Monthly Archives: February 2016

5 Destination Sandwiches

Cull & Pistol LobsterA post about Sandwiches!  How exciting!  John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich (Kent county, England) must be rolling (the dice) in his grave.  After all, he was the one that asked his servants to bring him something, perhaps meat, between two pieces of bread, so he could hold in one hand and not interrupt his gambling.  After a while, town residents started flocking to the same shop asking for “give me same as Sandwich”.  Yes, the sandwich was invented by someone who thought eating was a waste of time.  Granted, 250 years before the invention of the Fuku.

Sandwiches in general rarely excite.  They can be good or decent, but rarely you get that ‘Ratatouille Moment’ that makes you forget where you are and maybe even wet yourself a little.  Well, bring your diapers to this journey, as we are about to change all that.  I’m talking about a thrill, as in reaching for something in your bag and finding half a cookie you were saving for your spouse but forget to give her kind of thrill.  Looking at “Best of” lists out there, I see an army of sandwiches that frankly dont sound very interesting (chicken parm, Italian, BLT).  Sure they can be satisfying, but I wouldnt go out of my way for a nicely crafted club sandwich.  These 5 on the other hand, are worthy of a subway ride across town, and dont appear on many lists for various reasons.

Roberto Tuesday at City Sandwich – This Hell’s Kitchen Sandwich Award post looks extremely odd without the mention of only the best sandwich in the area.  Most likely I havent discovered it in time.  Slow roasted, delicious pork combined with salty Portuguese Bacon, jalapenos, sauteed onions and fresh spinach.  All in that top notch signature Portuguese baguette that makes us go back to City Sandwich even on non-Tuesdays.  649 9th Ave (45/46 Hell’s Kitchen)City Sandwich Roberto

Lobster Press at Lobster Press (The Pennsy) – We need another food hall like we need another food hall.  Yes it’s officially an expression now that we have as many food halls as pharmacies.  But the brand new Pennsy, with only about 6 high end celebrity chef filled hall is quiet different.  Marc Forgione’s Lobster Press may not have the biggest line in the room, but his Lobster Press, a Panini like pressed lobster sandwich may be the best sandwich in the neighborhood.  More like a lobster salad with plenty of chunky lobster aided by a tangy lobster chili sauce.  Try it with cheese or without.  2 Pennsylvania Plaza (Midtown West)Lobster Press Pennsy

Pop’s Pastrami at Harry and Ida’s – The only sandwich spot on the Z-List says something about this place (My wallet says:  slow down pal, I’m no PayPal).  Something tells me there are 2 or 3 sandwiches here that could have made this list (my money would go on the pastrami dog, and smoked eel).  But I’ve only had this marvelous pastrami sandwich loaded with think, beautifully spiced, juicy slabs of pastrami with buttermilk fermented cucumbers, dill and mustard.  An  homage to papa Harry’s original.  189 Avenue A (E. 12.  Alphabet City)Harry & Ida's Pastrami

Porchetta at Porchetta – This is one of those situations where describing the making process may lead a stranded web surfer who came here accidentally to choke on his own vomit.  There are various ways of making Porchetta (Porketa) but generally it involves a whole pig, deboned, and stuffed with heart, liver (hungry yet?), and other parts you didn’t know exist.  Along with a heavy hand of herbs, and spices, its then rolled, tied up, and slow roasted for hours before slicing for sandwich use.  I’ve had it in classier joints that I didn’t enjoy as much, and in Italy.  Here, the simple Porchetta in a Ciabatta is the real deal.  Although the ciabatta isn’t arriving from Sullivan St Bakery anymore, it’s still holds its own.  110 E 7th (A/1st Est VillagePorchetta East Village

Lobster Roll at Cull & Pistol – There are lobster rolls, and then there are lobster rolls.  See the difference?  There’s no shortage of lobster rolls around town these days but around 90% of them carry very little value, and wont fill you up.  This one will.  A hefty amount of mouthwatering, sweet claw meat is stuffed into a toasted bun, served along with excellent skinny fries.  I prefer the Connecticut style, here at least, warm with a little bit of Mayo.  Yes its $27, but at least you get a complete meal out of it.  Chelsea market (Chelsea).  Pictured at the top

Bonus Pick:

The Koreano at Fuku – This one is growing on me.  A Chick-fil-A inspired David Chang creation.  Fried to perfection, habanero marinated, buttermilk coated, and spiced some more thigh meat with cucumbers inside a rather simple potato roll that’s pretty much served as holder.  The off menu Koreano adds pickled Daikon to the mix which adds more layers to the flavor profile.  163 1st Avenue (E 10th.  East Village)Fuku Koreano

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

Provo: What Where Why

Turks 2014 240TCI, Provo lovers.  Check out the latest issue of Where When How to read about What to eat, Where to eat it, and Why, by yours truly.  Flip to page 118. or type 118 in the box on top.  Also check out the wonderful story by my friend Mackenzie Tewksbury about the Taste of TCI tour on page 62.  A very cool way of spending three hours on the island.

http://onlineissues.wherewhenhow.com/publication/?l=1&m=11667

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http://onlineissues.wherewhenhow.com/display_article.php?id=2400949&id_issue=290949

 

 

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The Hell’s Kitchen Survival Guide

Major update to the guide. Organized, reworded a lot of stuff, dish mentions, Gotham West and much more. Painful read (for me at least) so save it for a flight or a very long bathroom break

Eating With Ziggy

Hell FoodUpdated: February 17th, 2016

“One more block” is what I normally say to tourists who come to NYC to experience one of the best NY attractions (Broadway shows) along with one of the saddest NY attractions (Theater District Dining).  One more block and you are in the middle of ethnic galore 9th avenue.  To experience eating in NYC, one of the greatest food cities in the world, one should take advantage of one of its greatest strengths, ethnic dining.  From amazing Sri Lankan food to fiery Thai.  Most visitors don’t realize that you wont find any Theater District Restaurants on any “Best of” lists, but you WILL find some of the following.  And if you insist on fine dining, why not go to something like Ma Peche, Lincoln, Marea, Betony or The Nomad which are not in the district but a short cab ride away or a nice stroll on Broadway.  You already paid $300 to…

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Categories: New York City | 1 Comment

Emporio- Romancing the Stove

Emporio - Prosciutto Pizza I love Valentine’s Day.  The Vermont Teddy Bear, 1-800 Flowers, Viagra/Cialis commercials are in full swing.  Roses of every color sold everywhere.  Macy’s perfume girls are out in full force.  Restaurants offering heart shaped pizzas, and special Valentines Day menus.  I love it because I don’t have to do and see any of this.  These days I’m given special instructions, sometimes written, of exactly what’s expected of me.  And I execute those instruction in the best possible way I can.  “Throw out the garbage”, “Take the dishes out”, “Call your mother”…. stuff like that.  I was told it’s called “Communicating”.  Another reason V day isnt that special in my household is that it happens to be my youngest’s birthday.  In your face Hallmark.

BTW, did anyone else notice that the Vermont Teddy Bear is getting bigger and bigger.  This is so bizarre, that it almost looks like an SNL commercial.  I cant even begin to imagine the look on her face when I bring one of these home.  Who gets to go first out the window.  Me or the bear.  Most likely bet it’s the bear, with me stuffed inside it.  I might as well bring her a small container full of ants hovering around a severed finger.  It will result in just about the same reaction.

EmporioBack to Emprio.  Oh, we havent even started.  Emporio does two things well – both of which combine to about 35% of my body mass.  Pizza and Pasta.  You see me write about places that do pizza well, and places that do pasta well.  But very rarely I come across a place that not only does both, but does both well.  The “Romancing” also stands for Roman.  And while I dont quite see those classic Roman “Cucina Povera” pastas like Carbonara and Cacio e pepe on the current menu, I dont particularly mind.  In NYC, they open them, and slowly adjust to the demand and neighborhood.  So a Sicilian place today, may not be so Sicilian tomorrow.

But the pizzas at this Aurora group owned were Roman alright.  As usual I like to start any pizza relationship with the Madame, Margherita.  And here it is a fine rendition, with quality raw materials including fresh Buffalo Mozzarella sitting on that wonderful Roman style super thin crust.  Same kind of promise followed with the Emporio Margherita which simply adds Prosciutto di Parma to the basic.  The pies, although thin, are not Matsoh like as in Marta’s house, but when the dough is as delicious as this, I’m more than ok with this.  The Spicy Sopressata featuring fior di latte mozzarella was a ok.  Sopresatta not quite as refined as others (eg. Don Antonio).  And it wouldnt be a Roman pizza without a Roman pasta disguised as pizza.  Here you got a fine Gricia, with Guanciale, Black pepper, provolone and pockets of fresh ricotta that you smear on other slices.  Nicely done.Emporio - Gricia

