Monthly Archives: December 2018

Pig and Wow!

Southeast Asia is a wonderful place for the culinary minds out there.  But so is Southeast Manhattan.  Specifically the square of Lower East Side, East Village, Nolita and Noho that incorporates a high concentration of chef driven joints including some of the city’s most prominent Asian.  But when zooming in on a small area around Clinton street in LES, you will find “Little Judasia” – Jews doing kick ass Asian.

Leading the charge in Little Judasia you got Leah Cohen (Pig and Khao), Ivan Orkin (Ivan Ramen), and Petra Rickman (Ginger and Lemongrass).  Ok, I’m not too sure about the Czech born Rickman, though Rickman is a common Jewish name.  We need a confirmation or a conversion in this case.  But this is already far and away more interesting than Little Italy to the west.Pig and Khao

Pig and Khao simply put is one of my favorite restaurants in the entire city.  Although I’ve written about P&K before and added it enthusiastically to the Z-List, I’ve never actually written a post about it.  That enthusiasm is slightly marred by the fact that after many flawless meals, the only hiccups came on the last visit when I introduced P&K to my oldest.  But I find myself mentioning it more often than any other place these days.  Especially to those embracing the bolder flavors, or want to experience something new.

Here’s a list of my current favorite dishes

Thai Mushroom Salad – The unsung hero.  With all the attention that the Sisig and Khao Soi are getting, to me its this shroom/shrimp/chili concoction that is perhaps the best dish here.  Its also one of the spiciest, so pair it with the most coconutty coconut rice out there.

Pig and Khao Mushroom SaladSizzling Sisig – The most celebrated dish here, and perhaps the most famous Sisig in a city not famous for Sisigs.  Reason being part taste, part novelty, part Instagram.  But it is very good and something I order almost every time. Its not a traditional, but third generation Sisig that includes all pigs head parts (cheeks, snout, etc).Pig and Khao Sizzling Soi

Khao Soi – Exceptional depth in this one.  Hard to say how it compares to Ugly Baby and Pam Real Thai as I havent had them recently but this is excellent.Pig and Khao Khao Soi

Malaysian Butter Prawns –  Five huge, plump, perfectly cooked prawns that are clean and easy to peel unlike similar dishes out there.  Its ladened with this crumby buttery mixture that is so addictive we it with a spoonPig and Khao Shrimp

Grilled Sirloin – This is just a perfectly seared Sirloin but as with so many southeast Asian joints comes with a playful set.  You get cabbage and a spicy Isan fish sauce to practice your taco making skills.Pig and Khao Sirloin

Malaysian Fried Chicken – I’m including this even though the dish went from a 9 to a 7 on my last visit when the bird perhaps spent a minute or two longer in the sin bin.  But when its on, its as good as any fried chicken dish you will ever have in NYC.Pig and Khao Malaysian Chicken

Thai-Lote – A side of grilled corn with sambal butter, toasted coconut flakes and kaffir.  Get this!

Good but would not get again – Ribs and Halo Halo

Pig and Khao
68 Clinton St (Rivingston/Stanton), Lower East Side
Rating: 3 Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that.
Recommended Dishes: All of the above

Pig and Khao Corn

Categories: Lower East Side, New York City | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Kish Kash – The Village Couscouseria

Kish Kash - ChraimeWhen is a concept, not really a concept.  Or doesnt feel like one.  If you walk inside Kish Kash in West Village without knowing anything about it, it may feel like just another casual restaurant serving food that my be even too familiar.  But once you read about it you can see that this is not your ordinary kitchen.  Its the only place in NYC that makes couscous the way it was made 300 years ago.  Couscous made with a lot of love that accumulated over the years by chef Einat Admony (Balaboosta, Taim).

Couscous is the side dish most used in my house because its the easiest to make.  Kish Kash refers to the Sieve traditionally used to make Couscous by hand, a process that takes hours.  As far as I know, Admony is the only one doing it in NYC.  They dont even do this in Morocco anymore.

But what is the real concept here for the average eater who most likely wont notice the difference.  While its definitely a fluffier, better tasting product, once combined with the terrific Mafrum (spiced ground beef meat balls with tomato sauce) or any of the other items on the menu, the flavor gap narrows and it may taste like any other couscous after a few bites.

Kish Kash

The real concept to me is the place and the rest of the menu.  A well designed bright, inviting space serving quick, homey Israeli/North African dishes like the mentioned Mafrum which might be the thing to get.  Or the Chraime, a whitefish, Branzino in this case, topped with tangy tomato sauce.  All dishes come with the house Couscous of course and homemade Harissa you can add once you get bored.  That combination, whether with meat or fish, results in a very satisfying forkful.

