New York City

Kish Kash – The Village Couscouseria

Kish Kash - ChraimeWhen is a concept, not really a concept.  Or doesnt feel like one.  If you walk inside Kish Kash in West Village without knowing anything about it, it may feel like just another casual restaurant serving food that my be even too familiar.  But once you read about it you can see that this is not your ordinary kitchen.  Its the only place in NYC that makes couscous the way it was made 300 years ago.  Couscous made with a lot of love that accumulated over the years by chef Einat Admony (Balaboosta, Taim).

Couscous is the side dish most used in my house because its the easiest to make.  Kish Kash refers to the Sieve traditionally used to make Couscous by hand, a process that takes hours.  As far as I know, Admony is the only one doing it in NYC.  They dont even do this in Morocco anymore.

But what is the real concept here for the average eater who most likely wont notice the difference.  While its definitely a fluffier, better tasting product, once combined with the terrific Mafrum (spiced ground beef meat balls with tomato sauce) or any of the other items on the menu, the flavor gap narrows and it may taste like any other couscous after a few bites.

Kish Kash

The real concept to me is the place and the rest of the menu.  A well designed bright, inviting space serving quick, homey Israeli/North African dishes like the mentioned Mafrum which might be the thing to get.  Or the Chraime, a whitefish, Branzino in this case, topped with tangy tomato sauce.  All dishes come with the house Couscous of course and homemade Harissa you can add once you get bored.  That combination, whether with meat or fish, results in a very satisfying forkful.

While I would still opt for this couscous given the option, the dishes would work with instant couscous or maybe even with something else.  You can make the meal as quick or long as you want.  There are starters like the legit looking hummus.  And since you are at an Admony house, by law you must try the cauliflower that comes ladened with Tahini, pines nuts, and raisins.  There’s Israeli wine and beer of course, but no Malt “Black Beer” for those truly missing Tel Aviv.

Kish Kash
455 Hudson St (Barrow/Morton), West Village
Rating: 2 Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that.
Recommended Dishes: Mafrum, Chraime, Cauliflower

Kish Kash Cauliflower

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Categories: New York City, West Village | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Jeju’s Six Courser May be the Best Deal in Town

Ok, so now that I got your attention I will tell you the truth.  Jeju Noodle Bar’s deal is most likely not the best deal in town.  Not even close.  There’s a guy in Sunset park’s Chinatown that makes delicious steamed rice noodles for a buck fifty.  You can get an entire meal at the new Momofuku Bang Bar for less then six.  There’s a 2-for-1 groin massage plus flu shot special every other Friday in Brighton Beach.  Its New York City.  There are hundreds of great deals out there.

But Jeju’s Six Courser is unlike anything I’ve had in NYC, and something I would like to repeat.  Like very soon.  The set menu was introduced about three months ago, just in time for me to rediscover this gem in West Village.  the set menu is unconventional and the perfect fit for our sharing style.  Instead of being your average tasting menu that features small dishes, some not on the menu, it showcases the menu highlights at a lower price when combined.  It costs $45 per person.

Jeju Noodle Bar

Jeju Noodle Bar

Jeju is like the Cote (Korean BBQ) of Korean noodle joints.  I’m sure many balk at the idea of a Ramen like noodle bar in a fancier environment, but the concept is not much different than that of a Momofuku Noodle Bar.  At the helm is a man with an impressive resume.  If we would play Fantasy Michelin Stars (and we should) he would have been a first round pick.  Its almost like Jeju’s brand new Michelin star is an afterthought at this point.  But the recent change to get rid of reservations altogether made Jeju more approachable (are you reading Missy Robbins?).   The current set menu:

Roasted Mushrooms – The best compliment I can give to a mushroom dish is that Mrs Z, a Mushroom hater, coming from a long line of mushroom haters, ate and liked this.

Jeju Noodle Bar - Mushrooms

Jeju Chicken Wings – Simple yet your typical (in a good way) expensive light battered fried chicken with a dip you want to dip your car keys in.  But you cant.  Because its keyless entry now.

Jeju Noodle Bar - Chicken

Toro Ssam Bap – This was incredible.  Layers of fatty tuna, scrambled eggs and Tobiko (fish roe) rice.  Nori on the side to help you make the sickest spicy tuna rolls you’ll ever have.

