Gramercy, Flatiron

Bouley at Home – The Sound of Silence

Bouley at Home5 hours after the meal

We went to a high school award show where about 100 students receive various awards and scholarships.  Behind me was a rather large burly fella, I think, I never actually got a good look but tried very hard.  For the first 15 minutes I was oblivious to the applause in the auditorium until I realized that the person behind me was clapping a little too hard.  At first I tried not pay attention, but things only got worse.  First came the hope, that his hands will hurt and tire eventually.  He never did.  Then came the interviews, where I asked both my neighbors, who I know, if it bothers them.  I figured maybe its just me getting old, adding yet another sound to the growing list of annoyances like bones cracking, or the bird doing the Hava Nagila-like mating call every morning.  Someone needs to either fu@%$k or kill that thing soon.  But both my neighbors agreed that the clapping was loud.

There were about 100 students getting awards that night.  Each student received two sets of applause (when he/she gets on stage, and comes out).  And some receive special awards, adding to a total of 300 applause moments during the two hour ceremony.  At some point I thought I could perhaps ease the pain by envisioning a Seinfeld episode about this.  George experiences the same thing twice with the same dude sitting behind him in two different events.  It bothered George.  He then discusses the mad clapper with Seinfeld and crew, getting blisters while trying to demonstrate.  George then spots the Mad Clapper randomly walking, then proceeds to follow him to wherever he was walking, which turns out to be his granddaughter’s kindergarten play.  He then makes sure to sit behind him clapping so hard, the blisters pop and he starts to bleed and separates his shoulder, much to the horror of some of the kids who started to cry and went to their parents.  At the end he realizes the Mad Clapper is deaf

Two hours before the meal

“David Bowie Is” at the Brooklyn Museum – Crowded!  Silent but crowded.

The Meal

It was hard to imagine while walking on 21st st that somewhere inside all of this craziness awaits tranquility.  But there it was, a spacious multi room ‘Home’ to Bouley’s latest concept.  We sat in the room on the right, which I can only describe as a large library room without the library.  There was peace and there was quiet, rarely seen or heard in NYC.  Bouley himself was my closest neighbor sharing a table with a reporter, and I couldnt hear him, or even clearly see him (I was told that was him).  There were the occasion gentle kitchen sounds and chatter from the test kitchen behind me (I think our room is called the Test Kitchen room, not Library without a Library room.  Although I sort of like the latter and I dont like to feel like I’m part of an experiment).

I wont go into much detail about the 5 course lunch except to say that it was very good.  However I liked the whole experience more than Mrs Z who expected more refined service and food for the price (after tax/tip $100 per).  The standouts came early with the outstanding Oysters, and Porcini Flan.  Three Oysters dressed with lemony mousse like “cloud”, salmon roe and caviar delivering exquisite flavors when combined.  “Porcini Flan” was a delicious earthy soup featuring Alaskan Dungeness Crab, and Black Truffle Dashi.  Mrs Z’s Eggplant Terrine, and egg, ham, polenta dish werent as exciting but very good nonetheless.  Eggs and black truffles heavily featured on the menu.  For mains we both preferred the slowly braised Beef Cheeks with Black Kale Gnocchi over the chicken.  Desserts were lite, serviceable but forgettable compared to the rest.

5 days after the meal – The doctor recommended a white noise device to combat the ringing in the ear to help me sleep.  I think he was secretly taking notes while I recited the Seinfeld episode so let this post serve as legal proof.

Bouley at Home
31 W 21st St (5/6), Flatiron
Rating: 2.5 Zs (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that
Recommended Dishes: Porcini flan, Oysters, Beef Cheeks

 

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Cote – Korean Meat Erotica in the Flatiron

Cote FeastWhat do you give a girl that has everything?  What do you give a city that has everything?  The answer to both is Steak!  Its hard to go wrong with steak.  But Simon Kim of the Michelin Starred Italianish Piora just upped the ante.  Instead of opening just another steakhouse or just another Korean, or Korean BBQ, he created a new concept, a Korean Steakhouse.  Elevated Korean BBQ in a modern, sexy setting in Flatiron.

