Monthly Archives: April 2019

Krok – A Viable Pok Pok Replacement

Krok - Pad Kra-PraoThis is more of an important public announcement, rather than a full restaurant review.  Pok Pok, as expected by some, ran its course and closed around a year ago.  I never want to see restaurants close, but admittedly, I havent visited Pok Pok in the final year or so.  The fact that it was never open for lunch (weekdays), and other serious Northern Thai joints like Ugly Baby popping up in Brooklyn had something to do with it.  But with Krok, opening up in its place there are reasons to celebrate, and visit.

You might as well call it Krok Krok, as its not awfully different than the previous tenant.  Krok’s menu is street food and Isan leaning, which means BYOB, Bring Your Own Bounty.  While they may tone it down a bit for the white boys, toning it down here still means plenty of nice, bold flavors.  After just one sit down, and a takeout order on another evening, I can tell you that this is some serious strong stuff.  And being within six degrees of Pure Thai Cookhouse helps.  Chef/partner Krit Ploysomboon cooked at Land Thai Kitchen, Pure’s UWS sister.  Another partner owns a Thai restaurant in Queens.

KrokEvery dish I’ve had so far was outstanding.  The Pad Kra-Prao, minced chicken (you can get pork instead), stir fried with garlic, chili and a vibrant basil sauce is especially superb.  Another great chicken dish is the Gai Yang Bu-ri-ram, herb marinated and grilled with garlic, lemongrass, pepper, served with spicy sweet & sour and tamarind chili dipping sauces which you may or may not feel the need to use.

The fiery Moo Num Tok leads the grilled entrees column for a reason.  Marinated Pork with herbs, lime and chili.  It’s quite fragrant, and addictive just like the rest of them.  The rice helps spell relief and so is the cabbage and cucumbers combo that comes with some of the dishes.  If you are not getting them, ask.  The lone green curry with chicken I’ve had so far was spot on.  Looking forward to getting more intimate with this menu.

Krok
117 Columbia St (Kane), Columbia Street Waterfront District, Brooklyn
Rating: 2 Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that
Recommended Dishes: Pad Kra-Prao, Gai Yang Bu-ri-ram, Moo Num Tok

Krok - Curry

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Categories: Brooklyn, New York City | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Berber Street Food – By Mother of Dragons

Berber Stree Food - Berber FeastNow that I got your attention…

The story is all too familiar, but the outcome in this case has a GOT type twist.  Girl starts working as a waitress at some of our higher ends.  She then graduates from the French Culinary Institute, before working at names like Gramercy Tavern, Per Se, Daniel.  She then leaves to travel around the world to collect more inspiration before opening her first establishment.  The girl becomes chef.

But the big twist in this story is in the type of establishment.  Every time I sit in one of the four tables at tiny Berber Street Food in West Village, I wonder if there’s another place remotely like it in NYC.  “Afro-fusion” is one way to describe it, but in order to understand what it means one needs to have a few meals here and meet Diana.  She is as fierce, and confident as they come, with unrivaled talent and passion to boot.  As the New Yorker put it, Diana “has the West Village wrapped around her finger”

Berber Stree Food

This is not the case where I was blown away by the first bite.  The Jerk wings had this  familiar and pleasant fruity tone, but not quite as sharp or spicy as the Caribbean style jerk I’m accustomed to.  Dont get me wrong here.  I smothered these babies, licked every finger, and didnt wash my hands that afternoon, or evening.  I just wasnt in a rush to come back, but oh so glad I did.

The love affair started with visit #2 when I had a bowl of rice, Black Eye Peas, seasonal green beans, and jerk chicken that came in a stew-like form this time.  It had this addictive sweetness, and spicy enough to leave a nice tingle.  Although if you want more spice, the intense Habanero sauce that accommodates the dish (if not, ask) will do.  Enjoy it with the terrific homemade Ginger Lemongrass juice.  Although on another visit the scent of the Morrocan mint tea next to me was hypnotizing.

