New York City

Tito Rad’s Grill- Filipino Power Chow

Tito Rad's Grill SisigI’m starting to get the hang of this.  Rediscovering the borough of Queens.  My friend Howard moving to Jackson Heights was just the excuse I didnt know I needed.  It really feels like a different world out there.  Or 160 different worlds to be exact.  From the price, warm hospitality, to dishes I’ve never heard of.  Its a foodie wonderland.  Highlights so far include a standout crab Ramen at the new Japan Corner, a grocery store in Woodside hosting rotating chefs from Japan.  And Thai Cook at iCook, or “iCook Thai Cook” according to Google, sort of a restaurant within a restaurant.  I’ve been plotting a return trip to that one ever since.

Last week I met a group of Chowhounds at Tito Rad’s, a Filipino grill I’ve wanted to try for a long time.  Filipino food seems to have grown exponentially over the last 20 years in NYC.  I must have had 20 different variations of Sisig during that time (with about half coming from the excellent Mama Fina in East Village).  But in the underground foodie community it seems pretty clear that as far as old school Filipino comfort food goes, Tito Rad’s Grill is the Mothership.  Or the Grandmaship if you will according to their site.

Since 2006 TRG has been serving the community from a seemingly strange looking location, at least when you approach it.  In that corner of Queens Blvd, you might expect to find a place that can renew your license before finding some of the best Filipino food in the city.  Its right next to a Calvary cemetery that has more graves (3 million) than the entire population of Queens.  I dare you to find a food blog that also gives you up to the minute cemetery stats.  Go ahead, I’m waiting.

IMG_2670Considering I eat mostly in Manhattan, I’m all inspired to include prices here, like other not nearly as lazy successful bloggers.  The Sizzling Sisig ($12) oddly listed as an appetizer here is outstanding.  Its chunkier, not as crispy, and milder than most Sisigs I’ve had, but still perfect in a way.  Another winner early on was the Tokwa’t Baboy ($9), deep fried bean curds (Tofu) with braised pork ears.  It worked better for me than the one-note fresh (not fried) Lumpia.  

I though I was back in Prague when we got the Crispy Pata ($14), pork knuckles deep fried to extreme but manageable crispiness.  I found myself reaching for this more than one of their signatures, Inihaw na Panga, grilled tuna jaw.  Good flavor, but slightly off-putting funky aroma prevented me from fully enjoying this.  It comes in s,m,l sizes, but for us, and for me especially, small was plenty.  We were pleasantly surprised however by the Pancit Bam-I ($9), sautéed egg and rice noodles with vegetables, pork, shrimp and Chinese sausage.  Delightfully salty and pungent. 

Its a relatively small sample compared to the rest of the meat heavy menu.  And while not totally hooked, I’m looking forward to returning and chowing through the rest of the menu.

Tito Rad’s Grill
49-10 Queens Blvd, Woodside (Queens)
Rating: 2 Zs (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that
Recommended Dishes: Sisig, Tokwa’t Baboy, Crispy Pata, Pancit Bam-I

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Mercato – a Diamante in the Rough

Eating With Ziggy

Mercato Trenette

February 24th, 2020 Update:

Time to update this oldie but goodie.  Its only been 6 years, though I’ve been doing surprise inspections on and off during that time.  Why did it take me so long you may ask.  Its very simple.  Not much has changed.  Same owners, same menu, same lentil dip they give you at the beginning of each meal, same layout I know like the back of my hand, same everything.  In a city where chefs constantly feel the need to reinvent themselves every now and then, Mercato is pretty much the same its been since it opened a decade ago.  BTW, does anyone really know the back of their hand well?

The location of Mercato has a lot to do with why it stays the same.  In that corner of Hell’s Kitchen, they get their fare share of tourists, and theater goers, which also enables them to…

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Toro – The Once Remembered One

ToroNext month I’m turning 50, and this one feels different.  It almost feels like I need to make some lifestyle changes, or at least make a list of things I need to accomplish.  Do I need to take a pottery class or something?  Is there a manual for this?  Age is just a number, until its not.  At 50, you start remembering hockey player’s dads.  At 50, if you go to Toro on Valentine’s Day, everyone around you including the staff will be half your age.  At 50, you are the only one at Toro who doesnt get a bread basket.  Smart!  No bread for you!