Its food porn, with a slight emphasis on the latter in this case, “porn”.  It starts as soon as you walk in and settle in the bar, and kicks up a notch when you go down to the basement.  You cant help but stare at the aging steak hanging in the red lit room behind the glass while listening to the soft porn jazz in the background.  Its the meat lover red light district.  The theme continues upstairs where you are presented with the said meat by a team of sharp looking Chippendales.

The bottom line in this post (recommended dishes) is a single item: Butcher’s Feast.  Four very different cuts cooked right in front of you, accompanied by a plethora of Banchan – side dishes.  I would like to meet the people that reported leaving hungry after ordering the feast.  The waiter starts us off with the aged Ribeye that comes with its cap dangling.  The cap, the Ron Jeremy of meats, the least appetizing meat out there, which is why you rarely see it anywhere.  But its arguably the best tasting part of the cow.  Bowery Meat Company in the Bowery uses only cap to for its infamous Bowery Steak, one of the most expensive hockey puck meats in NYC.Cote Meat

The feast continues with the Hanger, followed by a well marbled Wagyu Flatiron (when in Flatiron..), and Galbi, as the “meat dessert”.  Galbi is short rib marinated with soy and sugar.  A curious but logical finisher to the meat course.  By that point of the meal, the entire family flipping those meats like the pros that we are.  Three days later, the oldest makes her first egg over easy.  A week later, our kitchen is in desperate need of a paint job.

It was difficult to keep track of the accompanied sides in this one.  The egg souffle was a particular winner, along with the funky preserved Korean Perilla Leaves.  And I could happily dip my car keys in that spicy Ssamjang sauce if they let me, once we are done with the meat.  Then came the stews, the lettuce, the rice, and the question…  Did I really need to order that Kimchi Wagyu “Paella”.  A fine $28 dish that can easily lose itself in the shuffle, and not all that necessary if you get the Feast.  The feast ends with soft serve which I estimated will please 98.4% of patrons

Simon created something trendy and cool that even the trendy and cool haters can appreciate.  I suppose some traditional steak lovers may find fault with the execution.  And I suppose Korean BBQ aficionados may find issues with the delivery or pricing.  But for the rest of us, this is culinary entertainment at its finest.

Cote
16 W 22nd St (5/6), Flatiron
Rating: Three Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that
Recommended Dishes: Butcher’s FeastCote Meat room

Cote

Eater

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Nur – Adoni Hagadol

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nur ChallahNur Damascus QutayefNur Date doughnutsNur LambNur Sea Bass

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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

 

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Ulivo – Meet the Widow Maker

ulivo-widow-makerAlthough I made reservations at Ulivo a few weeks ago, it wasnt until the day before when I finally accepted the difficult fact that may change Xmas for us forever.  On this Xmas eve the Ziggy family will not eat Chinese food.  Shocking, I know.  It was mainly due to the following factors:  I’ve been blessing myself with way too much Chinese food as of late (I’ve been to the new Chaan Teng in Hell’s Kitchen three times in the past 2 weeks).  We havent had a big family Italian meal pretty much since Sicily (although I’ve been desperately trying to return to Lilia with no avail).

But the main reason for my visit is to finally have a proper meal at Mercato’s vivacious sister Ulivo.  I vowed to bring the family since I first tried it in the summer.  Besides, half a year after opening is the best time to go, after the establishment figures out what works and what doesnt.  This is also why I rather take 10 recent Yelp reviews as opposed to one NYT review two year ago, right after the place opened.

But Ulivo’s main focus from day uno, its bread and butter or EVOO if you will, is the stuff that comes out from the machine pictured above.  I got an Espresso Maker as a holiday gift which I appreciate dont get me wrong.  But I do have a special room in the house that I keep vacant for that one special something.  Its nicely decorated with a blue and sailor motif.  And when I show the house I often get a “Oh, is it for a future boy in your life”, “Kind of.  Its for my Pasta machine”.  I dubbed this one the Widow Maker because I know that would be the end of me (in a very good way) once I get my hands on one of these.  Its the creme de la creme of pasta machines.  So not surprisingly Ulivo’s 12 fresh and 2 dry pastas mask much of the menu.  Though the two dry ones are not exactly the forgotten Jonas brothers.

