Monthly Archives: April 2018

Le Sia – The Accidental Cajun

Le Sia CrawfishSo what exactly happens when one opens a restaurant on one of the most heavily trafficked sidewalks in East Village?  Nothing really in this case.  For the same reason that visitors may not even notice one of the most beautiful churches around, the Ukrainian Catholic church.  They usually miss Streecha, the church cafeteria serving homey stuffed cabbage and pierogies.  They miss the Hebrew Actors Union, the headquarters of Yiddish actors forming the US first actors union.  And they walk right passed Le Sia, a new gem serving Beijing style street food.  They miss all that because they are on a mission to get to the Taj Mahal of New York pubs and the oldest bar (disputed by some historians but thats for another time in another life), McSorley’s.  It feels like at any given time, 90% of the tourists in East Village are inside McSorley’s, while 5% are looking for it.

But a quick peak inside the French sounding Le Sia, a few doors up and you see a bustling crawfish and skewers fest, packed with locals.  But that wasnt the case during the first few months.  A perfect example of a mom/pop (more like mom/friend in this case) relying almost exclusively on word of mouth which is spreading like wildfire.  And fire is what you get when ordering their seafood boils and some of the other dishes.  They did finally get some coverage from Eater, but that was already after waits started to form.

You get the sense that the folks at Le Sia have the kitchen experience but not so much restaurant managing experience, but you got to start somewhere.  Head chef and one of the owners used to work at the famed DaDong in Beijing.  The idea here is to create something common in Beijing, somewhat available in Flushing and Sunset Park, but lacking in Manhattan.  In fact I didnt even know crawfish boils were a thing in China until I passed by the Sunset Park place too many times.  The Cajun/Louisiana connection mentioned by some of the Yelpers, is purely coincidental.  And to add fuel to the fire, or maybe showing some humor they offer Chinese Jambalaya.

Le Sia - Mung Bean

And that sweet and spicy Jambalaya ladened with crawfish, peas and egg is a sharp upgrade over the common Chinese Fried Rice.  The skewers are cheap ($1.50-3) and mostly good but somewhat uniform in flavor.  Liberal use of Cumin seeds is like an homage to the shuttered Biang! nearby.  My favorites so far are the chicken wings, gizzard, sausage, and beef wrapped with Enoki.  They have some interesting cold dishes like Sichuan Cabbage which I’d pass in favor of the Spicy Mung Bean Jelly (Liang Fen) with one of those fermented black beans sauces you want to dip your fingers in, which I did.  This could be the dish to get here besides the crawfish.

The boiled crustaceans are sold by the pound.  Between the crawfish on one night, and crawfish and crab combo on another, the crawfish was fresher tasting and the clear winner.  You select the spice level and the sauce.  I went for the Herbal and “medium” which in this case proved spicy enough.  The crawfish comes from Louisiana at the moment, and most likely that will be the case until June when the season ends.  Then they will either get it from California or serve frozen.

Another winner one night was the butterflied garlicky eggplant side.  Some of the dishes like the standalone Enoki missed the mark.  While I normally like Enoki prepared as such, the seasoning here proved a little too strong for the delicate mushrooms.  The grilled scallop featured some tasty glass noodles but not the scallop itself.  They just got the liquor license but the beer list is a little pedestrian at the moment.

Le Sia
11 E 7th St (2nd/3rd), East Village
Rating: 2 Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that
Recommended Dishes: Crawfish, Chinese Jambalaya, Spicy Mung Bean Jelly, Eggplant
Skewers: Chicken Wings, Gizzard, sausage, and beef wrapped with Enoki

 

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4 Days in Montreal

Its been a busy month. Two days off in the entire month of April means I dont have much time to blog lately. So for your next trip up north, enjoy this not quite oldie but goodie.

Eating With Ziggy

FullSizeRenderThis is essentially a copy and paste from the report I did on Chowhound, with visuals.  Three couple celebrating my friend’s 50th.  Everything we ate in order of appearance

Olive et Gourmando – Enjoyed the grilled cheese sandwich and the vibe.  Vowed to return for breakfast but they only open at 9 which I find a little strange.

