Midtown West

Hell’s Kitchen – Dining With the Family

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Hell’s Kitchen Summer Update

Yonekichi

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

Gloria – This neighborhood pescatarian was a no-brainer.

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

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

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

The complete Hell’s Kitchen Survival Guide

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Hell’s Kitchen – Eating Outdoors

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Gloria, I Think We Got Your Number

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Panna Cotta – Meh!  But no point deductions here

Go!

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

Gloria TartareGloria Skate Wing

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Hell’s Kitchen – 5 Asian Dishes I Can’t Get Enough of

Blue Ribbon Sushi Oxtail Fried RiceThe latest issue of W42st has a proud theme.  Inside there’s a mini zine where you’ll find 5 Asian dishes I’m mostly proud of

Oxtail Fried Rice at Blue Ribbon Sushi – Bone Marrow added for exceptional richness, while fluffy omelette makes it exceptionally good looking.  Sauteed Squid is a close runner-up

Tofu at Danji – The only tofu I consistently order in NYC.  A Hell’s Kitchen classic

Pad Ped Moo Krob at Larb Ubol– Its like the “Best of Thai” in one dish.  Beautiful crispy pork belly, Thai eggplant, peppercorns, curry paste, and plenty of chili heat

Shredded Beef w/Asian Spicy Green Chili at Gourmet Szechuan 56 – Its so good, it makes you put the phone away.  Besides, I cant catch a signal here anyway.

Pork and Crab Soup Dumplings at Kung Fu Little Steamed Buns Ramen – I’ve ordered them so many times, they’ve stopped asking what I want.  My picture should be on that wall in no time, next to Andrew Zimmern

Danji Tofu

 

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W42st May Issue – Best Places for Soup

IMG_5904A slight variation to my usual best soups of Hell’s Kitchen post.  This month its part of the food issue on W42st.  Mooncake Foods and their sick Wonton soup is sadly no more, so needed to replace it with Pam which made the list twice in a row.  The only news here to veteran readers is the inclusion of Chong Quing Xiao Mian Noodles.  Try saying it just once.  As usual you will find Ziggy’s EatList at the small Zine inside the magazine distributed all over the neighborhood.  This month’s issue matched my couch perfectly so we may keep it as furniture for a little longer this time.

Pam Real Thai – I’ve had so many Oxtail soups here that I had forgotten how good the other soups are, like the explosive Khao Soi. The most underrated Thai in NYC

Ippudo – Judging by the flavors of the new sesame based Ramen lineup, these guys dont follow the latest Ramen trends. They set them. Waits may be long, but for good reason

Chong Quing Xiao Mian Noodles – Try saying it 10 times, while chewing on their nostril clearing Mala (chili oil) Noodles. The newest quicky on 9th

Totto Ramen – 51st street is the new 52nd street. Apparently the secret of the new location is out judging by the lines. The chicken broth here, especially the Spicy Ramen stupendously good

Pure Thai Cookhouse – Now that Chipotle ditched their Shophouse Asian Kitchen franchise, Pure can change its name back to Pure Thai Shophouse. The soups here are generally great, but I’m partial to the Sukhothai

Chong Quing Xiao Mian

Chong Quing Xiao Mian Noodles

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Pam Real Thai – Severely Underrated, Still

Pam Real Thai Kha SoiIts a tale of two Thais.  Pure Thai Cookhouse, a jam packed frat party at pretty much any time of the day, sometimes even just outside.  Pam Real Thai, eerily quiet even at peak times sometimes.  Pure has a limited, concentrated menu for Thai standards, while Pam has a megillah that includes all the color of the rainbow curries and other American Thai.  Pure is where I bring visitors to experience the vibe and some regional specialties you wont find anywhere else, while Pam is terribly unattractive and uninviting.  So why do I keep going to Pam Real Thai.

Well, for starters, for some of the same reasons mentioned above.  I dont want to wrestle tourists and locals for a table.  As local as Pure is, the number of tourists that go there nowadays increased dramatically.  I usually dont have much of a problem if I go solo as I can often get a seat on the counter facing the wall, but that means I get a seat by the counter facing the wall!  At Pam not only I get a full table, but I sometimes get an entire section all too myself.  I can spread my legs in all directions including Sharon Stone style and no one will bat an eye.  I can listen to a conversation from across the room (95% theater industry related.  Boy do they like to curse).  I can hear a lung collapse and call 911 before its too late.  At Pure I get to listen to Mandarin or French by the folks sitting  pretty much on my lap, while the rest is white noise mixed in with the bizarre but catchy Thai disco. Pam Real Thai Pad Ped

And then there’s the food.  Pam Real’s food can be, well.. unreal sometimes.  I’ve written much about its Oxtail soup, which inspired me to finally bring my wife and kids for a meal the other day.  That pleasant vinegary heat, and all those chunks of Oxtail which increased over the years means you gotta work it, and may even sweat a little.  But its just so damn good.  Same goes for their outrageous Khao Soi, a Northern Thai curry-like noodle soup packed with chili oil and topped with deep-fried crispy egg noodles.  On a cold winter day especially, the soups work like magic, while in the summer they can cure summertime sadness (worth repeating because its true).