When Toro first opened it was the hottest table in the city.  Sometimes places in NYC simply expire in ones mind, and you forget that they exist.  But I needed to be relatively close to Budakkan on this day (debutante’s 18th bash) so Toro was the obvious choice.  After Nishi, Salinas, and others were solidly booked that is, and Cull and Pistol turns out is not romantic anymore.  Who knew?

Toro for the most part delivered.  The space is more smart repurposing of the old Nabisco complex.  In fact I’m pretty sure I was sitting in the exact same spot where the Oreo cookie was first conceived.  Sort of like the Chelsea version of the “I’ll have what she’s having” table.  Toro went from a hot table to the perfect first date spot.  It got that cool factor, and just enough going for it food wise to impress seasoned foodies.

Toro Corn

Courtesy of Open Table

Tapas, you order them and there’s no rhyme or reason to the order they come.  At least  not here.  When the waitress brought the Gambas Al Ajillo, she came back 5 seconds later to ask if we ordered them.  I said “yep, but I wasnt expecting it to arrive so soon (5 minutes after we ordered)”.  That followed by a look of “the answer is yes, Boomer”.  This was closer to a buttery NOLA style BBQ shrimp rather than shrimp swimming in garlic and olive oil.  Thats a good thing.

The Octopus was spanked just enough for a perfect texture, with some squid ink sauce and a Harrisa-like sauce to play with.  Another highlight, perhaps the biggest, was the Maiz Asado, like a Mexican corn on the cob without the cob.  Simple and brilliant.  More simple and almost always brilliant were the Pimientos de Padrón.  I wouldnt dare ask on VD why mrs Z Shishito’s dont come out like this.  The Patatas Bravas were standard but probably an unnecessary order in our case.  If there’s any fault to the random arrivals is that the Patatas should never come last.

Not everything worked though.  The Bocadillo de Erizos, a pressed sandwich of sea urchin, miso butter & mustard seed tasted like two married greasy diner toasts with a hint of sea urchin.  The Rabbit Empanada sounded good on paper, but required much of the accompanied salsa to make an impact.  Same with the fat churros that needed cups full of chocolate gold instead of a drizzle.  And the bread looked ravishing.

Toro is a solid two Z.  Good enough to recommend, not strong enough to return, and in my mind at least, will go back to the dining abyss in about two and a half months.  Too dark for quality pictures

Toro
85 10th Avenue (Entrance on 15th St and, 11th Ave)
Rating: 2 Zs (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that
Recommended Dishes: Gambas Al Ajillo, Octopus, Maiz Asado, Pimientos de PadrónToro Octopus

Categories: Chelsea, New York City | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lamalo – Here’s Why

LamaloBefore I visit a new place I like to spend some time perusing their website.  It paints a picture, and often tells the story.  I love a good story, but they are getting increasingly rare in corporate NYC.  Lamalo site looks like that of a typical modern restaurant in New York, with colorful images of their food, menu, and press galore.  Its always interesting to see what makes the press cut.  In Lamalo’s case, it’s seemingly every possible mention, with the majority about the anticipation and announcement of its much hyped opening. Which really means “our marketing dollars went to good use y’all”.  Not one review.  The only person benefiting from this press barrage is Jeff Bezos.

Also missing is the story.  There’s an ‘About’ section with no mention of Gadi Peleg and his accomplishments with Breads Bakery.  Instead you see a generic “modern Middle Eastern gem nestled in the heart of NoMad”.  Not sure what makes it modern other than higher prices and being inside a hotel.  Or maybe its because there’s no sign.  The concept of Mezzes served as such may be new to NYC but its been around for 1000’s of years.

Lamalo means “why not” in Hebrew, but its often used, almost like slang.  As in “What if we offer a ridiculous amount of all you can eat spreads, dips, and bread for a set price, say $25 per person?  Lamalo?!?”.  Its essentially a glorified all you can eat buffet of tiny plates like hummus, babaganoush, button mushrooms, pickles, and more.  The most memorable was Skordalia, a potato spread infused with garlic and almonds to the point that it tastes more like beans than potato.  The plates surround a “smaller than I thought” laffa that comes fresh out of the oven but dries quickly, and surprisingly not particularly great.  I’d take the Dizengoff/Zahav pita any day of the week.  Except shabbos.

