Chelsea

Nishi is Now Italian, But Still Momofuku

I pretty much declared it my new favorite Italian before my first visit to the new and improved La Cucina Fukina.  Improved?  It was more like wishing things stayed the same as much as possible.  It wasnt the first time I was disappointed to learn about a restaurant I really like turning strictly “Italian” overnight (Caicos Cafe in my adopted home of Turks and Caicos).  Turns out however, fears overblown again, but this time I expected it to be.

Momofuku Nishi seem to have an identity problem, but not so much a creativity problem.  When I talk about Momofuku during my tours, I often stumble upon the “What kind of cuisine is it” question.  “Its Momofuku cuisine” I often say.  A bunch of talented guys and gals in a lab making magic.  Asian influenced magic.  We often default stuff like this to “New American”.

As long as its still Momofuku and Joshua Pinski at the helm, Nishi can go Polish, Norwegian, or Ethiopian as far as I care and still deliver.  If not for the surprising announcement, I wouldnt even know there was a label change after my recent meals.  Nishi has been executing nifty pastas and crudos since they opened pretty much.  The identity flak mostly came from aging critics who didnt care for the space nor the noise.  A valid complaint, met with death ears by many once they tried those luscious spare ribs or the sick Capellini a la Fideos which is going through its third incarnation.Nishi Radish Bagna Cauda

The big change that meant closing Nishi for a few days was to the space.  No more community tables, and the chairs now got your back.  Its more comfortable now, which can be perceived as a little fancier as some pointed out on Yelp.  Another big change is the introduction of a Pasta tasting menu.  I’m not normally in favor of this kind of carb overload, but by the look of it, and having eaten some of this, it could be the new pasta tasting menu to beat in NYC.

And then there’s the Lobster Fra Diavolo.  Coincidentally, another thing in common with that Italian counterpart in TCI I mentioned earlier.  Here its a mammoth plate loaded with garlic, chili and XO infused spaghettoni, with the emphasis on the chili making it more Asian than Italian.  On top are chunks of 1.5 lb flash fried lobster coated with salt and pepper, cracked and ready to easily fish out that wonderful meat.  Its a $62 triumph!  One of the best things I’ve eaten all year

In the two recent visits I’ve enjoyed the walnut Bagna Cauda both times.  Once for lunch with radish, and for dinner with red endive.  This Piedmontese classic sauce is the perfect counter to the sharpness of Endives.  In Piedmont they use it as a dip for vegetables but I prefer it on top.  And the fact that the Striped Bass Carpaccio topped with thin slices of castelvetrano olives wasnt particularly memorable serves as a true testament to the rest of the lineup, because we didnt find anything particularly wrong with it.  The infamous Bucatini ceci e pepe is still on the menu.  And while I do recommend it, I’m not sure it cracks my top 3 pastas here.  The saucy, finger licking awesome BBQ Pork Ribs however can crack top 3 ribs in the city

The fine Lumache with spicy beef and mint is now part of the pasta tasting menu.  At lunch time its available in the form of Pappardelle.  And I presume those Capellini a la Fideos is still that same toasty, apple cider infused goodness.  The only thing missing from the menu is that sick Skate with brown butter I had last year.  More goodness on the dessert column.  Olive oil cake with candied fennel greatly enhanced by a zesty orange sauce, while people around us going gaga over the the Apple tart.

Ladies and gents, I’m giving out my first 4 Z’s.  Its essentially the equivalent of giving my virginity to that special someone at my age.  Big Mazal Tov to the Nishi family.  I expect to get invited to the party and see those silly Zagat Rated stickers on the window replaced with this Z rating in no time.

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Nishi
232 Eighth Avenue (22nd), Chelsea
Rating: Four Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that
Recommended Dishes: Everything!

