East Village

Madame Vo – Real Vietnamese Housewives of East Village

Madame VoThis post was supposed to be about the other housewife, from Hanoi.  Both Madame and Hanoi House opened in East Village around the same time earlier this year, pretty much turning the Vietnamese scene in East Village upside down.  Both heavily reviewed by local media, sometimes even together.  Early consensus indicated Hanoi to be the slightly more serious contender of the two, so I set my sight on the hot looking Madame on St Marks.  We had a little fling.  A little fun with the Bun Cha if you will, and the always dependable Beerlao (which both have).  But it felt like I wanted more… Trout!  There’s this great looking whole trout on the Hanoi menu, setting the anticipation for round #2.

But it never arrived.  Well, not yet at least.  The culprit?  A Jewish theater!  You see I always wanted to see a movie in Village East Cinema, a converted movie theater that was once a Jewish theater.  One of the remains from the old Yiddish Rialto days when some two dozen Yiddish theaters spread along 2nd ave.  I visited the theater over 100 times during my East Village tours but havent actually watched a movie there.  And while the two Vietnamese hotties are not exactly miles apart, Madame Vo’s location made more sense this time.  Besides, I was intrigued.

Madame Vo feels a bit more Madamish and less East Villagy than Hanoi House.  In fact next to Vo, Hanoi feels like Trashy Debby.  I am however attracted to both kinds.  But especially to the one with the chutzpah to put a beautiful mural of herself (presumably, but looks very similar) in the front.  Who does that?  Imagine Ivan Orkin mural in front of Ivan Ramen.

Madame Vo Ginger Chicken

And as for the menu, just like with any Nevada bunny ranch this is the kind of lineup that makes you want to order more than you can handle.  After three visits so far, I feel the emphasis should be on the mains.  Its a spring roll heavy lineup early on that is uninspiring when compared to the rest of the menu.  And that is broken into noodles and rice, where the latter may just mean that it comes with it.

Chao Gio – Spring rolls as satisfactory as spring rolls can get.  These were stuffed with shrimp, crab and pork, with the shrimp taking the lead role

Banh Xeo – This is the one dish I didnt quite get.  Crepes filled with bean sprouts, shrimp, pork belly and more bean sprouts.  Some of the pork was more edible than others, and the dish overall required a heavy dose of the table condiments (Hoisin, Sriracha).  I was instructed to make lettuce tacos with these as I often do in Vietnamese places but the flavors were just not there

Garlic Noodles.  This dish has a few things going for it including the robust garlicky flavors, and the easy to remember English name.

Bo Lu Lac –  No english here, but this dish does speak the universal language of delicious. Rib eye cubes with fried egg come sizzling and oh so perfectly spiced and juiced.  This one is a must.Madma Vo steak

Ga Kho Gung – This is another big winner here.  Delicious white chicken meat cubes infused with Ginger arriving in a clay pot that keeps the heat and juices intact.  Loved picking those scallions off that thing

Goi Cuon – “Summer rolls with shrimp, vermicelli, lettuce and mint” according to the menu.  “Lettuce rolls” according to Ziggy.  Thats all I tasted

Mama Ly’s Fried Rice – A good if not standard fried rice.  A bit on the sweet side for my taste.  Table Sriracha to the rescue again.

Its odd that this reviewer did not try the signature Pho during his three visits, but during the summer heat he starts sweating just by being in the same room as one.  But all accounts indicate that this is a very proper rendition.  Another big plus, worthy of rounding up to two stars (from 1.75) is the fact that Vo’s dinner items are available for lunch as well, in addition to the lunch specials.