Pastas may have been specials on this V Day, led by the outragously delicious Gnocchi alla Norcina.  Parsley green Gnocchi mixed with Porcini, house made suasage. more fresh ricotta and the kicker… crushed Black truffles.  Albeit not exactly like “shaved”, its rare to see pastas with black truffles priced the same as truffle oil.  More of that black truffles but not as defined can be found in the terrific Raviolacci.  Pierogie like ravioli filled with ceamy burrata and topped with brussel sprouts leaves.  The seafood Taglierini, while good, did not posses similar flavor explosions.  Perhaps a little more of that Calabrian Chili or something to balance the “one noteness”.

Emporio is one of those names that have been on my radar for a while, but I somehow never found the right opportunity to go.  A bustling, fun, casual trattoria in the bustling, fun, casual Nolita.  Another marked improvement over the Little Italy spots just a block away. Go!

Emporio
231 Mott St (Nolita)
$$$

Emporio Raviolacci Emporio - seafood Taglierini Emporio Gnocchi

Categories: New York City, Nolita | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

American Cut – An American Review

American Cut SteakI had a strong hunch about American Cut.  Aided by clues I gathered here and there, there was enough to believe that it is one of the strongest, unsung heroes of the NYC steak scene.  When our fine Hungarian Damian Lewis waiter asked us if we’ve been here before, I suppose I should have said yes, to save the usual 5 minute spiel about the menu and its content.  I already had your signature steak, and even the chili lobster, even though I’ve never actually set foot at American Cut.  But now I’m finally here, and I dont know what took me so long.

Remember when I said “now I’m finally here, and I dont know what took me so long”?  Well, I lied!  I do know.  Living in NYC, and its ever evolving food scene can make you forget about good ole’ boring steakhouses rather quickly.  Especially those classic, old fashioned ones, where the waiters are over 60 and the clientele is even older.  The same fine dry aged cuts can nowadays be found in [name any Italian, American French, Portuguese, your uncle Bob, you name it restaurant].  Not to mention the many modern steakhouses like the fine, Z-List winner Bowery Meat Company in the East Village.  But American Cut feels like a steakhouse like no other.  Perhaps the perfect kind for those looking for that classic American steakhouse experience.American Cut

At the great risk of sounding like a Yelp review…  From the moment we entered until the moment we left, with Hungarian Damian Lewis taking good care of the four of us during, its was pretty flawless.  Long time EWZ historians will tell you that its a tough feat, as I always, I mean always find a flaw, or four.  It was just about the opposite of our recent experience at the meat experts at Quality Italian in Midtown where the flaws just kept coming and coming like erectile dysfunction commercials.  Perhaps a testament to eating in the heart of Midtown vs residential Tribeca.  American Cut felt unique.  Like old and new New York  rolled into one.  Comfortable, elegant, fun, theatrical, attentive, unfussy, with a great menu that delivers.  Flawless!

Biscuits – I’ve had worst bread that I paid for than this complimentary beauties.  Everything Seasoned, extra large biscuits with room temperature (key) buttery veggie cream Cheese.  Its the Scarpetta affect (owned by same group) where you in danger of losing yourself and your appetite during the bread course.  Save some for the saladAmerican Cut Biscuits

Caesar Salad – Excellent.  Prepared table side, old fashioned by your waiter, with eggs and croutons.  A fine rendition.  And if there was ever a time and place to order the Caesar, it’s hereAmerican Cut Caesar Salad

Octopus – Expertly cooked octopus, with marcona almonds, nutty romesco sauce, and celery for some reason.  Solid starter nonetheless

Latkes – This was a side that we elected to have a starter.  A very respectable version that would make any Jewish mother proud.  That’s perhaps the best compliment I can give to latkes.  A “bissel” heavy so be carefulAmerican Cut Octopus American Cut Latkes

