New York City

Best Dining in Sabra Village!

19 Cleveland

Courtesy of 19 Cleveland

East village, Greenwich Village, West Village.  These are some of the most famous village neighborhoods in the world.  So famous, other major cities following suit.  Calgary now got a quirky East Village as well.  But have you heard of Sabra Village, the smallest of the four villages?  My guess is that you never heard of it, because it doesnt exist.  Yet!  But we are in the early stages of what looks like an Israeli invasion of Nolita, a made-up real estate name which stands for North of Little Italy.  Little Italy is slowly vanishing and is now essentially one block.  Its a matter of time.

I often said that NYC lacks casual, no frills, but smart Israeli food.  A place I can bring a group of 4 to 10 on a whim.  They are either too refined (Taboon, Nur, Miss Ada), or not refined at all (Nish Nush, Ba’al, Taim), without much in between.  Our real estate market has something to do with it, but deep in the outer boroughs there’s no excuse.  There’s a place on Avenue P in Brooklyn called “Pita Off the Corner” serving awful Falafel, and barely eatable Shawarma.  But the sprawling space serves as a constant tease to what could have been.  Brooklyn is home to half a million Jews, half of NYC’s Jews.  I’m certain that not all are kitchen challenged.

But in Manhattan at least, it looks like the newest Sabra are on a mission to change all that.  Two of the three I’ll focus on below feel like you are transported to Dizengoff.  Not Philly, but Tel Aviv.  Sabra btw, has nothing to do with hummus.  Its an old term that essentially means Israeli born.  “Sabres” is the Hebrew name for prickly pear, a fruit that is rough on the outside, but soft on the inside.  And by rough I dont mean Harvey Weinstein, but as in direct, to the point.

Here are some of the early settlers of Sabra Village…

Taim – Yes, Taim is now a local chain, but a very important one.  Perhaps after X’ian Famous, the most important, and a good representation of fast food in NYC today.  Owner Einat Admony certainly knows her Hummus and Falafel.  And while I give the nod to Nish Nush as far as Falafel sandwiches go, Taim’s platter is as good as it gets.  And dont be the lame one that pronounces Taim like “lame”.  Its Tah-eem.

Taim

Shoo Shoo – If there’s anything these places need to work on is the names.  Its not clear to me what Shoo Shoo means exactly, other the sound my wife makes when the blind neighborhood cat mistakenly comes to our door instead of the next one where he normally gets his food.  The name may not sound inviting but the bright decor is, and the menu brings much freshness to the area.  Very solid hummus even when topped with boiled chickpeas that can use some texture (minor quibble).  And a legit sesame ladened Tel Aviv style chicken Schnitzel.

19 Cleveland – Continuing the questionable name theme with probably the most important Sabra on the block.  This is the first serious brick and mortar by the EWZ fave Nish Nush team.  A menu that respects tradition but at the same time playful, and elevated.  We already know they can dish out killer hummus and unmatched Falafel sandwiches.  But at 19 Cleveland (also the address) you can also find a nifty, well balanced Falafel burger, along with fish and vegan Shawarma, and a slew of other healthy eats.  Looking forward to checking out the rest of this menu.

You know what they say.  Two is a crowd, three is a village!  Nolita is a very small area, and the sudden Israeli pop is noticeable.  I’ve seen some call it Little Israel, and some call it Little Tel Aviv.   Less than a year ago there were five actually.  There’s also a branch of Cava, a kinda Israeli, fast-casual national health focused chain.  And then there’s Dez which shuttered a year after opening.  Did we reach saturation?

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Categories: New York City, SoHo, NoHo, Nolita | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

New Essex Market’s Best Bites

IMG_1435I won’t lie to you people.  I rarely do.  When I first saw the new Essex Market, it felt like I just discovered a new Foodie paradise as the NY Post put it.  A mini Chelsea Market without the crowds, was the first thing that came to mind.  A striking contrast to the old Essex Market which felt sad and unwelcoming at times.  But around 10 visits, a few hits and too many misses later I come back crawling to the Chelsea Market zoo asking for forgiveness, and a Currywurst.

