New York City

Hearth – The Booze Megillah

Eating With Ziggy

Hearth

February 20, 2017 Update:

This is not your ex’s Hearth.  The 13 year old East Village staple got a makeover, Marco Canora seems happier and healthier, and the menu essentially turned upside down.  Some of the remains like the terrific Gnocchi, the Spatchcock chicken, and the light but pungent Rigatoni with pork ragu are now the classics, but much of the menu has changed.  The emphasis continues to be on highest quality raw material.  In fact you can even say some of this stuff, like the bone broth is life changing.  Although I’m almost ashamed to say I only had it once, from the Brodo window.  While it was great, its hard for this non-resident to go for bone broth in arguably the best food neighborhood on the east coast.

But I’m more convinced now that this may be New York’s best Gnocchi dish.  The texture of these melty pillows cant get much better…

View original post 895 more words

Categories: New York City | Leave a comment

Legend of Taste – Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

legend-of-tasteThis 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 the F are we and what do you call this area, you know we are way out there.  And when you find yourself in an area in Queens with so much parking wealth that you dont know what to do with it, you start questioning if you are still in city proper.  But, its close to someone out there.  And if I can convince one person for this one, preferably a local, its well worth it.

Simply put Legend of Taste is some of the best Chinese food I’ve had in NYC, and probably the best Sichuan.  You almost find yourself expecting an old grungy looking place, but instead I found a clean and comfortable room that looks more like your mainstream New York Chinese establishment.  The entire window front is completely bare except for one very important note.  More important than “Zagat Rated” or “We are on Trip Advisor”, or most of the crap you see on windows nowadays.  Its a copy of this original post.

Even the menu on first glance looks like your corner Chinese takeout.  You have to dig in and dig well into this one.  The waitresses speak English, which is important not only with ordering the right items, but the right heat level.  And it was, naturally, completely empty as Mr Leff put it, at least by the time we left.  There were two or three other tables occupied when the six of us (Including this gentleman) came to this gem.  At no point things went south, but I will try to make it easier by ranking the food from best to worst

Chengdu Fish Fillet With Pickle Vegetable– Easily shareable between six and simply outstanding. It has some sneaky heat that with soups one needs to be a little careful.  Plenty of delicious flaky flounder, and I especially enjoyed all the Enoki Mushroom action that sent me straight to Fei Long supermarket in Sunset Park a couple of days later.  Even good when it was cold an hour laterlegend-of-taste-chengdu-fish

Szechuan Style Crispy Eggplant – This was an obvious order coming in and the talk of the town coming out.  Everything about this was great, from the crunchy bell peppers (looks like chili ) to the light fried eggplant, to the peanuts.

legend-of-taste-crispy-eggplant

Double Cooked Sliced Pork – This was probably the surprise of the meal.  By now you got this wonderful taste sensation going, and this had this welcoming sweetness. Almost paper thin slices of pork with Leeks almost as delicious.

legend-of-taste-double-cooked-pork

Cumin Lamb– Another winner. Fragrant, thin tender slices of lamb with cumin you can smell from across the the round table

legend-of-taste-cumin-lamb

Beef with Long Horn Pepper – A simpler version of something similar I enjoy at Szechuan Gourmet 56 on occasion. Missing perhaps garlic chips that could have made it better. But still very solid, and again, tender wonderfully cooked meat which is the theme throughout it seems

legend-of-taste-beef-with-peppers

Smoke Ribs app – Tastier than they look. Smoky, dry but delicious.

Szechuan Pork Dumplings – A little doughy and flat, but with great pungant filling.  Aided much by the excellent sauce

Bok Choy with Mushrooms – Maybe the only dish I didnt care for, but only because I had better versions of it (Han Dynasty). If this would have been my first crack at it, it would have been amazing!

