New York City

Legend of Taste – Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Eating With Ziggy

legend-of-tasteAugust 10th, 2017 Update:

Note to self, when taking your family and taking the Chengdu Fish home, you will be the only one eating it the next day or 3.  That sneaky heat will be in your face, slap you mama kind of heat, the next day

Note to self 2, When ordering the Chongqing Diced Chicken (or at least I think thats what it was, from the first page of the new menu), you will be the only one eating it right off the bat.  But that’s fine, since its delicious.

February 18th, 2017 Post:

This one is for the 1%.  No, not that 1%.  But the 1% of the readers that can make it to this one.  The location is, well, let me put it this way.  When you sit around with 5 hounds (as in Chowhounds), and one of the topics of conversation is where…

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Hell’s Kitchen – Dining With the Family

There was a time when Hell’s Kitchen was just about the last area in North America you would take your family out to dinner.  There was a time, not too long ago, when I would drive with friends just to see the prostitute action along 10th and 11th.  We would not even roll down the windows, let alone get out of the car in this neighborhood.  Of course I’m talking about when I was a teenager, not in my mid 40’s.  Hell’s Kitchen was a rough neighborhood.

But boy is it different today.  Not only its safe to dine out with your family at all hours, the options out there are endless.  In this month’s W42st magazine you see all over the neighborhood, the theme is family.  In the insert you will find these 5 places I would take (and took) my family in Hell’s Kitchen.  Notice there’s no Trip Advisor family darling Carmines on the list.  Works for some families.  Not so much for mine.  “Family style” sharing is something you can do easily with any of these places

Pio Pio – The sprawling high ceiling basement space of this Peruvian is perfect for families of all sizes.  The usual Peruvian suspects like the Chicken and Ceviche are spot on.

The Marshal – Small space with a sound family friendly menu.  Whether its Frittata and Mac and Cheese for brunch, or Meatloaf, Chicken, and the best bread and butter in town for dinner

Mercato – Who says family style means large plates of chicken and eggplant Parm.  A pasta feast at Mercato is a lot more interesting for Hell’s Kitchen kids

Ippudo – Kids love the atmosphere, energy, and all that yelling…”Welcome in”, “thank you”, and presumably “aim well” when going to the bathroom

Blue Ribbon Sushi Columbus – This pick may raise a few eyebrows, until you see how shareable some of the hits are like the fried chicken, oxtail fried rice, and sauteed squid.

 

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A Ducky in East Village Dishes out Killer Goat

Ducks Eatery logo

You can get goat all over the city, especially in Indian restaurants.  But Google “Goat Neck NYC” or “Smoked Goat Neck NYC” and see how many results come up.  Go ahead I’m waiting.  You will get many results, but all pointing to one place…  Ducks Eatery.  Thats because Ducks is the only place in NYC that offers it.  Why?  I’m not sure.  But one bite out of that thing makes you wonder.  Perhaps at this stage, its impossible for any chef with some integrity to add something like this to the menu without any infringement.  Its a revelation of sorts.  A level of tenderness and succulence I havent experienced in NYC, or at least not in a while.

Now I’m not the biggest fan of Guy Fieri.  But on occasion I cross paths with him in my writings.  Perhaps to the point of “maybe I should start watching those DDD’s” ( I even forget what they stand for.  Drives, Diners, and Divas?).  So instead of trying to give this the proper justice with food words like divine and OMFG, I will just refer you to this DDD clip which describes this dish and its inspiration very well.  As you see, making this goat dish requires 59 easy steps, a culinary degree with a minor in economics.  It makes the price ($36) look like a robbery (I’m the robber).  You may also want to watch Fieri in another EWZ favorite, Gazala’s Place in Midtown  Ducks Eatery Goat Neck

 

I suppose if you are a carnivore, that video is all you need.  My job is done here.  But I need to make it to at least 350 words or else its “No pastrami for you” the next time I’m at Z-List fave, and East Village tour staple Harry & Ida’s (Will and Julie Horowitz own Ducks and Harry & Ida’s).  So what should we talk about to fill the gap.  There’s a front moving according to the news.  What happens when a front stops moving.  Is it still a front?  Or does it need to move by definition?  They never report on fronts that stay still, I dont believe.  You never hear “we have a front that is stuck for 3 days outside the Maryland coast”

I suppose I should also mention that the dry rubbed St. Louis Ribs here sport a beautiful red hue and would make any Texan blush (because of the East Village crowds).  And the wings here are gorgeously jerked and pepper-corned, and are going straight into the NYC Wings Hall of Fame.  We ordered another round.  This is serious BBQ folks.  But all of this including the seafood items like the fine smoked trout take on a supporting role after the most beautiful neck this side of Ibiza.

sfdef1Apparently its called a Stationary Front.  Where two air masses collide and neither strong enough to move each other.  Sort of like drunk sumo wrestlers leaning against each other.  But at some point they simply fall down and get dragged out of the rink ending in a tie I presume.  But not before they piss on themselves.  Boy, I sure hope I get to eat that pastrami again….