The New York City Cut – The somewhat confusingly named signature dish.  Its not a NY Strip, but a 20 oz bone-in rib eye, 30 day dry aged, rubbed with Pastrami spices.  The spices aren’t as overwhelming as one might expect.  Nor the layer of mustard seeds sitting underneath that just gives it a little more tang.  Its a nicely marbled, high quality cut that couldn’t be cooked any more perfect.  As I mentioned we already had this at half sister Khe-Yo nearby as a special.  It was slightly different (without the mustard seeds) but with similar results.  We ordered two of those babies.American Cut Rib eye
Sides – This is where I feel American Cut separates itself from the rest.  In addition to the Latkes, you got some very impressive sides here that makes ordering a little difficult.  That’s one reason you should order the latkes or something else a starter.  Unless we just hit the jackpot with the creamy, bacony “Dry Aged” thin sliced Potatoes, and the banging Brussel Sprouts infused with that spicy Khe-Yo Bang Bang sauce.American Cut Potato
Dessert – The Crackerjack ice cream with popcorn ice cream is the undeniable crowd favorite here, but what stole the show for us was the AC Carbomb, chocolate bread pudding with boozy Jameson Butterscotch, bananas, and Guinness Ice Cream.  As I said, flawless
American Cut
363 Greenwich St
$$$$
Recommended Dishes: All of the above
American Cut Bread Pudding
Categories: New York City, TriBeCa | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Seed + Mill + Chelsea Market = Mahane Yehuda

Seed+MillOk, not exactly!  But inching a little closer.  Raise your hand if you get the title.

One of my fondest food trips ever was a two week falafel/hummus/shawarma extravaganza all over Israel about three years ago.  And one of the many memorable eats on that trip was the Halvah from the Halvah Kingdom, a long time staple in the famed Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem.  Its quite a sight.  A grown man wearing a crown standing in the middle of the market, handing out free samples.  If there was ever a free sample that works like magic, this was it.  The Halvah had a kind of softness and freshness to it that I’ve never had before.  And the amount of various flavored Halvah on display was impressive in itself.  We bought some for the hotel, and enjoyed it on a daily basis with our Shoko, chocolate milk in a bag (you make a very small hole with your teeth in order for it to last for a while – its that good).  I always wondered why we cant get the same type of Halvah here in NYC, and further research pointed to the challenges involved in making it, which doesnt quite coincide with demand.

So you probably heard the shrieks of New Yorker Jews when it was announced that the Chelsea Market will have a new tenant specializing in Halvah and other sesame seed (Seed+Mill, get it?) related goodies.  Over a dozen gorgeous Halvas line up Bunny Ranch style waiting for you to pick and taste.  Dark Chocolate, Coffee, Nougat, Cinnamon, Pistachios, Cranberry are some of the flavors on display.  Nougat gets the edge for me, but I’d urge you to try the others.  You can buy them at $6 per quarter pound, to go, or simply eat it right there by the giant windows on the side.  Who said there are no seats at Chelsea Market?  I did.  Many times.  But they exist.  You can also try the Halvah on their awesomely fresh goat milk ice cream.

Passionate part owner Rachel from Chelsea via Australia knows all about the Mahane Yehuda phenomenon.  She tells me the Halvah is made in Israel based on their specifications, and they are looking to expend on the flavors as they go along.  They also sell Tehina, and spices created in conjunction with spice guru Lior Lev Sercarz at La Boîte.  It’s a modest, somewhat hidden counter for now, but with big plans in store.  Its just a matter of time until Rachel gets out to the main hallway, wearing a giant crown.

Seed + Mill (Chelsea Market)

Seed+Mill2 Seed+Mill3 Seed+Mill4

Mahane Yehuda

Mahane Yehuda

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

Hell’s Kitchen – What’s Up?

IMG_2985Latest news from the kitchen of Hell:

I’ve been enjoying a little Ecuadorian hole in the wall on 10th called Nano as of late.  Nano has some serious Nonaism going on, with homey nona style recipes filling up the menu like the Caldo de Bola soup which made the Best Soups in HK cut.  For lunch you got various deals that include the Seco de Pollo, chicken strips in a mild but pleasant gravy, and Sango de Res, beef in a soup like green plantain sauce.  Some of the other offerings look very much Peruvian.  I’ll be adding this one to the Survival GuideCaldo de Bola at Nano

Staying with the Peruvian theme, adding Pio Pio as a large group option to the guide.  Pio Pio is a chain and it wont win any James Beard or Z-List awards any time soon.  But for larger groups, even fairly last minute, I cant think of better options that are also affordable in the area.  Décor downstairs is somewhat funky, drinks are good.  When its time to celebrate something at my company and I’m asked for “Not as expensive as last time, please” (think Blue Ribbon or Taboon), I’m left with a Pio Pio

Removing Hell’s Chicken.  I just dislike going here.  No atmosphere, lackluster food at times.  Honestly the only Korean you need to know about is Danji.