I know those guys.  I know them from my many visits to Mercato.  They dont look to sensationalize or wow with ingredient combinations that make the “Hot Lists” or Instagram.  Although they were close with the now more subdued pasta with crab.  They just want to continue making regional, mostly southern, dishes with the best ingredients possibly.  They dont just want to attract locals and visitors, but also Italian expats seeking homeland flavors.  They are not shy to incorporate some ingredients like Bottarga (fish roe) and anchovies that some may find too strong.  And as is the case in the south and the islands (Sicily, Sardinia), fresh tomato sauce is a key ingredient.  Here’s what we ate…

*** Dark, hurried iPhone photos Alert***

Potato and Prosciutto Croquettes, Arancini.  Special app that evening.  This was an excellent starter, in particular the croquettes.  What a difference some Prosciutto make.  A nice little ode to Sicilian street snacks

ulivo-salumiSalumi and Formaggi.  Solid all around.  Properly sliced Bolognese Mortadella. Culatello from Zibello which is not commonly found in NYC.  Sopressata without that Sopressata funk that I dislike sometimes.  Silky smooth Burrata, along with other aged cheeses that fill your mouth with nutty goodness.

Polpo – This is where things begin to get interesting.  What looked like an entire smallish Portuguese Octopus, lightly fried, bathed in an addictive spicy puree of Fava ‘nduja.

Busiate – One of the only places in NYC where you can find real Busiate imported from Sicily.  They keep it simple here just like in just about every Trattoria in Trapani.  Pesto made with almonds, fresh tomato, basil, and garlic.  Similar in a way to the Trenette in Mercato.  As much as I wish to see a more elaborate Busiate (eggplant, swordfish, pistachios, etc), I do get that its very hard to get the proper ingredient here, especially fresh swordfish.

Schiaffoni – This is the pasta with crab that made my best pasta list, although its a little more subdued now as its missing much of the crab. I had a feeling that may happen as eating it was a messy affair, but they may have other reasons.  You still have a few claws and the terrific crab flavor of the Paccheri-like pasta, but wife wasnt a fan.

Paccheri – A special that night with lamb ragu and tomatoes.  No complaints here.

Gnocchi – This is Ricotta Gnocchi.  Small, potent cubes topped with a veal Ragu. Full of flavor, just like the meaty Gnocchi in Mercato

Dessert – After a meal this rich, a nice proper Tiramisu fits the bill, and this version is as solid and light as it gets.  Though for something richer you may opt for the pictured Chocolaty Ricotta Tortino.

This is another solid option in the increasingly posh hotel district NoMad.  The main difference with this one is the lack of coverage which makes it easier to reserve even on a Saturday night.  This why you need Uncle Ziggy!

Ulivo
4 W 28th St (5/6) NoMad/Flatiron
Rating: Two Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that
Recommended Dishes: Salumi, Polpo, Busiate, Schiaffoni, Gnocchi, Tiramisu

ulivo-gnocchiulivo-busiateulivo-ricotta-tortino

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Atoboy – Helping Make NoMad Great Again

atoboy-atoboy-2The Schnied is over.  I finally made it to Atoboy, and I finally ate something worthy of more than one Z (stars).  Friends parties, family events, the dog ate my schedule, are just some of the reasons I had to cancel Atoboy about 5 times.  At some point it became a joke, and at another point a curse I thought perhaps I should not be tempered with.  I tempered!  The constant barrage of food porn by an army of Instagrammers kept the plans intact, but it took me a few good months to finally make it.

Atoboy is the newest Korean bad boy in the NoMad, an area that started to feel somewhat stale as of late (New Mercato sibling Ulivo will be next to check out).  A Jungsik alum introduced a whimsical menu of Korean Banchan, small tapas like dishes.  A set price of $36 allows you to choose one dish from three sections. One can add more a la carte ($9, $12, $15 respectfully) and dessert which I recommend here.  Decor as you can see is Industrial Bushwick Chic.  I totally made that up, but you bought it admit it.  Not something you normally see in the increasingly elegant purse-bench filled NoMad hotel zone

atoboy-tartareA friendly waitress guided us well throughout.  Only issue is something that haunts us in just about every tapas like joint, but got elevated here.  A constant flow of arriving dishes.  You eat non stop here, and within an hour you are pretty much done.  For $160 for two that included tip/tax, two Gruners, two desserts, an extra small plate, and $2 upgrade to seasoned rice (yes!), I was expecting to linger a little longer with my date.  I will break the food by rounds, and list my favorites at the end as well

