New York City

Best Pastas in NYC

A much needed update…

Eating With Ziggy

Lincoln StrozzapretiJust a quick note that some of these pastas are seasonal and arent on the menu the entire year, but worth mentioning anyway

Trenette Al Pesto Trapanese at Mercato.

From the port of Genoa sailors brought Trenette al Pesto to Trapani, Sicily where the dish was perfected even further with the addition of almonds.  Homemade chewy dried Trenette cooked to al dente perfection, with almonds, garlic, tomato and basil.  Its fresh, simple, and quite tasty.  I havent seen this dish anywhere else, and at $12, I feel like I negotiated something at the shuk with a simple stare

Mercato Trenette

Fusilli with Octopus and Bone Marrow at Marea

One of two NYC classics on the list, and perhaps the most celebrated pasta in NYC America.  Articles, blog posts, children books (Goodnight Fusilli with Octopus!) have been written about this clasic.  The twisted homemade Fusilli is tossed with the most addictive fresh red sauce you will ever taste, with Sangiovese braised…

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Hell’s Kitchen – Summer Update

ziggysite1New Ramen, Mexican, Sushi, and Indian Lunch Buffet.  Thats right, Indian Lunch Buffet

The Hell’s Kitchen Survival Guide

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Meet the New Mexican Sheriff of Hell’s Kitchen – Tacuba

Tacuba

Tacuba

To open a Mexican restaurant in Hell’s Kitchen these days requires some major Chalupas.  I need to double check with the EWZ stats department but its entirely possible that Mexican is more represented in the Kitchen of Hell than Thai these days.  The last couple of years saw Taquerias, Tex-Mex, and all sorts of various sit-downs flood the area.  All while old fashioned Mexican bodegas forced to close or transform themselves.  So forgive me when I say this, but when I saw yet another Mexican being developed on 9th between 54/53, I said the same thing when they replaced Little Chef with Choza at Gotham West Market.  We need another Mexican here like I needed Shingles

Then I find out this is another place from Julian Medina, of Toloache fame.  That intrigued me enough to stop wishing for shingles, but not quite enough to make it a priority (sorry Medina).  But I needed to try it for myself eventually.  Oh and by the way did I mention that spot is cursed?  It saw a bunch of places come and go, whose names no one can recall.  The only memorable thing about this location saw one of my co-workers get slapped by a former CEO when it was an Italian joint.  It was a playful slap, but a slap to the face nonetheless.

But the reason that intrigued me wasnt Medina (sorry again Julian, I owe you a drink), but the fact that with all the Mexican we have in Hell’s Kitchen, I was never truly comfortable recommending any of them to visitors looking for a “Mexican restaurant”.  They are all either too authentic, too taqueria, too hole in the wallish, too tex-mex, too chilish, or just simply too suck.  I couldnt think of one spot, but I think that’s about to change.  There’s this new place opening soon on 10th promising to make Mission style… just kidding Medina (make it a pitcher).  I think Tacuba may very well be it.Tacuba OCtopus Tosdata

Talking about Mission, the dish that is simply called Carnitas at Tacuba has that Mission District slow roasted nastiness.  It comes with Chicharron (Cracklings), four little tortillas for you to master your taco skills, but thats not all… A beautiful, tangy tamarind habanero salsa that will make you want to dip you car keys into.  You may also want to add some sides to go along like the rice and beans, and the unique Avocado Fries.  But dont overlook the terrific Sweet Plantains.

The one thing I love about Tacuba is its short, to the point menu.  Other than the good looking Ceviche section, they only have about 5 appetizers, which they seem to master.  The Guacamole is thick and proper, with chile serrano giving it a little kick.  The Zucchini Flower Quesadilla with Burrata, Manchego and kale pesto tastes much better than it sounds.  Good luck finding this in your neighborhood Cantina.  But the one must eat here for both lunch and dinner is Octopus.  For lunch you got a Torta featuring Chorizo, Octopus, and Chipotle Butter.  And for dinner (and lunch) Octopus comes on a toasty Tostada with chipotle butter and mezcal.  Carnitas Burrito at lunch time is well done as well, other than the accompanying fries that can use some work – I suggested rosemary and garlic chips or something to oomph them up.  No Complaints on the desserts and drinks side either.  Go!