 

Nishi Scallops

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Chelsea Lately Mini Update

Cull and Pistol CounterThe burning question.  In the midst of all that madness, what exactly should I look for in this Zombie infested former Nabisco factory.  I added a couple of names for 2017 without feeling the need to change anything else.  This is just mostly a fresh reminder since I’m constantly being asked by people.  What should I target in Chelsea Market…

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Why Nishi is the Best of 2016

nishi-jajangmyeonRecent update from the main Nishi post

When you finish the year with three meals in 9 days at the same place, it becomes quite apparent. I seriously need to learn how to cook  Nishi is my favorite newcomer of 2016 and I cant get enough of it.  One can very easily dismiss this place when Googling it and facing the cranky initial reviews, and that would be a grave mistake.  Grave I tell ya!  There’s a good place for food critics in our society, but they are often coerced to review too early, especially when faced with the buzz of a Momofuku.  Buzz and brand lead to certain expectations.  If Nishi opened last month with the current menu, and owned by a no-name, it would have gotten some major accolades right now.

So I’ve now tried all the pastas on the menu.  Love them all except the Chili Squid.  I think I prefer XO (spicy seafood sauce) on meat dishes, rather than seafood.  The Butter Noodle is still a revelation.  The Spicy Beef is a delicious combination of pasta shells, beef, mint, fried shallots, with a nice kick.  Love the Jajangmyeon with the biggest fried egg you will ever see covering the entire plate, and more joy to the spicy lovers.  But my favorite is still probably the Toasted Noodles (formerly Clams Grand Lisboa).  Eating this is like listening to an entire Ariana Grande song by accident in the car.  Lost in the moment, which can be dangerous when wife is giving you important weekend instructions.  I think I have to drive someone to the airport, but I’m not entirely sure who and which airport.

I will update the bottom line with my favorite dishes which is getting too long, but it will include the delicate Mackerel Tataki, and the BBQ Pork Rib with sweet and sour sauce which is a spare ribs game changer.  The Ko-esque Roast Pork is still quite good, but the best thing on the large section right now may be the fish.  A very shareable Skate Wing with bits of toasty Cauliflower, topped with this beautiful buttery light gravy.  Freakishly good stuff!

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Chelsea Market Tours

Chelsea MarketI decided to do Chelsea Market tours through the winter.  I’ve been toying with the idea for a while, but finally decided to do it after the third person asked me.  The last one I toured with yesterday.  I also noticed many people on Trip Advisor are having trouble navigating through the market, and come out very disappointed, which is a money opportunity shame.  While many New Yorkers avoid the market for its craziness (and by craziness I mean you tourist), the foodies out there, and those in the know go out of their way to eat and shop there.  With all our current food halls, courts and markets all over NYC, Chelsea Market is still the most unique one offering the best eats.  And unlike say, Little Italy, its touristy for good reason.  But as with any such market pretty much, there’s value in going with a local

You can very well explore on your own, and I’ve written plenty here to help you out with the many options.  There’s no secret to what I like, but there are a few places not so easy to find (I call one the market speakeasy).  I’ve been to Chelsea Market well over 100 times, to the point that I even know what other tour groups are eating.  These are big groups that can only do it at 10 am or 2 pm.  With smaller groups I can afford a more proper, relaxed walk, and also customize the eats if needed

Who is the tour for:  Foodies, locals, market lovers, models, anyone really.  I’ve taken both locals and visitors to the market before.  If we have time we can also walk on the High Line and I’ll take you to my favorite dessert in Chelsea nearby (outside the market, in addition to dessert in CM).  Worse case scenario you’ll have a chance to meet a fun, energetic, good looking local, and I’ll do my very best to find that individual!

$50 per person for now.  If interested, email me.  Oh and remind me to tell you the story behind the picture below.