First round – We ordered an extra dish here, the Cobia, served raw, finely diced and mixed with Korean pear, hockey puck tartare style.  Nice combination of textures and flavors.  The least exciting of the early three was surprisingly the heavily Instagrammed beef tartare, a Korean style tartare, thinly sliced strips instead of finely chopped which is my preference.  The “Eggplant “on first glance looked like a babaganoush gone horribly wrong, but resulted in the best dish early on by far.  A spoonful of the layers of eggplant, Dungeness crab and tomato jelly led by that smoky eggplant was pure ecstasyatoboy-sunchoke

Second round – I was a little bored with the “Egg” with Sea urchin, Watercress, Quinoa.  The egg white was in charge throughout and needed something more.  Far cry from a similar egg dish at the NoMad (not fair I know) nearby.  The meaty Jerusalem Sunchoke was more like it, with Oyster mushroom, Black truffles, and Orange.  One of the better dishes of the night

Third round – Fried chicken tempura style with peanut sauce featured a good amount of tender, juicy, delicious meat.  Looks greasier than it actually is.  Mrs Z wasnt as much of a fan though to be fair.  The Brisket with Foie gras infused gravy and more Oyster mushroom looked and tasted like a sick meat stew.  A solid dish, but one of those where the main ingredient (unevenly tender meat cubes) is the least exciting thing there.  Love the garlic chips, the sauce, the mushrooms, and once I started dipping the mushrooms from the Sunchoke dish, I almost wet myself.  From the sauce that is.atoboy-chicken

Dessert.  A tale of two desserts. Panna Cotta with frozen pomegranate was outstanding.  Its all about the cookie crumble in the middle tying everything nicely together.  Black Raspberry Cake was just like a fine pretty cake you get at your corner pastry shop.  Should have tried the Granita with walnuts and burrata.  Go!

Atoboy
43 E 28th St (Madison/Park)
Rating: Two Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that
Recommended Dishes: Cobia, Eggplant, Sunchoke, Chicken, Brisket, Panna Cota

atoboy-cobia atoboy-eggplant atoboy-various atoboy-brisketatoboy-desert atoboy

 

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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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Hanjan – Plan B Gets an A

House of Hao’s

It was one of those wildly premature excitements we experienced when we pulled over at 8 pm Saturday in front of 2 week old Nishi.  No line, on the worst time possible to visit the hottest restaurant on the east coast right now.  “Its gonna be about 10 or so” he says, “Oh, 10 minutes?  thats great” “No, I mean we can sit you at 10!  But its most likely gonna be 10:30”.  They just began a texting service… well whoop dee freakin doo.  Thats about 90 minutes more than I’m willing to wait with a kid.  Strong plan B it is.

Something tells me the great Hooni Kim doesnt mind the plan B tag here considering plan A was the latest David Chang (Momofuku) venture that is taking the city by the Chaloopas.  To give you an idea, the buzz on Nishi started before there was even any sign of a Nishi or anything else really.  No one knew what its gonna be.  The buzz started when Momofuku took on a lease on the space in Chelsea.  Z-List winner Jun-Men Ramen was another plan B contender since Mrs Ziggy still hasnt been (I’ve been 4 times).  But after flirting with Danji about a dozen times, I figured it was time to check out its younger sister, who coincidentally also keeps her goodies in her drawers!Hanjan

Hanjan, albeit newer, is more rustic and casual than Danji.  Communal table in the middle flanked by rows of individual tables with semi comfortable couches (chairs are more comfy), with dim lighting (I think its about time restaurants create blogger/vision impaired spots with ample lighting) contribute to the fun vibe.  As with Danji, the focus is on locally sourced, sustainable seasonal ingredients from local farms.  As I’ve been saying for a while, Farm-to-Table is a funny concept considering there are so many places doing the same thing but not billing themselves as such.  Any good ingredient driven establishment like Danji, Hanjan, and many all over town are essentially Farm-to-Table.  But I have zero issues with those places like The Marshal that call themselves as such to separate from the competitors nearby

Hanjan DumplingsStarted this one with a bang.  Kim’s take on Ddukbokki, Spicy Rice cake w. Pork Fat and fishcakes.  I thought I’ve had all the various shapes and textures of Korean/Chinese rice cakes but I guess I was wrong.  This one was “meatier”, chewier texture smothered with that classic intense Korean hot, sour, sweet chili sauce.  Very good and Mrs Z, and youngest favorite of the night, though I still prefer the Gnocchi like porkiness of Ssam Bar which is in a league of its own (yet another disagreement with these guys).  Pork and shrimp fried dumplings tasted much better than they looked.  Spicy Chicken Thigh Skewers were good if not slightly overcooked (slightly).  Hanjan gets its chicken from a top Brooklyn purveyor, freshly killed over the last 24 hours, so never frozen.