Tacuba
802 9th Ave (53/54)

Tacuba Carnitas Tacuba Tacos Tacuba Octopus Torta

Tacuba

Tacuba

Tacuba

Tacuba

 

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

Flavor of the Month – Gazala’s Place

Gazala's HummusI will have more about Sicily soon, but meanwhile…

This is a new monthly feature on EWZ that simply features a NYC establishment that I like right now.  Not a full blown post as I will spare you the unnecessary details and jokes and simply say GO, and why.  And yes, I’m changing the meaning of the conventional usage of “Flavor of the Month” and making it my own

There aren’t that many places more deserving to kick this thing off than Gazala’s.  I’ve been going to Gazala’s in Hell’s Kitchen for many years, and only met Gazala a handful of times.  Thats partly because for a while Gazala was cooking at the bigger Gazala near the Natural History Museum until she was forced to close it.  As a result she spends more time in Hell’s Kitchen these days, especially during lunch time making dinner preparations.  Middle Eastern is the proper way of categorizing Gazala’s, but its more than that

At the moment Gazala is in Israel, visiting her family at the Druze village of Daliat el-Carmel, in the north near Haifa.  The village where years ago as a young girl she had to make a decision that would shape the rest of her life.  The decision to whether follow the religious path or not, as every Druze boy and girl requires to decide.  Sacrifices surround each decision, and luckily for us New Yorkers she chose the non-religious path (as most do).  This essentially allowed her to travel, and bring us a taste of that druze culture.  This may be the only Druze restaurant in the country

Gazala’s Place is not a particularly sexy place.  For that go to Room Service across the street where you can swing by their many chandeliers.  But if you want some of the best and freshest Hummus in NYC, a Bourekas (like Bourek, flaky pastry stuffed with cheese and other goodies) popular with food tours, and fantastic falafel the size of a small monkey head, come to Gazala’s Place.  Her $10 lunch specials alone like the Kafta kebab with outragously delicious chicken, hummus, salad, rice, and Baba ghanoush is the best deal in Hell’s Kitchen.  Like the gift that keeps on givingGazala's Gazala's Bourekas Gazala's Meat Cigars Gazala'a Place Bourekas Gazala's Osh Al-Saria

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The Joy Suck Club does Blue Ribbon Sushi Columbus

Blue Ribbon SquidSomeone out there in Denver owes me an American dollar.  And I know where she lives!  The bet was that taking my immediate extended family (The Joy Suck Club) to something like Blue Ribbon Sushi will be a big flop.  Last time I attempted this, we wind up in Rosa Mexicano due to the reluctance of the Denverphile who should pay me another dollar for enduring another meal at Rosa Mexicano.  The belief of the Denverite is that Blue Ribbon Sushi is all about that.. Sushi, and blue ribbons and stuff.  And that this is simply a disastrous match to the members of some of the pickiest eaters on the planet.

Introducing the Joy Suck Club….

One is so picky that anything remotely slimy will make her puke in her mouth a little.  Forget Oysters.  I’m talking about mushrooms!  She had her first mushroom at the age of 65, and said it was “ok”

One requires everything well well well done.  Forget steak!  I’m talking about pasta and eggs.

One likes generally everything, but will immediately tell you where you can get this better somewhere else even though he doesnt get out much.  “I understand this is prime meat, aged 60 days and perfectly cooked.  But there’s this place near where I live who does it better”

One can not handle anything with… whats the word I’m looking for… Flavor.  The dish requires zero flavor whatsoever.  No sauce, no seasoning.  I will take the Spaghetti alle Vongole, without the Vongole please.

And then there’s the one who needs proper lighting to enjoy his meal.  And by proper I mean nothing short but stadium power, blinding kind.  “This is good, but I cant see anything.  I would like to see what I’m eating please”

In other words, everything sucks!

Blue Ribbon Sushi Deluxe

To them we are freaks of nature.  “You are eating uncooked meat.  Should I call an ambulance now, or you’ll do it later in the middle of the night”.  And so with us in the mix I’m constantly looking for that balance.  Italian normally works, but gets a little challenging in the theater district (if nowhere near Mercato).  At Blue Ribbon I have a secret weapon that the Denverite may not know about.  Chicken!  And Salmon!  Not to mention steak, the sickest fried rice dish in town, and a very full menu.  But what I like about Blue Ribbon and large groups more is that I can reserve at any time, and have a family style meal.  I’ve done it with co-workers, and now it even passed the Joy Suck Club.  The biggest test there is

Blue Ribbon Sushi has been a staple in the Hell’s Kitchen Survival Guide, even though depending on how full the moon is, and who you ask, may or may not be in Hell’s Kitchen.  But deliciousness has no borders.  And Blue Ribbon needs to be in a neighborhood like HK.  Blue Ribbon is a chain, but one should not hold it against them.  While you can find their sensational oxtail fried rice with bone marrow and omelette  downtown as well, they do some things unique to this location.  Like the Ika Shoga, simply sauteed squid with ginger and garlic.  Why no one else does this is a mystery to me.  Its not only a dish I enjoyed many times, but I do get some pleasure from watching people react when they try it for the first time.  Mrs Ziggy, kids, and yes, even some members of the club, raved about this one.