Coparing the joy/cost ratio to the great Indian Accent (the previous post) is almost comical, and somewhat reflected in my score below.  All this for $23 per person.   It felt like I just stole a little boy’s lunch money, while kicking his pet monkey in the gut in the process, before taking the monkey too

Legend of Taste
2002 Utopia Pkwy, Whitestone
Rating: Three Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that
Recommended Dishes: Chengdu Fish, Crispy Eggplant, Double Cooked Sliced Pork, Cumin Lamb, Beef with Long Horn Pepper

Categories: New York City, Queens | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Indian Accent Delights, Stutters

indian-accent-soy-keemaBoy meets girl on Jdate.  They quickly fall for each other, get married and live together for 7 years until the eventual breakup due to rent increase.  Or, boy meets girl, and within 20 minutes they cant stand each other and know this is not gonna work.  Or, boy meets girl, and he is simply not sure.  She seems attractive, potential is definitely there.  She got this sexy British Indian accent but the personality is just not a slam dunk match.  Perhaps more suited for a friends with benefits role.  Indian Accent, the Melania Trump of Indian dining in NYC today, falls closer to that last category.  But instead of meeting Melania, you meet Bernadette from Big Bang Theory.  There’s potential, but false advertised.

Indian Accent is sprawling but cozy, comfortable, and most importantly quiet.  Plenty of room between tables for you server to stand right beside you, with his behind pointing to the other table, without sitting on it.  A rarity in NYC these days.  It has all the elegant traits from the decor to the furniture, with the service properly restrained and relaxed. Well, until we opened the menu.indian-accent-beer

By the time I finalized my order, about 20 minutes, three waiter trips later, it felt like I just survived a flight with Harrison Ford.  I landed somewhere, I’m not sure where, but I made it.  The main culprit is that when you order from the three or 4 course menu, you can order anything you want from any category.  Four mains, four apps, four desserts if you want, anything.  This flexibility sounds good on paper but it creates a certain level of stress since with this kind of menu you really have no idea how anything is really prepared and tastes like.  Just about everything sounds like something interesting you are willing to try.  And to add fuel to the fire, while Mrs Z was looking at a new menu, I got a very old one somehow.  Mine had a very fine sounding Snapper in it, while hers had scallops.

Just like the name suggests the food is gourmet with an Indian Accent.  The free starter of a couple of blue cheese ‘naanlettes’, and a pumpkin soup infused with garam masala was a nice preview of things to come.  But the first course of sweet potato shakarkandi and  potato sphere chaat was a quick let down.  The shakarkandi especially felt a little too heavy on the tongue without enough of a counter.  The chaat was more like it but forgettable.  BTW, after much deliberation with the great looking cocktails, once I saw they have Hitachino Nest, the old Japanese fave light beer, decision made.  While she really liked her Tiki Johnny.

One of the issues I find here is that unless you order uniformly (one app each, one middle course each, etc), the dishes will arrive sort of all over the place including potentially three at once.  Hard to fully enjoy the dishes with the thought of a stranded Malcolm in the Middle there still cooking.  With that said, the middle course produced the top results by far.  Before you get the finger licking awesome crab claws, you are presented with equipment that can be used to search each other’s cavities.  I wish there were more than a handful of cauliflower florets though.  The pathar beef kebab with bone marrow, although  fully cooked had the consistency of foie gras. Very good.  And then we attacked Malcolm in The Middle, aka the soy keema with quail egg (top).  Like a sick Bolognese ragu with no meat in sight.  Perhaps the dish of the night.  Bravo we said, that’s more like it.  Only to come back to earth.

You get to choose a Kulcha, stuffed bread, filling.  The NY Jew in me chose the pastrami with mustard.  But after a few bites the jew went “You meshugenah, should have gone with your jewish gut and chose the mushrooms, or just gone with her selection of Chicken butter”  One of the joys of marrying a jewish woman is that you dont need to make a decision for the rest of your life.  So why start now.   The pastrami stuffed naan thing just didnt work for both of us.  It works better at Ivan Ramen, a mile away in Gotham West, in the form of pork buns.