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Foodpourri

danji-big-korean-breakfastRandom EWZ food discoveries, announcements, and other nonsense…

Danji, the long time EWZ fave in the kitchen of hell is now doing brunch.  In addition to the best tofu dish in town, you can now enjoy delicacies like the Big Korean Breakfast (top picture), Kimchi bacon fried rice, and their version of the Filipino Sisig.  This medium size Jew did the big Korean Breakfast and (of course) the tofu last week, and as much as I enjoyed them, I would love to try the other offerings next time

Talking about Sisigs, I accidentally had it twice last month.  My favorite was in Maharlika in East Village.  Gorgeously fried pig ears, snout, belly with garlic, chilies on top of garlicky rice.  Just a solid combination of flavors and textures.  And while you at it, try their Lumpia rollsimg_4401

lam-zhou-handmade-noodle-dumplingsHaving trouble sleeping?  Problems in the bedroom, ever since Prosperity Dumplings closed by the health dep’t.  Before you reach for the red pill, blue pill or any pill for that matter, check out Lam Zhou Handmade Noodle in Chinatown.  Even at room temperature, you get some of the tastiest fried pork dumplings in NYC today.  8 for $3 is still quite cheaper than what all the new places charging today

In Pizza news, while I dont normally get excited about Sullivan Street Bakery‘s thin, often room temp Roman pies (I do get excited about everything else), the day I walked into a fresh Pizza Capicola changed all that.  Coppa ham, green olives, chili, fennel, Mascarpone.  A masterful combo with plenty of nice heat to keep your taste buds happy for a while.

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Discoering Los Mariscos in Chelsea Market is like discovering a secret Speakeasy, or Tom Hanks discovering a secret garden full of typewriters.  The Los Tacos #1 team leased the space that leads from the tacos hallway to 15th st where there’s a separate entrance.  The place meant to resemble a Mexican seafood shack, and the Baja style fish and shrimp tacos are as solid as they get in NYC.  And at $3 to $4, quite affordable for Chelsea Marketlos-mariscos

I’ve been eating quite a bit in Brooklyn as of late.  Some ups, some downs, with the highlight coming from the most unexpected, Olivier Bistro in Park Slope.  Homey, basic French Bistro fare done well.  Escargot, Hanger, Daurade special particular standouts.

Stop me when I start sounding like Crazy Eddy, but the new East Village Food Tour is beginning to look like a smashing success food and sightseeing wise.  I assembled a pretty nice route that includes a stop at the always fun Caracas Arepa Bar where we’ll sample some Venezuelan mini Arepas they do especially for the tour.  Not all tours will be the same, but this one is shaping to be one the most popular stops.caracas-bar-pork-shoulder-mini-arepas

img_4469In my constant pursuit of great Soup Dumplings (Xiaolongbao) in NYC that included the much hyped Drunken Dumplings, and others, The Bao in, you guessed it, East Village, makes possibly the best I’ve had in NYC.  Thin skin that holds it on, and a very fine filling of pork and crab which is what I recommend.  Love the dumplings, not so much the stuffier than it should be, $10 per person minimum, space.

Right below Bao on St Marks place is another place we’ve been obsessing with as of late, Spot Dessert Bar.  Playful, imaginary desserts like the Harvest, a plant of berries and soft cheesecake that you water with black rose milk tea.  Dont overlook however the more normal looking and sounding Green tea lava cake spot-dessert-bar

In Bakery news, I cant get enough of Breads Bakery (Jerusalem baguettes, babka, multiple locations), and Arcade Bakery in Tribeca.  Arcade is located in a lobby of an office building and the hours are office kind hours (m-f 8-4).  Go early for the sensational buttery Laminated Baguette, Whiskey-pecan Babka and call me in the morning.

Miso Cherry!  Say it with me, c’mon.  Slower.  Say it like you mean it.  Meeesooo Cherry!  Another wacky Oddfellows Ice Cream flavor that is perhaps the best ice cream/Gelato I’ve had this year.

Stay Hungry My Friends arcade-bakery oddfellows-miso-cherry-ice-cream

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Flavor of the Month – Gelato Giusto

img_3883This 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.