There was a time when I would wet dream about our office being in East Village.  By wet dream I mean, a co worker would shout “Its happening again!”, and another coworker would pour cold water on me.  But those moments are long gone (Replaced by a younger Salma Hayek).  Nowadays, not only Hell’s Kitchen is thriving in the food front, but businesses from East Village are slowly opening locations here.  Taqueria Diana very quietly is the latest one to open a branch on 9th (39th), just a few small blocks from the mew Tehuitzingo.  While a mixed bag so far (good al pastor, poor carnitas), the promise is there for a proper California style Burrito.  With all this Mexican greatness in the hood, I still cant find a decent reliable Burrito.  Oy, first world problems!IMG_2983

A lot of changes happening at Gotham West MarketEl Colmado, trying to become a viable lunch option as its neighbors, introduced a lunch menu consisting of sandwiches and salads.  But based on the punchless fancy burger I had yesterday, they need to work a little harder.  Ivan Ramen keeps reshuffling its lineup introducing various “buns” (think pork buns) including Pastrami buns.  The all-day breakfast ramen which used to be mornings only, is possibly the best thing you can eat in the building at the moment.  The most interesting addition to the market as of late has been Uma Temakeria from Chris Jaeckle, owner of the terrific All’onda in West Village.  The specialty here is Sushi served in wacky forms like nori cones (think ice cream sushi), Burritos, and design your own Chirashi bowls.  Nothing shockingly exciting, but so far so good with everything I tried.  A refreshing addition for the raw fish lovers

If you missed it, I recently blogged about my favorite soups in the area.  A blog post my mom would have been very proud of.  And before that, I gave you my favorite Thai around.  Since then however, I’ve been enjoying another place called Siri Thai on 10th ave, but not quite ready to put on the list with three very solid places there already.  The one cool thing about Siri Thai is that its not only the busiest Thai on 10th, it one of the busiest places period.

Buon Appetito!

 Uma Temakeria

Uma Temakeria

Ivan Ramen Breakfast Ramen

 

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

Avoid Seamless Like you Avoid Times Square

Seamless

Seamless

Choking sign.  Thats what I got from business owners when talking about Seamless the last few weeks.  I knew things are bad but not to this extreme.  Seamless provides a service that is, well, seamless to the consumer.  Ordering food delivery has never been easier.  With your CC info on file, its pretty much point and click.  The hardest part is to move your tuches (with a jewish ch) to open the door.  At my company in Hell’s Kitchen, Seamless is the preferred method for lunch.  At least it was until I told my coworkers the real story.

Seamless charges anywhere from 10-20% commission for every purchase.  The owners I spoke to get charged 16% on average.  Getting closer to the 10% zone and seeing your name on top comes with a high price tag.  This is a huge chunk of their profit without much to gain in terms of customers.  To the business owner, its a middle man, showing up one day out of nowhere to take a hefty cut of the profits.  Like a modern day mafia, leaving you no choice, and no additional business.

Why cant they stop using the service?  I asked that question over and over.  Thats where the choking gesture comes in at some point.  Seamless has simply ballooned into something so big that dropping them means losing a big chunk of your business.  With the acquisition of Grubhub, Seamless pretty much owns the field, and essentially a monopoly.  There are smaller players entering the field like Yelp, and other deliver options like Maple from David Chang but none of these for the time being are disruptive to this behemoth.

The popularity and convenience of Seamless means people order out more and go out less, resulting in even more lesser profits.  The brand is so big that its almost fair to classify it a generic trademark, essentially synonymous with food deliveries, as in “Hey Shlomo, wana Seamless it today”.  When I sit at a restaurant these days its almost like seating at a Seamless establishment as you are surrounded by Seamless signs and listen to Seamless delivery alerts coming from the system.  It makes you feel ancient, not part of the new system, albeit much appreciated by the now overly stressed business.

And as we see over and over again, those same mom and pops simply fold one day and move on.  A little rent increase is all it takes these days.  Mom and pop move on to Denver, a new Starbucks takes it place.  You like that sandwich?  You want them to continue making it.  Call them directly!