Blue Ribbon Chicken

For me, family style meals are not about going to Carmine’s and eating 2 oversized dishes shared by 6 people.  There’s just so much you can order and share, and the quality of large dishes is almost always poor.  Instead, go to any place and simply order as many dishes as necessary of the same thing.  Blue Ribbon is great for this because some of their signature dishes like the fried rice, and the squid are very shareable.  I once sent a group there (I wasnt invited, just consulted) and pretty much wrote the entire order for them based on how many people were in the party.  You want variety, especially with picky eaters.  And Blue Ribbon chefs know how to cook

The rest of the meal was a big success with the Suck Club.  My secret weapon fried chicken, and the salmon with a light teriyaki glaze worked like magic.  The only concern was that the salmon would not be cooked enough for the club, but hey, they ate, and raved about it.  I especially loved the smoky bean sprouts and rabe that accompanied the fish.  While I’m not the biggest fan of the fried chicken, its almost always a smart order, and I’m slowly warming up to the honey sauce that comes with it.  The fried rice is a smash hit as usual, and I’ve essentially already written essays and articles about it.  Nightly specials included a fine Nobu-esque rock shrimp tempura, and finer spare ribs.  There was plenty of sushi as well, shockingly gobbled up by some JSC members who may not have been aware that they were eating raw fish.  And to complete the experience, I was reunited with my favorite Japanese light beer, Hitachino Nest.  This did not suck.

Someone in Denver awes me a buck.

Blue Ribbon
6 Columbus, 308 W 58th St (8/9)

Blue Ribbon Fried Rice Blue Ribbon Sushi Squid Blue Ribbon Ribs Blue Ribbon Salmon

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10 Best Things We Ate in Piedmont

I’m leaving you yet again. This time a bit more extended I’m afraid. Follow me on Twitter @ziggy601 as I eat my way through Sicilia, or just check the tweets on the left column here. There will be seafood, and there will be couscous in my immediate future.
I’m reblogging a post about my favorite region, Piedmont

Eating With Ziggy

Italy 2014 203When you research food in Piedmont, its usually a matter of minutes until you see “Most Underrated” mentioned by some food writer.  Its almost cliché.  Many believe that the Langhe region, especially the 20 mile radius around Alba has some of the best concentration of great dining in the country.  And now that I finally got a good taste of what this region has to offer, me and my chocolates are jumping on the bandwagon to Serralunga.  Here are some of the best bites we had from a recent trip…

Fusilli with pork shoulder atAgriturismo il Cucchiaio di LegnoLake Orta’s lone Slow Food hidden gem produced a feast to remember.  While its nearly impossible to pick one dish from this 10 courser, the Fusilli is etched in my mind perhaps more than anything else.  The title explains the dish almost in its entirely.  Light on ingredients, but big on flavor.  Young master Luigi learned from the best.. Mother!

Italy 2014 147

White Truffles at La Bottega del…

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Pssss… I Have a New Favorite Ramen Spot

Mentoku

Mentoku

I hope I find you readers well, and I hope this stays just between us.  As much as I like my places to stay the same, my mama always taught me that “Sharing is Caring”.  I shared my only toy, a plastic green soldier with my friends, including the friend who introduced me to cigarettes at the coming of age 5 (I quit when I turned 6, and swore off cigarettes forever.  True story).  Up until three months ago or so my go-to Ramen spot has been the Totto branch on 51st/10th, right across the Falafel Nazi Azuri Cafe.  After over a dozen visits to Totto, with the occasional cheating with the great Ippudo Akamaru and Ivan, I’ve gone exploring yet again for that great Ramen bowl in the Kitchen of Hell.  Enter little Mentoku on 9th ave.