Madame Vo
212 E 10th St, East Village
Rating: Two Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that
Recommended Dishes: Garlic Noodles, Bo lu Lac, Ga Kho Gung

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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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Not Your Grandpa’s N’eat

N'eat Short RibIts fun to watch the hype machine in play in NYC, and see how things develop.  While I read all the Hot and Buzz lists out there as everyone else, I learned over time sometimes the hard way, that things are not always what they seem.  A name and/or a little bit of money, at minimum $3000 is needed to market yourself as such.  An alum of something good in the world… Noma, EMP, Contra, tickles your interest, with a picture of something beautiful that is cooked for two weeks straight, seals the deal.  “Brian is a recent graduate of Betty’s school of Hospitality and Accounting” is not gonna be nearly as sexy.

Nordic eatery N’eat opened last November in East Village with that kind of buzz.  I walked by it many times, and watched the menu develop and eventually redesigned.   The initial buzz apparently was just that, as reserving now for a prime time table is as easy as getting a table at your local Chipotle.  Whats wrong with this place!?!  What do the village people know that I dont.  You cant get too comfortable reserving tables in NYC these days.  Its either too hard, or you secretly wish for a little harder.  Thats what she said.  I mean my dining companion.  She said that.  And she’s right.

N’eat is casual, quirky fine dining.  The bathroom is blasting Ali vs Frazier in case you missed it.  80’s music includes stuff you dont normally hear, just when you thought you got it pretty much covered.  Wait staff is “East Village Fun” as opposed to “EV hipster, help I’m stuck here”.  When the waiter said  “Still or sparkling, and by still I mean tap”, a small tear came out of my good eye… only to quickly disappear with the usual comical “dishes are meant for sharing”.  Advice as useful these days as “Dishes here are meant for eating”.  A young Filipino female chef, an Atera, and other heavyweights veteran, at the helm.  While its still owned by the same folks including Noma veteran Gabriel Hedlund, something tells me this is no longer the same n’eat, even though it opened just 6 months ago.  So if Grandpa happened to eat here 3 months ago, he needs to…  Ok, I’m trying here.

“Æbleskiver” (say that one time), a Nordic snack usually eaten during Christmas, was a nice little starter.  Like a mini beignet stuffed with braised duck.  The accompanied Lingonberries sauce was just the right delicate compliment.  Enjoyed the Buckwheat toast with Cremini mushroom and fluffy, shredded, Halvah-like Cheddar.  Truffle salt sealed the deal for the brain on this one.

Sunchokes was perfectly cooked into a meaty potato like consistency, served as is with a nice tasting foam.  Foam was fairly prevalent throughout the meal.  While I admire foam as much as the next guy, at some point we were wishing for some veggie texture.  Though the Duck heart tartar had plenty of texture and flavor.  Loaded with chives, chive flowers that blossom one month of the year, fermented mushrooms, chili, and dried rice.  While very different it was an homage of sorts to the Filipino Sisig.  By far the spiciest tartar I ever hadN'eat Duck heart Tartare

Arctic Char came very rare, with just foam and some trout roe. This is where we started missing those veggies.  It was good, but rather forgettable.  Short rib, the most expensive item on the menu was perfectly cooked, most likely slowly sous vided.  The glaze on top was on the sweet side, and the ultra lean short rib you could cut with a toothpick.  It came with a bone marrow and two spreads including fermented onion puree and pepper butter.  Combining the two gave the best results.

N’eat is borderline Nyet.  Its one of those solid two stars that I dont quite see me returning.  I cant really fault anything or any dish other the uniformity of it all.  Yet nothing blew my mind, and the menu featured didnt scream unfinished business.  Neat is a bordeline But I do appreciate the uniqueness and recommend you to try at least once.