The spreads for the most part are cleverly executed, and diverse enough to keep things interesting.  There’s a certain pleasant flow here.  The problem is, in a way similar to my issue with Zahav, that the fun stops there.  Unlike Zahav, here you do have variety of large dishes to choose from, but the two we ordered left much to be desired.  A Cabbage “Shank” that was braised overnight with a sweet glaze was interesting at first, but quickly got too sweet and boring.  Its a play on Borscht that doesnt work.

Shabtai-Style Fish featured various kinds of unevenly cooked fried filets is essentially a good mother-in-law fried fish.  Its interesting that they call it Shabtai style considering there’s really no such thing, at least not globally that I’m aware.  As for the sides, the Mejadara worked a lot better than the odd tasting Ful (Fava beans) which I normally love.  But perhaps the best dish at Lamalo is the lone dessert.  A perfectly semi frozen Halva Parfait that really hit the spot.  Like a semifredo covered with shredded Halvah.

But there’s simply not enough here to make me want to come back.  Yes, its a playful concept that can be fun for groups, couples, and heck even accountants.  But tiny plates of mostly spreads and dips can only thrill so much.  You spend some time fishing for your favorites before declaring the winners, but still find yourself munching on the undesirable, because someone has to.  Like a polygamist, who got his favorites, but needs to take the others to the zoo sometimes.  But worse of all, he cant add anymore wives.

Lamalo
11 E 31st St (Madison/5th, Nomad)
Rating: 1 Z (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that
Recommended Dishes: Mezzes (included), Halva ParfaitLamalo Halvah Parfait

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

The Usual – I’ll Have what Everyone Else is Having

The Usual - BurgerAs we get older, mental lists get less and less effective.  We start to forget things, and sometimes get in trouble as a result, especially with the spouse.  The saving grace is an equally forgetful spouse, but not when she has different habits and writes everything down.  Consider my agenda on my day off today:  Write a post, check the tire in my car, call cable, watch Almodovar’s Pain and Glory, take the dishes out (still not allowed to put them in but in the midst of a mandatory online course), and…  I know I had more, including something important that she asked me to do.  But at the moment I dont have the slightest idea what it is.  I suppose I can ask her, but that’s risky in itself.  

Successful people write shit down.  The great Jerry Seinfend said that as you get older you lose your creativity, and the way to combat that is to sit down and write.  He writes for two hours every day.  It’s sort of what I’m doing right now.  I should be writing something about The Usual but instead I’m writing about, well, nothing really.  Like Seinfend, its a blog about nothing.  I wasnt planning to write about nothing when I started writing a few minutes ago.  I definitely planned to write about something.

So as a result of accelerated fading mental lists, about a year ago, I started making a list of new restaurants I’d like to try.  And pretty much ever since then I’ve been staring at The Usual on top of that list.  It wasnt that I ever put it on top.  Its just the oldest name on the list that I kept bumping down in favor of others.  Burger joints still gets your attention, but with so many good ones out there, its hard to get overly enthusiastic.

I first heard of Alvin Cailan when he opened Eggslut, a popup at the Chef Club Counter, offering his famous (in LA at least) egg sandwich.  Eggslut now has locations in LA and the Cosmopolitan hotel in Vegas.  The Cosmo shaping up to be a foodie paradise, attracting the crème de la Crème seems like.  The Filipino-American Cailan is also famous for hosting The Burger Show on Youtube.  And burgers and fried chicken are the focus in NYC, instead of egg sandwiches and Filipino food.  Although rumors are that Cailan will open a Filipino restaurant here soon enough.The Usual - Sprouts

I think Cailan and team figured at some point that at a place called “The Usual”, an online menu is almost useless.  Its not there as of this writing.  People generally come for one or two items, the burger or fried chicken.  We ordered the former as the main, and the latter as the first course.  When we come back, that and only that would be my order.  Among the other dishes we tried were Kung Pao Brussel Sprouts that were cooked well but needed a bit more flair.  And a baked cookie and ice cream that was too sweet and uninspiring.

