calabrian Chili paste that transforms every dish at Scampi including the namesake.  Its PJ Calapa’s first solo after making a name for himself with Bouley, Nobu, and Michael White’s AltaMarea group.  The dish to get is so good, they name the restaurant after it.  The simple but potent Mafaldini Scampi.  But its important to not overlook the Razor Clams, Langoustines, and the rest of the pastas.  30 W 18th St (Flatiron)

Ivan Ramen

I’m no longer in speaking terms with them after Ivan inexplicably removed my Whitefish (turned Salmon) Donburi from both LES and Slurp Shop locations.  “Hi”, “Bye”, thats  it.  And contrary to the name and the Tokyo fame, I dont even go here for the Ramen.  So while I would still urge you to try the cleaner, purer ramen, at the flagship LES, I would also go for the creative goodies on the menu like the pickled daikon, meatballs, and triple pork triple garlic Mazeman.  Ivan, an import from Tokyo by way of Long Island, got something special in the LES and Hell’s Kitchen (Gotham West Market).  25 Clinton St (Lower East Side)

Gloria (closed)

A solely Pescatarian neighborhood joint and the most refreshing opening in Hell’s Kitchen since Gotham West Market and the Marshal.  The historically dreadful spot on the corner of 9th an 53rd contributed to the freshness.  The days of walking by fast so the dude from the previous Indian incarnation wont see me are long gone.  Its run by Contra and Le Bernardin alums but feels more like a baby Bernardin.  Try the Octopus, Tartare, crab, and the glorious Skate Wing.  401 W 53rd St (Hell’s Kitchen)

Gloria Shrimp

Bar Pitti 

I pity the fool that overlooks this Italian West Village gem.  A sprawling sidewalk is prime real estate in the warmer months, with great food throughout the year.  Forget the menu, and order like a regular from the specials board.  You may see the Pappardelle with rabbit or wild boar ragu, or pasta with summer black Truffles.  On a recent visit I had a fine Tortellini al Sugo that rivaled one I’ve had in Florence.  If you must order from the menu, make it the Burrata.  The very Italian staff may disappoint those looking for an all American service.  But you know who doesnt care about that?  Celebrities, who flock the place like there’s no tomorrow.  268 6th Ave (West Village)

Ugly Baby

The best name in NYC serves some of the spiciest dishes out there.  The name serves as an anti-jinx agent – babies are commonly called ugly in Thailand so not to attract ugly spirits.  Too late for me.  Its BYOB, Bring Your Own Bounty due to its uninterrupted, merciless, delicious heat.  The Khao Soi is legendary and got quite the following (owner owned a restaurant called Khao Soi prior), but today people also flock for the Duck Laab, Skewers and a lot more.  407 Smith St (Brooklyn)

Ducks Eatery

How ‘about some proper American food for a change in this ocean of world cuisine.  What happens when you combine unconventional NOLA with unconventional BBQ?  An ugly duckling serving killer ribs, rice and beans, chicken wings, and one sick smoked goat neck.  Or head one block over to baby sister Harry & Ida’s for a pastrami sandwich that will rock your socks off.  Or do as I did one day.  Do both!  Ducks – 351 E 12th St.  H&D – 189 Avenue A (East Village) 

Ducks Eatery - WingsSantina

Reason #243 that there’s no such thing as Italian food.  Its impossible to classify, and Italians will be the first to tell you that it really doesnt exists.  But we have to refer to them somehow.  Coastal Italian is the best way to classify Santina whose menu primarily centers around fish and veggies.  Try the Cecina, a crepe made from chickpea flour, popular along the Ligurian Sea coast.  You choose the “topping” like tuna or lamb tartar, and you are free to abuse it any way you like (I try to make an airplane, then form wraps).  The Squash Carpaccio is Killa!  One of my favorite veggie dishes in the city.  Next door to the new Whitney, under the south end of the High Line, one might think “Tourist Trap”.  Not this one.  820 Washington St (West Village)

