Midtown West

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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Indian Accent Delights, Stutters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Date Night:  5 Unconventional Pre-theater Picks

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

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

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

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

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

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

img_5316
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Chaan Teng – Batteries Not Included

chaan-teng-general-tso-chickenIts the most eye candy Hell’s Kitchen has seen since the Jimmy Coonan days, and the glory days of 42nd street.  Thanks Obama!  A decor like no other in the area, and a daring menu that takes Chinese American cuisine into Mission Chinese territory.  Its rare for something like this to open in this neighborhood, which is why I’m so drawn and keep coming back.  And after 5 visits, you would think I would get a good handle on things, but nope.  This kind of menu requires bigger group meals in order to properly gauge this one, but at least I get the idea.

The title of course refers to the Kama Sutra nature of the decor.  Its like Kill Bill movie set meets sex museum smack in the middle of 9th avenue.  Funky wall paper, various figurines, penises, Buddhist collectibles, and figurines doing their best dirty salt and pepper shakers impersonations, covering the walls and bathroom hall area.  While I certainly have no issue with any of this, considering the proximity to Times Square I can see how some traditionalists may not want to expose their little traditionalists children to this.  The wait staff I’m told, is trained to explain, and already done so on occasion, which leaves no room for disgruntled employees.  “My son is asking questions about the green figures on the wall”.  “Its a Dildo mam!”

That kind of family bonding is carried onto the menu as well, with pretty much everything meant for sharing.  While we tend to share everything everywhere anyway, at Chaan Teng the dish sizes make it more welcoming to do so.  Take their take on the NYC born classic General Tso’s Chicken ($19) which is a hefty plate of half a bird fried and smothered with a sweet and sour, and spicy sauce while retaining proper juiciness throughout.  This is not your corner Chinese General Tso’s.  I’ve had it by myself and shared with friends on another visit, and while solo I was wishing for more veggies to accompany the bird.

On other visits, the focus was on the promising smaller plates which were almost entree size.  Some, like the excellent Chicken Skin Dumplings ($12) were nothing like I’ve had before.  Chinese Lapchiong (sweet sausage) with rice, peas, dried shrimp wrapped in chicken skin instead of dough.  Essentially Arancini on crack, although midway I was wishing for a crispier exterior, and the chicken skin guilt started to take over.  The bed of cabbage with crispy shallots and soy was delicious in itself.

Other small plate highlights were the Chaanteng  Chicken Dumplings with soy, ginger scallion sauce ($7), and their take on another Chinese American classic, Walnut Shrimp ($12).  Five healthy shrimp are served with Bib lettuce with sweet mayo where you essentially use the lettuce to make shrimp tacos.  And I still havent tried but curious about the Crab Rangoon, 1000 year old egg on Tofu, and something called Strange Flavor Eggplant which I guess no one is allowed to criticize.

Chaan Teng opened by a team that includes Pichet Ong of Spice Market fame.  And as is it case with 95% of Hell’s Kitchen newbs there’s almost zero social media buzz other than some Instagrammers like myself posting selfies with the General Tso’s, which is being groomed as the signature dish.  Besides, now that both my mom and mother in-law are on Facebook, its pretty much the end of Social Media as we know it.  The other day, my mom asked me to assist her with deleting a 2 minute video she took of her forehead.

Chaan Teng
698 9th Ave (Corner of 48th), Hell’s Kitchen
Rating: Two Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that
Recommended Dishes: General Tso’s Chicken, Chicken Skin Dumplings, Chaanteng Chicken Dumplings, Walnut Shrimpchaan-teng-skin-dumplingschaan-teng-bar

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