Jeju Noodle Bar - Tuna

Prime Ribeye Ssam – Anything over 4 courses in NYC usually means a “tasting menu” where the meat course consists of a few slices of high end beef.  Here you have 12 oz of perfectly cooked sliced ribeye (they dont ask you how you want it cooked – a good thing).  You can eat it as is or dip in their own nutty Romesco sauce which they should bottle and give away as party favors at the end of the night.  It should go well with scrambled eggs.

Jeju Noodle Bar - Rib EyeGochu Ramyun – There are so many Ramen variations in the city that its hard to understand the difference between Korean Ramyun and Japanese Ramen.  This pork broth carried some serious depth, and is essentially like the best Tonkotsu you will ever eat.

Jeju Noodle Bar - Ramyun

Dessert Course – Your choice of Ice cream or Sorbet.  We had both, like together at some point.  While forgettable compared to the rest of the meal, this was a solid finisher.  This is a GO!

Jeju Noodle Bar
679 Greenwich St (Christopher), West Village
Rating: 2.5 Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that.
Recommended Dishes: 6 course menu

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Hot Space – Big Fish, Bigger Fish

Hot Space FishApologies for the blurry photo.  I start to shake in front of deliciousness.  My posts will be smaller and to the point beginning… well it began actually.  Too much going on in my life at the moment, so I dont have as much time to blog these days.  But this is actually a good, refreshing change that will allow me to write about more places.  More places, more usefulness, less mambo jumbo, same grammar.

Hot Space is a Chinese Restaurant in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park Chinatown.  Its unfortunately not on 8th ave so it may need my help.  The number eight is the Chinese lucky number because in Mandarin eight sounds like the word wealth.  The meaning is one of the main driving forces behind the creation of the now largest Chinatown in NYC.  Popular 90’s rumor was to take the N train to the “Sky Stop” (when the train comes up) and you will find success on 8th avenue.

This makes it easy to incorporate the number into the business name.  Lucky 8, Great 8, mister 8, and the brilliantly named Restaurant on 58th st, are some examples.  Although some of the ones without the number 8 can use some spelling luck like me.  “Wash and Flod Laundromat” – sounds daring and flat out dangerous

This is a one dish post really, but its a doozy.  A big tray of fish.  After the servers take your coats and puts them in a large plastic bag so the coats wont attract any of the smells that come with the dishes (I wish my in-laws would do the same), they explain the menu and how to “build” your big boy tray of fish.  You got your choices of fish – usually Sea Bass, Big Mouth Bass, Buffalo Bass, Idaho Bass, and anything and everything ending in Bass.  You add your choice of veggies, sauce, and spice level and off you wait.

And while you wait you stare at the giant screen for Chinese entertainment while your significant other is not looking. The entire scene matches that of this particular Chinatown.  Like stepping into another country.  It helps when you are the only Caucasians in the entire room.  You also have instructions on the table on how to handle the fish once it arrives, like “wait until it stops flapping before eating”.

The fish then arrives and it’s magnificent.  Its not that different looking than the huge trays you see in Fei Long Market’s food court.  Its understandably costlier – about $70 once you add all the ingredients, and it can easily feed 3.  I ordered the Sea Bass in a medium spiced garlicky sauce and it was the perfect amount of heat on a fish whose flavors just pop.  We also added grilled BBQ squid which was nice and cajuny but not really necessary.

Hot Space Squid

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EV Bites: The Hanukkah Edition

Tatsu RamenEV Bites is a monthly(ish) feature, showcasing 5 places in or around East Village you should know about.  I will occasionally extend the border to Nolita and LES, and maybe even mention a name more than once.  The East Village neighborhood, in case you’ve been living under a rock, or Staten Island is an incubator for top industry talent, and a goldmine of world cuisine.

Silky Kitchen – I cant keep up with all the new Chinese in the area.  The depth and the range of the different kinds of cuisines and types of establishments is overwhelming.  Silky is another Hunanese noodle quicky.  The dry noodle plates pack plenty of flavor, with the noodles being a tad too silky and soft for my taste, but still good.  The dish to get so far is the beef and Daikan dumplings.  Very close to dumpling Perfection.