Le Serpent – Started with a bang.  Menu right up my alley, with exceptional execution.  Industrial space and feel in the old city, though way out of the tourist trail.  Started with a fine sliced Octopus covered by a thin layer of potato mousseline.  A very nice Foie gras looking like two pigs in a blanket without the blanket, with blackcurrant, quinoa, and macadamia nuts.  The pastas here are absolutely sensational and so difficult to pick.  The best for me was probably the Bucatini with pork flank confit, black garlic, soy – a pungent, punch to the face on…

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EV Bites – Sia, Fina, Chika, and Ginger

Ginger & Lemongrass Spicy LemongrassA new transgender accounting firm in East Village?  Not exactly.  Besides I’m pretty sure the name is already taken.  EV Bites is a new monthly feature, showcasing 5 places in or around East Village you should know about.  I will occasionally extend the border to Nolita and LES, and maybe even mention a name more than once.  East Village in case you are not aware is an incubator of top industry talent, and a goldmine of world cuisines.  A little taste of the outer boroughs in the city

Le Sia – A new Beijing style seafood and skewer destination next to tourist mecca McSorleys on East 7th.  Didnt think much of it at first after passing by so many times with my groups, but today word of mouth is spreading like wild fire.  And fire is what you can get when ordering their seafood boils.  I will have more on Le Sia soon but if you cant wait, get the Crawfish, Mung Bean Jelly, chicken wings skewers, garlic eggplant and send me a thank you note.  But wash your hands first, it can get messy here

Le Sia - Mung Bean

 

Ginger & Lemongrass (top)- Another newish spot, this one on Rivington in Lower East Side, dishing out Vietnamese and Thai inspired soups, salads and sandwiches.  Owner/chef Petra Rickman, is a Czech native who fell in love with Vietnamese food in Prague and spent significant time in Vietnam learning the craft.  This is her and Fiance Michal second location after finding success in Whitestone, Queens (Hanjan, Danji’s Hooni Kim is a fan).  In three cold weather visits so far, I had nothing but the outstanding deeply flavored soups, with the Coconut Lemongrass being my favorite so far.  You have your choice of chicken, beef and shrimp.  I’m partial to the chicken.

Mile End – Montreal’s Mile End neighborhood’s Jewish history is similar to that of Lower East Village.  Schwartz’s is Montreal’s answer to Katz’s, and Smoked Meat is their answer to Pastrami.  You can find Montreal style bagels, Smoked Meat, Matzoh ball soups and much more at Mile End in the Bowery.  But lately I’ve been enjoying their Poutine which is better than any I’ve had in Montreal in fact.  They have rotating Poutine specials like the one with Nashville hot chicken last month (pictured, should be a regular on the menu), and Duck Confit with Foie Gras this month.  But you cant go wrong with the regular Poutine with that wonderful salty Smoked Meat.  Good craft beer menu as well

Mile End Poutine

Mama Fina – Filipino food is one of the examples I use when I mention the wealth of Ethnic foods in East Village and nearby Lower East Side compared to any other Manhattan neighborhood.  Add Alphabet City newcomer Mama Fina to the local Sisig war.  Though unlike Pig & Khao, Maharlika and co, this Mama is not playing exactly fair.  Its a full onslaught of a dozen Sisig variations featured on the menu, from Pork belly to Salmon, to Pusit (squid).  Interesting that they dont offer third generation Sisigs like the pig’s face parts offered at the other joints, and you have to request for the egg yolk.  I only had the pork belly so far which I liked so much I forget to take a picture.  That nice looking, smelly Pusit is next!

Chikalicious Dessert Bar – Chika Tillman is one of the most respected pastry chefs in the city.  Ok make it the country.  How many other pastry chefs out there are also famous in Hong Kong, Tokyo, Seoul, Dubai and more.  There are 13 other Chikalicious outposts around the worls.  But the East Village institution will always be the original.  It is as packed as ever, and Chika’s smile is as infectious as its been since they opened 15 years ago.  This is where you sit at the bar, watch Chika and crew work and go “I’ll have what she’s having”, which is usually one of the most famous “Cheese Cakes” in the city” –  the Fromage Blanc Island.