BBQ Wagyu Short Rib comes as part of a Ssam set of goodies was a high quality, nicely marbled piece of meat.  Good, but not particularly as memorable as the next dish.  Long time EWZ historians know how fond I am of a nicely constructed fried rice dish, and this was one of the best I’ve had in NYC.  Kimchi & Beef Brisket Fried Rice with a fried egg delivered big time flavors with nice socarrat action. The key here was little crunchy cubes of Kimchi pickled Daikon (Korean radish) that tied all the flavors together.

Hanjan
36 W 26th St
$$$
Reccommended Dishes: Rice Cakes, Dumplings, Short Rib, Fried Rice

Hanjan Rice Cakes Hanjan Skewers

 

 

 

 

Categories: Gramercy, Flatiron, New York City | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

I Chose the Wrong Day to Go to Eataly

Eataly TrufflesI’ll start this one with the current list of my biggest weaknesses:  Pizza, Bread Pudding, small spiders, Ramen, foreign movies, big spiders, White Truffles.  Yes, white truffles!  Or as I call it, Tuber Magnatum Pico.  As some of you that read this blog for a while know, me and Tuber go way back.  Last fall the relationship reached its peak when we spent four days in Piedmont, possibly the most underrated region in Italy for food.   While in NYC, I always look forward to every opportunity for a taste during the fall season, often shelling out premium $$$$ for it.  But I should probably give It a rest.

I always look for excuses to go to Eataly.  Need wine for Thanksgiving… Eataly!  Need fresh pasta.. Eataly.  Need new light bulbs in the bathroom… you guessed it… hardware store… on the way to Eataly.  Yes its touristy, crowded and a little expensive, but in this case all for good and valid reason.  I can spend hours there, Sunday Football hours!  And I normally do.  I dont need to “brave the tourists”, partly because I’m used to the scene and partly because I dont really feel like I’m braving anyone.  If anything it feels like a good spot for people watching, although my eyes are normally glued to the shelves.

Pranzo TruffleLast Sunday also happened to be “Truffle Day”, a collaboration with our local truffle tzar Urbani.  Urbani, in addition to bringing in Truffles from Umbria, makes truffle sauces, truffle butter, truffle perfume (on my Santa list), and anything and everything to do with truffles.  If you are in the area of their headquarters on 60th and West End ave (11th  ave), I suggest popping in for a quick look at their showroom where you can purchase any of their products including some nasty looking Tubers.  Juts keep in mind the dry summer in Italy this year resulted in less and more expensive truffles this time around

Ok, confession time, I dont really call them Tuber Magnatum Pico, but I feel like I should.  I was just talking to friends the other day about ear, nose and throat doctors, and that they dont have more of a proper name like Gynecologist.  As if they simply ran out of “ologists” when they got to those parts of the body.  Well, it turns out they didnt.  “Otolaryngologist” is the proper name, so you can see why no one calls them Otolaryngologists.  No one can.

Pranzo Carne CrudaAnyway, so Sunday off I go to Eataly for a quick Salumi and wine run, and before you knew it, I’m asking a waiter wearing white gloves to turn the truffle around so I could take a better shot of it during a $140 solo truffle lunch.  It was like sending an alcoholic to the local bar for diapers.  I even left without buying any salumi because they put the truffle stand right next to the salumi/cheese making me miss it and forget all about it.  I spent a good 20 minutes looking and talking at these babies until the truffle lady called security.  As for the lunch, this was at Pranzo (meaning “lunch”), Eataly’s lunch only restaurant in association with its cooking school.  Lets just say, after this Carne Cruda and pasta, both with four grams of shavings each, a little more schooling is in order (hence the title).  But bashing is not the goal of this post.  The goal is to celebrate everything Eataly and Italy