But the dish to get here might be the Djolof Fried Rice with chicken.  It may just rival the best Biryani you ever had and then some.  The same chicken is used as a wrap in the Shawarma sandwich.  Plenty of Middle Eastern dishes here due to the North Adrican connection.  There’s also Koftas, Moorish Kebabs, and her own falafel interpretation on the menu.  Diana is like Einat Admony reborn in a way.

Berber Stree Food - Pudding

 

Every time I come here I see the team grow a little bit.  Yesterday the cook (not Diana) felt especially generous with the “Berber Feast”, slowly roasted chopped leg of lamb that is marinated for a few days with Harissa and cumin.  You get more Harissa on the side, along with other spreads, a couple of nifty salads, and couscous.  A taste of a Berber (North Africa ethnic group.  Diana’s father side) wedding feast where they serve whole pigs as such.  This has potential as a house specialty.  On another day Diana was experimenting with an off menu North African pudding that tasted like something you may get at one of her old employers, like Per Se.

Half a block away, visitors from around the world, flock to Joe’s for its above average NY slice (I get mine at Sacco and elsewhere).  While at Berber, you’ll find returning locals including students going for the cheap bowls and sandwiches to go.  Berber is slowly becoming a little local hangout, where Diana knows everyone and you end up making new friends.  This is possibly the best thing to pop in West Village in years.Berber Stree Food - Wings

Berber Stree Food - Chicken BowlBerber Stree Food - Djolof Fried Rice

 

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

Kāwi – At the Cutting Edge of NYC Dining

Kawi Tuna

July 20, 2019 Update:

Its a new record me thinks.  The quickest update in the history of Eating With me.  While the EWZ statisticians check the validity of these claims, let me tell you how awesome Kawi is.  Kawi is awesome!  Its scary how easy it is to get a table for 4 on a Saturday night.  They keep a big chunk of the space for walk-ins it seems, and its just a little unnerving to get in so easily when you account the quality here.  Lets call it mild Ma Peche Syndrome.  The location in Hudson Yards may have something to do with it.

But in three months, Kawi got even better.  Shortly after the first report, they started to offer dinner, and essentially unleashing phase two.  Stews, specifically Yesterday’s Stinky Soybean Stew that is generating a lot of attention but absent on our last visit.  Instead we settled for the Oxtail & Brisket Jjim, a fiery meat stew with sweet potatoes that were no match to the Habanero.  If you like spicy meat stews you will enjoy this even in the summer.

Kawi - Oxtail & Brisket Jjim

You can have an enjoyable meal here just by ordering from the Hot Anju column.  You will be hard pressed to find better wings than the white pepper wings, flakier fried fish than the cod, and more flavorful ribs.  All already mentioned below.   But the dish to get these days may very well be related to my least favorite dish from the previous post, rice cakes.  The Wagyu Ragu with table side scissored rice cakes has the type of Umaminess not experienced since I tried the Ssam Bar spicy rice cakes.

But I’m yet to have a flawless meal here.  While we enjoyed the rice that came with the Grilled NY Strip, the beef wasnt particularly beefy or inspiring last time.  And note to self:  Skip Trading Card drink, stick to BTS

Kawi - Wagyu Ragu Rice Cakes

April 16, 2019 Post:

I will start this one the same way I started the previous post.  It took me some time to warm up to Hudson Yards.  After all, it represents everything that is wrong with NYC dining today.  Higher rents and a surging mouth shift from the mom and pop to the corporate.  One doesnt need to walk too far to find available space, and the rate of closures seems to be accelerating.  There’s a street on 3rd Ave between St Marks and Stuyvesant where every single retails space is available.  They were all taken not too long ago.  With Hudson Yards we got a little closer to Vegas.

With that said, its hard to curb the Hudson Yards enthusiasm.  A mega public art piece dedicated to the Shawarma (aka Vessel).  Little Spain with its big names, and little balls.  Jose Andres is from Asturias, so why not serve Asturian dishes that are hard to impossible to get here like Fabada and Arroz con Pitu instead of more Paella which is really just a Valencian specialty.  And then there are the new Momofukus to save the day.  Peach Mart,  a new Fuku branch, and Kāwi – perhaps the #1 reason to go to Hudson Yards today.  