 

Categories: New York City | Tags: , | 7 Comments

Nishi – La Cucina Fukina

nishi-jajangmyeonJanuary 9, 2017 Update:

When you finish the year with three meals in 9 days at the same place, it becomes quite apparent. I seriously need to learn how to cook  Nishi is my favorite newcomer of 2016 and I cant get enough of it.  One can very easily dismiss this place when Googling it and facing the cranky initial reviews, and that would be a grave mistake.  Grave I tell ya!  There’s a good place for food critics in our society, but they are often coerced to review too early, especially when faced with the buzz of a Momofuku.  Buzz and brand lead to certain expectations.  If Nishi opened last month with the current menu, and owned by a no-name, it would have gotten some major accolades right now.

So I’ve now tried all the pastas on the menu.  Love them all except the Chili Squid.  I think I prefer XO (spicy seafood sauce) on meat dishes, rather than seafood.  The Butter Noodle is still a revelation.  The Spicy Beef is a delicious combination of pasta shells, beef, mint, fried shallots, with a nice kick.  Love the Jajangmyeon with the biggest fried egg you will ever see covering the entire plate, and more joy to the spicy lovers.  But my favorite is still probably the Toasted Noodles (formerly Clams Grand Lisboa).  Eating this is like listening to an entire Ariana Grande song by accident in the car.  Lost in the moment, which can be dangerous when wife is giving you important weekend instructions.  I think I have to drive someone to the airport, but I’m not entirely sure who and which airport.

I will update the bottom line with my favorite dishes which is getting too long, but it will include the delicate Mackerel Tataki, and the BBQ Pork Rib with sweet and sour sauce which is a spare ribs game changer.  The Ko-esque Roast Pork is still quite good, but the best thing on the large section right now may be the fish.  A very shareable Skate Wing with bits of toasty Cauliflower, topped with this beautiful buttery light gravy.  Freakishly good stuff!

June 19, 2016 Update:

Happy Father’s Day to all the foodie dads out there!!

Nishi is quickly becoming my favorite Momofuku in the city.  Wait a minute… this just in… it just did.  See how quick it was?  I will most likely replace Ma Peche with Nishi on the next Z-List update.  Other than the Habanero, I’m simply running out of reasons to schlep there.  Every thing that I like are taken out of the menu, starting with the rice cakes w/pork, and ending with chef’s Paul’s sensational jerk wings.

There’s somewhat of an identity crisis I feel with Nishi.  Nothing outrageous, but more like “am I an Ox or a cow?” type of an identity.  They started with a No Tipping policy which got axed recently (New Yorkers may not be ready for it quite yet).  The much buzzed Ceci e Pepe is now Butter Noodle as they may be trying to get away from the Cucina Fukina Italiano tag.  Nishi Scallops

But what remains constant is all the goodness that comes out of that kitchen courtesy of Josh Pinsky, the man behind the best meal I ever had (bearded dude in one of the pics).  A very Ko-like Diver Scallops come floating on a citrusy Peruvian inspired Tiger’s Milk and topped with Shio Kombu to give the scallops a nice crunch and flavor.  If you going to serve scallops raw, this is the way to do it (I’m, looking at you Grand Banks).

Another great discovery is the Clams Grand Lisboa, one of the few staples on the menu from day one.  The clams are dressed with Oregano based sauce, sitting on top fried Chow Mein noodles and cabbage.  Calling this Cho Mein almost sounds like an insult to this dish.  Its cooked with apple sauce that give it this sweet richness, like no Chow Mein you’ve had before.  A newish Roast Pork with asparagus that is quite similar to what I’ve had in Ko is another winner.  I was so excited to get reunited with this dish, that I forgot to take a picture on time.  Go!     nishi-toasted-noodles-clams

February 3rd. 2016 Post:

Yesterday I blew the dust off of Fred Plotkin’s Italy For the Gourmet Traveler to brush up on my Sicily food scene.  The book was published in 1996 and is still a good resource for everything Italy foodstuff, since not much really ever change there.  In Venice, people continue to eat canal seafood.  In Piedmont they will continue to munch on Vitello Tonnato and Carne Cruda.  And in Rome they will continue honoring the Cucina Povera (simple food of the poor) for what seems like indefinitely.  You dont come to Bologna and ask what people are eating these days.  Its the same cuisine they’ve been enjoying for centuries.  New York City on the other hand is a totally different beast.  A Plotkin book on NYC would get stale after about a year.  Bagel, pastrami, egg cream, hot dog, steak…  those seeking what New York is known for are missing out in a big way.  New York is known for everything and nothing.  The only constant here is change, and the new Italianish Momofuku Nishi is perhaps the poster child of that NYC ever changing dining scene right now.