I will pre-phase this one by saying that I dont know any other place like it.  EWZ historians must be scratching their heads wondering if I’ve ever written about an ice cream place before.  But ever since I first set foot here, I’m attracted to this place like Anthony Weiner to selfies.  You wont find Instagrammers lining up around the block.  And you wont find crazy flavors like Bacon infused mocha beet swirl, with vegemite.  But what you will find is simplicity at its absolute finest form, by someone who not only knows the craft well, but matches it perfectly with the neighborhood

img_4016I hate sounding overly cliche sometimes but there’s no other way to say this.  Lorenzo Franchetti is a walking and talking example of someone who followed his dream.  An insurance broker in Milan, turned master gelato maker.  Lorenzo inspiration came from a gelato shop in Milan where he learned the craft under the supervision of galato and chocolate wizzard Vittoria Bortolazzo.  And with this relationship with Vittoria, the mild mannered Loreznzo opened a second outpost of Gelato Giusto in January, 2015.  We all can use a Vittoria at one point in our lives

Gelato Giusto is not just about gelato.  Various confectioneries, sandwiches, great coffee, freshly squeezed orange juice are offered as well.  Lorenzo’s goal is to mimic a typical Milanese quick stop but also adjust to the neighborhood.  If this place was in the middle of Times Square it would have been very different most likely, but smack in the middle of Chelsea, an emphasis on the healthier side of things is necessary.  Which is why half of his small offerings are sorbets which are given the same exact attention as the gelato.  In fact when you taste his hazelnut (from Piedmont) sorbet, the first thing that comes to mind is “is this a mistake, this tastes like gelato”.  With the same kind of richness he narrows the gap.  As with the super refreshing concord grape sorbet, and the sick Sicilian pistachio gelato, the ingredients talk loud and clear.

This place is slowly turning me, a glato lover, into a sorbet junky, but the gelato cant be overlooked.  What is also hard to overlook is how inviting the place is.  Is it chic, modern, comfortable, and very appealing to the eye.  A place that makes you feel good as soon as you walk in on a hot day, where everyone knows your name the second time around.  A place that every neighborhood needs, but sadly the vast majority dont have.  In fat I cant think of any other gelato shop like it.

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Chelsea {Market} Lately – 2016

Chelsea MarketTime to update the old what to eat at Chelsea Market post.  But instead of simply updating it, I will just make a fresh one.  As fresh as the Hummus at Dizengoff, the latest sensation to hit the market.  You can say what you want about the market.  Its increasingly busy, packed with tourists, and theres a decent chance a large polish gentleman will step on your feet.  But largely due to that foot traffic, the market also attracts vendors like no other market or food court in NYC.  For every Amy’s Bread, and Num Pang that you can find all over town, there are 10 vendors and purveyors that are unique to the market.  And besides, the traffic doesnt hamper my movement much.  I come, I eat, I go, juts like anywhere else.  Since I’ve been to the market around 20 times this year alone, I will only post about the food that I like and target these days, not something I’ve eaten 3 years ago and now dont even look at that direction anymore (I’m looking at you Rana!)

Chelsea Lately – 2017:  This year I’ve been spending some time at Los Mariscos, Los Tacos #1 sister restaurant hidden off the Los Tacos space.  While staring at Los Tacos, look left, and walk through the hallway.  It will look like you are doing something illegal and you are about to enter a secret Food Network club where everybody is playing poker and Guy Fieri is the dealer.  No!  Keep walking until you get to Los Mariscos.  Its like a Mexican seafood shack that feels like a Chelsea Market speakeasy.  Their baja style fish tacos are perhaps the ones to beat in NYC at the moment (had today at a competitor – Feh!).  And guess what else they have… bathrooms!  With no lines!  You welcome!

For dessert lately I’m flirting with Sarabeth’s mini Cherry pie, but only if there’s no line.  I’m a little allergic to lines.  This is it.  The rest of the lineup is still awesome….

