Monthly Archives: May 2017

15 Best Things We Ate in Sicily

Off to Croatia. Tours will resume after June 4th. Forgive me if I don’t answer your email right away but will check periodically and answer as soon as I can. Meanwhile I’ll leave you with a blast from the near past

Eating With Ziggy

sirena-di-sansica-red-shrimp16 days in Sicily in July means you are still writing about it in November.  Couple that with a trip to Montreal and you essentially got The Summer of Ziggy!  It’s the kind of trip I dont believe I can mimic anytime soon, but you the reader can!  These 15 items alone should give you plenty of ideas if you researching but I strongly recommend checking out the rest of the Sicily Page.  I can easily spend another 3 months writing about this, but wife now wants me to concentrate on Croatia.  She’s just a tiny bit spoiled eager.  So, pull up our trip theme song one last time, and lets get lost together…

Octopus Carpaccio at L’Arco Dei Cappuccini (Taormina)

Yet another sharp reminder kids.  Leave the center, and wonderful things start coming your way.  I’m talking unicorns, and puppies, and Octopuses.  In this case you need…

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Categories: New York City | Leave a comment

Pinch Chinese – Soho Gets her Groove Back

Pinch Chinese Crab in Chinese RestaurantIt feels somewhat odd for such a place to open smack in the middle of Soho these days, due to…

  1. I haven’t written about anything new in Soho in years (back to back posts now)
  2. Lately I try to avoid the area as much as I can.
  3. When I bike through it these days, I find myself pedaling a little faster.
  4. Its normally packed with people, beautiful people
  5. So why do I pedal faster
  6. I dont know.  Maybe to impress them?

As the wise Yogi once said… “Its so crowded, nobody goes there anymore”.  Have you been to Soho lately?  Spring and Price are giving Times Square a run for its money.  I wonder whats the rent like these days.  On the flip side, I was picking up visitors from Sixty Soho on back to back mornings for a Brooklyn Tour, and I couldnt believe how charming and quiet that area can be in the morning.  I heard cab drivers singing and birds making mating calls (or is it the other way around).  Even Dominique Ansel had no no queue!  It was as shocking as your spouse telling you out of the blue, “I didnt know the Bee Gees were all male”.Pince Chinese

Pinch Chinese is sticking out of Prince Street like a zebra in a nudist colony.  There’s nothing like it in the area, serving solid elevated Chinese in a comfortable setting.  One of the partners is a veteran of the famed Taiwanese chain Din Tai Fung, known for their soup dumplings (Xiaolongbao).  Inside, once you look passed the seriously focused crew behind the glass, its quirkiness galore.  From the menu, quoting Yelp reviewers, to the bathroom, warning employees about the consequences of not washing hands.  A lot of effort into the decor.  We ate…

Seafood/Pork Dumplings – Smaller than your average soup dumplings, but more concentrated and potent.  Wife was wishing for bigger (what else is new) but I thought they carries enough spark.  Something I would definitely order again

House Special Shrimp – Fine!  No issues with the perfectly cooked tiger shrimp and sauce, just nothing new and exciting flavor wise.

Niman Ranch Cumin Ribs – “tender, fall-off-the-bone – jocelyn on yelp” menu description is spot on.  But to me its all about the dressing of these babies that made us eat the leftovers with a spoon.  One of those rare awkward “Are you done with that” moments.  And it just goes to show you how flavorful Chinese Cumin lamb or pork can be without the numbing heatPinch Chinese Ribs

Dan Dan Noodles – Yet more pinches of brilliance.  And more Niman Ranch pork, with heat this time, and hints of star anise.  Its a peanuty sauce a la Han Dynasty.

Snow Crab in Chinese Restaurant – A dish of the year nominee.  Something Jocelyn and all her Yelp colleagues missed out on (I didnt see any mentions of it when I ate there).  Glass noodles with heaps of crab, dressed with an outrageously delicious fermented bean sauce with chilies and scallions.  The crab was plentiful and delicious, but it almost plays second fiddle to the noodles with sauce.  I would even order this without the crab

Eggplant in Garlic Sauce – Exactly what it says.  A regular, but solid, Chinese style eggplant in garlic sauce

Pinch Chinese
177 Prince St (Sullivan/Thompson), Soho
Rating: Three Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that.
Recommended Dishes: Seafood/Pork Dumplings, Cumin Ribs, Dan Dan Noodles, Snow Crab in Chinese RestaurantPinch Chinese Soup DumplingsPinch Chinese ShrimpPinch Chinese Dan Dan NoodlesPinch Chinese Eggplant

Categories: New York City, SoHo, NoHo, Nolita | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Chef’s Club Counter – Rotating Nasty

Chefs Club Counter Duck RiceThey recycle their own sluts!  I’m not quite sure what it means, but that is according to a sign inside.  Either they employ people with extremely low standards or they are referring to their Eggslut sandwich, which is excellent.  Either way, to my knowledge they are the first slut recyclers in the industry.