Uncle Boons

With a name like that, how can it not be good.  Have you heard of a place that starts with Uncle or Mamma that sucks?  I didnt think so.  Uncle Boons has the most picturesque website, but not the most picturesque rooms.  At least not comfortable and cozy looking.  But the same can be said about Pure Thai Cookhouse and many of the city’s premier Thai.  The dingiest the look, the better the food.  Other than the desserts, I like just about everything on the menu.  Try the Rotisserie Half Chicken, frog legs, beef ribs, seafood in broth and call me in the morning.  Reservations can be tough, so put your name down and take a walk in Little Italy.  Count how many Ciaos you hear from the fake Italians trying to lure you in.  7 Spring St (Nolita)

Fiaschetteria “Pistoia”

While so many Italian establishments bill themselves as “Tuscan”, “Roman”, “Venetian”, and eventually get sucked into a multitude of multi-regional offerings, Pistoia only knows what to do one thing; Pistoian food!  The family owns a restaurant in Pistoia, near Florence, Tuscany, and for the most part replicating some of the same Tuscan specialties in Alphabet City.  Good luck finding Picci and Pappa Col Pomodoro (A Tuscan classic of stale bread in tomato soup) on the same menu anywhere in NYC.  From the staff, to the menu, and wine, its as authentic as it gets in NYC.  The youngsters of East Village have little clue on how lucky they are.  647 E 11th St (East Village)Fiaschetteria Pistoia prosciutto

San Rasa / Lakruwana / New Asha / Randiwa

Sri Lankan on the island of Staten is one reason to stick around after taking the ferry (99% of the tourists dont).  Maybe its the only reason.  Sure Staten Island boasts some great pizza and the famous nonnas of Enoteca Maria.  But if there’s one area that it got unquestionably covered is Sri Lankan, thanks to its large Sri Lankan community.  Influences from India and colonial powers like the dutch helped generate something of a cross between Indian and Thai.  Quite a delicious cross.  These day we are partial to Randiwa for dinner and New Asha for lunch.  But you cant go wrong with any of them

The NoMad Bar

One can argue that this is really the true gem of the NoMad hotel.  Other than the location, and the name, the two NoMads dont really have that much in common.  This bar has a lot of things going for it, starting with its striking modern, classic NY look and feel.  The mixology is some of the most creative you will find in NYC (try the Start Me Up).  But to me its all about the food that redefines bar cuisine entirely.  The burger is perfection, one of the best in NYC.  Carrot tartare, Bay Scallops and quite possibly the best Chicken Pot Pie you will ever eat are some of the other highlights.  No reservations.  During the week it can get Meshugenah, but not so much on weekends in this rare case.  1170 Broadway, entrance on 28th (Nomad)

NoMad Bar Carrot Tartar


Soulayphet (Phet) Schwader and Marc Forgione’s Khe-Yo is the place you bring a spice loving foodie on a first date.  Chances are you’ll get lucky that night with an assortment of Laos inspired bold flavors in a buzzy, sexy atmosphere.  They start you off here with a bang.. bang bang sauce, a fiery concoction of lime, chili, and fish sauce.  Along with the complimentary sticky rice it sets the tone for a spice extravaganza.  The complex Jurgielewicz Duck Salad, the quail of dreams, the crunchy coconut rice balls, like a Havah Nagila in your mouth.  And if they happen to have the half sister American Cut inspired Pastrami spiced Rib eye that night, might as well buy a lotto ticket.  157 Duane St (Tribeca)


Last year I didnt add this eclectic Austrian to the list partly due to the location.  But now I realize that its the location that makes it so good.  You can pretty much draw a line separating Brooklyn’s gentrified with the not so gentrified half and you’ll find Werkstatt positioned right in the middle.  You can couple it with a visit to Historic Prospect South, Prospect Park, or Brooklyn Museum.  Some flock for the Schnitzel, Goulash, and “Best Pretzel in NYC”, but these days I go for the numerous fish specials like Skate wing.  Its a severely underrated neighborhood joint that should be the envy of every neighborhood.  509 Coney Island Ave (Brooklyn)Werkstatt Pretzel

Hunan Slurp

Our most important Chinatown doesnt look and feel like a Chinatown.  East Village, one of the last neighborhoods in Manhattan where mom, pops, and even accountants can open shop, is home to some of our Chinese elite.  And Hunan Slurp opened by an artist turned restaurateur (interior clearly shows) is leading the charge.  While they are known for their rice noodle dishes (the slurping sounds you’ll hear), come for just about everything else.  Possibly one of the best whole fish dishes on the island.  Inventive stuff like the Hunan Salad.  And classics done right like the stir fried Cabbage, and the signature Hometown Lu fen.  112 1st Avenue (East Village)  