Lobster Roll at Cull and PistolNo Surprise here.  I’m attracted to this place like a magnet, like Germans to David Hasseloff.  Even when I go elsewhere, I often stop by to check out the ever-changing menu, and on occasion see a game and plan changer (Lobster Ramen!).  This is my go-to Seafood spot in NYC, and an obvious inclusion in the Z-List.  Although I’m picking the lobster roll for the purpose of this post, the entire menu is essentially the freshest of the fresh from the Lobster Place next door.  While most tourists head to LP for the miniature $18 roll, this is much more like it, albeit at $27.  I go for the Connecticut style, hefty amount of mouthwatering, buttery, warm claw meat with a touch of mayo stuffed inside a toasty bun with a good amount of great fries

Cull & Pistol Lobster

Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup at Very Fresh Noodles – One of the newest kids on the block.  As of this writing, they are still under soft opening with a minimal menu, though this kind of menu works for me.  Its not the size, but what you do with it, and how you pull the noodle that matters!  Two giant pulled Biang noodles go into the bowl along with slow cooked braised beef shanks, scallion, cilantro, and chili oil.  The aromatic beef broth packs plenty of heat and leaves a nice tingle for some time.  The noodles are a bit uneven, with some parts chewier than others, but a delicious dish all around.  Sitting is very limited in that hidden corner of the market

Very Fresh Noodles Taiwanese Soup

Adobada at Los Tacos #1.  The Shawarma of the south.  First rule of fight club: you see a line you stand on it, as long as its not the bathroom line.  Second rule of fight club: stand on this line, enjoy the view of the pork goodness dancing on a spit and become its Tango partner a short time after.  The lines move quick, but your mouth should move slowly to the tune of this juicy marinated pork awesomeness.  Dont yield to temptation and add more ingredients because they are there and they are free.  You dont want the flavors of some of our best tacos to get lost. (Note:  I was clearly very hungry when I wrote this)

Los Tacos

Double Cheeseburger at Creamline.  Simple American classics suggests, just like with Los Tacos, quite busy with families, school groups, and other Ziggys who simply admire the craftsmanship.  Grass Fed dry-aged burgers from the butchers next food (Dickson’s), with perfectly matched soft sesame bun makes this one of the best “fast food” type burgers I’ve had in a while.  Order, take a number, and look for a seat which I usually find.  Who said there’s no seating in CM?  I did!  But thats not the case anymore, especially with the selections in this post.  Turkey Burger here is good as well

Creamline Burger

Chirashi Bowl at Lobster Place – Did I mention that Lobster Place has some of the freshest fish in town (see Cull & Pistol)?  As much as I love lobster its usually the last thing on my mind when I’m inside (and not next door).  I get a seat at the Sushi counter and order the same thing every single time, the wonderful Chirashi bowl.  Then I order this at other Sushi places and weep a little.  Last time I got dry rice shaped like a heart.  I will just let the picture do the talking here

Lobster Place Chirashi

Hot Dog at Dickson’s Farmstand.  Hot Dog killed the (previously recommended) Pastrami star.  Instead of paying for a dirty street hot dog, how about spending a few more bucks for a clean naturally raised beef dog.  Or the Mortadella dog that gives me just about the same satisfaction except that its much more twitter friendly.  Mortadella hot dog just looks and sounds much cooler than “Hey look at me, I’m eating a hot dog, that looks like any other hot dog.

Dicksons Mortadella Dog

Hummus at Dizengoff.  The hottest, most anticipated addition to the market since they added another women’s bathroom.  This is a Hummuseria by Michael Solomonov and the rest of the team behind Philly famed Zahav.  Solomonov’s acclaimed hummus has been featured in cookbooks, magazines, children books (“Goodnight Hummus”), and now found its way in section C of Chelsea Market (the hottest section to hit the market since section B!).  Hummus, as fresh as it can get, can be topped with slow cooked lamb neck, egg, tehini, among other seasonal goodies.  You also get a small salad, some pickles, and a wonderfully chewy thick pita bread straight out of the pizza-like oven.  Once you are half way into the hummus, start experimenting with the intense homemade red S’hug sitting on the counter.  And yeah, try sitting at the counter watching the men and women at work

Dizengoff Hummus Dizengoff

Halvah at Seed + Mill.  Raise your hand if you never had Halvah.  Halva is one of those funny trendy items hitting the streets of NYC as of late.  Halvah ice cream, halvah donuts, halvah ramen.  Ok maybe not.  But its funny to me since I’ve been eating Halvah for breakfast with either bagel or fresh baguette for as long as I remember.  And whenever I’m around Seed+Mill it never ceases to amaze me how many people are trying Halvah for the first time, and go “fascinating”, “what a concept”, “who knew”.  Well, we all knew pretty much, but even if you know your Halvah you can try it for free here for yourself.