For mains we went nuts and got the ghee roast lamb, a deconstructed roti, or make your own Indian tacos if you will.  It comes with 4 different chutneys and pickled veggies.  The lamb stew was delicious no doubt, and the tacos I experimented with ranged from good to very good.  But at the end we couldnt help but wonder if this is just an excellent version of something you can find in the lex/28th vicinity.  Her Chicken Kofta was like a cooked flaky ground chicken meatball that didnt wow nor disappointed.

It was a difficult decision to pass on the more talked about makhan malai in favor of the doda barfi treacle tart but one bite out of that and I was like “yeah, still got it!  I think”

Indian Accent
123 W 56th St (6/7) Midtown West
Rating: Two Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that
Recommended Dishes: crab claws, pathar beef kebab, soy keema, ghee roast lambindian-accent-doda-barfiindian-accent-butter-chicken

Categories: Midtown West, New York City | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Museum Hack – The Evolution of Museum Exploration

img_5343While EWZ historians scrambling to find a post about museums, let me tell you what I did yesterday at the American Museum of Natural History at around 4:45.  I was playing the part of a beautiful desert male Bird attempting to woo a female bird.  I snuck up and faced her directly, and then started moving side Mick Jagger style, stretching my hands to each side while waving them up and down with my set of feathers in full display.  At some point I paused to gauge her level of interest, only to resume in furious mode while making various sounds this time.  Exhilarating!  But it didnt work.

It was all part of a special Valentine’s Day tour I was invited to, The Mating Game by Museum Hack.  Stories about rituals, genitals, accidental pregnancies, and animal foreplay.  The tour was conducted by a couple of Hackers, Zack and Kelly from the Saved by the Bell fame who did a masterful job.  Two hours of pure, interactive, strange fun.  We even got wine.  We had to drink it in the cafeteria, but we got wine!  Studies show that wine loosens you up to the point where you do things in museums you’ve never done before, not to mention with complete strangers.

Zach and Kelly were energetic, as you would expect in a tour like this, and full of surprises. Some stops were a little too close for comfort near a child or a grandma while we talk about penis sizes, but it all sort of worked at the end.  We learned some new words that make me look forward to the next cocktail party.  Or the first one.  We learned about evolution and listened to stories behind some of the items, a la “Mysteries of the Museum”.  But it was the interactive fun that made this experience something to write about.

Museum Hack sells experiences.  Just like visiting an attraction or a neighborhood, you can see it by yourself and try get something out of it, or you can experience it this way.  Big museums like the Met and AMNH can often be stressful.  You want to accomplish as much as you can with the little time and knowledge that you have, navigating through lines, crowds and the vastness of the buildings.  A tour like this, where you simply follow someone removes the stress entirely, and puts a fun spin into it.  As I keep preaching here, its experiences like food tours (there he goes again with the self promotion), and tours as such that will be remembered most at the end of the day.  Or 2 years later.

https://museumhack.com/tickets/new-york-city/

img_5331img_5340img_5363img_5333

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

Sugarfish – 15 Shades of Grey

sugarfish-sushi‘Twas the night before Sushi.  I was shaving.  That’s when I  usually do most of my deep thinking.  Like when was my last pizza.  Where did I park the car.  And how does Sugarfish handle the huge service demands of an Omakase for an entire house.  How do they serve a house full of people, an 8 course meal and/or whatever else people ordered.  30 minutes into my meal in the Iphone section (aka counter area) of this new Sushi sensation, I found my answer.  They manage to do it by making a lot of mistakes.