Kawi

Eater NY

This is another Momofuku outpost where the cuisine is hard to describe to out of towners.  Executive Chef Eunjo Park describes it as “playful” and thats pretty much how you can describe the rest of the Momofukus.  Inventive, Asian (mostly Korean) influenced lab recipes.  I call it Momofunk.  While this one feels more Korean than the others, the Kitchen, for the time being at least, consists of Fuku All Star Avengers, like Josh Pinsky, bringing in some of their own influences.  The sweet and sour ribs, the clams – I’ve seen clips of this movie before.  But while Park is getting some temporary help, this is entirely her baby.

As of this writing, Kawi is open for lunch only.  I cant think of any such place that started as such, but considering the location it makes sense in this case.  Rumors are that dinner will include more stews and much of the same.  The space is spacious and quite striking.  Some of it overlooking the very open, action packed kitchen.  On my fist visit, while sitting facing that kitchen, I witnessed a team of five chefs and managers closely, and somewhat nervously following a health inspector.  At some point me and the inspector briefly exchanged smiles and nods, so I would like to believe I had something to do with the earned “A”.  This place is cleaner than my house after cleaning.

Here’s the food rundown at Kawi which means scissors in Korean, hence the brilliant cutting edge title…

White Pepper Wings – The prototypical wings at a higher dining establishment.  There’s a curious Yelp review out there urging to skip this item – “The wings are not crispy and the chicken meat is not juicy”.  That could be so at that time, but what I got was pretty much the opposite.  Crispy, peppery, and juicy alright.  These are three whole wings, and a must get for the wing lovers of the world.

Kawi Wings

Fried Cod – In a strange way, this glorified mini fish and chips without the chips might be the most memorable dish here for me.  You will be hard pressed to find a flakier, more fresh-tasting, lightly battered fish.  But its the gentle Yuzu spray that elevates it to the point of thinking about it many days later.

Kawi Fried Cod

Sweet & Sour Ribs – No surprise here as I’ve had and touted similar ribs at Nishi before.  While its a slightly different flavor profile, this is the same fall of the bone, succulent goodness.

Kawi Ribs

Madai Tartare – One can live here a lifetime and not realize the importance of raw seafood (Hwe or Hoe) in Korean cuisine.  Kawi has a column devoted to it.  Called a Snapper but technically a prized Sea Bream, this is a firm, delicious fish treated properly at Kawi.  I would opt for at least one “HWE” here.

Kawi Madai

Spicy Yellowfin Tuna Kimbap (top)- If you like spicy tuna rolls, you may want to avoid this at all costs as you may not be able to enjoy them the same way again.  Love that crunch from the fried Myoga (ginger) bits especially.

Spicy Roasted Rice Cakes – Just like at Ssam Bar, this is yet another brilliant use of rice cakes, that come with scissors.  Its topped with a good amount of crispy puffed rice, chili jam and ham that blends in nicely.  While interesting, this is more of a large side dish, suited for larger groups as its big and can be a bit heavy.

Kawi Rice Cake

Dry-Aged Striploin Set – Just what dry-aged beef should taste like.  Served with a Miso-like soup, an assortment of fried veggies, and delicious rice with more beef fat.

BTS – One of the cocktails we tried.  I wouldnt list a cocktail unless its good.  Its good!  Soju, honey, strega, lemon.  On the sweeter side, but nicely balanced.

Kakigōri – This is their version of the Japanese ice dessert.  Ultra light, not too frozen shaved ice with whipped cream, ginger syrup, and pear.  Like a perfected Halo-Halo.

Kāwi
20 Hudson Yards
Rating: 3 Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that
Recommended Dishes: Cod, Wings, Ribs, Tuna Kimbap, Madai Tartare, Oxtail & Brisket Jjim, Wagyu Ragu Rice Cakes, Kakigōri, BTS (drink)

 

Categories: Hudson Yards, New York City | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Foxface – Sandwich Academy

It took me a while to warm up to this one.  After all, I was a fan of the previous tenant, Feltman’s of Coney Island, a hot dog joint with a story.  The reincarnation of the original Coney Island Red Hots, invented by Charles Feltman in 1867.  Owner Michael Quinn, packed and left about 6 months ago, and a sandwich shop now occupies the space inside the William Barnacle Tavern (a former prohibition era speakeasy) on St Marks.  My level of enthusiasm needed some time to get going on this one.  What can they possibly do in this tiny ‘hers and hers’ closet size kitchen?  Magic apparently.