Seed+Mill4

Gelato at L’Arte del Gelato – This is not your standard, typical NYC gelato or ice cream.  Great raw material like Hazelnuts from the Langhe hills of Piedmont.  This is just about as good as it gets.  And if you always wandered about the difference between ice cream and gelato, this is a good place to see the difference, starting with the way it looks

L'Arte del Gelato

Chocolate Chip Cookie with Caramel at Liddabit  – This is simply an awesome cookie!  Dont believe me?  Just ask my friend Lou who is a self proclaimed cookie snob.  When I brought him the cookie, this is how the conversation went

“So, how do you like it?”

“This is a good cookie!”

See?  What sets it a part for me is not so much the caramel, but the liberal use of dark chocolate chunks all around.

Enjoy Chelsea Market, and remember… stay hungry my friends.  (I dont even know what it means anymore honestly)

Liddabit Cookie

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The Only Three Food Courts You Need to Know About

Gotham West Market - Ivan

Gotham West Market

Pretty much overnight, food courts in NYC went from a concept to “What, another one?  We need another food court like I need a pimple in my tuches”.  Food courts, food halls, semi-annual festivals like Madison Square Eats have become part of us, like bagels, and pizza rats.  It almost seems like a new one opens every week, and one can easily lose track of openings just like with new restaurants these days.  At some point you just stop and ask yourself, how many more Luke Lobsters and Mighty Quinn’s does this city really needs.  Some of them start to look the same, and one of them even invited me for a free tour and tasting.  I get such invites on a weekly basis and its either something I’m not interested in, or in Staten Island.  Ziggy will not be bought.  PERIOD!  Unless you invite me to one of these three.

Chelsea Market

CM is busy, touristy, perhaps the most crowded food hall out there, and I cant get enough of it.  I bike there for lunch more often than some of the places by my work I can walk to.  And, yeah, you guessed it, I dont go there for its history.  The vendor list is incredibly impressive, and for the most part unique to Chelsea Market.  A high quality butcher, An “A” List Taco joint, fresh seafood, top notch gelato, Halvah, and the soon to be best hummus in NYC, Dizengoff, which will open any day now, are just some examples.  Its unlike any market in the world, so comparing it to something like Venice, Barcelona, Mahane Yehuda markets is silly.  Some may even suggest its not much of a market, but a collection of high quality food purveyors, but there’s definitely enough market in it.  In fact one of the things I love about CM is that some of the vendors source their stuff directly from next door.  Cull & Pistol gets their seafood from sister Lobster Place, while Creamline (great turkey burger) gets their meat from Dickson’s Farmstand next door.  If you are a food enthusiast (well. you are reading this blog post) you owe it to yourself to stop by.  But dont do it when you tired or stuffed.  Many tourists just walk the main isle, leave the other door and then ask whats the big deal about this place.  Stay for a little bit, explore, and meet some of the vendors, like Rachel from Seed + Mill.  Tell her Ziggy sent ya.Chelsea Market Los Tacos

Eataly

Yeah, nothing shocking about any of these picks.  Long time readers already know that Ziggy hearts Eataly.  Unlike, say Little Italy, Eataly is super touristy for good reason.  And like Chelsea Market, yes, there’s a good chance that a large Polish man will step on your foot when you least expect.  But do you know who especially likes Eataly, that may come as a surprise?  Italians.  Italians who appreciate quality, and can even find items that are not easily available back home.  Whether we go for a little shopping, Nutella Bar, or have a snack at one of its restaurants, we cant get enough of it.  I usually have a small mental laundry list of stuff that we “need” like Italian craft beer, Venchi chocolates, fresh pasta like the Agnolotti dal Plin, sauces, cookies, and whatever else catches my eye on each visit.  Yes, the stuff is expensive, and I dont shop there on a monthly basis.  But cheaper than this is, well, essentially “Stop and Shop”.  Quality and imports come with a price tag.  Another reason for tourists to come to Eataly is the location.  Your attraction heavy guide book may not tell you that Madison Square Park and its surroundings is a must see, especially during squirrel season.Eataly