It turned into a strange love hate relationship.  I keep gravitating to Essex Market, so there’s something definitely there.  Mad kudos to the designers of the space.  Its pleasing to the eye, comfortable, and the sitting area on top is just pure joy when compared to other food courts.  Its part of a new complex that also includes a swanky new Regal with reclined seats and giant food trays. I never understood movie theaters that serve food or food friendly theaters like this.  My enjoyment of watching a movie while eating somehow never transferred to watching a movie while sitting next to a total stranger munching on chicken wings and almost spilling his coke on me three times.

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But while the Essex Market vendors wouldnt really fair well at Chelsea Market, there’s definitely a very interesting variety of eats.  Some of the old vendors are back, and some new ones joined, and still joining (Another section will eventually open looks like).  Here are some of the best bites I tried so far.

Bourekas at Zerza – I’ll give them a pass for serving it a little cool in the middle.  The flavors are there and its what you normally would expect from a well crafted Bourekas.  Loaded with Spinach, raisins, feta, and pine nuts.  A sound competitor to the Bourekas queen in Hell’s Kitchen, Gazalas.

Fried Chicken at Eat Gai – Come for Gai, stay for fried chicken.  Its known for Khao Man Gai which is a Hainaese chicken and rice dish that is popular in Thailand as well.  Might be an acquired taste or a cultural thing as it just didnt do it for me.  The fried chicken on the other hand, marinated with Turmeric was more like it, especially the first time I had it.

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The Nordic Sandwich at Nordic Preserves – One of the old guards from the old Essex Street Market (Note they dropped the “Street” at the new place).  Its a Scandinavian cured and smoked fish specialist that also crafts a couple of sandwiches like the outstanding The Nordic with Creme Fraiche, Lumpfish Caviar, Pico de Gallo in a Pain D’avignon olive Baguette.  Or better yet, buy their Pastrami lox, and enjoy it with a fresh bagel with cream cheese.

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Croissant Bread Pudding w/ Crème Anglaise at Pain D’avignon – Bread Puddings in NYC rarely come close to something you can find in every corner in New Orleans.  Its often too dry, too bready or just missing any zing.   Leave it to baking legend Pain D’avignon to correct that with a perfectly balanced, apple filled (on this occasion) bread pudding that comes with a creamy Crème Anglaise on the side.  So you can pour as much of it as you want (suggested amount:  all of it)

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Banana Ice Cream at LES Ice Cream Factory – Not sure if its the best way to build a brand, but the folks from The Original Chinatown Ice Cream Factory opted to give themselves a different name here.  I suppose, and this is just a crazy guess, that the reason is that this is not in Chinatown.  That didnt stop many other businesses however.  Not every flavor works (had better Horchata in NYC) here, but the banana does.

Also Consider:  Chicken Shawarma at Samesa, Arancini at Arancini Bros, Empanadas at Dominican Cravings, Salted Caramel Panna Cotta at Mille Nonne.

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Tomiño Taberna Gallega – A Galician Jewel in where else, Little Italy

Tomino - PrawnsWhile I was sitting out on a bench on Grand and Mulberry playing candy crush answering emails, a woman approached me to ask directions to Little Italy.  All I had to do is point to the street 10 feet from us and say “this is it”.  She followed with a disappointed “This is it?”, and I followed with the third “This is it”, with the facial expression of a “sorry you made it all the way to NY from Singapore for this”.  I spared her the clarification that she is technically inside Little Italy already even though it looks more like a Chinatown.

But you know, for someone who spends a lot of time poopooing Little Italy, I spend a lot of time on it.  The reason is twofold.  There’s ironically a wealth of great dining surrounding it.  And Little Italy is, maybe even more ironically, one of the best passeggiatas in NYC.  I do enjoy walking around on Mulberry after a meal saying Ciao to the community of restaurant salesman and selfie sticks, and watching people from all over the world dress up for no good reason.  But there’s one restaurant on Mulberry that did get my attention this time and that is Gelso & Grand.  Buzzy with no salesman, checkered tablecloth, and not even an accordion player.  Gelso means Mulberry in Italian (its on the corner of Grant hence the name), Ziggy’s favorite Granita flavor.  There, now you know more about me.