My neighbor to the right was the first one, and the luckiest of all.  She got an entire plate of something she ordered and already ate.  Six mouthwatering pieces of Albacore, Salmon, and something else I didnt recognize, to which she asked if she can take it to go (they could not take it back in this case and give it to someone else).  My neighbors on the other side meanwhile kept getting free fish to the point where they got tired rejecting them.  And after I finished the final dish I whispered to the lucky female neighbor, “I’m just not gonna ask for the check until I get lucky”.  I hope she understood I was talking about food, and that this was not just a terrible pickup line.sugarfish

But I didnt get lucky.  Not in that way or the other.  Instead all I got is delicious fish, and the experience of NY’s first affordable Omakase, or so they say.  For Sushi purists Omakase is not Omakase without the masters behind the counter doing there thing, but I’m not a Sushi purist or even a snob.  Instead I was sitting near the Organic Edamame dispenser where everyone’s first course comes from.  A snack that is a small salty upgrade over your corner sushi.  The kitchen looked crowded, and the frenzy was all around me.  It was all exhilarating and comical at the same time.

Sugarfish was conceptualized by Kazunori Nozawa who converted the name into an empire on the west coast (10 locations as of this writing).  The name refers to the melt-in-your-mouth nature of the fish, mimicking that of a child eating sugar cubes.  Which raises another important question.  Am I a bad parent?  I never gave such delicacies to my children, and I’m pretty sure this was not mentioned in Parenting for Foodies.  Mine leapfrogged straight to sushi and aged beef.  But I’m not taking any chances, oh no.  And so before they find themselves on a couch somewhere telling stories about their abusive dad, I’m serving brown sugar cubes as a first course this entire week.sugarfish-tuna-sashimi

The sushi is indeed good at Sugarfish, but your chopsticks and proper skills may not.  One of the first things you will notice is the loose warm rice which is done on purpose, but a difference maker in more ways than one.  In order to apply the right amount of sauce on the fish, and not the rice, you’ll need an MBA in Chopsticks.  So on my next visit, I plan to go the unconventional way of applying sauce, using other methods

At Sugarfish, just about all first timers order one of the “Trust Me” menu sets, which in a way is mislabeled.  It suggests an element of surprise, but really means “Trust Me, you’ll get the same thing everyone else gets since we opened”.  I ordered the middle Trust Me which sounded adequate and it was.  By far the Albacore, a tuna relative, and a nicely marbled Salmon from Scotland were the stars.  The tuna Sashimi early on elevated by the terrific sauce.  While the Sea Bass and Yellowtail bland in comparison to the previous set (the stars) but good enough.  And the handrolls to wrap it up, featured the same beautiful  marriage between cool and warm, but also fine Nori that tasted like the sea and had a nice snap.  And just like that, you can trust them to bring you the check when its all over.

Sugarfish
33 E 20th St (5th/Park), Flatiron
Rating: Two Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that
Recommended Dishes: One of the Trust Me sets

 

Categories: Gramercy, Flatiron, New York City | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Valentine’s Day 50% Off

candles-1714800_960_720

Love is still in the air on EWZ.  On February 14th, the East Village 11 am tour will be at 50% off to the first few to respond.  I’m essentially doing it for free.  Out of love!  Really!

More info here

 

Categories: New York City | Leave a comment

Date Night:  5 Unconventional Pre-theater Picks

danji-big-korean-breakfastLove is in the air on EWZ, and inside the latest KTCHLST, the mini zine inside the big zine (you see what I did there, Hebrew speakers?).  The big zine is W42st, Hells Kitchen’s own magazine.  And if you cant find it, you are either not looking hard enough or not deep enough (Like I said, love is in the air).  This month on KTCHLST, I list 5 Unconventional pre-theater Picks.  Well, just about all my HK picks are pretty unconventional, but these 5 have a certain Je ne sais quoi.  Ok, one of them has dildos on display, so I can explain that one.  Description are kept short in order to fit inside mini zine

Chaan Teng – Nothing quite like this 9th Ave newcomer offering American Chinese with a twist. If the General Tso and dumplings won’t get you in the mood, the elevated Kama Sutra decor will.

Danji – Semi celebrity chef Hooni Kim dishing out all sorts of Korean awesomeness in this quirky hole. Try the Tofu, wings and the rest, quickly before we have drop the “Semi” part.