But the burger was inspiring alright.  Not a designer, fancy one that you’ll find in say NoMad Bar.  Just a solid, well crafted burger.  Two quality smashed patties with American Cheese, garlic aioli, and just enough onions.  Its beefy, well balanced, and just the right size.  And for $20 as you’d expect, served with excellent fries that came with ketchup and a curry aioli.  Combine the two for maximum oomphness.

I’ve heard much about Cailan’s fried chicken.  But oddly, a Korean fried chicken instead on the menu these days.  Not so odd once you try it.  It got all the elements of perfect fried chicken.  Its clean tasting, supremely moist, with just the right amount of crunch and flavor from the thinner than it looks skin.  Perhaps the best KFC (Korean) I’ve ever had.  Looking forward to trying the rest of the menu.  Not really.  I’ll just have the usual.

The Usual
30 Kenmare St (Mott/Elizabeth)
Rating: 2 Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that
Recommended Dishes: Burger, Fried ChickenThe Usual - Koren Fried Chicken

Categories: New York City, SoHo, NoHo, Nolita | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Hell’s Kitchen Guide – Winter 2020 Update

Tulcingo Del Valle Chile RellenoA much needed update to the “Bread and Butter” of this blog.  Seven year old Hell’s Kitchen Survival Guide still outperforming all other posts year after year.  The Z-List and the Turks & Caicos page complete the top three.  There are many sources for Hell’s Kitchen out there today but I truly believe this is still the most comprehensive and up to date of the bunch.  Most HK guides written by people who dont spend much time there and/or dont really understand the area well.  But enough about me…

Whats new in 2020?  Mexican, Thai, Ramen, Korean continue to dominate, so naturally three additions fall into that group.  I’m seeing more and more Chinese/NOLA style boils popping on 9th, and a slow moving shift from East Village (either opening more locations or moving).  Its good news for HK but a little sad because it means owners relying a bit more on tourists.  Still, that didnt save some of the places that closed lately like Gloria (I tell ya that location is cursed).

Dropped from the list:

Otto’s Tacos – Still like the shrimp tacos, but getting a little inconsistent.
Mentoku Ramen – Just prefer EAK and the old-guards
Benares – Closed
Gloria – Closed
Merilu Pizza – Closed

EAK RamenAdded to the list:

E.A.K. Ramen Hell’s Kitchen – My Ramen of choice these days.  First successful infiltration of IEKEI (pronounced EAK) style Ramen in NYC, albeit on tourist heavy restaurant row (46th) for some reason.

UOGASHI – This is it!  The Holy Grail in this Sushi deprived Kitchen.  An East Village import.  The space housed a different sushi place which explains why it took me 6 months to realize and try it.

Le Sia – Its one of those rare situations where I add a place to the guide before my first visit.  I’m well too familiar with Le Sia in East Village and what these guys are capable of.  Its a very fresh opening.  Expect fiery Chinese style crawfish/crab boils, BBQ skewers, and the type of authenticity the neighborhood isnt used to.

Tulcingo Del Valle – Shame on me for waiting this long to add this one.  I just never took it very seriously I suppose.  A 20 year old Pueblan feels like the last of the neighborhood bodegas.  No shortcuts, fresh or bust approach is the secret.

Alan’s Kitchen Mexican Cuisine – This one is a tentative addition as its new and I’ve only been once, but the Carnitas here so far are Mission-esque (Mission District is a Mexican paradise of sorts in SF).  The tacos are so good I hear Los Tacos nearby are changing their name to #2

Click here for the full guide

Click here for the map

Alan's Kitchen

Alan’s Kitchen

 

 

 

Categories: Midtown West, New York City | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Brooklyn Food Tour Update

Frequently Asked Questions updated.

Most important is a new meeting point.  Due to extensive construction by Gran Morsi, I’ve been experimenting with a new location for a while, but will make it official now.  We now meet at Mattress Firm Tribecca (yes with two c’s) – 140 Church St.  Thats in Manhattan, not Brooklyn.  Its on the corner of Warren and Church, but we meet on the Warren side.