Tomino

Tomiño Taberna Gallega which opened in Little Italy (technically. Its on Grand, not on Gelso) a few years ago, is far removed from the usual checkered, red sauce neighbors.  Its a smart, elegant Spanish offering some of the most authentic Galician this side of, well, Tomiño.  A statement not so far fetched once you look at a map.  And it got the Cojones to to call itself Tomiño Taberna Gallega.  A three word monster is as close as it gets to a slamdunk.  Lets break down the other potential names shall we.  One word, Tomiño – Cute, trendy sounding, but pressure is still on to deliver.  Two words, Tomiño Taberna – Pass.  Three words, Tomiño Taberna Gallega – Strong, ethnic, if something doesnt taste right its probably due to cultural differences sounding.

The owners of Tomiño also own the popular Trattoria Trecolori in the theater district. Which is surprising considering this ambitious Galician menu designed by Lucía Freitas, one of the leading chefs in Galicia.  Our waiter tried to explain the owner’s Galician connection, but besides the noise I was too fixated on the tables next to us.  One table over was dipping their Chorizo in the “sauce” at the bottom of the plate which was the Orujo, the Galician liquor that helped flambeed the meat on arrival.  Another table opted not to touch their Empanadillas until they were the same temperature as their Cava.  I’m talking a good 40 minutes here.

And yes, those Empanadillas with tuna were quite good and need to be eaten immediately.  So was the homey Huevos Roto Con Zorza, a nice breakfasty blend of spiced pork, fried potatoes and egg that grows on you with every bite.  It feels almost criminal to order this instead of the more popular Tortilla de Betanzos, a hefty potato omelet with a runny egg in the middle, but I wasnt feeling it.  Next time.

Tomino - Mushroom salad

The Paprika dusted Galician style Pulpo is famous throughout Spain, but not very easy to find in NY.  Here its called by the actual name, Pulpo a Feira, and its as tender and satisfying as they get.  No complaints about the Arroz Negro topped with a well cooked Snapper, except maybe its missing the oomph and complexity of what you’ll find at a Tia Pol for example.  But I can still taste the prized red prawns, Carabineros, and the sweet Langoustines.

The salads here should not be discounted.  In North Spain, you can eat simply prepared  tomatoes and tuna, but rarely together like the Ensalata San Simon which also comes with figs, pickled onion and apple cider vinaigrette that ties everything together.  Even better however is the mushroom salad, Parrillada de Setas.  Not often in NYC you get a combo of Enoki, King Oyster, Maitake, with goat cheese, garlic and honey.  A sweet and addictive medley.  And I dont normally get excited about almond cake, but the Tarta de Santiago deserves its own pilgrimage.  This is a major go!

Tomiño Taberna Gallega
192 Grand St (Mulberry/Mott), Little Italy
Rating: 2.5 Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that
Recommended Dishes: Empanadillas, Huevos Roto Con Zorza, Pulpo, Carabineros/Langoustines, Ensalata San Simon, Parrillada de Setas

 

Categories: Chinatown, New York City, SoHo, NoHo, Nolita | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Kāwi – At the Cutting Edge of NYC Dining

Eating With Ziggy

Kawi TunaJuly 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…

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Chicken and the City

Pinch Chinese Wind Sand Chicken

Pinch Chinese Wind Sand

I should have blog posts strictly devoted to Random BQE Thoughts.  Thats Brooklyn Queens Expressway if you are scoring at home, or if you are alone.  As the traffic reaches new levels these days, so are the thoughts.  Not exactly inspirational ones.  Other than how is the weather and traffic in say, Denver, this time of the year.  More like random silly thoughts like:  What do you call a female priest?  Why do we drive on a parkway and park in a driveway?  Why do I eat so much chicken lately?  Is something wrong with me?  Am I helping the environment by eating more non-farting animals.  Is this the first step to vegan?  I had plenty of bumper to bumper guards traffic to think about it this week, and I think I know the answer.  Its not me, its you, New York City.