Ducks Eatery
351 E 12th St (1st ave), East Village
Rating: Three Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that
Recommended Dishes: Goat Neck, Trout, Ribs, Wings, just get the Goat Neck

Ducks Eatery RibsDucks Eatery TroutDucks Eatery Wings

 

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Z-List Update

fob-chicken-and-sides

FOB Chicken Adobo

Its that time of the year.  Game of Thrones season.  I got my GOT beer and i’m ready to rock and roll through what seems like a terrible winter.  Or just winter!  I’m not quite sure what “terrible” means in GOT standards but it sounds like pretty bad-ass.  As in more than two months of 10 inches of snow total.

Its also time to update the legendary, ultra exclusive (according to Harvard) Z-List.  That is 50 of my favorite restaurants in the city.  If it looks rather random to some, good.  Thats the point.  Eater’s Essential List doesnt seem very Essential either.  Its simply my way of answering “what should we eat while in NYC” to 99% of those questioning.  None of these costs more than $100 or less than $10 so that eliminates a good chunk.  The changes:

In –  Pinch Chinese, Gloria, FOB, Via Carota, Hearth, Timna

Out:

Biang! – Closed (miss it terribly)

Annisa – Closed

Empellon Taqueria – Just dont care for it as much as I used to.

Mission Chinese food – A little too hit or miss for me these days

Nargis Cafe – Still great, but out of reach for most of my audience

Zizi Limona – Stopped going pretty much since Mesika left

Congratulations to the winners and the entire 2017 class.  You did it!

Click here for the complete list

Pinch Chinese Crab in Chinese Restaurant

Pinch Crab in Chinese Restaurant

 

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Hell’s Kitchen Summer Update

Yonekichi

Winter is coming!  July 16th to be exact.  That means time to load up on seafood, pea soups, and Japanese street snacks.  The first update in almost a year means it was quite the busy year.  I cleaned up a bit and removed some places that closed like Mooncake foods, but got a few doozies to replace it in the health department.  Big Mazal Tov to the new members…

Gloria – This neighborhood pescatarian was a no-brainer.

Yonekichi – Light and delicious Japanese Rice Burgers with great combo specials to boot

Fresh From Hell – Ingredient focused healtheria with sinful stuff like sandwiches featuring Sullivan bread.

PS.  As of this writing, Sullivan is closed for renovations.  A few more weeks they tell me

The complete Hell’s Kitchen Survival Guide

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FOB – You Had Me at Halo Halo

Eating With Ziggy

fob-halo-halo

July 4, 2017 Update:

How is this place not packed every night.  Yet another great feast at FOB, this time with the family.  The chicken wings, overnight Chicken Adobo (with coconut milk this time), Fish Inihaw are absolute musts.  But there are a few other potential gems on the menu we didnt get to sample yet.  The type of neighborhood place every neighborhood should have.  But dont take it too literally chef Armando.  I like you in just that one place

December 9, 2016 Post:

If you close one eye and both ears, Brooklyn’s Smith Street during the holidays feels like a small town Main Street.  Xmas tree vendors hugging corners.  Colorful shops, bars, restaurants getting dressed for the holidays.  You can almost hear George Michael’s Last Christmas before the moment interrupted by a commuter.  A commuter who believes if he beeps long enough, Santa will come down to part the sea…

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Hell’s Kitchen – Eating Outdoors

IMG_6257A new month means a new W42st edition floating all over Hell’s Kitchen.  I love doing the Hell’s Kitchen tours on launch day and seeing them everywhere.  The design and size of those babies brightens galleries, restaurants, and even those $5 fortune tellers.  This month’s theme is outdoors, and for only $5 you can probably find out next month’s exciting theme.  So pick up a copy and check out the rest of the issue including these outdoor venue picks, in color this time

Gotham West Market – Brilliantly designed, with outside bar counters and tables on both sides.  Even the occasional Lincoln Tunnel traffic is respectful

Il Baretto – Well crafted sandwiches and salads on the quiet side of the kitchen (ok, quieter).  Facing HK’s biggest park.

The Marshal – Try not to sneeze when you pass by this Farm to Sidewalk, or you may miss it.  Its like the speakeasy of outdoor dining

Otto’s Tacos – Get the Shrimp tacos with a side of Masa fries and watch the world go by.  And by world I mean tourists.