Gotham West Market

While I was waiting for my Steak Barbacao bowl at Choza the other day, I bumped into something I dont see very often at GWM… Tourists.  The process of ordering anything at Choza for tourists can be as complicated as our current presidential race, so I was happy to put my Matt Murdock mask on and step in to help.  GWM, simply put, is one of the best things to ever happen in Hell’s Kitchen, and one of its main advantages and what separates it from the pack is that its out of the main tourist route.  Other than the Intrepid nearby I cant think of any reasons why tourists would come here.  Maybe check out our incredible lineup of auto dealerships?  GWM is also a very different food court.  Its compact, with only 8 or so vendors, and it has more of a neighborhood feel than other food courts.  Think of it as one large restaurant with 8 different menus to choose from, where your kids and husbands can run around freely.  You can order something at one vendor and eat it at the counter of the next.  The funky Avroko design of the place may be reason enough to stop by for some, but I personally go for, you know, the food.

Gotham West Market 3

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A Weekend of Firsts: Mogador & Cookshop

Cookshop

Cookshop

We visited two old timer, neighborhood spots for the very first time this weekend, and here’s what happened.

Cafe Mogador (Williamsburg)

Considering the amount of places we visit, it almost feels embarrassing that we never made it to this popular Tagine mecca in East Village or Williamsburg.  Only the couscous gods can explain why it took me so many years, especially considering a well made Tagine is one of my favorite things to eat on this planet.  With that said, now that I’ve finally done it, and made to the schlep to the Burg, I feel like the couscous gods need more explaining to do.

Once inside, its no mistaken that you are in a bustling neighborhood spot in the heart of Williamsburg.  Arm Tattooed hipsters hovering all over, along with arm tattooed hipsters holding arm tattooed babies.  You can tell that these are the coolest babies in the world.  The ones that go to sleep before us.  The quoted 20-30 turned into a closer to an hour, though we didnt mind as the bar was roomy and the drinks were good.  Good Dark and Stormy.

Started with a nice Mixed Platter consisting of an Eggplant & Tahini concoction, an “I cant believe this is not Israeli” Arabic salad, and a surprisingly decent Hummus.  In places like this, the hummus usually lacking the creaminess, and texture that I like.  We also shared a tender tandoor marinated chicken, and a delicious grilled Halloumi cheese.  Unfortunately, and quite shockingly, the fun essentially stopped here.  The famous Tagine, with the choice of apricot & prune was fall off the bone tender and juicy alright, though somewhat one-note and sweeter than should be.  Yes, apricot and prunes are sweet, I get it.  But where are those bold Moroccan spices, the Taginess you bump into from time to time like at Bar Bolonat.  The great Mogador Tagine is widely known for the best Tagine in town (Google it).  This was more like a second place potluck dinner party with friends winner.  The same, albeit, slightly lesser degree can be said about the Couscous dishes which are almost similar to the couscous you get with the Tagine.  I would consider introducing those pearl like bubbly Israeli couscous instead to go a long with the Tagine.  133 Wythe Ave (7/8)IMG_5564

Cookshop (Chelsea)

Yes, I know, I know.  I’ve never been to Cookshop.  Like Cafe Mogador, this is another super popular neighborhood spot, and yeah, I do have some serious hood envy.  But just like with Mogador, I never felt that this is a destination place.  Cookshop is long considered as one of our premier Brunch spots, and now I see why.  40 minutes wait on a Sunday morning, even though the place is kind of huge.  Its so big that the staff, when leaving and entering the kitchen area, is instructed to direct people to the vacant airplane like bathrooms that are in the same vicinity, but not directly next to each other.  A couple of them are essentially in the kitchen.  They can easily hire a bathroom attendant whose job would be to direct traffic while wearing aviation ground headset (its really loud in there) and sticks.