But Chef’s Club Counter is known for other “firsts”.  To explain the concept, I’ll go with the longer but more efficient approach.  Think about the many times that you bought your spouse a popular cookbook only for the spouse to take almost no advantage of it.  One and done meal!  Too many ingredients, pictures not in color, too many words, etc etc.  Ok, lets pretend that it did happen.  I know many out there have a certain passion for cooking, but for the rest of us, its really just a passion for eating.  Think of Chef’s Club Counter as a cookbook, in the midst of its first chapter, with more to come.  Where the cooking is done for you (for a fee)

Chefs Club Counter BurgerUnlike big brother Chef’s Club where you got a fuller assortment of famous chef’s recipes including guest appearances, the counter is all about a few rotating recipes available for lunch and breakfast.  Every three months or so they will change entirely.  So anything you eat now, say goodbye to it immediately, or take a few more months to enjoy.  While they are preparing your slut, the rest of the team is hard at work trying to figure out its replacement.  All enjoyed in a very comfortable, cafeteria like fast food setting.  Order at the cashier, and wait for it.

At the moment they are featuring the infamous Eggslut which deserves all the hype it generated when CCC opened.  Its a hit in LalaLand, and even in Vegas at the Cosmopolitan (Best food hotel in Vegas – Keeps attracting the best of the best).  How great can a little $8 egg sandwich be you ask?  Well, it starts with an especially light Kaiser roll. Fluffiest scramble you will ever get, gently aided by sriracha mayo with oniony hints and melted cheddar.  Its the perfect egg sandwich.

A fast-casual room demands a fast-casual burger, and the Jean George burger here doesnt disappoint.  Similar to the one at the Mercer Kitchen nearby, it features melted cheese, Russian dressing, avocado and fried onions.  McDonalds style fries could have used a little less salt, and some pepper perhaps.  But in today’s NYC, I’m just grateful to get fries.

But the most interesting thing on the menu at the moment may be the Duck Rice by George Mendes.  This is similar to the signature Arroz de Pato dish I had at Aldea many years ago.  Aldea is so forgotten I had to check now if its still in business.  Duck Rice is like a nicely executed duck paella, featuring three differently textured Duck preparations with olives.  There’s added tartness from cirtus purée spread all over the plate for you to use as you please.

Go!  Before they recycle those sluts.EggslutChefs Club CounterRecycle Those Sluts

 

Categories: New York City, SoHo, NoHo, Nolita | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Best Falafel in Manhattan

Taim falafelWe are well into Falafel season in New York City (April – March).  I will make this one nice and painless, almost W42st pick-5 style.  When I want a good Falafel these are the only places I consider.  They are fairly spread out, so helps with your sightseeing, quick bite needs.  I cant think of a better, more affordable snack in town other than a well crafted Falafel.  For most of you EWZ old timers, other than one place perhaps (Ba’al) this wont offer anything new.

Nish Nush – Any Falafel discussion should start and end with the Nish Nushes (or Nish Nishe).  Two of them now, though I still prefer the original Tribeca location over FiDi.  Pitas at FiDi didnt do it for me last time.  The regular “Classic” over the other flavors (Tribeca, FiDi) any time.

Taim – Pronounced Ta-eem, as in “Delicious” in Hebrew.  Its indeed delicious, but not exactly a NYC secret.  I have to admit, I changed the wording in the first paragraph to “Consider” from “Frequent” since I dont really frequent Taim as much as I used to.  The Nolita location crowds makes me slightly noxious when I pass by.  But the falafel platter here, with 9 gorgeous schweddy balls, fresh salads, and pita with Za’atar seasoning, is divine.  (West Village, Nolita)

Taim

Taim

Gazala’s – Although not exactly a recent discovery, I feel like the falafel here is.  I’ve had it before, but lately cant get enough of it.  I dont know if its the type of oil they use, but it just tastes fresher.  Nice golden scrips on the outside, perfectly seasoned and herbed on the inside.  This is not a sandwich recommendation per se.  You get the plate with paper thin pita (ask for it) and hummus that is another must order (Hell’s Kitchen)

Ba’al Cafe and Falafel – Tucked away in the quieter parts of Soho, Ba’al is the definition of hole in the wall.  There’s nothing fancy here but a simple solid Falafel sandwich.  My secret weapon (Soho)

Azuri – This is a pick for those looking for a little bit more excitement to their falafel experience.  And by excitement I mean something more akin to riding a scary roller-coaster.  You not only get a beautifully crafted falafel sandwich in a thick whole wheat pita, but you get to deal with Ezra the Falafel Nazi.  (Hell’s Kitchen)

Mamouns – Just kidding.

IMG_5915

Nish Nush

IMG_5899

Gazala’s

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

Not Your Grandpa’s N’eat

N'eat Short RibIts fun to watch the hype machine in play in NYC, and see how things develop.  While I read all the Hot and Buzz lists out there as everyone else, I learned over time sometimes the hard way, that things are not always what they seem.  A name and/or a little bit of money, at minimum $3000 is needed to market yourself as such.  An alum of something good in the world… Noma, EMP, Contra, tickles your interest, with a picture of something beautiful that is cooked for two weeks straight, seals the deal.  “Brian is a recent graduate of Betty’s school of Hospitality and Accounting” is not gonna be nearly as sexy.