Bushwick is the Big Bang Theory of NYC neighborhoods.  I rarely make the effort to visit, but when I finally, do I wonder why.  There is all sorts of interesting dining in Robertaville these days, and Faro with its well deserved Michelin may be leading the pack.  I’ve only been once as of this writing, but I have full confidence in this ingredient driven, seasonal farm to table Italian in a Bushwicky industrial space.  The pastas especially are standouts.  436 Jefferson St (Brooklyn)

Jun-Men Ramen

One of my newer faves, little Jun-Men is quietly doing all sorts of wonderful things in Chelsea.  Every time I eat here, I discover something new.  Last time I discovered my Achilles Tendon (as it started to bother me), followed by some of the best chicken wings I’ve had in recent memory (two weeks these days give or take).  Before that it was the fried rice, and before that the mesmerizing uni mushroom mazeman.  And the ramen here, not too shabby.  I’m partial to the Kimchi Ramen with bits of juicy Pork Shoulder.   From the outside the place looks like a nail saloon, but from the inside it looks like a modern nail saloon with an open kitchen.  Anyone knows a good Podiatrist?  249 Ninth Ave (Chelsea)

Jun-Men Ramen UniBowery Meat Company

Every time I sneeze, I get hiccups, and a new steakhouse is born in NYC.  The competition is quite fierce these days, and so you need to do something unique to stand out, like this modern steakhouse in the Bowery.  It got a little bit of NOLA in it (broiled oysters), a little bit of Italian in it (sick Duck Lasagna for “2”), a little bit of burger in it (fan-freakin-stastic cheeseburger), and a lot of great steak.  Try the Bowery Steak, a ribeye cap rolled into a hockey puck shape.  Arguably the best part of any animal, and something you wont find in any steakhouse.  Don’t believe me?  Ask Justin Bieber9 E 1st St (East Village)


This is quite possibly the best Momofuku today not named Ko, headed by ex Ko virtuoso Josh Pinsky.  There’s all sorts of nonsense out there about Nishi being uncomfortable, marred by identity issues, and owned by an owner everyone loves to hate.  But at the end of the day, David Chang is just a boy, standing in front of a city, hungry for deliciousness, which he delivers time and time again.  This is essentially a mini Ko, with some dishes resembling their smaller counterparts like the Bay Scallops or the roast pork.  Other dishes like the Butter Noodles (FKA Ceci e Pepe) and the outrageous Clams Grand Lisboa show the same whimsical mastery as in Ko.  232 Eighth Avenue (Chelsea)

Nishi Beef Carpaccio


This is the Bar Pitti of Midtown, but different in some ways.  A small Trattoria hidden somewhat on 39th off 9th, popular by locals and tourists alike, but especially popular by Italians.  I frequent this place often, and I don’t remember a time I didn’t hear patrons speaking Italian.  Unlike many of its competitors nearby, it feels like home, a sense of belonging.  Mercato is one of the few in the city that specializes in dishes from Italy’s southern regions and Sardinia, like the Malloreddus, Sardinian Cavatelli.  Other dishes like the Trenette al Pesto, the fresh Spaghetti, Gnocchi with the meaty ragu, and the daily specials like the other Cavatelli will keep you asking for more.  I do, all the time, but they dont understand me!  352 W 39th St (Hell’s Kitchen)


Fresh Off the Boat (FOB) homey Filipino BBQ on picturesque Smith st.  They dont make ’em like this anymore.  Underappreciated places like this exists in NYC no doubt (perhaps in Queens), but I just dont know any.  Not the glitziest decor around, with much of the focus on what goes on your plate.  The Chicken Adobo is getting better with age (well it is an overnight chicken after all), and the Fish Inihaw is soundly in the must category for us each time.  And those wings and that sauce belong in a competition somewhere.  271 Smith St (Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn)


Like Bruno Pizza, Marta is not your uncle Vinny’s Pizzeria.  This is more like cousin Nick, as in Maialino’s Nick Anderer.  There has been a wave of fancy pizzas opening in NYC in the last few years but none I feel are quite like Marta at the Martha Washington hotel.  As with Bruno, you can have a fine meal here without even touching the pies (I’m looking at you rabbit meatballs, and then I slaughter you, chicken).  But skipping the cracker like Roman pies would be a monumental mistake.  I sat there when they first opened and watched Nick throw out pie after pie until they got it right, and that Patate Carbonara is one of the glorious products of that hard work.  29 East 29th Street (Flatiron)Marta Patate alla Carbonara