Simply put, the city is in the midst of a crazy chicken renaissance.  Gone are the days of playing third fiddle to the beef and pig.  The competitive nature of the city these days means chefs all over are trying to outdo each other and can not afford any duds on the menu.  Chefs realize that while there’s just so much you can do with beef and other ingredients that are best to leave alone sometimes, its the bird that allows for limitless creativity.

There are countless of articles about Best Fried Chicken, Best Roasted Chicken, Best Wings, etc, etc.  Many written in the past three years for the reason I just gave.  How about one more.  A general, unfocused, random one.  These are some of the most creative chicken dishes in NYC today.

Ssam Bar Fried Chicken

Ssam Bar Fried Chicken

Home-style Fried Chicken at Ssam Bar (East Village) – Served only for lunch these days this is a fantastic fried chicken reminiscent of the late Ma Peche Habanero chicken.  Although not quite Habanero, its ladened with plenty of chili, and double fried to crispy, juicy perfection.

Chicken at FOB Filipino BBQ (Carroll Gardens) – Impossible to select the best from this chicken paradise.  You can try the amazing grilled wings, the air chilled grilled chicken, chicken skewers, and Dad’s incredibly moist overnight chicken Adobo.

Big Plate of Chicken With Bone at Jiang Diner (East Village) – This is an instant hit.  I’ve seen versions of the dish before at Biang! and Spicy Village but honestly its been so long I forgot how they taste like.  I’ve had this twice already at Jiang.  Just ignore their other signature dish, “Big Plate of Chicken Without Bone”

Jiang Diner - Big Plate of ChickenWind Sand Chicken at Pinch Chinese (Soho)– A tasty rendition of a Hong Kong classic.  The whole bird is cooked like Peking duck.  Two days of Marinating (cinnamon, star anise, other herbs and spices), drying, spanking, repeating.  The skin gets thin and crispy, and the flesh redefines moist.  Garnished with the sand like fried garlic which gives it the name.  Update:  Just made resvs for 4 this Saturday night to have this again

White Pepper Wings at Kawi (Hudson Yards) – If you see wings at a Momofuku, pounce on it like your life is depended on it.  You just know that wont be boring.  You get three whole crispy, peppery,  juicy wings.  You will not want to wash your hands for a while after this.

Nori Chicken at Ducks Eatery (East Village) – Leave it to smoking wizard Will Horowitz to figure out how to combat our seaweed invasion.  Wrap it around smoked chicken and fry it to Korean style thin crisp and extra crunch.  Pair it with the incredible smoked carrots.Duks Eatery - Nori ChickenPollo alla Diavola at Maialino (Gramercy) – In the sea of Roman pastas and other Italian classics, this is possibly the unsung hero.  Heck, after all those years, I needed some help from a reliable insider to discover this gem.   The peppery ultra moist beauty comes with a tangy sauce you’ll want to scarpetta the heck out of.

Pollo alla Diavola at Dell’anima (Hell’s Kitchen) – Yes, another Diavola on the list but in a much more relaxed setting (Gotham West Market) and easier on the wallet.  This one also features extreme moistness and a nice peppery crust, and comes as a Panini as well.

Yellow Chicken at Wayan (Nolita) – a cute name for a suburb chicken curry.  About three pieces if I remember correctly.  Some got the crunch reminiscent of the great Perry Street chicken where Wayan owner Cedric Vongerichten is still the chef.  Why Perry Street is not on the list you ask?  I havent been there in over 10 years.