I wish I could keep score of the goodies and badies (food blogger lingo) I’ve had here over the years.   The big complaint from me is that its a very full menu. Steamed Thai Dumplings here can be as good as cheap Thai dumplings or Shumai can get.  Pad Ped (red curry paste, bamboo shoot, basil, and bell pepper) with your choice of meat or seafood is always solid.  I go for the seafood mix (shrimp and squid) when I feel particularly naughty.  Same goes for the rest of the sauteed lineup like Crispy Pork With Basil, Pad Prik Khing (curry paste, long bean and lime leaves).  For the most part these guys are not shy with their spices.  There used to be a time when my go-to Thai dish was Pad Kee Mao (drunken noodles) everywhere and Pam’s seafood Kee Mao was head and shoulders above everyone else in this Thai rich hood.  The generously crabby and excellent crab fried rice is another must get when you are sharing.Pam Real Thai Whole Fish

Crispy fried whole fish is one of those things I rarely order at Thai restaurants because its usually almost purposely overcooked, albeit liberally spiced and herbed.  Here you can have your Red Snapper or another fresh fish a number of ways.  I dont recall the name we tried, but it was smothered with a mild sweetish chili sauce, almost like a mild red Yemeni S’chug.  While we enjoyed it I dont know if I would spend another $28 on it again. The irony here is that I prefer “Thai Style Fish” at menus in non Thai restaurants, like Cull and Pistol.

Pam Real is a solid go.  Dont worry about looks and reviews (very full menu + delivery = reviews all over the place).  With Thai restaurants in Hell’s Kitchen especially looks can be deceiving.   If you want beautiful chandeliers, go to Room Service.  For good honest food, go to Pam.

Pam Real Thai
404 W 49th St (off 9th), Hell’s Kitchen
Rating: Two Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that.
Recommended Dishes: Oxtail Soup, Khao Soi, Thai dumplings, Pad Ped, Pad Prik Khing, Crispy Pork, Pad Kee Mao, Crab Fried RicePam Real Thai Crab Frid RicePam Real Oxtail Soup

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A Tour Around the World in HK

Meske

Meske

This month’s theme on W42st is travel.  This is just a small sample of countries you can visit while in Hell’s Kitchen, which you can find in the magazine mini zine.  Bring your passports.

Nano (Ecuador).  Abel and co. redefining ‘hole in the wall’ while dishing out all sorts of hearty traditional Ecuadorian specialties.  Try the homey Caldo de Bola soup

Meske (Ethiopia).  Our “Little Ethiopia” is very little, with only two restaurants right next to each other.  Here you get dirty and use the spongy Injera bread to scoop up all the goodies on it

Pam Real Thai (Thailand) –  Tucked just a bit outside of Thai mecca 9th is perhaps the best of them all (along with Pure Thai).  The Oxtail soup can cure summertime sadness.

Gazala’s (Israel Druze) – The only Druze dining in NYC.  I cant get enough of the Hummus here because the guests I bring never leave me much

City Sandwich (Portugal) – These are Portuguese inspired sandwiches served with a smile.  The best Pastel de Nata (egg tarts) in town, called here Pastel de Crema

Gazala's Moshakal

Gazala’s

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What’s Cooking in Hell

IMG_5546Corner Slice, the Ivan Ramen backed, much anticipated pizza quicky in Gotham West Market taking over the Blue Bottle Coffee space finally opened.  The thin square pizza slices are cooked in fancy electric ovens, as I imagine the only allowable method in the building. Dough ferments for a long time, and just about every ingredient made in house.  My first slice was a simple mozzarella, tomato, basil.  Slightly on the greasy side, but nice and pungent tomato sauce.  But the other day my Sopressata was a little overcooked and overpriced.  They have their reasons I’m sure but one measly Soppressata slice the size of pepperoni doesnt warrant $4.  Another nice addition to GWM, though I would have loved to see something a little more interesting

Ippudo added more deliciousness to the menu.  This time vegetarian Sesame based Ramen that even non vegetarians like yours truly can appreciate.  The Karaka Spicy New York I tried is simply outstanding.  Rich, wonderfully complex broth, without the heaviness that follows sometimes from Tonkotsu. Its been a weird Ramen season for me as I’ve been frequenting the heavyweights (Ivan, Totto, Ippudo) instead of the small guys like Mentoku which I really like.  And I find myself more and more slurping non-pork based ramen like vegetarian and chicken.  Whats happening to me!IMG_5576

Chaan Teng is being added to the Survival Guide, even though not everything I tried there was a slam dunk.  Even for family dining, sharing dishes like their take on General Tso’s Chicken, far more interesting than something like Carmines.  Just try to avoid all the figurines in the back wall and by the bathroom, unless you think its time to have that talk with your son.

Removing Poulette from the guide.  Last experience was way too Boston Markety for me.  Where did all the Herbes de Provence and juiciness go?

Nano Ecuadorian still great

Puff Cha Ramen still sucks!

The other day on the Hell’s Kitchen Tour we bumped into Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cake at Gotham West Market.  I briefly spoke to Luke (I just called him Luke, no idea what his real name is.  Its like calling Tom Cruise, Ethan) who told me they were shooting The Defenders starring all three superheroes.  I imagine The Defenders will defend the Kitchen from all evil, like Ezra, the Azuri Cafe Falafel Nazi.  I welcome this development

Last week the tour bumped into Ivan Ramen as I mentioned on another post.  I met him before many times but always fun when we cross paths during the tour.  This time while my guests, a family from Toronto were enjoying his Pastrami buns.  Check him out in the current season of Chef’s Table.  On the same day we bumped into a crew from Univision doing a special on Tehuitzingo coming sometime in April.  I will post a link when I find out

Stay hungry my Amigos!IMG_5578

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Hell’s Kitchen on St Patty’s Day – Best Bars for Grub

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