Silky Kitchen Dumplings

Tatsu Ramen (top)- Its Ramen season here.  But when is it Ramen season in LA exactly?  Tatsu is an LA based Tonkotsu Ramen shop that operates like some shops in Tokyo.  Walk in, order your food and drinks (even if it means free water) from the iPad on the wall, slide your card, and bring the printed receipt to the host who will sit you.  On your table you are presented with all sorts of condiments including fresh garlic for your annual fresh garlic press.  My “Bold Ramen” wasnt quite bold but above average, not too rich porkiness.  The pork belly was sliced thin which I prefer, and the egg was a soft boiled whole which I also like.  Another great fast casual option on 1st

Vish – I mentioned Vish in a recent Hummus feature.  But after a few more visits its becoming more and more evident that this may be the best Hummus in the city.  Its not a question of whether they make Hummus daily but how many times each day.  The result is silky smooth, as creamy as it gets without being watery, with fantastic flavor to boot.

Vish Hummus

Vish

Martina – The super competitive environment in East Village sometimes produces mysterious results.  Places open with “success” written all over them, sometimes unexpectedly close or change.  Martina abandoned the Roman fast casual concept, and as of last week its a full service restaurant, inching a bit closer to big sister Marta.  While the concept is different, the value is pretty much the same.  The pizzas are more expensive, but two inch larger, the beans and the rest of the hits are still on the menu, and there are some new additions.

Hi-Collar – There are a few guarantees in the East Village.  Veselka and Cafe Mogador will be packed for Brunch.  You will find black Squirrels in Tompkins Park.  And Hi-Collar will have a line outside mid afternoon.  Its a Japanese coffeehouse by day, sake bar by night, owned by a guy (Bon Yagi) that owns quite a few establishments in “Little Japan” (East 9th, 10th).  Come for the Omurice (fluffy omelette over rice), stay for the Mentai Pasta – like the Japanese Cacio e pepe

Hi-Collar Mentai Pasta

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Hell’s Kitchen Guide – 2018 Update

TaladwatYou may have been wondering why I havent updated the Hell’s Kitchen Guide in a while.  Maybe I dont hang out there nearly as much anymore.  Or watch too much Daredevil?  One is true.  I still hang out there often, especially before or after the Hell’s Kitchen tour.  But I do watch Daredevil.  I even saw the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen himself in action, slurping on Ivan Ramen noodles in Gotham West Market. No joke.  I asked his buddy Luke Cage what they were up to and he said they were filming The Defenders.  Jessica Jones was eating elsewhere, obviously not a fan of the just updated Hell’s Kitchen Survival Guide.

But thanks to Daredevil, the neighborhood is much better and safer today.  You can walk around the kitchen after 8.  Thai joints continue to make babies, without protection and protection money concerns.  And there’s even a Momofuku now.  Two of them actually.  One of which, Bang Bar, which I wrote about last week, is in the guide.

Pure Thai Cookhouse is a well oiled machine that is perhaps the most important Thai among dozens in the area.  It was just a matter of time until the husband and wife team open Taladwat, dishing out small plates a few blocks down.  So far so delicious, and an obvious addition to the guide.  Another exciting addition is Saar Indian Bistro (below) from another master, Hemant Mathur, bridging Indian fine dining and typical curry houses ever so smoothly.  And about time I added Corner Slice at the constantly changing Gotham West Market.

I removed some dead skin and closings like Tehuitzingo and Larb Ubol which were the most shocking ones.  But on a more personal note, the closing of the neighborhoody Cafe Ole hurts the most.  I spent countless of hours there eating sandwiches and soups, while talking to Ana.  She will be missed.

The Hell’s Kitchen Survival Guide

 

 

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Momofuku’s Latest is a Bang for Your Buck

Bang BarI rarely stand on lines for food.  It took me four years to try the Cronut.  I happened to pass by Dominique Ansel one early morning and there it was.  A Cronut staring at me in the face, with no lines.  So I picked it off the ground, brushed it off, and took a few bites.  It was adequate!  In the city that never sleeps, where the food options can be exhausting, lines are usually for FOMO (fear of missing out) sufferers.  Perhaps if you are in the city for a short time, and you have your mind set on something, I get it.  But for the rest of us, its like going to the Statue of Liberty.  We have a lifetime of opportunities and endless possibilities.