Jeju Noodle Bar

With this latest Korean inclusion, I’m risking having too much Korean on the list.  This may be a reflection on my taste or the current state of NYC dining, but at the same time, they all so very different.  Jeju is stylish, fun and now that they dont take reservations, more accessible.  While the kitchen specializes in Ramyun, the Korean Ramen, its best to order it as part of the Tasting Menu, one of the better values in town.  679 Greenwich St (West Village)

Hometown BBQ

There was a time when finding good BBQ in the city was as difficult as watching a constipated baby.  Those days are officially gone.  Those that still say that need to come out of the their shell, and go straight to Red Hook.  It took me a while to warm up to Hometown, but now I cant get enough of it.  Hometown’s quick and growing fame reached a point of a major destination stop and ‘Franklin-esque’ weekend lines.  The spare ribs, and the legendary brisket are unmatched.  But what sets Hometown apart is the craftiness and execution of the normally secondary items like the super moist chicken, and the addictive Italian sausage.  454 Van Brunt St (Red Hook, Brooklyn)

Hometown BBQ Chicken


Now THIS is a PIZZERIA!  Unlike places like Bruno Pizza and Marta, Capizzi is all about the simple, no fuss, individual pies.  Raw material is top priority here making every ingredient count.  Consider the pepperoni that will make you go “Feh” at every subsequent pepperoni elsewhere.  Its sliced nice and thick, with some kick to it.  Same attention to detail with the rest of the ingredients.  But what I like most about Capizzi, is the space.  Unlike the more famous competitors in the area like Don Antonio and John’s, this has all the making of an old fashioned Staten Island style pizza parlor.  And speaking of SI, there’s now a new bigger Capizzi sister in SI on Hylan blvd.  547 Ninth ave, Hell’s Kitchen

Minetta Tavern

Out of all the city’s old-timers, this is perhaps the most distinct.  Minetta doesn’t look like much from the outside on busy Mcdougal, but once you get through those red curtains, its like stepping back in time.  There aren’t many restaurants out there that are consistently mentioned in various “Best” lists.  The Black Label burger set the trend for fancy aged beef burgers, and the Cote de Boeuf is still one of the most sought-after meats out there.  Even if you skip all that and have other  menu classics like the Pasta Zaza or the Oxtail terrine, chances are high for a fine meal.  113 Macdougal St (West Village)


It took me 4 weeks to train my Google to stop showing me results for Ilili (Gourmet Lebanese) whenever I searched for Lilia.  Bad Google, Bad!  But once everything sorted out, it was all systems go.  Lilia is across the pond (not that one, another pond) in Williamsburg’s former auto shop district so a lot more local than tourist.  Missy Robbins, Barack Obama’s favorite chef in Chicago (when he was a senator) dishes out freakishly good pastas like the Cacio e Perect Malfadini and Agnolotti.  The vegetables all over the app section featuring the best of Union Square Market.  Great simple meat dishes, and all sorts of “Little Fish” and “Big Fish” hugging the menu.  She must be a PJ Harvey fan.  Or Dr. Seuss?.  567 Union Ave (Williamsburg)

Lilia Agnolotti

Tia Pol

West Chelsea is known for some of the city’s best Spanish Tapas joints.  And Tia Pol, one of the originals, is leading the pack.  You can probably play Six Degrees of Tia Pol, with the number of related Tapas spots in the area and all over town.  This is the perfect spot to bring your Mother in Law as its dark and noisy.  Especially if you MIL is into squid ink rice, best I’ve had in this city.  Octopus salad, Patata Bravas, shrimp with garlic are all dependable, and so are the Bocadillos (sandwiches) for lunch.  This is as fun as it can get in Little Barcelona (it will catch on).  205 10th Ave (Chelsea)  