Chikalicious Cheese Cake

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Cote – Korean Meat Erotica in the Flatiron

Cote FeastWhat do you give a girl that has everything?  What do you give a city that has everything?  The answer to both is Steak!  Its hard to go wrong with steak.  But Simon Kim of the Michelin Starred Italianish Piora just upped the ante.  Instead of opening just another steakhouse or just another Korean, or Korean BBQ, he created a new concept, a Korean Steakhouse.  Elevated Korean BBQ in a modern, sexy setting in Flatiron.

Its food porn, with a slight emphasis on the latter in this case, “porn”.  It starts as soon as you walk in and settle in the bar, and kicks up a notch when you go down to the basement.  You cant help but stare at the aging steak hanging in the red lit room behind the glass while listening to the soft porn jazz in the background.  Its the meat lover red light district.  The theme continues upstairs where you are presented with the said meat by a team of sharp looking Chippendales.

The bottom line in this post (recommended dishes) is a single item: Butcher’s Feast.  Four very different cuts cooked right in front of you, accompanied by a plethora of Banchan – side dishes.  I would like to meet the people that reported leaving hungry after ordering the feast.  The waiter starts us off with the aged Ribeye that comes with its cap dangling.  The cap, the Ron Jeremy of meats, the least appetizing meat out there, which is why you rarely see it anywhere.  But its arguably the best tasting part of the cow.  Bowery Meat Company in the Bowery uses only cap to for its infamous Bowery Steak, one of the most expensive hockey puck meats in NYC.Cote Meat

The feast continues with the Hanger, followed by a well marbled Wagyu Flatiron (when in Flatiron..), and Galbi, as the “meat dessert”.  Galbi is short rib marinated with soy and sugar.  A curious but logical finisher to the meat course.  By that point of the meal, the entire family flipping those meats like the pros that we are.  Three days later, the oldest makes her first egg over easy.  A week later, our kitchen is in desperate need of a paint job.

It was difficult to keep track of the accompanied sides in this one.  The egg souffle was a particular winner, along with the funky preserved Korean Perilla Leaves.  And I could happily dip my car keys in that spicy Ssamjang sauce if they let me, once we are done with the meat.  Then came the stews, the lettuce, the rice, and the question…  Did I really need to order that Kimchi Wagyu “Paella”.  A fine $28 dish that can easily lose itself in the shuffle, and not all that necessary if you get the Feast.  The feast ends with soft serve which I estimated will please 98.4% of patrons

Simon created something trendy and cool that even the trendy and cool haters can appreciate.  I suppose some traditional steak lovers may find fault with the execution.  And I suppose Korean BBQ aficionados may find issues with the delivery or pricing.  But for the rest of us, this is culinary entertainment at its finest.

Cote
16 W 22nd St (5/6), Flatiron
Rating: Three Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that
Recommended Dishes: Butcher’s FeastCote Meat room

Cote

Eater

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Fiaschetteria Pistoia – Under the Alphabet Sun

Eating With Ziggy

sApril 2nd, 2018 Update:

Turns out Pistoia handles family style like they do with their families in Tuscany.  A feast for the ages for $55, house wine included.  Highlights:  The oh so silky prosciutto I cant get enough here.  The tiny but potent Zucchini flam.  One of the best simple Spaghetti with red sauce I’ve has in a while.  Perfectly cut and cooked Pappardelle topped with hearty slow braised meat ragu.  And delicate veal cutlets braised with Tuscan wine.

I rarely get this much satisfaction from a group.  The big reason is the people running the place.  You are not dealing with a corporation and an expensive super fixed menu.  You are dealing with owner Emanuelle who will not nickle and dime you and will make sure everyone leaves satisfied.  One of my favorite new Italian in NYC.

September 26th post:

There’s Off the Beaten Path, and then there’s Avenue C…

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