The available space was ideal for Ori and Sivan who live in the same building.  According to EV Grieve, they grow some of the ingredients in the garden behind the building.  A Zero Kilometer Slow Food destination if you will.  Maybe they even have a few black pigs roaming around the back munching on East Village acorns.  How else would you explain the hard to get Culatello (Prosciutto so prized, it has its own name) that was featured one week.  The rotating ingredient driven, whimsical sandwiches keeps Sivan and Ori on their toes, and fun to follow on Instagram.  And their brief stint in Tokyo taught them a few tricks.

It starts with the high quality bread from Pain D’Avignon which they also sell separately.  The sandwiches rotate based on availability of carefully selected ingredients and to some degree… Sivan’s dreams.  When she dreamt about camels, camel meat made it to the menu.  When she dreamt about being attacked by angry Bisons, there was revenge in the form of Bison Heart with Tehini, pickled onions, and greens.  On occasion, You may see the cleverly light “Oh Boy”, wild Argentinian jumbo Red Shrimp with homemade shrimp sauce and pickled tomato.

Some sandwiches include their orange based spicy sauce that elevated Mrs Ziggy’s already fantastic chicken cutlets back at home.  They sell the bottles now for $5.  No matter what sandwich you select, the three to five ingredients dance together in harmony, producing a well balanced combination.  But if I have to pick one sandwich its the signature Smoking Fox – Smoked Boneless Rib, Coleslaw, pickles and that zesty hot sauce.

EWZ historians claim that this is the first post about a place with less than two Yelp reviews (one as of this writing).  This is some strong stuff, and a lesson to us all.  When you come across a seemingly low overhead business, dont dismiss it quickly.  There could be a creative team behind it, that likes to dream.

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

The 15 Best Things we Ate in Spain

Better late than never I suppose.   In order of the places visited…

Dry rice with pigeon at Lakasa (Madrid) – Starting with the best meal in Madrid and a challenge.  Hard to pick from a flawless meal with so many hits (Cecina, Hake, steak, clams), but this rice dish was the most memorable.  Tender, succulent bird, on top of flavor packed, socarrat filled rice.  First of many amazing rice dishes on this trip.

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Shrimp and Garlic La Casa del Abuelo (Madrid) – Years ago, Ramiro in Lisbon introduced us to the wonderful world of Shrimp swimming in sizzling garlic sauce, and we’ve been looking for this dish ever since.  La Casa del Abuelo is famous for it and I can see why.  The shrimp was plentiful and plump.  What they lacked in crispiness, they more than made up in flavor

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Cocochas de Merluza con Yema de Huevo at El Paraguas (Madrid) – This was exceptional although its not exactly clear what it was.  The restaurant translates it to “Hake’s Barbel in green sauce and egg yolk”.  Confusing because Barbel is a another fish, and Cocochas is the second chin or jaw of a fish which we had in Getaria some time later and it looked nothing like this.  Whatever it was, it was excellent. and I would go back just for this.

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Suckling Pig at Jose Maria (Segovia) – When in Segovia, a carnivore foodie experience like no other awaits.  From the theatrical presentation to the cutting with a plate, to the crispiness and juiciness of the meat.  A rather simple cooking process but the result is heavenly.  Thats because these guys got this thing down to a science.  From the weight of the pig, to the timing of the kill and what it had for breakfast on days 4 to 6.  And dont leave town without trying the Segovian beans.

Jose Maria in Action

Dessert Sampler at El Almacén (Avila) – Overlooking the dramatic walls of Avila is this mature gem producing splendid meats (although really on the rare side) and other creative dishes.  But it was the shockingly good dessert sampler that will make me come back.