But then there’s Momofuku.  Over the years, I’ve waited and sometimes even elbowed my way to Ssam Bar and Nishi.  And with the new Shawarma-esque Bang Bar opening at the Time Warner Center, a 40 minutes wait for a snack seemed very doable.  5 minutes answering email, 5 minutes on Trip Advisor forum, 20 minutes playing “Woody”, 10 minutes looking for new knife set (can knives be gifts to a spouse considering they can be used as a weapon?).  And before you know it, you are in the delivery waiting room, having a conversation with David Chang.  Ok, it was more like him saying “how is it going”, and me just staring at him.

This is not one of those posts where I woo you with food porn.  Instead I woo with… lines I suppose.  Simply leave it to Momofuku to make waiting fun.  The line is broken down into three sections.  Like a special exhibit in a museum, or in a way, a hospital delivery room

Bang Bar Meats

Eater

First section:  A roped line near, but not directly in front of the entrance.  Employees will chat with you, hand out menus, suggestions, knock knock jokes, and explain how the process works.  The anticipation builds partly because you cant see anything.  When time comes someone takes a small group to…

Second line:  The lucky few get to stand by the wall watching the action through the glass.  Anticipation continue to build, and so are second thoughts about what you want.

Third room:  You now enter a small open waiting room where you place your order and just hang out, talking to the staff or other patrons.  You may be given some freebies like rice pudding with kimchi stew, or a potato, mortadella casserole.  Both almost as delicious as the main event.

The Bang (bread) like a soft middle eastern Laffa filled and rolled with spicy gochujang marinated pork or chicken, along with the accompanied sauces and pickled veggies.  Looks like something you may get from a halal cart but undeniably Korean and delicious.  The pork was packed with enough heat and flavor so no sauces required.  But if you must you have the Ssam and the rest of them by the wall.  There are also two “Dips” that come with the bread like the herby eggplant which is more of a salad.  There are two communal tables.

But here’s the best part.  The price!  In this entire EWZ universe, I dare you to find a NYC post where I’ve said this.  But $5.79 for a Momofuku product in the high end Columbus Shops, is what you would expect to pay at a Halal cart.  Card only

Bang Bar Spicy Pork

Categories: Midtown West, New York City | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Five Gems in Brooklyn

Kashkar lagmanAs the great Manhattan rent squeeze continues, Brooklyn’s dining scene is getting more and more interesting.  Years ago, you would never hear of notable places opening in neighborhoods like Prospect Heights, Bed-Stuy, Stuyvesant Heights. or any neighborhood with Stuy in it.  Brooklyn is getting the same media coverage as Manhattan these days.  Couple that with the ethnic food wonderland in the less gentrified areas of Brooklyn.  Here are five very diverse spots I’ve been enjoying lately.  A small sample showcasing what Brooklyn is all about these days.

Hometown BBQ – If I have to pick one destination in Brooklyn, or a reason to leave Manhattan, Hometown is it.  I wasnt sold at first, but boy oh boy I am now.  This is pure, legendary, finger licking stuff.  The brisket is perhaps their pride and joy, but the spare ribs are second to none.  The Italian sausage with smoked provolone and peppers is awesome.  And while other BBQ joints treat chicken like second class citizens, here they marinade it with Oaxacan spices for two days, grill it over wood, and dress it with salsa verde.  The result is a juicy triumph.

Claro – The Gowanus area is not exactly the first neighborhood I think about when it comes to food in Brooklyn, but as I said above, things are changing all over.  Claro is where you go for authentic Oaxacan flavors.  Its small, almost always fully booked, but we manage to get seats at the bar even in the busiest times.  The menu is loaded with essentially enlarged taco-like stuff on dough (pretty sure “stuff on dough” is a foodie term).  Like the toasty Tostada-like Memelas which come either loaded with juicy pork rib or wild mushrooms.  And then you have the sensational Mole Negro, where you’ll be pulling that shortrib in subsequent dreams.Claro Sabina Memela

Kashkar Cafe –  Although the city of “Kashgar” is technically in China, it makes more sense for “Kashkar” to be in Russian Brighton Beach instead of a Chinatown.  I’ve written plenty about this Uyghur/Uzbek before, and I dont include places so out of the way on the Z-List unless I have a very good reason. Off the beaten path takes on a new meaning here, but I do hear more and more people speaking English inside, as its becoming more popular.  Try the Geiro Lagman (hand pulled noodles), Juvova dumplings, any of the kebabs, and Langsai salad along with their bread and you’ll see why its worth the schlep.Kashkar Cafe