N’eat
58 2nd Ave (3/4), East Village
Rating: Two Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that.
Recommended Dishes: Æbleskiver, Buckwheat toast, Duck heart tartar, Short ribN'eat Sunchokes

N'eat Arctic Char

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Introducing EWZ Tours

img_7142-1Some tours developments for ya…

We have a name, a website, and the least attractive attractions on TripAdvisor (meaning the guide, not the experience)

The three tours are shaping up quite nicely.  I’ve made some changes to all three already and quite satisfied with all the routes.  I’m fairly booked for the holiday season, but not so much after January 3rd.  Yes, I’m doing the walking tours throughout the winter

I think the most painful part of this whole process was coming up with the name.  Eating With Ziggy Tours ultimately beat Angry Panda, Touring With Ziggy, and Hungry Penguin.  I was all set on the last one, but no one liked it.  Touring With Ziggy was the natural progression, but then the expectations of Drinking With Ziggy, and Sleeping with Ziggy would follow.  I would have already gotten a review on the last one, and I’m afraid it’s not good

It took about 6 weeks but we are finally on Trip Advisor, and Facebook.  On Instagram which I finally joined in the summer, I’m “EatingWithZiggy”, and on Twitter I’m still good ol’ Ziggy601

In order to get on TA, I had to quickly create a dedicated site which I’m still working on https://eatingwithziggytours.com/

Why East Village

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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

Categories: Brooklyn, Chelsea, Chinatown, East Village, Midtown West, New York City | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

East Village Starting Location Changed

Just a heads up.  As much fun as it was playing Amazing Race, I have to change the meetup location of the East Village Tours.  The old location 51 Astor Place proved to be too confusing, especially when I discovered the arrow on the actual meetup building, 30 feet from the location, sends people to Broadway.  The new location is nearby, also on Astor Place, but much less confusing.  I think…

 

New Location:  26 Astor Pl, in front of Chase Bank.  http://tinyurl.com/hv8478g

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More About the East Village Food Tour

img_4226To describe East Village is like trying to describe our presidential race.  One of a kind bizarre, full of characters, twists and turns, and an extremely complicated history.  In some ways East Village reminds me of Sicily.  A long history of invasions of different peoples, cultures, and a lot of pain.  Like Sicily, seeing it is like seeing layers of paint.  And watching that paint while munching on an Israeli Bourekas, Philipino Lumpia, or a Xi’an spicy chicken wing is like… “Making watch paint great again!”  Or something like that.

Like the Hell’s Kitchen food tour, no tour will be the same.  We will have a few sit downs in some carefully selected spots that will differ from tour to tour.  Some of them I’ve been enjoying for years, while some discovered recently.  Unlike other food tours where strategic deals are made with the establishments regardless of quality, quality comes first. (oh boy, I’m starting to sound like Crazy Eddy)

img_4469While one may question the validity of Hell’s Kitchen being a hot food neighborhood (historically it hasnt been), you wont hear similar arguments about East Village.  Its arguably the best food neighborhood on the east coast.  Its not only extremely diverse, but well represented in any “Best Of” discussion.  From soup dumplings (Xiaolongbao) to BBQ ribs, to tacos.

We will pass by some important sights that helped shape the neighborhood and really NYC overall.  Plenty of history and photo opportunities

We will follow the Mosaic Trail.

You will hear stories that will bring the area to life.  Stories and events that even most New Yorkers arent aware of.  Some involve celebrities living in the East Village.

img_4396Small, private groups (up to 5 people) will enable you to experience the neighborhood like no large groups can.  I dont even need a microphone nor a pole with a chicken attached to it.  The only chickens you may see will be on skewers.

The timing of the tour 2-6 allows me to introduce you to some of these places and people in a more comfortable, relaxing pace, avoiding the crowds of lunch and dinner.  I try to finish by 6, although sometimes we have some fun and stay a little longer.  If you have a show to catch however, you will not have a problem.

$60 per person (for now)

Meet at 11:00 am at 26 Astor Pl, in front of Chase Bank.  http://tinyurl.com/hv8478g

For any inquiries and availability email EatingWithZiggy@gmail.com
img_4401img_4461img_4222

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Timna – Chutzpah Nation

Timna Octopus

March 26, 2017 Update:

At Tompkins Square Park, just east of Timna, there’s a Temperance fountain, constructed in late 19th century to help locals with their alcohol self restrain.  Drink water, avoid booze.  Sounds easy enough.  A primarily German neighborhood did all it could to maintain the legacy, up until the prohibition.  Today the park is surrounded by bars!