Some new and old faves:

Eataly Real ExtraAnellini Caramel biscuits – Perfecto with tea.  I will be abusing these all winter

Venchi Chocolates – Those are the chocolates you’ll see sold by the pound by the sweets counter.  Anythig dark and hazelnutty especially good.  Expensive for good reason, just like all the rest of the Piedmontese sweets.  And ye, just about half of the chocolates you’ll see over the store come from Piedmont

Truffle sauces – Especially the mushroom/truffle stuff from Urbani,  Like Pasta cologne

Fresh pasta – mainly Agnolotti dal Plin which I make with.. you guessed it.. truffle butter

Re Ale Extra Beer – Love the Italian craft beer here and this is my favorite.  Fantastically hoppy, citrusy IPA.

Italian Sodas – Chinoto, Gazzosa

(Just avoid the truffles)

Happy Thanksgiving!

EatalyEatalyEataly

Categories: Gramercy, Flatiron, New York City | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

Is Maialino Turning Stale?

Malfatti

Malfatti

Maialino has always been one of those easy, solid, high probability recommendations over the past 3 years.  I’ve recommended it to people not only looking for “Italian” in NYC but also “Not Italian”, with the hopes that if anything will convert them this is it.  I’ve been singing its praise to restaurant owners from Naples to Alba while touring the country.  I’ve been a fan of Nick Anderer for years, and since meeting him at the Parla/Bonci event at Paulie Gee’s, had some fun conversations with him at Marta, which is one of my favorite new places in town.  Hence, its somewhat awkward for me to write this post, but I’m doing it out of love and appreciation, not hate. I would hate to see the place turn into another Union Square Cafe

The meal wasnt terrible by any stretch.  But the name carries certain expectations, and anticipations, especially when its a special birthday dinner with the family.  I always think about that walk to the park with my friend Val and his Bulldog Rocco who out of sheer excitement, farts his way the entire length of the walk until he finally gets to his favorite pooping spot.  You can feel and smell the anticipation along the way.  But imagine if after all these years, Rocco finds out that his spot has been discovered by a Yorkshire Terrier, or worse, replaced by a condominium development.  Something was off the other night, and I’m hoping it was just a Sunday night off-night

The Salumi here has never been a strong suit to begin with, although I found the selection plate still orderable partly due to lack of other desirable options (where’s that octopus when you need it).  The Mortadella for example is cut thick with texture and taste resembling its bastardized Bologna more than actual Mortadella.Maialino Salumi

The Cacio e Pepe and Carbonara still delivered, although the Cacio carried a little less magic than in the past.  But that Guanciale in the Carbonara, I can chew on that forever.  Or more like 5 minutes, which is like a lifetime in Guanciale years.  The Pappardelle was just fine.  Chunks of tender nicely cooked pork with light cream.  Not your typical Ragu, and missing that beautiful marriage between meat and pasta.

For main we shared another pasta, the Malfatti with the braised Maialino (suckling pig) and arugula.  But wait a minute, this dish looks familiar.  As in 7 minutes ago familiar.  Way too identical to the Pappardelle, but sounded much different.  “Malfatti” I suppose is a very loose interpretation of something misshaped or badly formed, and I’ve always associated it with ugly pasta-less (more like gnocchi) ricotta/spinach dumplings as in Al Di La in Brooklyn.  But here it looks like hand ripped thin pasta, like Pappardelle “squares”.  The pig had decent flavor if not a bit one-note (salt), but by this point we were craving for something more Raguish.  The Garganelli which I enjoyed in the past with rabbit could have filled the void but was missing in action.

Very often one dish can make or break a meal, and in this case the decider was the Oxtail.  When I had the dish before, the beautiful tender meat was easily falling off the bone in liberal fashion.  This time I had to work hard managing the unrendered fat, distributing the kill like a mother wolf feeding her three babies.  The surprising highlight of the evening was the panna cotta look-alike Cheesecake with sour cherries.  Hope I’m still welcomed at Marta, but if not I’ll understand  Maialino Pappardelle Maialino Carbonara Maialino Oxtail Maialino Cheesecake

 

Categories: Gramercy, Flatiron, New York City | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

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