Tacos Matamoros – If you think this pick makes this list look suddenly super random, you are correct.  Thats sort of the point.  And even though, there’s a Mexican place already mentioned on the list, they couldnt be more different.  In fact this what really highlights what Brooklyn is all about, and the difference today between the gentrified halves of the borough.  A meal here will cost you about 1/5 of the bill at Claro.  Although on my Brooklyn tour we concentrate on the Chinatown portion of Sunset Park, I’ve been spending some time at Matamoros as of late.  And while the tacos are good and cheap, I prefer just about everything else here, especially the Tamales, and egg dishes (Huevos Rancheros, Huevos con Chorizo)Tacos Matamoros- eggs and chorizo

Werkstatt – I’ve written plenty about this eclectic gem in… ok, I still dont know what neighborhood they are in..  Ditmas Park, Flatbush, Prospect Park South, NoDi (North of Ditmas Park which I totally just made up).  It doesnt matter.  It looks, feels and acts like a neighborhood gem, making a lot of area customers happy.  Its technically Austrian/German.  And while you cant go wrong with the fine pretzel, schnitzels, and goulash, there’s really no cuisine the owner/chef cant do.  Thai, Italian, Thai Italian.  I just look at the specials board and pick whatever sounds good.  On a recent visit I had a perfectly cooked Skate with brown butter and capers.

Other random gemsFOB Filipino, Lilia, Nargis Cafe, Popina, Olmsted, Sofreh, Ugly Baby, Hummus Market, Traif, Fei Long Supermarket food court

Werkstatt Pretzel

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Tia Pol – Just Basque a Move

Tia Pol Shrimp“If you want it, you got it.  You want it, baby you got it.  Just Basque a Move.  Yeah!” – Its been a while but pretty sure thats how that one goes.  Thats how I sing it it my head at least.  But the moves I’m busting these days are more like Elaine from Seinfeld-esqe.  Its more like a cross between twerking and wild prayer sways.  Still much work to be done, but I’m getting better at it.  There’s even a video circulating out there of me dancing, but there’s zero chance I’m sharing it here.  I got bullied enough as a kid.

The moves, the sways, and subsequent 911 calls get usually wilder after a fun meal.  And we had another one of those at Z-List darling Tia Pol the other day.  Its the most Spanish place I know.  Even if Rita Hayworth rolls in her grave every time someone orders a Gilda.  She rolls twice because it comes in twos (or at least everyone orders at least two).  But the fact that they even have Gilda, and things like green Gernika peppers on the menu says a lot about the place.  It may not be correct to call it Basque, as NYMag does, as it covers Catalan, Galician and other regions of Spain.  But its Basque enough, and perhaps one Galician Octopus, or Spanish style fried calamari (yep, best fried calamari is in Spain, not Italy) from covering the North of Spain rather nicely.

Tia Pol peppers

Tia Pol is tiny, and buzzy even on a lazy Saturday afternoon.  It subscribes to “If its not broke, why fix it formula”, serving pretty much the same menu since 2004.  The dishes to get today are still some of the same dishes we enjoyed 10 years ago.  New Orleans native Mani Dawes, who spent years happy munching in Madrid, knows a thing or two about Spanish food.  Madrid doesnt really have much of a cuisine, and draws much of its influences from the North, which is reflected all over the menu at Tia Pol.  Here’s a rundown of what we ate

Gilda – I’ll start with a mini (pun) rant.  Its hard to criticize a $2 snack but I’ll do it anyway.  Gilda is a popular pintxo eaten in Basque Country consisting of a single skewer of chili pepper, olive, anchovy, and pickles, usually served on a piece of bread.  The Basque people called it Gilda because its tall and skinny just like Rita Hayworth in their beloved Gilda that captured the nation back in the day.  Its not something that can be easily done here because we dont have fresh Spanish anchovies easily available, and for $2 a pop you just cant expect anything remotely close to the real thing.  But c’mon now.  This is not a Gilda, but a skinny Danny de Vito at best.  I suppose this might the best version we can come up with, but if you serve it to homesick Spaniards, they might start to weep, for the wrong reasons

Tia Pol Gilda

Pimientos Estilo Gernika – One of the more nonsensical comments that reviewers often make – “I can probably do this at home”.  Even if its true, is the point of eating out only to eat things you can not possibly make at home?  You are in full control of what you order.  But I love simple dishes, like the Miznon Cauliflower for example, that make you talk about possibly duplicating, and enhancing your life as a result.  The Gernika peppers that come blistered and simply sprinkled with sea salt, is such a dish.