No such temperance, self restrain luck with Timna’s new spring menu however.  Dish after dish of dazzling combinations between the newcomers and the old heavyweights like the Kubaneh and Octopus, testing my self control and wallet.  Like a fat kid in a candy story, I want to eat all you got, now!

Perhaps if fat kids would eat cauliflower like this, the world would be a healthier place.  At Israeli establishments we are attracted to Cauliflower like Trump to Twitter.  But it was the cured tuna Sashimi that stole the show yet again early on with all its visuals, textures and flavors.  There was melt in your fork short rib with even better mushroom, and cheesy gnocchi done Roman style (Semolina).

The mains sealed the rare triple Z rating.  Legendary octopus whisperer Nir Mesika dishes out killa Octopus which I already discussed in great length here and below.  But on this night a new dish stole the show.  Two hefty fillets of marvelously cooked Striped Bass with Israeli couscous (aka Pearl Couscous invented for the digestive challenged David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first Prime Minister). I’ve been to places where one such fillet made the entire dish for the same price.  Mesika feeds his diners like his children.

Chutzpah Nation is clicking on all cylinders.  A full house of the young and the restless meant we belong alright, albeit texting was required sometimes to communicate.  My dish descriptions dont describe very well in this case.  There’s an art form to the way Mesika assembles each plate, with the goal to accommodate all senses.  We havent run into many chefs with this style.  From such a small kitchen come this ingredient heavy plating.  Not every bite is the same, and in some cases you even scavenge hunt.  Oooh, a raisin, I found a raisin!  Lets look for another one.  Mrs Z and I make our own fun!

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June 22, 2016 Post:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Timna
109 St Marks Pl (1st/A)
Rating: Three Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that.
Recommended Dishes: Kubaneh, Cauliflower, Mediterranean Sashimi, Octopus, Fish, Shakshuka (brunch), Burger (brunch)

Timna Salatim Timna Masabacha Timna Burger Timna

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Ssam Bar – Come for Buns, Stay for the Porgy

Ssam Bar PorgyServers have a tough job.  We learn more and more the more we dine.  For example, ever wonder when servers are asked “what’s good here”, they often stumble or tell you to get the most expensive dish.  The correct answer is actually the stumble, usually indicative of the “if its not good, it wouldnt be on the menu”.  But often enough, the best dish is in fact its most expensive.  Whether its the use of expensive ingredients, popularity, labor intensive, the reasons are numerous.  Servers are not stupid.  They already know all about the “Oh, he’s probably saying that to get a bigger tip”, and all the rest of them.  Which is yet another reason for the hesitations

At the last meal at Momofuku Ssam Bar I didnt ask the server “what’s good here” because I already had a good idea from previous visits, and Chowhound chatter.  The only questions I asked the server centered around the most expensive dish, the whole boneless Porgy.  “How were the bones removed”, “What’s in the green sauce”, “where did the Porgy come from”, “What was his name”.  An instant classic that blew us away like no other whole fish before.

This Long Island sound Porgy shows up in all her glory, with head and teeth and all.  Except for the main bone that was surgically removed.  The fish is dressed with the momofuku signature ginger scallion sauce which made Mrs Z take note.  One bite, and you can tell this is not your average grilled branzino.  Another bite and its an entire Havah Nagilla rendition in your mouth.  By the 5th bite, you want to run around with scissors, naked.  And then at around the 5th inning, you feel you must try the accompanied lettuce, and tortillas to make fish wraps.  You experiment by adding some pickled bean sprouts, some cabbage, and creme fraiche, and you are suddenly the world’s greatest fish taco maker.  The fish comes with all these goodies in “Ssam” style (“Ssam” essentially means everything  you need to make wraps)Ssam Bar Buns