As usual please check your email prior to the tour for any changes.  Construction is spreading all over NYC like wildfire.  Its a poor analogy these days but its true and sad.  I may need to change the meeting point last minute.

The tour keeps evolving.  Less emphasis on Dumbo (due to, you guessed it, construction).  More emphasis on Brighton Beach (Added my favorite Georgian Bakery), and Green-Wood Cemetery.  Look for a blog post on the latter soon.  Dumbo was a minor stop anyway.

One of the most fun changes, for me at least, is a new game we now play.  I tell a lot of stories during the tour, and one of them is false.  At the end of the tour you will try to guess the fake story.  I started doing it mostly with Australians as a way for them to pay more attention and stop looking for squirrels 😉

Unlike the other two tours, this one is not bookable on Trip Advisor/Viator yet.  Best and only way to book is via email.  EatingWithZiggy@gmail.com

Tour Details here

Reviews here

Complaints here

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Village Cafe – Once Upon a Time in Azerbaijan

Village Cafe - Guru HingalThis is not your father’s Coney Island Ave.  When I lived in that part of Brooklyn in the 80-90s, Turkish places like Sahara dominated.  Turkish, car washes, ice cream, and affordable divorce lawyers to be exact.  Nowadays, the business hub, that doesnt quite lead to Coney Island, features even better Turkish (Taci’s Beyti), respectable Moldovan (Moldova), Uzbek royalty (Nargis), swanky Russian nightclubs like Chinar, and a plethora of Pakistani joints between Foster and H.  And when I want to kick it up a notch, there’s always Z-List fave Werkstatt (I’m overdue).  Coney Island Avenue is a foodie paradise.  And the divorce lawyers now speak 17 languages.

With that said, you can drive the entire length of Coney Island 100 times, and miss one of its biggest gems, Village Cafe.  The restaurant is hidden inside a parking lot of a liquor shop (yes you can park inside).  Its like one of those Staten Island mini malls where you pick your laundry.  You’ll see a “Village” sign in what looks like an oversized temporary tiki hut.  Its a strange name for an Azerbaijani restaurant considering almost all other Azerbaijani restaurant names contain Baku or Azerbaijan.  But I’m sure “Village Cafe” just rolls off the tongue for the Azerbaijani.Village Cafe - Kutaby

What is Azerbaijani food you ask?  Its not too different than some of its neighbors like Georgia, Uzbekistan and Turkey.  Kebabs and Plov (rice pilaf) dominate, although the latter is sweetened with dried fruits so quite different than the Uzbek version.  Soups, meat filled flatbreads, kebabs wrapped in flatbread, kebabs in soup, and something called Guru Hingal (more on that later).  Just please dont call it Russian food.  Yes, you will get your Russian classics at Village like Borscht and Pilmeni, considering the location of the place and this is a former soviet republic after all.

The bread (they call it Turkish bread) is good, but who needs that when you have Kutaby, Azerbaijani flatbread filled with minced chicken, lamb or greens.  Its a must order.  The salads are your typical central Asian/Russian (Ok, only this one time) tomato, avocado, and the Georgian Lobio among many more.  I’m intrigued by “Unexpected Guests”, and “Simple & Delicious”.  I believe the former is only for walk-ins.  The soups get a bit more foreign sounding, though the only one I tried is the familiar Kharcho, which isnt quite as potent as Tone Cafe’s version 2 miles south, but good enough.

Village Cafe - DessertMeats in a form of kebabs and lamb chops dominate the menu.  Lulya kebab (minced meat) here is thick and juicy.  But what sets them apart here is they are wrapped with thin dough.  Get the lamb over chicken.  Guru Hingal is a thin pappardelle like noodles topped with a “ragu” of onions, and lamb cooked in its own fat.  You wont find better tasting pasta in south Brooklyn.

The village people (staff) are friendly and efficient.  No alcohol or pork as its Muslim, but as with many such places in south Brooklyn, you can bring your own alcohol.  You just cant bring your own pork.  The desserts here are good.  The Napoleon is fresh and huge.  But try the “Pakhlava”, denser, nuttier, not as sweet and better than your average Baklava.  Looking forward to try more here, especially when I arrive unannounced.