Pinchos Morunos – Lamb skewers with Moorish spices, which means Cumin, Coriander, and all the goodies.  Gorgeously marinated and seasoned.  Get this!

Patatas Bravas – as solid as Bravas get in NYC

Tia Pol Patatas

Chorizo al Jerez – chorizo cooked in sherry and rosemary.  Chorizo, like Olives, is one of those things I like less than I think I do.  I keep ordering it, like olives, to see if maybe this is it, the grand chorizo, only to be mildly disappointed.  No exception here

Txipirones en su Tinta – This is it.  The dish I must get every time I’m here.  Squid cooked with its ink and a small hockey puck of rice.  It has that palatable inky sweetness, and the squid is never fishy.  Just wish that hockey puck was a little bigger.

Gambas al Ajillo – This is another dish I get all the time.  Its not going to win any shrimp in garlic awards, but its very garlicky and satisfying

Octopus Salad – Enjoyed in previous visits

Go!

Tia Pol
205 10th Ave (22/23), Chelsea
Rating: 2 Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that.
Recommended Dishes: Patatas Bravas, Pimientos Estilo Gernika, Pinchos Morunos, Txipirones en su Tinta, Gambas al Ajillo

Categories: Chelsea, New York City | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Hummus and the City

Hummus Market

Hummus Market

This was supposed to be a big post about Hummus and Hummus withdrawals (RIP Dizengoff) on my first full day off of the month.  A full day dedicated to Hummus.  But alas Mrs Ziggy was home as well, which means…  Home Depot, Mall, something called Chick-fil-A in a mall, and changing 7 light bulbs.  Seven!  I think thats a record in Casa de Ziggy.  Maybe a record in any Casa, who knows.  And no, its not an especially large Casa.  I’m a tour guide.  Ever had a tour guide show you mansions of other tour guides?  And we are talking about 4 different kinds of light bulbs, one of which in the hard to reach hers and hers closet.

So I will make this one short and creamy, not chunky.  If you are in the chunky camp, you might as well be enemy of America, stop reading now.  Now that Dizengoff is gone where is the best hummus in NYC?  Of course its likely that there’s better Hummus out there, but these are some of the best.

Hummus Market (Williamsburg) – When you come from Naharia, Israel, close to the Hummus capital of the world (Akko), you are a Hummus pro by default.  Creamy, smooth, subtle flavored hummus in a comfy 100% vegetarian with a nice back yard.  The pitas come warm and fluffy, and so is the hummus.  Try it with sauteed Mushroom, and slowly add their green S’chug (Peppery Yememi paste) to the mix.

Vish (Greenwich Village) – Dizengoff coined the term Hummuseria.  The new Vish just outside East Village is the closest thing to a Hummuseria today.  An offshoot of the popular Hummus chain in Israel called Eliyahoo.  The hummus is creamy, to the point of almost liquidy.  As if it was whisked by a French chef for hours.  They dont make it just daily, but every few hours.  The only thing missing was a fresh, warm, fluffy pita.  But the Hummus arrives warm and glorious.

Gazala's Hummus

Gazala’s

Gazala’s Place (Hell’s Kitchen, and UWS) – The only Druze restaurant in the country has been whipping out fresh zesty hummus for many years now.  Now Gazala is back in UWS.  A full blown column on the menu is the dedicated to hummus, which you can taste in all its glory with the paper thin Druze bread.  Pair it with the underrated Falafel.

Holy Land Market (East Village) – The only Israeli market in Manhattan (stop laughing Bridge and Tunnel people) is also making their own Hummus, which is pretty darn good.  Sometimes you just want to pick up some hummus from a store (not called Sabra), along with some Bamba, Halvah, none alcoholic Israeli black beer, and its party time at Casa de Ziggy (Note: the Casa is BYOB)

Hummus Kitchen (Multiple Locations) – Yes, its a mini NYC chain. Yes, the hummus is very good.  I’m partial to the one topped with chicken Shawarma.