While I would still opt for this couscous given the option, the dishes would work with instant couscous or maybe even with something else.  You can make the meal as quick or long as you want.  There are starters like the legit looking hummus.  And since you are at an Admony house, by law you must try the cauliflower that comes ladened with Tahini, pines nuts, and raisins.  There’s Israeli wine and beer of course, but no Malt “Black Beer” for those truly missing Tel Aviv.

Kish Kash
455 Hudson St (Barrow/Morton), West Village
Rating: 2 Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that.
Recommended Dishes: Mafrum, Chraime, Cauliflower

Kish Kash Cauliflower

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

Jeju’s Six Courser May be the Best Deal in Town

Ok, so now that I got your attention I will tell you the truth.  Jeju Noodle Bar’s deal is most likely not the best deal in town.  Not even close.  There’s a guy in Sunset park’s Chinatown that makes delicious steamed rice noodles for a buck fifty.  You can get an entire meal at the new Momofuku Bang Bar for less then six.  There’s a 2-for-1 groin massage plus flu shot special every other Friday in Brighton Beach.  Its New York City.  There are hundreds of great deals out there.

But Jeju’s Six Courser is unlike anything I’ve had in NYC, and something I would like to repeat.  Like very soon.  The set menu was introduced about three months ago, just in time for me to rediscover this gem in West Village.  the set menu is unconventional and the perfect fit for our sharing style.  Instead of being your average tasting menu that features small dishes, some not on the menu, it showcases the menu highlights at a lower price when combined.  It costs $45 per person.

Jeju Noodle Bar

Jeju Noodle Bar

Jeju is like the Cote (Korean BBQ) of Korean noodle joints.  I’m sure many balk at the idea of a Ramen like noodle bar in a fancier environment, but the concept is not much different than that of a Momofuku Noodle Bar.  At the helm is a man with an impressive resume.  If we would play Fantasy Michelin Stars (and we should) he would have been a first round pick.  Its almost like Jeju’s brand new Michelin star is an afterthought at this point.  But the recent change to get rid of reservations altogether made Jeju more approachable (are you reading Missy Robbins?).   The current set menu:

Roasted Mushrooms – The best compliment I can give to a mushroom dish is that Mrs Z, a Mushroom hater, coming from a long line of mushroom haters, ate and liked this.

Jeju Noodle Bar - Mushrooms

Jeju Chicken Wings – Simple yet your typical (in a good way) expensive light battered fried chicken with a dip you want to dip your car keys in.  But you cant.  Because its keyless entry now.

Jeju Noodle Bar - Chicken

Toro Ssam Bap – This was incredible.  Layers of fatty tuna, scrambled eggs and Tobiko (fish roe) rice.  Nori on the side to help you make the sickest spicy tuna rolls you’ll ever have.

Jeju Noodle Bar - Tuna

Prime Ribeye Ssam – Anything over 4 courses in NYC usually means a “tasting menu” where the meat course consists of a few slices of high end beef.  Here you have 12 oz of perfectly cooked sliced ribeye (they dont ask you how you want it cooked – a good thing).  You can eat it as is or dip in their own nutty Romesco sauce which they should bottle and give away as party favors at the end of the night.  It should go well with scrambled eggs.

Jeju Noodle Bar - Rib EyeGochu Ramyun – There are so many Ramen variations in the city that its hard to understand the difference between Korean Ramyun and Japanese Ramen.  This pork broth carried some serious depth, and is essentially like the best Tonkotsu you will ever eat.

Jeju Noodle Bar - Ramyun

Dessert Course – Your choice of Ice cream or Sorbet.  We had both, like together at some point.  While forgettable compared to the rest of the meal, this was a solid finisher.  This is a GO!

Jeju Noodle Bar
679 Greenwich St (Christopher), West Village
Rating: 2.5 Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that.
Recommended Dishes: 6 course menu

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

Hot Space – Big Fish, Bigger Fish

Hot Space FishApologies for the blurry photo.  I start to shake in front of deliciousness.  My posts will be smaller and to the point beginning… well it began actually.  Too much going on in my life at the moment, so I dont have as much time to blog these days.  But this is actually a good, refreshing change that will allow me to write about more places.  More places, more usefulness, less mambo jumbo, same grammar.