Village Cafe
1968 Coney Island Ave (Ave P/Quentin, Brooklyn)
Rating: 2 Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that
Recommended Dishes: Kutaby, Lamb Lulya Kebab, Chicken Kebab, Guru Hingal, Pakhlava

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

Bowery Meat Company – Come for the Meat, Stay for Lasagna

Bowery Meat Company - TomahawkSometimes I cringe when I read my old posts.  Ever so often it starts with the title.  Why did I call BMC, a “Croatian Seafood Delight” in 2014.  I remember BMC had broiled oysters which were popularized by Croatian immigrants in New Orleans, but still, what was I thinking.  Turns out, after reading the post (more chills), I see that I was simply making fun of the confusion of what type of restaurant is BMC.  Many dismissed it as a steakhouse.  On Yelp at that time it was listed as “Salad, Italian, Seafood”.  And the owners didnt really like the “Steakhouse” tag, calling it stale, uncool, and touristy.  Hence… Croatian!

The owners are still correct today.  I dont know of too many young New Yorkers that go to traditional steakhouse these days.  But in 2020 Justin Bieber’s fave BMC feels like a steakhouse whether the owners like it or not.  Just not the classic steakhouse most tourists, or older New Yorkers usually consider.  In fact BMC may be the best example of a modern steakhouse in NYC today.  Unlike other such meat specialists like Minetta Tavern, and 4 Charles Prime Rib, meat and more meat reign supreme at BMC.  I imagine not that many go to BMC for their Oysters, or Duck Lasagna.  But they should…

The Duck Lasagna actually dictates the ordering game plan.  If you get it ($58, for 2-8 ppl), you may want to take it easy with the meat.  And if you skip it, knock yourself out.  Or if you are like me, do the lasagna and the knocking.  Its magnificent, and much meatier than I remember.  A fine combination of duck, mushrooms, creamy Caciocavallo, Parmesan, and plenty of noodle texture.Bowery Meat Company -Cauliflower

The meat selection at BMC is always impressive.  Its perhaps the only steakhouse offering the Ribeye cap that comes rolled into a hockey puck shape.  Its arguably the best piece of the cow and thats why its $68 for what looks like about 6 oz of meat.  Its still one of the best steaks I ever had.  But on this night, we “settled” for the 40 oz Tomahawk Ribeye.  As expected it was perfectly cooked, though I wished for a bit more flavor from the crust.  While a sauce with this cut is not normally necessary, the house sauce is worth using.  It made the fries taste that much better, and we even took some home.

Another discovery this time was the roasted cauliflower steak.  Its topped with quite the pungent Pumpkin Seed Pesto.  The very shareable, Lasagna size, bread pudding is a smashing finisher.  It contains apples, lots of Candied Pecans, Caramel Chocolate, and Vanilla Ice Cream.  Its yet another must.  The one beef I got with BMC is the lack of affordable wine.  I understand we are at an expensive steakhouse, but still.  Impressive list but not much under $100.  2017 Nebbiolo for example is not exactly a bargain at $95.

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Bowery Meat Company
9 E 1st St (2nd/3rd, East Village)
Rating: 2.5 Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that
Recommended Dishes: Duck Lasagna, Bowery Steak, Broiled Oysters, Cauliflower Steak, Bread Pudding

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

Top 10 Dishes of 2019

Another fantastic eating year is in the books folks.  Just to be on the safe side, for the purpose of this post, I’m not planning to eat anything until 2020.  Figured I’ll give this Intermittent Fasting thing that everyone is talking about a go finally.  Eat freely for the first 362 days of the year only.  Ever wonder why these lists come out so early in December by Eater, and the rest of them?  Do they not plan to eat anything interesting the rest of the year and postpone all eating assignments to January?

Anywho, its actually been a rather a rough year, and perhaps contrary to the first line of the post, not exactly my favorite food year.  Personal tragedies, and an accelerated number of great eateries closing all over the city contributed.  There’s no more rhyme or reason to restaurants closing these days.  But 2019 still saw some great openings and old favorites continue to deliver…

Peking Duck at Pinch Chinese

Who said the most expensive item on the menu is often the best.  I did.  Many times.  Because its true more often than not.  This $105 duck that needs to be ordered and paid for days in advance is a triumph.  And not bad value considering the four of us couldn’t finish it.  Without sounding too much like the Oscars, this is the third nomination for Pinch Chinese who previously got nods for the Wind Sand Chicken and Crab dish in this space.