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Farinato at Mesón Cervantes (Salamanca) – Salamanca, an underrated university town is not exactly known for its cuisine.  But one of the local specialties is Farinato, sausage made of lard, bread, and onions.  Its usually served with fried eggs and/or potatoes.  A local took us to this place on the main square for one of the best Farinato renditions in town.  I was also considering listing the Tostas (open sandwiches) at the uber local Taberna Dionisos

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Cachopo at Chigre El Antoju Sidrería (Llanes) – The formidable Cachopo can be criminally overlooked when researching Asturias.  How to describe this dish.  Its like a veal schnitzel gone horribly great.  Two mammoth fried veal fillets sandwiching ham, cheese, and whatever else in season.  And one of the best places to try it is this popular Sidrería in Llanes where you’ll be bathing in Sidra even if you didnt order it.

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Pitu de Caleya at El Molín de Mingo (Peruyes) – In the country side of Asturias, apparently there are these 7 feet chickens roaming around the area answering to the name Pitu.  Pitu Caleya Con Arroz, a rice dish made with those chickens is a local specialty and locals swear by El Molin de Mingo’s version.  Even local Michelin heavyweights try to replicate it’s exceptional depth.  Another must try is the Jabali Estofado, a slow roasted, super juicy wild boar that can be served with fried potato.  This place is well off the beaten path but well worth finding.

El Molín de Mingo Pitu

Fabada at Casa Marcial (Arriondas) – The Michelin crowned Casa Marcial produced one of the most memorable meals we ever had.  The set menu is a smart blend of inventive starters and perfected classic mains like the Fabada.  Calling it a bean stew doesnt feel right.  But it is. And you need to try it.  Other than the occasional showing at Despana, I havent seen it in NYC.

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Seafood Rice at Guernica (Luanco) – Once you step inside this local seafood mecca, there’s no mistaken its signature dish, as you see it served all over.  We opted for the Pixin (monkfish) and clam infused rice dish (there are choices) which was stellar and huge.  Its a good place for families and groups.  And I also wouldnt miss the best of the trip octopus, and scallops.

Guernica Rice Dish

Seafood Soup at Adolfo (Comillas) – Sometimes its the unplanned spur of the moment finds that are most memorable.  After we finished admiring El Capricho, one of Gaudi’s only works outside of Barcelona, we found Adolfo where seafood reigns supreme.  For us four it was a mega bowl of soup with heaps of fresh seafood, and quite cheaper than anticipated.  And the squid wasnt too shabby either.

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Turbot at Elkano (Getaria) – A fish experience like no other.  Tourists take expensive taxi rides from San Sebastian to eat here, while we just rolled from our hotel/winery nearby (The brilliant Gaintza).  The grilled Turbot dominates the entire fishing village, but at Elkano, they perfected it.  The owner, if around, will present the fish and explain the various textures and flavors from its parts.  This is also a good place to try Kokotxas (fish cheeks)

Elkano Turbot

Bonito at Mayflower (Getaria) – It was tough to choose from this fisheria featuring one of the most sought after terraces in town.  We’ve had two great meals here and we tried most of the menu pretty much.  So I turned to Mrs Ziggy on this one, and she fondly remembers the Bonito del Norte, the Tuna of the North that is essentially the best canned albacore you’ll ever eat.  The peppers and Galician octopus need to be ordered as well.

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Wild mushrooms with Foie and egg yolk at Araneta (Zestoa) –  This is a simple looking Asador up on the mountains, very popular with locals.  About 20 minute drive from Getaria.  Here you can get a fantastic Ribeye, and an even better wild mushrooms with Foie and egg.  When you have a group of mushroom haters (the rest of my family) wipe a mushroom plate clean you know you got something very special.

Araneta Mushroom Foie

Steak at Néstor Bar (San Sebastian) – How to describe Néstor Bar?  Imagine a dimly lit, romantic room.  Soothing, easy listening in the background, mixed with the occasional laughter of a young loving couple celebrating their 5th anniversary.  And a waiter that makes you feel comfortable and welcomed.  Now imagine the opposite of that and you have Néstor Bar.  Wait for your “table” in chaos, until you get standing room counter for the 4 of you, but can only fit two and half.  But once you taste the steak, with tomato salad, and green peppers, you go “F$&ck Romance”

Néstor Bar Steak

Categories: Spain | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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