Hot Space is a Chinese Restaurant in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park Chinatown.  Its unfortunately not on 8th ave so it may need my help.  The number eight is the Chinese lucky number because in Mandarin eight sounds like the word wealth.  The meaning is one of the main driving forces behind the creation of the now largest Chinatown in NYC.  Popular 90’s rumor was to take the N train to the “Sky Stop” (when the train comes up) and you will find success on 8th avenue.

This makes it easy to incorporate the number into the business name.  Lucky 8, Great 8, mister 8, and the brilliantly named Restaurant on 58th st, are some examples.  Although some of the ones without the number 8 can use some spelling luck like me.  “Wash and Flod Laundromat” – sounds daring and flat out dangerous

This is a one dish post really, but its a doozy.  A big tray of fish.  After the servers take your coats and puts them in a large plastic bag so the coats wont attract any of the smells that come with the dishes (I wish my in-laws would do the same), they explain the menu and how to “build” your big boy tray of fish.  You got your choices of fish – usually Sea Bass, Big Mouth Bass, Buffalo Bass, Idaho Bass, and anything and everything ending in Bass.  You add your choice of veggies, sauce, and spice level and off you wait.

And while you wait you stare at the giant screen for Chinese entertainment while your significant other is not looking. The entire scene matches that of this particular Chinatown.  Like stepping into another country.  It helps when you are the only Caucasians in the entire room.  You also have instructions on the table on how to handle the fish once it arrives, like “wait until it stops flapping before eating”.

The fish then arrives and it’s magnificent.  Its not that different looking than the huge trays you see in Fei Long Market’s food court.  Its understandably costlier – about $70 once you add all the ingredients, and it can easily feed 3.  I ordered the Sea Bass in a medium spiced garlicky sauce and it was the perfect amount of heat on a fish whose flavors just pop.  We also added grilled BBQ squid which was nice and cajuny but not really necessary.

Hot Space Squid

Categories: Brooklyn, New York City | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

EV Bites: The Hanukkah Edition

Tatsu RamenEV Bites is a monthly(ish) 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.  The East Village neighborhood, in case you’ve been living under a rock, or Staten Island is an incubator for top industry talent, and a goldmine of world cuisine.

Silky Kitchen – I cant keep up with all the new Chinese in the area.  The depth and the range of the different kinds of cuisines and types of establishments is overwhelming.  Silky is another Hunanese noodle quicky.  The dry noodle plates pack plenty of flavor, with the noodles being a tad too silky and soft for my taste, but still good.  The dish to get so far is the beef and Daikan dumplings.  Very close to dumpling Perfection.

Silky Kitchen Dumplings

Tatsu Ramen (top)- Its Ramen season here.  But when is it Ramen season in LA exactly?  Tatsu is an LA based Tonkotsu Ramen shop that operates like some shops in Tokyo.  Walk in, order your food and drinks (even if it means free water) from the iPad on the wall, slide your card, and bring the printed receipt to the host who will sit you.  On your table you are presented with all sorts of condiments including fresh garlic for your annual fresh garlic press.  My “Bold Ramen” wasnt quite bold but above average, not too rich porkiness.  The pork belly was sliced thin which I prefer, and the egg was a soft boiled whole which I also like.  Another great fast casual option on 1st

Vish – I mentioned Vish in a recent Hummus feature.  But after a few more visits its becoming more and more evident that this may be the best Hummus in the city.  Its not a question of whether they make Hummus daily but how many times each day.  The result is silky smooth, as creamy as it gets without being watery, with fantastic flavor to boot.

Vish Hummus

Vish

Martina – The super competitive environment in East Village sometimes produces mysterious results.  Places open with “success” written all over them, sometimes unexpectedly close or change.  Martina abandoned the Roman fast casual concept, and as of last week its a full service restaurant, inching a bit closer to big sister Marta.  While the concept is different, the value is pretty much the same.  The pizzas are more expensive, but two inch larger, the beans and the rest of the hits are still on the menu, and there are some new additions.

Hi-Collar – There are a few guarantees in the East Village.  Veselka and Cafe Mogador will be packed for Brunch.  You will find black Squirrels in Tompkins Park.  And Hi-Collar will have a line outside mid afternoon.  Its a Japanese coffeehouse by day, sake bar by night, owned by a guy (Bon Yagi) that owns quite a few establishments in “Little Japan” (East 9th, 10th).  Come for the Omurice (fluffy omelette over rice), stay for the Mentai Pasta – like the Japanese Cacio e pepe

Hi-Collar Mentai Pasta

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

Blog at WordPress.com.