When life gives you chicken, you make Korean Chicken Wings.  This fun Hell’s Kitchen Korean is popular with Broadway show goers, tourists, and locals alike.  Once you find the menu (hint:  its in the drawer on your lap), go with the classics like the sliders, tofu, and the wings.  And then cautiously proceed to the Bibim-bap, fried rice with egg, and whatever else chef Kim got in store that day.  I like to bring out of town visitors here, vegetarians, and also out of town vegetarians.  Always a good time at Danji.  346 W 52nd (Hell’s Kitchen)

Pure Thai Cookhouse

I almost did, but can’s leave out my most frequented.  A super casual deep hole in the wall on “Little Bangkok” 9th ave.  If you blink you may miss it.  I used to go here when they were called Pure Thai Shophouse until two lawyers from Chipotle showed up demanding a name change (long story).  There is no curry of any color on this menu, but a nice selection of regional specialties like the Ratchaburi with pork, crab and dry handmade noodles made in the “shophouse” like corner inside.  The ribs are usually a hit.  Papaya salad, jungle curry fried rice, and the always reliable fiery pork with curry paste.  And as with any place, if there’s one dessert on the menu, get it.  Coconut sticky rice with pumpkin custard, like the gift that keeps on giving   766 9th Avenue (Hell’s Kitchen)

Pure Thai Ratchaburi

Via Carota

A turbulent start is turning into a very smooth ride.  This is quickly becoming a local West Village institution and one of my favorite Italian in town.  No reservations is fine with me, being early lunch as my normal go to.  The same menu for lunch and dinner is greatly appreciated (and somewhat rare), and the many daily specials keeps the juices flowing even more.  Although many of staples like the Cacio e pepe, chicken, and the sick Funghi with smoked Scamorza makes ordering specials here virtually impossible.  51 Grove St (West Village)


Needless to say I’m a fan of everything Momofuku, with three Momofukus on the list as of this writing (Oct 2019).  It fits my taste buds like that favorite pair of shoes that you cant wear every day, and get really excited when you do.  Kawi, arguably the best thing to eat at Hudson Yards is one of Chang’s most ambitious project.  Executive Chef Eunjo Park designed a playful but smart menu that quickly established itself as one of the city’s best.  Only problem is that its inside a mall.  Get the Cod, Wings, Ribs, and most importantly Wagyu Ragu Rice Cakes.  20 Hudson Yards

2nd Ave Deli

What happens when you flood this page with Jews doing Asian food (Ivan, pig and Khao…) but no Jews doing Jewish food? You get Jewish guilt the size of a New York Matzoh ball.  While tourists flock from midtown to downtown (Katz’s) for that elusive pastrami, we sneak into midtown for the same quality in a much more relaxing setting.  Abe Lebewohl’s legacy lives on!  162 E 33rd St (Murray Hill)

2nd ave Deli Pastrami


This ingredient focused, Italian influenced ole’ timer continues to impress.  Marco Canora seems to have found the right formula, creating a menu that is essentially for everyone… Meat freaks, health conscious, pescatarians, vegetarians, vegans, accountants, every one really.  Some of the old classics like the Rigatoni and Gnocchi, and the impressive Spatchcock chicken are joined by new classics like Cecina and Rabbit.  And that wine bible is still perhaps the NYC wine list to beat  403 E 12th St (East Village)

Chote Nawab

Confession time.  I’m a little less enthusiastic about this Curry Hill pick since the ownership change.  The menu is the same though spice levels took a hit it feels, and in some case missing all-together, hence off the menu.  Like the Kori Gassi my favorite curry dish here is not available at the moment due to issues with getting the proper spices from India.  But there is still plenty to love here like the Bindi, Biryani (get the shrimp), and Chettinad.  While they no longer contain the old heat levels, the flavors are still there.  And the lunch specials are still hard to beat.  115 Lexington Ave (Kips Bay)

19 Cleveland

My guess is that the Israeli team that named this gem in Sabra Village are not fans of Tennessee Williams who once famously said:  America has only three great cities: New York, San Francisco, and New Orleans. Everywhere else is Cleveland.  Or maybe that was the aim since the result is not the best Israeli food in the city, but something that is very good at what they trying to do.  A casual, fun establishment that serves some of the best hummus and Falafel in town.  After all, there guys already proved it over and over again at my favorite Falafeleria in town, Nish Nush.  19 Cleveland Pl (NoLita)

19 Cleveland - Hummus

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Lazy Post – California’s Route 1

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