We had some major cooking plans that night courtesy of the Chelsea Market nearby but we did get enough of a taste here.  We started with the Beignets, filled with Di Palo’s fresh ricotta that blended nicely with the dough.  Beignets that NOLA experts may appreciate, though I cant say the same thing about the Bloody Mary.  The kids opted for burgers.  The older opted for a fried egg with hers, which had me shed a little tear.  This is the most important milestone since she tried squid ink pasta in Venice.  The burgers were nicely cooked, though the fries were salty to the point of uneatable.  100 kuddos points for removing the Beignets from the bill after mentioning this to the waitress.

The Baked French Toast here requires more attention than it gets.  It comes with poached blood oranges, and a lovely, cinnamony cream with almonds.  The nutty bread is just rich and sweet enough.  Some of the best French Toasts we’ve had in NYC.  The Roasted Broccoli & Cheddar Scrambled eggs, with caramelized onions and a fantastic supersized buttermilk biscuit was another solid dish, if not a tad too salty as well.  We enjoyed Cookshop overall.  In a way it reminds me of one of those SF Farm-to-Hipsters spots like NOPA, albeit not quite as good.  156 10th Ave (19/20)Cookshop Beignets IMG_5579 Cookshop Burger Cookshop eggs Cookshop flowers

Categories: Brooklyn, Chelsea, New York City | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Seed + Mill + Chelsea Market = Mahane Yehuda

Seed+MillOk, not exactly!  But inching a little closer.  Raise your hand if you get the title.

One of my fondest food trips ever was a two week falafel/hummus/shawarma extravaganza all over Israel about three years ago.  And one of the many memorable eats on that trip was the Halvah from the Halvah Kingdom, a long time staple in the famed Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem.  Its quite a sight.  A grown man wearing a crown standing in the middle of the market, handing out free samples.  If there was ever a free sample that works like magic, this was it.  The Halvah had a kind of softness and freshness to it that I’ve never had before.  And the amount of various flavored Halvah on display was impressive in itself.  We bought some for the hotel, and enjoyed it on a daily basis with our Shoko, chocolate milk in a bag (you make a very small hole with your teeth in order for it to last for a while – its that good).  I always wondered why we cant get the same type of Halvah here in NYC, and further research pointed to the challenges involved in making it, which doesnt quite coincide with demand.

So you probably heard the shrieks of New Yorker Jews when it was announced that the Chelsea Market will have a new tenant specializing in Halvah and other sesame seed (Seed+Mill, get it?) related goodies.  Over a dozen gorgeous Halvas line up Bunny Ranch style waiting for you to pick and taste.  Dark Chocolate, Coffee, Nougat, Cinnamon, Pistachios, Cranberry are some of the flavors on display.  Nougat gets the edge for me, but I’d urge you to try the others.  You can buy them at $6 per quarter pound, to go, or simply eat it right there by the giant windows on the side.  Who said there are no seats at Chelsea Market?  I did.  Many times.  But they exist.  You can also try the Halvah on their awesomely fresh goat milk ice cream.

Passionate part owner Rachel from Chelsea via Australia knows all about the Mahane Yehuda phenomenon.  She tells me the Halvah is made in Israel based on their specifications, and they are looking to expend on the flavors as they go along.  They also sell Tehina, and spices created in conjunction with spice guru Lior Lev Sercarz at La Boîte.  It’s a modest, somewhat hidden counter for now, but with big plans in store.  Its just a matter of time until Rachel gets out to the main hallway, wearing a giant crown.

Seed + Mill (Chelsea Market)

Seed+Mill2 Seed+Mill3 Seed+Mill4

Mahane Yehuda

Mahane Yehuda

Categories: Chelsea, New York City | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

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