Mentoku is not your prototypical Hell’s Kitchen Ramen that is buzzy, with the occasional painful waits, less than comfortable seating, and quick eat.  You can actually spend more than 5 minutes here while enjoying soft Jazz.  There’s one cook, and there’s usually one or two waitresses running the “front”.  And more importantly, I have never seen the place too full to enjoy.  Whether by myself at the counter, or with co-workers, every visit has been comfortable and relaxing, a rarity in NYC Ramen world.  “Akanoren” is proudly displayed on the sign outside, and according to this blogger, its a Ramen chain in Japan.Mentoko Yuzu-Kosho

The specialty here is Hakata style Tokotsu Ramen, where the pork is slowly cooked at high temperatures.  This means the meat and the fat dissolves into the soup more, creating a rich, but smooth base.  Meaning its rich, but not one of those super rich, guilt-filled bowls that makes you want to start smoking again as you declare this day the beginning of the end of your life.  You coming out of there feeling good, which to me is what Ramen is all about.

I started my relationship with Mentoku with the mild and pleasant Tinkichi, but its the Yuzu-Kosho that does it for me now.  The hot Yuzu paste delivers an initial punch but settles down nicely into a very pleasant bowl.  The Nori surrounding the bowl adds a nice fishy element as you smell it with each morsel, and the thin cut chashu is the way to go as far the pork belly goes.  I feel that some of the other guys slice them a little too thick.  Another big hit at Mentoku is their simple but incredibly juicy and flavorful fried chicken.

Mentoku will be added to the Survival Guide, while we say goodbye to short-lived Mocu Mocu.  Oh how I hoped the sisters succeed, but was always afraid that Hell’s Kitchen, and in particular that corner of 10th Ave, is simply not ready for this kind of Japanese.

Mentoku Chicken Mentoku Tonkichi

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Timna – Chutzpah Nation

Timna OctopusI will make this one nice and simple for you.  Pressing for time as of late, with only a week or so before I leave you yet again on another eating assignment (Sicily).  This one will be the biggest and baddest assignment ever, with a lot of interesting surprises in store.  Though I may be suffering from my first ever FRFS (food research fatigue syndrome).  I’m now seeing Busiate in my sleep and sometimes even when awake, like while watching the Euro 2016 (Football/Soccer).  As much as I’m enjoying the Euro’s, its best served as a rather harmless sleeping pill.  A much needed one since I’m not getting enough sleep as of late due to the mating season in my bedroom.  No, not what you think.  Birds! male birds, doing the entire Hava Nagila rendition at 4:30 in the morning in order to attract their female counterparts.

East Village in June, as I was showing to my Aussie friends, feels like mating season as well.  Its the east coast capital of pretty people.  Friends that live there give 2nd Ave nicknames I can not repeat here.  And on buzzy St Mark’s, in the middle of all that, you find little Timna, a modern Israeli joint with Nir Mesika (Zizi Limona, Milan, knows his hummus geography) at the helm.  When I visited young Mesika in the kitchen, I was announced by the manager Downton Abbey style.  The guy has all the talent and knowledge in the world, but has the look of someone in the early stages of a soccer career, rather than a world class chef.Timna Sashimi

Other than a slight discomfort at the rounded table at the back, with some A/C issues, this was a very enjoyable evening.  Started with the infamous freshly baked Kubaneh that comes with some yogurt, a tomatoee salsa and “Jalapeno Salsa” which is essentially green Yemeni S’chug.  If you have a Challah fetish, you will wet yourself over the taste and texture of this thing, and its a must get for groups especially (I wouldnt order it solo).  But as with most bread courses out there, its a bit overrated, and serves as a sharp reminder that the free bread course days are just about over.  Give me The Marshal french loaf with homemade butter any day of the week.  The obligatory Cauliflower that you will find in every Israeli corner, did not disappoint.  Here Mesika elevates it with curried yogurt, dried grapes among other deliciousness.  A veg-ful burrata is more proof that a sprinkle of Za’atar (oil in this case) makes everything better.

Mesika assembled a playful menu with influences from all over the world (Chinatown salad!) especially in regards to the raw stuff.  A Ceviche salad featuring mahi on this particular night was the weakest of the ones we tried.  A fine tzatziki tartar with minced lamb delighted Mrs Ziggy especially.  And the Mediterranean Sashimi featuring cured tuna, green Tabouli salad with quinoa, and crispy beat “leather” did the trick, including in the looks department  A somewhat deconstructed lasagna featuring slow cooked tender spareribs, and Jerusalem artichoke chips is another example of Mesika’s playful brilliance.Timna Shakshuka

But the most interesting dish of the night sounded the most boring, Bedouin Octopus.  Mesika tenderizes, sous vide style, the heck out of this thing (I’m guessing by the size, it was enjoying the coast of the Portugal a few days prior).  A bit softer than I like my octopuses.  Then he finished it on an open flame like the Bedouin 200 kilometers south of Mesika’s home in Israel.  This is by far the smokiest Octopus I’ve ever had, and one of the better, even while lacking the proper texture.  We skipped dessert.

