New York City

Fiaschetteria Pistoia – Under the Alphabet Sun

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May 6th, 2019 Update:

It was a rough start.  Last time at Pistoia, we were greeted by the first Pistoia we met that didnt have a heavy Italian accent.  No, its not like myself or Mrs Z have a Fish Called Wanda Syndrome (you need to remember the movie well to understand).  Its just that over the past few years we got accustomed to a certain atmosphere at this ultra Tuscan.  But rest assured, our waitress quickly explained and fixed the situation, switching to fluent Italian.  And then we never saw her again, which we appreciated in a strange way.  This is why…

One of the biggest differences between eating in NYC and Italy is the number of front of the house workers you see.  For a typical mid-range establishment here you may witness a manager, a host or two, 4 servers, 2 busboys, and one or two bartenders.  Its roughly more than double the amount of workers you find in a similar size place in Italy.  Last time at Pistoia (original East Village location always.  Since the last update, another West Village location added), we counted a total of four people handling a packed house, and a sidewalk.  That hustle meant waiting 15 minutes more for my bill, but that also meant a lighter bill, and a different atmosphere.  At Pasquale Jones last week, we saw twice as many employees and half the customers.

Its worth coming here for the creamy Zucchini flan alone, or for some of the silkiest, sweetest prosciutto you’ll find in the city.  Not much changed in the all fresh pasta department.  The square Maccheroni now features a fine and very Tuscan Cinghiale (wild boar) ragu.  The Pappardelle with the beef ragu still rocks.  And although the Picci lost some of its roundness, its the most peppery, creamiest Cacio e peppe out there.  The biggest discovery this time was probably the splendid Chocolate Panna cotta, but you cant forget about the Tiramisu here.  Upping Pistoia to three stars, as this is slowly becoming a family fave.

Pistoia

April 2nd, 2018 Update:

Turns out Pistoia handles family style like they do with their families in Tuscany.  A feast for the ages for $55, house wine included.  Highlights:  The oh so silky prosciutto I cant get enough here.  The tiny but potent Zucchini flan.  One of the best simple Spaghetti with red sauce I’ve had in a while.  Perfectly cut and cooked Pappardelle topped with hearty slow braised meat ragu.  And delicate veal cutlets braised with Tuscan wine.

I rarely get this much satisfaction from a group.  The big reason is the people running the place.  You are not dealing with a corporation and an expensive super fixed menu.  You are dealing with owner Emanuelle who will not nickle and dime you and will make sure everyone leaves satisfied.  One of my favorite new Italian in NYC.

September 26th, 2017 post:

There’s Off the Beaten Path, and then there’s Avenue C.  When I first heard of Fiaschetteria Pistoia about 6 months ago, I had to see it to believe it.  You hear about places open in Alphabet City, but rarely so far east.  Its a good news, bad news situation for residents and the many students who call East Village and Alphabet City their home.  It’s great to see businesses open and thrive, but at the same time we may be looking at a rent squeeze.  On the bright side, I’m now able to sit outside on Avenue C.  Something I wasnt able to do not too long ago during the more violent days of the Alphabet (I’m using Marvel lingo here.  As in “we need to defend our [Hell’s] kitchen)

You almost assume that any town just outside of Florence would be sleepy when compared to the tourist mecca nearby.  But Pistoia, just west of Florence on the road to Lucca (another gem) is filled with culture and nightlife.  And in the middle of that nightlife is Fiaschetteria La Pace, the big brother of Fiaschetteria Pistoia.  Fiaschetteria, in the more traditional sense means a small wine bar, more associated with Florence.  Back in the day, Tuscan wine was brought in from the vineyards in straw-bottomed bottles called Fiasche and sold in these tiny open wine bars, like street food.  A dying breed just like the Lower East Side Jewish delis that once roamed around the area where Pistoia calls home

 

Pistoia is as far removed from Italian/American as a place can be in NYC.  Much of the staff including the cooks, a family and friends affair, from you guessed it, Pistoia.  A human pasta machine in full display busy making the Picci, a rarity in NYC because its slightly more labor intensive.  Limited but adequate English throughout adds to the charm.  Even the wine “menu” may seem strange to some.  A basket with 8 house wines, dropped on a table or chair near you to explore and sniff.

There’s only one thing that sings Tuscany more than Picci.  Pappa can you hear me?? Pappa al Pomodoro a rustic dish not so easily found in NYC.  Mainly because tomato mush (“Pappa”) with stale saltless Tuscan bread doesn’t usually scream fine dining.  But this is indeed a good one.  Many may also bulk at the idea of Picci served Cacio e Pepe style.  But in south Tuscany this kind of Roman influence is common, and Picci got a bit more of a bite.  And yes, you even have a Cinghiale (wild boar) sighting here.  Here it is served with Maccheroni, a pasta that is a little more generic than I’m usually led to believe.  I was expecting tube shape, but got flat noodles that you can use to make little tacos with that meat Fiaschetteria Pistoia Pappa al Pomodoro

In Pistoia, Maccheroni Sull’Anatra (slowly cooked duck ragu) is usually served on an annual July festival.  In Alphabet city I can get it any day now.  This regular (I’m told) special became my favorite pasta here after three visits.  On the last visit, I also enjoyed Crostone Fagiolino, another Pistoia specialty of bread topped with cooked prosciutto, chicken liver and Mushrooms.  Eating this requires a little work, but it pays off overtime.  Standards like Prosciutto and Tiramisu are top notch here.  Tiramisu is so good in fact that I havent tried any other desserts here.