Nordic eatery N’eat opened last November in East Village with that kind of buzz.  I walked by it many times, and watched the menu develop and eventually redesigned.   The initial buzz apparently was just that, as reserving now for a prime time table is as easy as getting a table at your local Chipotle.  Whats wrong with this place!?!  What do the village people know that I dont.  You cant get too comfortable reserving tables in NYC these days.  Its either too hard, or you secretly wish for a little harder.  Thats what she said.  I mean my dining companion.  She said that.  And she’s right.

N’eat is casual, quirky fine dining.  The bathroom is blasting Ali vs Frazier in case you missed it.  80’s music includes stuff you dont normally hear, just when you thought you got it pretty much covered.  Wait staff is “East Village Fun” as opposed to “EV hipster, help I’m stuck here”.  When the waiter said  “Still or sparkling, and by still I mean tap”, a small tear came out of my good eye… only to quickly disappear with the usual comical “dishes are meant for sharing”.  Advice as useful these days as “Dishes here are meant for eating”.  A young Filipino female chef, an Atera, and other heavyweights veteran, at the helm.  While its still owned by the same folks including Noma veteran Gabriel Hedlund, something tells me this is no longer the same n’eat, even though it opened just 6 months ago.  So if Grandpa happened to eat here 3 months ago, he needs to…  Ok, I’m trying here.

“Æbleskiver” (say that one time), a Nordic snack usually eaten during Christmas, was a nice little starter.  Like a mini beignet stuffed with braised duck.  The accompanied Lingonberries sauce was just the right delicate compliment.  Enjoyed the Buckwheat toast with Cremini mushroom and fluffy, shredded, Halvah-like Cheddar.  Truffle salt sealed the deal for the brain on this one.

Sunchokes was perfectly cooked into a meaty potato like consistency, served as is with a nice tasting foam.  Foam was fairly prevalent throughout the meal.  While I admire foam as much as the next guy, at some point we were wishing for some veggie texture.  Though the Duck heart tartar had plenty of texture and flavor.  Loaded with chives, chive flowers that blossom one month of the year, fermented mushrooms, chili, and dried rice.  While very different it was an homage of sorts to the Filipino Sisig.  By far the spiciest tartar I ever hadN'eat Duck heart Tartare

Arctic Char came very rare, with just foam and some trout roe. This is where we started missing those veggies.  It was good, but rather forgettable.  Short rib, the most expensive item on the menu was perfectly cooked, most likely slowly sous vided.  The glaze on top was on the sweet side, and the ultra lean short rib you could cut with a toothpick.  It came with a bone marrow and two spreads including fermented onion puree and pepper butter.  Combining the two gave the best results.

N’eat is borderline Nyet.  Its one of those solid two stars that I dont quite see me returning.  I cant really fault anything or any dish other the uniformity of it all.  Yet nothing blew my mind, and the menu featured didnt scream unfinished business.  Neat is a bordeline But I do appreciate the uniqueness and recommend you to try at least once.

N’eat
58 2nd Ave (3/4), East Village
Rating: Two Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that.
Recommended Dishes: Æbleskiver, Buckwheat toast, Duck heart tartar, Short ribN'eat Sunchokes

N'eat Arctic Char

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

W42st May Issue – Best Places for Soup

IMG_5904A slight variation to my usual best soups of Hell’s Kitchen post.  This month its part of the food issue on W42st.  Mooncake Foods and their sick Wonton soup is sadly no more, so needed to replace it with Pam which made the list twice in a row.  The only news here to veteran readers is the inclusion of Chong Quing Xiao Mian Noodles.  Try saying it just once.  As usual you will find Ziggy’s EatList at the small Zine inside the magazine distributed all over the neighborhood.  This month’s issue matched my couch perfectly so we may keep it as furniture for a little longer this time.

Pam Real Thai – I’ve had so many Oxtail soups here that I had forgotten how good the other soups are, like the explosive Khao Soi. The most underrated Thai in NYC

Ippudo – Judging by the flavors of the new sesame based Ramen lineup, these guys dont follow the latest Ramen trends. They set them. Waits may be long, but for good reason

Chong Quing Xiao Mian Noodles – Try saying it 10 times, while chewing on their nostril clearing Mala (chili oil) Noodles. The newest quicky on 9th

Totto Ramen – 51st street is the new 52nd street. Apparently the secret of the new location is out judging by the lines. The chicken broth here, especially the Spicy Ramen stupendously good

Pure Thai Cookhouse – Now that Chipotle ditched their Shophouse Asian Kitchen franchise, Pure can change its name back to Pure Thai Shophouse. The soups here are generally great, but I’m partial to the Sukhothai

Chong Quing Xiao Mian

Chong Quing Xiao Mian Noodles

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