Brunch in Timna is another delicious event.  And one of the better brunch values out there.   For $25 you get a selection of small salads (salatim) to share, any of the entrees, coffee (very good), and the obligatory Mimosa.  We sampled an average Hummus Masabacha which I’m not a big fan to begin with.  A nice Sabich Croissant, though I still prefer my Sabichs in a pita.  One of the better Shakshukas out there.  And a very solid burger with fried egg.

Timna
109 St Marks Pl (1st/A)
$$$
Recommended Dishes: Kubaneh, Cauliflower, Mediterranean Sashimi, Octopus, Shakshuka (brunch), Burger (brunch)

Timna Salatim Timna Masabacha Timna Burger Timna

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Nishi – La Cucina Fukina

Nishi Update…

Eating With Ziggy

Gabriele Stabile Gabriele Stabile

June 19. 2016 Update:

Happy “Great, another brown wallet” 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…

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Werkstatt – Ich Habe Gut Geschlafen

Werkstatt PretzelI slept well that night.  Like a baby caressed by his mother’s bosoms while sucking on a Jack Daniels soaked pacifier.  It was that kind of night after that kind of evening at Werkstatt.  A gamble of sorts, bringing my entire family to a place I’ve never been before for a family celebration.  A high percentage gamble considering the Austrian fare, though in reality all that was required was a Schnitzel, and a fan.  Comfort food on Coney Island Ave is not so new to us (see Nargis Cafe), but comfort Austrian cuisine, boasting a former 4 NYT stars chef is like having a Michelin Star restaurant in the Staten Island mall.

Werkstatt BeerSo why did it take 9 months for me to get to Werkstatt?  Because its the lone Google Star in an area that I rarely visit.  Ditmas Park is like Family Guy.  I never seek it, but when I bump into it, I stick around and delight in its offerings.  Though something tells me I will be back sooner than later.  Not so much for the other places in Ditmas Park, but this particular one.  Where the German beer just keeps flowing, and the pretzels keep coming.  Well, one pretzel really, which comes with its own Lipitor.

Or is it “Liptauer”, a buttery, cheesy, peppery, paprika infused mixture that requires a German born pretzel the size of half a pretzel cart to enjoy.  Forget the mustard, dip this beast in the Lipitor.  That pretzel was pretzel perfection, and it was making me thirsty!  A silky smooth, light Belgian Witbier (white beer), a perfect match to the humid day.  The smoky pan fried Brussels Sprouts with lemon habanero aioli was more like a side dish but a required order nonetheless considering how satisfying.  But the winner early on was a sauteed Calamari and Kielbasa blend, a gorgeous combination I’ve never seen before.

Werkstatt CalamariEveryone was more than satisfied with their Chicken and Wiener (pork) Schnitzels including my buds from the one bite.  A fine, juicy, homemade Bratwurst came with sauerkraut and potatoes.  And an exceptionally tender slices of goulash-like beef shoulder with bread dumplings that took me straight to Salzburg.  This was a special, which in Werkstatt require paying attention, or you may miss the world famous Viennese Sacher Torte.

As much as I love my sweets, chocolate cakes rarely excite, and the one here (Sacher) wasnt an exception (nor in Vienna).  But if there’s anything the Austrians are good at, is desserts, and boy oh boy there were good at Werkstatt.  The crepes, the nutty Linzer, the creamy hazelnut torte, they just kept coming, and wowing.

This was also an especially fun evening for Thomas Ferlesch and family (wife and daughter).  Not only visited by a world famous blogger, but also by Mimi Sheraton, a former influential NYT ciritic who handed the then young Ferlesch 4 stars back in 1981 when he worked for Vienna ’79 (UES).  A happy, sentimental Ferlesch was running around all over the homey multi room place like a 24 year old again.  Or perhaps he’s always like that, who knows.  The best compliment I can give any such place is that if I would have had this meal in the cuisine country of origin, it would still be considered a good meal.  Something I can not say with the vast majority of the places we go to.  Go!

Werkstatt
509 Coney Island Ave
$$$
Recommended Dishes: Pretzel, calamari, Brussels Sprouts, Beef shoulder (special), Goulash, Sausage Dessert

Werkstatt Brussels SproutsWerkstatt beef shoulder Werkstatt Spatzle Werkstatt Schnitzel Werkstatt Sausage Werkstatt Dessert Werkstatt Werkstatt Out

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