Taboon – Ever since the old chef came back, Taboon has been hot hot hot, just like its legendary Taboon (oven). Rumor has it, the Silan dessert can fight impotence.

Mentoku Ramen – A sexier, quiet alternative to the craziness of the more popular area Ramen. Enjoy the fried chicken and Yuzu Ramen with the soothing jazz in the background

Mercato – A solid Italian on the “wrong” side of 42nd with an all Italian staff (extra brownie points). Chef Manu introduces Sardinian, Sicilian and other southern specialties unique to Hell’s Kitchen

img_5316
Categories: Midtown West, New York City | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Simone’s (Provo) – Dishing Out the ‘True’ Fish and More

Eating With Ziggy

Simone's Conch Salad

February 6th, 2017 Update:

Coming to the island this time without my big boy camera felt weird but liberating.  It was also a way to say, “we are just going to our other home, and dont get overly excited anymore”.  And at that other home, one of the missions is to find the homey places where everyone knows your name and  your kids can run around naked.  As long as the food is a full notch above acceptable of course.  Simone’s is becoming that kind of place.  On our last dinner there we were the only secondary homeys there.  A bunch of locals hugging the terrace, including my favorite kind of locals, fishermen.  Two of them in fact.  Would local fishermen dine at a place serving frozen fish from Miami?  Would Urologists get Vasectomized by B grade Urologists?  That is the question one must ask.  Although on this date, as was…

View original post 823 more words

Categories: New York City | Leave a comment

Making Chicken Wings Great Again

Yes, its that time of the year again.  No, not a long vacation, although that is coming soon.  A major update to the all important wings page that everybody waits with bated breath.  This is not a product of a wings fetish by any stretch.  I never really cared for wings before.  But I do admire places that turn wings into an art form, while delivering unique flavors.  These are the men and women that are making Wings great again.  An even if you are not into wings, you may want to take note of these places

Click here to view the post

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

The 10 Commandments of Picking Food in NYC

Travel Trip Map Direction Exploration Planning ConceptJust like a mom balancing work and being a mom, a tourist in NYC needs to find the right balance between being a tourist and unleashing the inner Ziggy.  After meeting so many of you on the East Village and Hell’s Kitchen walks (semi-shameless self promotion) lately, and reading Trip Reports on Trip Advisor, that struggle has gotten more apparent.  You are reading this because you, unlike most visitors, understand that food is one of NY’s unsung attractions, that doesnt quite play well with other attractions.  In fact they really hate each other.  Sometimes, something will have to give, but it can result in a much more enjoyable trip.  Here are 10 rules to help you strike that balance.

1. Location Location Location.  Stay in or close to a food friendly neighborhood.  Pretty much anywhere below 34th is fine, Hell’s Kitchen, UWS, and other residential areas.  I dont mind Times Square so much because of its proximity to Hell’s Kitchen though many make the mistake of eating in TS or walking east instead of west.  I’m not a fan of the east side, close to Grand Central.  Williamsburg a is fine trendy pick but not very central.  The best areas are generally below 23rd, and the most central is Union Square.  If I would have to pick one hotel, and I did on two occasions, it is the Hyatt Union Square.  A stone throw away from NYC’s best food neighborhood, East Village, and many others

2. Read appropriately.  NYC is the easiest place to research.  But often that kind of convenience can lead to the most headaches due to the magnitude of choices.  Besides food blogs you also have Grub Street, Eater, Chowhound, Yelp, and even Trip Advisor forum is filled with savvy tourists and locals giving sound advice.  There’s no need for Guide Books, Zagat, and Trip Advisor reviews are absolutely useless here.