Vish Hummus

Vish

 

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Scampi is the Bomba!

Scampi Mafaldini

I will start this one with the definitions…

Scampi – Langoustines, or small lobsters the size of a large crayfish found throughout the Mediterranean and Atlantic ocean.  They are an expensive delicacy in the Mediterranean, and even more expensive here

Shrimp Scampi – A dish made of Shrimp, garlic, white wine poured over pasta.  At least thats the classic way.  There are many other variations out there

Bomba –  Calabrian Chili paste consisting of.. you guessed it… Calabrian chili, EVOO, and pickled veggies in some variations

Scampi the Restaurant – PJ Calapa’s (Costata, Ai Fiori) dream restaurant in Flatiron heavily featuring the three above

The Infatuation – Still clueless!

Scampi

The state of Italian dining in NYC is getting more interesting by the day.  From Scampi alone I can walk a few blocks to Maialino for the Roman classics (another outstanding meal a few weeks ago).  I can crawl to 13th street for the neighborhoody Da Andrea (I’m due).  I can walk to Ulivo, Mercato’s more mature sister, for some Southen Italian (I’m due there too).  Or I can just walk to Nishi (insert smiley with heart eyes here).  There has never been a better time for Italian in the city.  The wealth and depth of it makes everyone question, what is Italian food anyway.

But in order to stand out in NYC these days, you need to be creative.  Whether that creativity comes from childhood memories, working at three Michelin stars, or whatever.  PJ Calapa started in Texas, and worked his way through the ranks of NYC via Bouley, Nobu, and Michael White’s AltaMarea group.  For me it was Costata (RIP) that solidified him on the culinary map.  But Scampi feels like that dream restaurant.

The space is like a lesson in restaurant decoration and design.  It can get loud at dinner times and very quiet and airy during lunch.  The lunch bar seat closer to the front is my favorite seat in the house.  One on night we endured the two seater next to the busy kitchen door where we felt the restaurant’s pulse.  Our waiter, although clearly overworked, was ‘futuristic friendly’.  The type you only see in Sci-fi movies.

Scampi Beef Tartare

The food rundown:

Bomba – This will be on your table when you come in.  Its not meant to be for the bouquet of Grissini (bread sticks – nice touch), but to be combined with the dishes, especially the pastas.  I was eating this stuff with the spoon.  There are rotating pickled veggies mixed in (last time mushrooms).

Razor Clams – Reminiscent of a similar dish he created in Costata. Chopped clams mixed with chives and prosciutto.  Unlike similar dishes we had lately like in Frenchette, this one worked, again.

Scampi Razor Clams

Beef Tartare – Not particularly beefy, but nicely balanced and flavorful. There are quite a few ingredients here to make it happen including Parmesan, chives and the Bomba.

Mafaldini Scampi – This is their signature dish, featured on every table and every review (including sadly Infatuation.  These guys rush to review every restaurant before hitting puberty).  The Mafaldini has that wonderful chew and is a serious contender with Lilia as the best Mafaldini in NYC.  But what makes the dish work is the crunchy toasted Filone breadcrumbs (toasted with garlic and more) featured in other pastas.  The best way to eat this however is mix some of that Bomba midway.  This is a must get

Langoustines – These better be perfect for $14 a pop and they are.  As usual they come butterflied, and while there’s not a lot of it, the meat is glorious sea butter

Delicata Squash – One of the newest fall dishes.  Nice and heavy, in a good way

Scampi Squash

Octopus – The lone meh!  Slightly overcooked and forgettable when compared to the other dishes

Lumache – This is a hearty pasta dish.  Its a snail shaped pasta (like elbows on crack) mixed with Tarragon pesto, clams, and those crunchy Filone crumbs I can eat with a spoon.

Cassata – If you like semifreddo, get this.  If you dont like semifreddo, get this

Grillo by the glass – Its a bland, but a rare sighting of the Sicilian white.  Its delicious.

Go!

Scampi
30 W 18th St (5/6), Flatiron
Rating: 2.5 Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that.
Recommended Dishes: Razor Clams, Mafaldini, Langoustines, Lumache, Cassata

Scampi LumacheScampi Cassata

Categories: Gramercy, Flatiron, New York City | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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