The Press Lounge – At the end of the day, this is the place to soak it all in.  Hooray for zoning laws!IMG_6256

 

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Gloria, I Think We Got Your Number

Gloria Shrimp53rd street in Hell’s Kitchen is a street I’m well familiar with.  I used to walk by Kiran, an Indian restaurant formerly at the same space as Gloria like a Hassid in East Village.  Face covered so the super nice owner wouldnt see me walking by.  I didnt want to break his heart after years of loyalty while I was cheating with another Indian on 9th.  After Kiran it was another love hate relationship, CoBa 53.  They opened, they closed (thanks Health Dept, and Obama!), they reopened but could never find their groove.  The biggest, weirdest gripe I had with them was that this was the one place where tablecloths just seemed out of place.

So when I heard Pescatarian Gloria opening in that spot, I needed to see it and taste it to believe it.  Instead of the usual Walk of Shame or avoiding that corner of 53rd entirely, I actually coudnt wait to see what they’ve done with the space.  Nifty light fixtures replaced with niftier ones, and the tablecloths are GONE.  The irony is that after all the space anticipation I forgot to take a picture of it.  Multiple shots of every dish (Our neighbors who flat out stole our corn bread thought we are some sick food paparazzi) but nothing of the space.  Gloria Octopus

I often start posts like this one with a Jambalaya of irrelevant junk, before giving a place the proper praise it deserves.  So before I lose any more reader, I can honestly say that this was one of those meals.  A solid 3 star!  The most refreshing thing to open in Hell’s Kitchen since The Marshal introduced us to American food (we have every Thai and Mexican imaginable, but good luck finding good ribs).  Some call Gloria a mini Contra as thats the place most associated with it (GM formerly with Contra).  But its more like a mini Le Bernardin.

Corn Bread – Nothing wrong with this bread course.  Except for the fact that we got it fairly late in the game after they initially delivered ours to the next table.

Black Bass Tartare – Pretty to look at, and one of the dishes to get.  Just wonderful flavor with the watermelon radish adding nice brightness.

Jonah Crab – Simple, yet outstanding!  The sweet as lobster crab mixed with strips of Kohlrabi (like a cross between Turnip and Daikon) and aided by a thin eggy Sabayon.  Ok, maybe not that simple.

Octopus – Yet more delicious awesomeness.  Perfectly cooked Octopus slices sitting on a bed of cabbage and black rice, delivering one heck of a nasty bite.  Its rare to see a place deliver so many probable menu staples so early in the game

Shrimp – If I may briefly pause the party for just a sec.  I think this is the only one I would skip next time, which is more of a testament to the rest of the lineup.  Nothing wrong with the shrimp and their Gulf funkiness, but nothing new flavor wise with the Cortez sauce.  And the Hominy made my brain expect Peruvian corn like texture but that snap was sorely missing.

Skate Wing – This is it.  The one, the Neo, the dish to get.  There’s nothing better in the seafood universal than Skate Wing simply seared with butter with a sprinkle of magic dust.

Panna Cotta – Meh!  But no point deductions here

Go!

Gloria
401 West 53rd (off 9th), Hell’s Kitchen
Rating: Three Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that.
Recommended Dishes: Skate Wing, Octopus, Tartare, Crab

Gloria TartareGloria Skate Wing

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Adding Green-Wood Cemetery

IMG_6312The evolution of the Brooklyn tour continues.  In the next few weeks I will take some time to write more of a detail post about the current tour and what it entails, as it changed quite a bit since its inception.  But the big development is that I’m adding Green-Wood cemetery.  I’ve been toying with the idea for a while, and experimenting with Green-Wood during the last 3 tours, and frankly I dont know why I havent done it sooner

If you dont know what I’m talking about, wondering why I’m adding a cemetery to a food tour, a simple Google or Google Images browsing will answer that.  The proximity to the current route also makes sense.  If you booked a future tour and are not interested in Green-Wood, just let me know.  As it stands right now though, this is a quick 30 minute stop, unless anyone wants to spend more time there.  Simply put, this is one of the most beautiful cemeteries in the world.  The reason you dont hear much about it is because of the difficulties for tourists to get there.

And no this is not Nicolas Cage future grave pictured below.  His Pyramid is much taller.  And if you just happened to have a Nicolas Cage fetish (seriously, who doesnt these days), we can also visit Cage’s favorite restaurant in Brighton Beach.