Seco de Pollo at Nano (Hell’s Kitchen) – I’ve mentioned this dish before, and many of you that took my Hell’s Kitchen tour have even experienced it during the last year.  The chicken is cooked with Naranjilla a fruit grown in Ecuador, which gives this “stew” unmatched layers of flavor.Nano Ecuadorian

 

 

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Jiang Diner – Forming the EV Silk Road

Jiang Diner - Big Plate of ChickenJust when you thought the East Village Chinese food scene can not possibly get any better, or lacking in any area, comes Jiang Diner representing Xinjiang province.  Its beginning to look a lot like a Chinese geography lesson, and the formation of the East Village silk road that strongly resembles the real thing.  Roughly between 5th and 12th street, one can now visit Xinjiang, dose on lamb and cumin in Xi’an, and bath in the silky noodles of Dunhuang.  I may be missing a place or three in the plethora of Chinese eateries in the area, but this pilgrimage alone should keep your belly happy for a few hours.

Its geographically fitting that Jiang on 5th st is the first stop.  The province of Xinjiang after all, was one of the first stops on the silk road.  Specifically the westernmost (or one of) city of Kashgar which is home to the Turkic Uyghur minority.  Long time EWZ readers and those that took my Brooklyn tour know my fascination with Kashkar Cafe in Brighton Beach, our truest representation of the Uyghur cuisine.  But while you can taste some of that muslim influence at Jiang, its quite different than the Brighton legend.  Kashkar leans toward the cuisine of Uzbekistan where its owners moved like many others, while Jiang is undoubtedly Chinese.

Jiang Diner

Jiang is far removed from a “diner”.  No parm, no bacon, lacking a waitress named Louise who works there for 47 years, and as far as I know no coffee refills.  Well, there’s no coffee, period.  But this being East Village, you can get a decent espresso with a side of risotto next door at Risotteria Melotti (I forget that this place exists).  Jiang is bright, colorful, and so far on all my visits, fairly empty.  Judging by the food however, that may change.  Or not.  It doesnt have much in the way of looks, sex appeal or trendsetting dishes.  Its signature dish is the “Big Plate Chicken With Bone”, and its second signature dish is “Big Plate Chicken Without Bone”.

Always, always go “with bone”, whether its chicken, fish, or anything in life really.  A block away east at Hunan Slurp, one can get an outrageous bony fish plate.  The only time I’ve seen The Big Plate of Chicken in NYC is at Spicy Village in Chinatown.  Heaps of delicious chopped dark meat over thin soft noodles, potatoes, and a sauce you want to secretly pour into your empty water bottle and ask for more.  But this is not even the first sauce I’d steal here.

 

The Big Plate of Chicken comes in two sizes, small and large.  I’ve had both.  The small can easily feed two, and the large 3-5.  The three of us still working on it after I brought it home yesterday.  Ordering the big plate in the small size is like ordering the small size of the “Medium roast of the day” at some coffee shops.  When I said “medium small please” at the Porto Rico Coffee Company at the new Essex Market, I inadvertently created an Elvis and Costello routine and ended up getting a “medium medium”.

Try the Lamb Shumai.  Thats where that Uyghur influence comes through.  While it doesnt look anything like the Uzbek Manti, the flavors reminded me of those large steamed dumplings.  Jiang’s version are easier to eat.  The Steamed eggplant may be even better.  It comes almost pureed, and its garlicky scallion dressing reminded me of Danji’s famous tofu dish.  The stewed lamb ribs seem expensive when compared to the rest of the menu, and at first taste even bland.  But once you sprinkle some of the accompanied cumin seeds and homemade chili paste, its quite good, albeit fatty.  The chili paste reminds me of some of the better Israeli S’hugs (yemeni hot spread) out there.  I can, and did, eat this stuff with my chopsticks.  Next time I’m bringing a small jar.  This is a Go!

Jiang Diner
309 E 5th St (1/2), East Village
Rating: 2 Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that
Recommended Dishes: Big Plate of Chicken, eggplant, lamb shumai

Jiang Diner- Shumai

 

 

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Hell’s Kitchen Update – Addition by Subtraction

Dell'anima Carbonara

A well overdue update to the Hell’s Kitchen guide.