The Porgy and the rest of the meal help cement this one, not only as part the Z-List, but as one of my favorite restaurants in NYC.  Maybe top 5.   The signature steamed buns are perhaps better then Ippudo’s me thinks now (making a historic change of mind).  The spicy sausage with rice cakes is another signature that continues to please.  The spring menu featuring the scrumptious Broccolini with thinly sliced beef tongue and egg is adds more joy.  The Porgy is $42 but can easily feed two.  Add the rice cakes, pork buns, Broccolini, and you got yourself a great meal for under $150.  The only forgettable dish this time was the Octopus salad.  No much wrong there, just average octopus

The only thing I have to mention here is that Ssam Bar will not win any comfort awards, especially if you are two people.  You will sit at a long communal table either facing workers cleaning glasses or facing each other next to other diners.  And oooh boy the place can get loud.  But we are in it for the food, and as long as no one is poking me or runs around naked with scissors, we’ll keep coming for that Porgy

Momofuku Ssäm Bar
207 2nd Ave
$$$Ssam Bar broccolini Ssam Bar

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Harry & Ida’s – Meet our New Pastrami King

Harry & Ida's PastramiA lot of excitement lately centered around the pope’s visit to America and NYC.  For the past few days, he cruised central park and 5th avenue, met with our leaders, played with children in Harlem, and crowned our new Pastrami king in Alphabet City.  Ok, I’m not too sure about the last one, but that’s what I hear from my sources, Michael and Gabriel.  Either way, Harry and Ida’s deserves the title.  For too long Katz’s was at the helm doing a magnificent job satisfying tourists and locals alike, about 10 minutes from Harry & Ida’s.  Though H&I is not really replacing Katz’s any time soon.  Its the size of a shoe repair store without any tables, and a small counter by the entrance can accommodate about three food photographers.

When you first walk inside Harry & Ida’s for the first, you essentially sign a contract for life, or the duration of the place whichever ends sooner.  You are asked two simple but lethal questions.  “Have you been here before”, and “Would you like to taste some Pastrami”.  Yes, I suppose that if you are a vegetarian you may throw up a little bit inside at the thought, but as for the rest of us, its a point of no return.  You get two hefty, juicy pieces, far from your average deli sample.  One bite and…done, contract is signed, “One pastrami sandwich please”.  I invite the owners/manager to comment here please, and tell us if anyone ever left without getting more.  It doesn’t seem like its scientifically possible.

downloadThe pastrami sandwich is not very pretty looking at first glance, especially to pastrami purists like me.  It has dill, and cucumbers, and more importantly it has dill. WTF?  With that said, lets pause for a sec for a bathroom break, and a tip…

EWZ Tip:  If you come across a sandwich in NYC that has dill in it, its not a sign of a good sandwich, its a sign of a GREAT sandwich.  Dill is one of the ugliest things you can put inside a sandwich, and a sure bet to scare some people away.  But dill adds a nice flavor and aroma, and is specially complimentary in the summer, and over fish like salmon.  And partially due to that ugliness, its normally a sign of great craftsmanship.  “I don’t give a hoot about popular public opinion, I’m doing it my way”

The sandwich in a word is Maaaaarvelous (For my friends at Turks and Caicos who are smiling at this spelling).  It looks ugly at first, but after a few bites, it looks like the prettiest sandwich on the planet.  Thick, plentiful, tender, perfectly spiced slices can convert any purists out there.  One of the most delicious sandwiches I ever had in NYC, and I’ve had many.

These guys are no strangers to the art of smoked meats.  This is the sibling duo behind Ducks Eatery which I first tried a few years back at the Grub Street Food Festival.  Harry and Ida are their great grandparents who inspired this masterpiece.  There are more reasons to go back.  Like the much talked about hot dog, or the smoked eel.  But if they ask me that second question again, “would you like to try our pastrami”, how can I?

Harry & Ida’s Meat and Supply Co.
189 Avenue A (East 11/12)
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