IMG_6294IMG_6308IMG_6309

 

 

 

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Nur – Adoni Hagadol

Nur EggplantWe have a Sabra invasion in full swing and no one bats and eyelid, not even Trump.  Einat Admony (Balaboosta, Bar Bolonat, Taim), Efraim Nahon (Taboon), Michael Solomonov (Dizengoff), Nir Mesika (Timna), and many more, including now Meir Adoni, an Israeli superstar opening his first in NYC.  The falafel kingdom continues to expand with chainlets like Taim, and Nish Nush leading the way.  And we even have a (sort of) Israeli bakery chain in Breads Bakery, whose owner is Adoni’s partner at Nur.  Even my new favorite French dessert spot in East Village is owned by talented Israelis.

But something is missing in NYC, and that something has something to do with the title, and real estate.  When I was in LA last time, we discovered a place called Itzik Hagadol (Big Isaac), a sprawling “fast-casual” (new phrase which I hate but use anyway) spot in Encino, serving Israeli classics like falafel, hummus, babaganoush, and things you dont normally find here like Mititei.  I was into my second Shashlik when I realized… NYC doesnt really have one of those.  If I want to take my extended family somewhere on a whim here, I wouldnt know where to go.  But if I want to take my wife to a fancy Israeli or one that requires knowing the right people who can reserve a table for you 4 weeks in adavnce, I got plenty of options.  Thats NYC for you, and the nature of Manhattan real estate.  Either things are too fast, or too expensive.  “Fast Casual” is lacking here.

NurSo if Adoni wants to open an Adoni Hagadol, I wont even take royalties.  He’s already off to a flying start, hotter than a Shakshuka in the Sinai.  We werent quite sure what to expect from Israel’s culinary idol.  And when we arrived, as often happens when we come back from an extended European trip, we are greeted with a jolt in the way of three greeters.  I think on average the employee/diners ratio is roughly 5 times higher in NYC than anywhere in Europe.  Why do we need three hosts!

 

But the good news is that almost nothing but greatness on those plates….

Honey and Garlic Challah –  I gather that the first two breads on the menu are the highlights here, but I wanted to try something else.  Besides, the Kubaneh and the Sesame Bagel, arent very unique to NYC anyway.  You can get a similar Kubaneh with S’chug and other condiments at Timna, and a fine Jerusalem sesame bagel at Bar Bolonat.  But the Challah was fine, doused with just enough honey and garlic on top, served with pickled onions, and creme fraiche.  While we liked it, I secretly cried a little at night for not getting the Kubaneh after all!

Jerusalem Sesame Bagel – Hagadol serves a bigger sesame bagel.  Nice and buttery, just like the bagels in Mahane Yehuda market, albeit 10 times pricier.  And just like in Bar Bolonat it comes with Za’atar on the side, and an exceptional tehini-like Lima Bean Messbaha.nur Sesame Bagel

Date Doughnuts – Very good and very Mediterranean. Comes in two, along with this addictive curry Citrus Vinaigrette. By the end of the night I dipped everything in this thing including forks, fingers, car keys, and wife’s finger.

Damascus Qutayef – Essentially fried Lamb Pancake.  This was fine.  If I have to pick one dish I wouldnt order again, I think this is it.  The sweet notes were a little overpowering for me.  But the sides of Marcona almonds with cucumbers, and a gazpacho like yogurt chaser at least kept this interesting

Horias – Excellent!  “Lamb Kebab in Pita” is more like mini lamb Shawarmas inside these perfectly crispy pitas with a hint of Amba (Mango condiment).  As some of the other dishes it comes on top of old newspapers for some reason with some pickled veggies.  You can munch while getting up to speed on the latest Cricket wives gossipNur Horias

Eggplant Carpaccio – Possibly the dish to get here, which is ironic considering its the only vegetarian dish outside the bread category.  Smoky, creamy, crunchy at times, and simply delicious.  Not every bite is the same.  The only minor quibble one might have is that the dish is listed under Big Plates but is more of an app.  Its a big plate alright, but not the content.  Possibly the eggplant to beat after Atoboy in NYC

Sea bass – Well cooked, supremely flavorful black bass, with more eggplant, Freekeh, Broccoli Rabe, and Spring Beans.  Adoni clearly likes his eggplant which he features throughout.

Lamb – Two fine skinny tender lamb loins.  Like the Seabass, all sorts of Meshugas on the plate like a Lentil salad, and what really stole the show for me, a Lamb and Bulgar filled onion.  The “Mains” here made me appreciate Timna even more.  I found a lot of similarities all over the menu but in particular the way the mains were constructed.  Complex and ingredient heavy, but truly exceptional stuff

Nur
34 E 20th St (Brway/Park), Flatiron
Rating: Three Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that.
Recommended Dishes: Sesame Bagel, Date Doughnuts, Damascus Qutayef, Eggplant Carpaccio, Sea Bass, Lamb

Nur ChallahNur Damascus QutayefNur Date doughnutsNur LambNur Sea Bass

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