3. Trip Advisor reviews are absolutely useless here.  So important that it needs to have its own bullet.  The ranking themselves are useless everywhere, but here especially. TA reviews are written by tourists for tourists, and by following the rankings you will be essentially feeding the most touristy of places, while missing out on local spots. Of course there are exceptions to the rule. But with the TA algorithm rewarding the more heavily reviewed, often in heavily touristy midtown, you miss on some of the best NYC has to offer including newer places.  The brilliant Momofuku Nishi, one of my current favorites is ranked #3,188 as of this writing

Side Note:  I take it all back.  Reading reviews does have some entertaining values, like this one…  “the restaurant is small. the tables are shared with others there is no knife at the table there is no tablecloth. there is no bread very poor experience. the food was no bad, but not delicious. i will not recommend it.” — A recent Nishi review.

4. Love thy neighbor, but not too much.  Your neighbor says you must, must visit the place where the waiters sing, and the Thai right inside the theater district is just divine. Aunt Betsy from Chattanooga makes a killa pecan pie, but what does she know about Jajangmyeon?  I meet so many people who are completly comfortable taking advice from neighbors, friends, and family, not realizing the vast information available from locals.  Just think about your own town, and the prospect of me coming to your place equipped with a list from my neighbor who’s been there 7 years ago

5. Make Little Italy Great Again.  Little Italy continues to be in everybody’s things to do (and eat) and as long as its in the guide books I would not expect that to change.  Yes, go, but not before you stretch the borders a little.  Little Italy itself is a tourist trap, but the irony is that some of our best mid-range Italian like Pasquale Jones, Osteria Morini, Emporio and Rubirosa surround the area either in Soho or Nolita.  Little Italy is great for strolling while you wait for a table elsewhere.

6. Google Maps is your friend.  Get familiar with Google Maps and start starring those places.  Get a feel on whats near what, and how how far is far.  Click on directions to see distances, make routes if needed. Its not that hard

7. When in Rome, eat Ramen.  No you dont have to eat Ramen here, thats not the point.  But you also dont have to eat Patrami and hot dogs.  Although they can be quite good at some places.  Unlike Rome and much of the rest of the world, it is not exactly clear what is the cuisine of New York.  Guide books need to write something, but often have a difficult time pinpointing our relatively young cuisine.  A giant mishmash of world cuisines is really the best way of putting it.  We eat a lot of pizza and bagels, but not so much pastrami, cheesecakes, and hot dogs.  In fact we eat a lot more Ramen than pastrami.  Its not even close.  Best way to approach food here is to eat like a local, with a few “classics” like Pastrami mixed in.

8. The $150 rule.  It has become almost automatic, like a joke really.  When you are trying to figure out your budget, consider the $150 rule.  That’s what you should expect to pay for two in much of Manhattan and Brooklyn for a regular full service, three course meal with a drink.  Yes, there are much more expensive options, and much cheaper options all over the city.  But for many of the restaurants recommended here and elsewhere, a proper meal with a drink, after tip/tax averages at $150.  How many of those can you afford during your span, is entirely up to you.  Cheap options will surround you just about everywhere

9. Vet Them Well.  Once you select the restaurant, vet it against Yelp and Chowhound and Google to get a feel and see what dishes people enjoy.  If there’s a particular dish that catches your eye on the menu, plug it in the Yelp search box to see what people say about it.  Maybe its not as thrilling as it sounds.  Google “[Name] food blogs” to see what bloggers say about it.  Take a look at pictures of the space to make sure it matches your comfort level.  I get a little nervous when I read so many tourists go to Pure Thai Cookhouse without knowing exactly what they get themselves into.

10.  Meet a Local / Take a Food Tour.  There he goes again with the self promotion.  Ok, take any food tour, as long as its nicely paced, private or small group tours.  Big Apple Greeter is another idea.  The point is not so much the tour itself, but the prospect of meeting a knowledgeable local and maybe gaining a friend that can assist you well after the tour is over.  I met a father and daughter earlier this week who got introduced to Halvah, among other things during the East Village walk,  Later on we continued to email which resulted in trying soup dumplings for the first time, in addition to Nishi and coming home with a pound of Halvah from Seed & Mill in Chelsea Market.

Categories: New York City | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

Blog at WordPress.com.