We say bye bye to Azuri, the lovable Falafel Nazi (lovable now), Basera my go to Indian for so many years (I miss the Chettinad chicken already), and Georgio’s Country grill that I cant… ok I confess I wont miss this one that much.  All three sadly shuttered in the past few months.

Say hello to Dell’anima, which I mentioned here before.  Probably the most important Italian addition in years, and the most thrilling Gotham West Market addition since they opened pretty much.

And we have a very important burger replacement.  Out goes the HKSG veteran Island Burger, in comes Farm to Burger offering craftier and better quality meat for the same price.  Albeit without much atmosphere at lunch time at least inside the Aliz hotel.

Click here to see the guide

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Eating in Istria

We are off for a few weeks so not much blogging will be happening. But I leave you with a blast from the not so old past. Istria (Croatia) one of the most underrated foodie destinations in Europe. For more on Croatia click here…
https://eatingwithziggy.com/category/croatia/
See you soon. Ciao!

Eating With Ziggy

IMG_3785“What, no Seafood?!?  No problem, I give you Octopus!”  No, I didnt crash a Greek wedding, nor have I actually heard this said before.  It was simply the pre-trip imagination at work, anticipating yet another seafood heavy leg.  I imagined after 10 fishfull days, we stumble onto a small family Konoba somewhere on the Istrian coast, begging an English speaking baka (a Croatian Babushka) for some meat.  But luckily for us, not only we never really got tired of those Adriatic crustaceans, we wanted more.  And just like its big sister to the north and across the pond, inland here means meat.  Wonderful glorious meat! 

Istria was the one.  The most highly anticipated leg.  But what I didnt anticipate was that we would have plenty of exceptional meals going in (In this case quite literally).  Places like Amfora in Dubrovnik, Nostromo in Split, and the brilliant Konoba Pece…

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Wayan – By Cedric the Entertainer

One can live a lifetime eating the world in NYC, and still will not know a thing about Indonesian food.  The vast majority of those that do, got their knowledge from a trip to Amsterdam where as we speak, thousands are celebrating their fresh Eurovision win with a Rijsttafel (Indonesian rice table consist of many side dishes).  Australia, so close!  Yet so far away (literally.  A little Eurovision humor).

Indonesian food and Rijsttafels are generally not a thing here.  The lone Indonesian in Hell’s Kitchen Bali Nusa Indah was open for may years, and closed before yours truly had a chance to try it.  The constant barrage of negative Yelpers didnt exactly push me at the time.  I remember coming back from Amsterdam myself one year, hunting for Indonesian joints after my lower lip was fully deflated (that was some seriously spicy stuff), and wasnt able to find anything to get excited about.

At French-Indo Wayan, owners Cedric and Ochi Vongerichten are not here to fill that void.  Cedric, the son of Jean-Georges Vongerichten (usually pronounced “Von something”), and his Indonesian wife already own two restaurants in Indonesia.  While they admittedly not after teaching us what authentic Indonesian food is all about, whatever they are doing at Wayan works and feels new.  The space is comfortable and smartly decorated.  A seafood leaning menu where you want to try more than you can.  And flavors that feel fresh, bold but restrained just enough to showcase the French side of the equation.

 

Wayan

Courtesy of Wayan

Chicken Satay – Five sticks of some of the best Satay I’ve had in NYC.  Ground chicken is perfectly spiced and cooked, served with a creamy, most delectable peanut sauce.

Hiramasa Sashimi – Outstanding Yellowtail Sahimi.  There was a lot going here including chili, herbs, and a shallots/lemongrass sauce that did not interfere too much with the clean flavors of the fish.  Different than most Sashimi out there today.

Clams Jimbaran Style.  Take the best Baked Clams you ever had, remove the breadcrumbs, and add soy, chili, sweet onions, coconut and you got Clams Oreganata on crack.

Yellow Chicken –  A cute name for a suburb chicken curry.  About three pieces if I remember correctly, some got the crunch reminiscent of the great Perry Street chicken where Cedric is still the chef.