The answer to what is the hottest restaurant in NYC right now has never been clearer.  Franklin Barbecue, Noma, a psychic in New Orleans, a call girl in Stuttgart…  Just some of the things that come mind that are more difficult to snatch than a table at Nishi at the moment.  Those lucky enough to make it, got the bragging rights of a Taylor Swift posse member.  The other day they announced that they now accept reservations two weeks out.  That will improve your chance of getting a table by roughly .04%.

But as long as there’s no physical harm involved, I’m game with this modern “text me when my table is ready” wait.  Arrived at 5:45 on a Saturday, 15 mins after they opened, with a disturbing looking line around the block.  But things move fast, as after only 20 minutes I was having the much anticipated meeting with the hostess.  “Next available table is… looking like… ooh, I can sit you on Wednesday, 10:30” was going through my mind as I was expecting the worst (ok, slight exaggeration).  But instead I got “Two and half hours”.  No biggie, as I was planning to take the opportunity to show our visitors (from Staten Island!) Chelsea Market.  I get a text an hour and 45 minutes later, and off we go

Stylish wooden communal tables, extremely loud, supportless seats unless you count the occasional waiter bumping behind.  Essentially a typical NY establishment these days.  No complaints from me as long as the inventive menu delivers (spoiler alert:  It does).  Although the Asian Italian mashup isnt necessarily new to NYC (Piora, All’onda), Momofuku almost makes it look like brand new.

Ceci e Pepe – The early reports signature is what I call a grower.  A play on the Roman Cacio e Pepe but instead of Pecorino, it’s swirled with chickpea hozon which Ssam bar has been toying with for a while now.  The result is a subtle sweeter version.  While I couldnt quite make up my mind if I prefer this over the classic, by the time I finished I found myself “Scarpettaing” the plate with my middle finger.

Nishi Ceci e peppe

Beef Crudo – One of the more complex, and beautiful raw beef dishes out there.  Topped with watermelon radishes (think daikan), ponzu, dashi and scallions.  All combined produces a very nice bite.  And for only $48 extra you can get a decent shaving of winter Black Truffles on top,  Its about $24-30 more than I’m willing to pay for Black, and $10 more than I’m willing to pay for white in the fall.

Nishi Beef Carpaccio

Chicken and Dumplings – Another great dish.  A riff on the Korean Sujebi, with Chicken, bread dumplings and plenty of delicious shiitake along with an excellent rich broth.  Mrs Ziggy especially appreciates a good soup and this was her favorite dish

Nishi Chicken Dumplings

Spicy Beef Sichuan – Perhaps the top pasta of the night.  This is where they take a classic Italian dish like Pappardelle with meat ragu, and applying bold Sichuan flavors like Yacai (preserved mustard greens), fermented chili paste and tofu.  Like Pappardelle with ragu, and Dan Dan noodles gave birth to a baby named Roger.

Nishi Spicy Sichuan

Chitarra with Squid – The only miss of the night.  Should have gone with the clams Grand Lisboa.  This was sort of one note, with fishy XO sauce that doesnt quite go well with this pasta for me (emphasis on “for me”.  How dare I question the king).  And then there’s the squid that sort of gets lost in the shuffle.  I like the use of XO in heavier pastas like the Agnolotti in All’onda.  Add the odd price of $36 (why?), and its an easy skip IMO.

Nishi Chitarra

Leg of lamb – Truly exceptional piece of meat.  Arrives looking nothing like the legs you know and love.  So tender, so delicious, with white beans and sauce that would disappear much quicker if there was bread (no bread here and not really necessary.  I’m just being a little melodramatic)

Nishi lamb

Finished with the famous Korean dessert… Pistachio Bundt Cake.  Or is it Italian?  Either way, it was a proper finisher, pictured below with my friend Robert still pursuing his dream of becoming a hand model.  Some wine, some Limoncello slushies (about a drink each) added up to $320 for 4 (Note we ordered 2 of the Cecis as one is not enough for 4).  No tipping allowed.

Momofuku Nishi
232 Eighth Avenue (22/21), Chelsea
Rating: Three Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that
Recommended Dishes: Butter Noodle, Mackerel Tataki, Beef Crudo, Spicy Beef, Jajangmyeon, Roast Pork, Toasted Noodles, BBQ Ribs, Skate Wing, Roast Pork, Pistachio Bundt Cake

Nishi Bundt Cake

Momofuku_Nishi

Gabriele Stabile

 

Categories: Chelsea, New York City | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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