Crabmeat Tom Turmeric at Taladwat

2019 saw the talented David Bank (Pure Thai Cookhouse) finally open another massively successful Thai hit in Hell’s Kitchen,  And he somehow managed to keep it fresh in Little Thailand.  In about half a dozen visits during the year, only once I did not order this well balanced milky goodness.  With Gloria now shuttered, this is the best crab dish in the kitchen today.taladwat - crab

Pastrami Sandwich at Hometown BBQ Industry City

Yes, this means I finally found a parking spot in Industry City.  And yes, I finally found a compelling reason to visit Industry City.  This ultra flaky pastrami may be as good as it gets in NYC today.  It borders too salty on the first few bites, but settles in beautifully.  Fatty in all the right places, like slow dancing with your mother in law.  A nice homage to the classic Jewish deli pastrami on rye.Hometown BBQ Pastrami

Tagliolini al Ragu at Rezdora

If you look at the word ‘Bastardized’ in the dictionary you’ll see a picture of the classic American spaghetti Bolognese.  If you ever had the real thing, Tagliolini al ragu in Emilia Romagna or Tajarin in Piedmont, you are probably nodding profusely right now.  So before you hurt yourself, head to Rezdora.  It shouldnt surprise anyone considering chef/owner Stefano Secchi’s resume includes Modena royalty Osteria Francescana, and Hosteria Giusti.

Rezdora-Tagliolini

Eater

Parrillada de Setas at Tomiño Taberna Gallega

When I dine alone, I often order mushroom dishes, because I’m legally not allowed to order them when I’m on a date.  Its in my marriage contract.  And sometimes when I see a good looking mushroom dish on the menu while with Mrs Z, I have to sneak back into the place on another day in order to have it.  This one was worth the hassle.  A wonderful sweet and savory medley of Enoki, King Oyster, Maitake with goat cheese, garlic and honey.Tomino - Mushroom salad

Wagyu Ragu at Kāwi

Perhaps the most important opening of the year in NYC doesnt get enough attention.  Probably because of the mall location (Hudson Yards).  There are about 5 very solid dishes I can pick from Kawi, but the Wagyu ragu that comes with table side scissored rice cakes is a no brainer.  The kind of umaminess not experienced since the debut of Ssam Bar’s spicy rice cakes.Kawi - Wagyu Ragu Rice Cakes

Carrots at Ducks Eatery

Leave it to smoking wizard Will Horowitz to make carrots taste this good.  The man behind the the legendary pastrami, watermelon ham, and goat neck (a former Top Dish) got another hit which got vegan chain By Chloe’s attention.  The carrots are treated just like pastrami which means it takes about a week to make them taste like meat.Ducks Eatery Carrots

Lobster Noodles at Wayan

One of the most thrilling openings of the year, and a dish I think about often, sometimes in most inappropriate moments.  Like when Mrs Z tells me about her day and then ruins the moment with a “Are you listening”?  Its like the most amazing Mazemen (drier Ramen) you’ll ever have.  Ramen noodles, chili, butter, soy, thai basil and plenty of Maine lobsta.Wayan - Lobster Noodle

Djolof Fried Rice with chicken at Berber Street Food

In vanishing NY its refreshing to see places like Berber Street Food keep opening.  Michelin trained Diana Tandia created quite the sweet formula to attract a slew of locals very quickly.  The Djolof is a tomatoee Senegalese rice dish that is essentially like the best Biryani you’ll ever have.Berber Stree Food - Djolof Fried Rice

Fresh Whole Fish at Hunan Slurp

The plethora of new Chinese places opening all over the city changed the way I eat fish in NYC.  This whole market fresh fish is chopped with bones and all, and covered with garlic, ginger, and a supremely flavorful homemade chili sauce that I can drink from a wine glass.Hunan Slurp - Fish

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