 

 

Sauteed While Shrimp – Nice flavor, but probably the weakest dish of the night.  Shrimp slightly overcooked, and must be eaten fast before they harden even more.  I’m at the point where I enjoy fresh raw or slightly seared shrimp a lot more than the fully cooked ones.

Lobster Noodles – This is it.  The Piece de resistance!  Like the most amazing dry mazemen with ramen noodles, chili, butter, soy, thai basil and chunks of lobster.  A killer combination.  I still think about this dish a week later

Nasi Goreng – A well crafted rice with a perfectly cooked fried egg.  I’ve seen similar dishes in NYC listed as a main.  Here its a must get side.

Pandan Custard – Desserts dont usually excite me at places like this.  This did.  Panna Cotta purists may balk at the tartness of the Passionfruit, but I found it well balanced.

Caramelized Banana – Dont let the purple yam ice cream throw you off here.  This was a rather divine Sandae on a Sunday.

Wayan
20 Spring St (Mott/Elizabeth), Nolita
Rating: 2.5 Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that
Recommended Dishes: Chicken Satay, Sashimi, Clams, Lobster Noodles, Yellow Chicken, Nasi Goreng, Pandan Custard

 

 

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EV Bites – The Dumplings Belt

Mimi Cheg's - Mopu TofuEvidence of the “Pierogies/Vareniki Belt” can still be found on 2nd ave in East Village, dating back to the late 19th century when Ukrainian and Polish immigrants started flocking the area.  Less than a quarter of the 100,000 at the peak, still remain, and the percentage of the Pierogi shops dwindled even more.  We are down to Little Poland near east 12th, the Pierogi speakeasy of Streecha on 7th, and the Pierogi kingdom of Veselka, arguably the most famous and popular Ukrainian in the country.  I may be forgetting one or three.

But these days for every Pierogi joint there seems to be 5 dumpling shops popping up on or off 2nd.  While it may be premature to rename it the Dumplings Belt, there are various articles out there calling East Village our newest and hippest Chinatown.  If it is, its a Chinatown that looks like Little Moldova just as much.

With that said, here’s where you can find some of the best Dumplings on/off 2nd ave these days.

Silky Kitchen – Its not a question whether there’s any legit Hunanese joints in this area, but how many are out there now.  Silky’s dry noodle dishes pack a punch, but its the delicious beef and daikan dumplings that makes me keep coming back.  137 E 13th (3/4)

Silky Kitchen

Mimi Cheng’s (top) – The story of the two sisters (Mimi’s daughters) is inspiring, and the ultra-fresh ingredient driven dumplings in a way reflect that.  While all the dumplings are good, locals flock for the unique monthly specials and collaborations like Foie Gras, black truffle, chicken a la NoMad Chicken, and the explosive Mapo Tofu dumplings available this month.  179 2nd Ave (11/12)

Dian Kitchen – Off off 2nd ave, Husband and wife team dishing out silky Yunanese style noodles based on family recipes.  The pan fried dumplings feature your basic pork/chive/cabbage filling and they are just about perfect.  Well balanced, crispy and delicious.  435 E 9th St (1st/A)

Dian Kitchen Dumplings

 

The Bao – These guys are so serious about their soup dumplings that they stopped making them once they realized they lost their touch.  They were on a break (“Friends” style.  Btw, to learn which member of Friends lives near the Bao, you need to take the East Village tour.  Sorry, papa needs to pay the bills!).  They took their time to relearn how to do it right and these little bundles of joy are now back.  And its worth mentioning the awesome Spot Dessert Bar downstairs.  13 St Marks Pl (3rd/2nd)

Xi’an Famous Foods – Chain or not, the Lamb dumplings at Xi’an is a thing of beauty.  They are the size of large meatballs, boiled and carefully ladened with a killer combination of vinegar, soy, chili paste, and chili oil.  The sauce is so potent, that I wouldnt hesitate to order the spinach dumplings here instead on my healthy every first Monday of the month.  81 St Marks Pl (off 1st)

Xi'an Famous Foods

 

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