Fiaschetteria Pistoia
647 E 11th (Off C), East Village
Rating: 3 Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that
Recommended Dishes: Any of the Prosciuttos, Zucchini flan, Pappa al Pomodoro, Crostone Fagiolino, Spaghetti, Pappardelle, Maccheroni (any), Picci Cacio e peppe, Tiramisu, Panna Cotta

 

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Categories: East Village, New York City | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Pasquale Jones – Downtown Funk

Pasquale Jones Diavola

May 3rd, 2019 Update:

Its been 977 days since the last update but who’s counting.  Not me.  There’s an online date calculator out there in Google land.  I use it to sometimes to count days between vacations, colonoscopies, etc.  But there’s not much to report here really, except to remind you that PJ is awesome, albeit a bit more touristy these days.  It seems that the borders of Little Italy have expended and every time I’m here, I’m surrounded by savvy tourists.  The last time, we overheard from the next table… “according to my research this is one of the best Italian restaurants in NYC”.  That followed a “Dont you dare dad” by my oldest, which meant: please dont strike a conversation with them, we are having a nice family lunch, and you are like 0 for 40 (tourists we met who read the blog).  Ok, fine!

More tourists, in addition to more restaurants by the group (Legacy Records) can very easily lead to loss of focus, but I’m not seeing any evidence of that.  Pastas like the Tagliatelle with lamb (when they are out of rabbit), fennel, Pecorino, always solid.  Its an ever-changing pasta lineup.  The great Agnolotti or Guinea Hen Cappellacci with lobster mushrooms, that’s not really a mushroom, I had once, are long gone.

The pizzas are still fantastic but I cant make myself try something other than the Diavola or clam pie whenever I’m here.  The Braised Leeks have been on the menu since day one pretty much, and its indeed good.  And on the last visit, the proximity to Little Italy made us try the Veal and Ricotta meatballs which were exceptional, tho the family was not too keen on the too bitter accompanied Broccoli Rabe.  Still a go!

August 29, 2016 Update:

The great Pasquale Jones is now experimenting with a new concept.  They offer on weekends something called “Lunch”.  Yes, its not a typo… lunch on weekends!  No Mimosa, no French Toast, not even an eggs Benedict pizza.  Just lunch.  Last weekend after a quick egg sandwich and a Mimosa at home, I decided to check it out for myself and the results may shock you.

It was great!  Sure, I was dreaming of bacon and eggs on occasion, but a small price to pay when the pizza is this good.  And by pizza, I mean I’m essentially stuck with the Diavola and the now city wide famous LittleNeck Clam pie that is growing on me.  While I much preferred the spicy Diavola last time, the clam pie with a little drizzle of the accompanied Calabrian Chili is creamy and satisfying enough to continue ordering it.

IMG_3898

But I really come here for the pastas.  Hard to pass on the pizza especially when you bring new people here, but the pastas and the whole package is why I’m adding PJ to the Z-List on the next big update (as soon as this month).  What attracted me to this very experimental lunch was the Tajarin with corn and summer truffles.  Knowing that Tim Caspare who spent some time in Piedmont, knows how to handle those Piedmont(ish) classics.  Sweet pastas dont particularly sound very sexy to me, but this one may have changed that notion.  Rich, creamy, but at the same time very summery.  The “Mezze Rigatoni”, their slightly heavier version of the Cacio e Pepe was good as well.  And I’m still yet to have the Pork Shank for 2 (or 3) that everyone’s talking about

If you go for lunch (or dinner), check out the new soft serve and Poke window at Seamore’s next door.  They are serving now coconut lemongrass ice cream from Oddfellows which is fantastic.  And/or if its open, get the chocolate chip cookie and coffee at Maman.  Strong candidate for best cookie in NYC! IMG_3895

March 20, 2016 original post:

I rarely get them this young.  As tempting as it is to move up the food blog ladder, I prefer to wait for the growth and maturation that comes at the other guinea pigs expense.  After some time, they figure out where the holes are, what works, what doesnt, and suddenly the world is a better place.  This is one reason that one can not simply go by early opinions from first respondents who care only about being on that elusive first Google page (I’m looking at you Infatuation).  But sometimes, something jumps at you, and you feel a little anxious.  In this case it wasnt so much the team of Charlie Bird behind this thing, but the third wheel, a dude from Cotogna from San Francisco that got my attention

Cotogna was the mistake from last summer.  Instead of sticking to the initial plan, I substituted Cotogna with the very attractive Piedmont heavy menu of Perbacco.  The kind of menu sorely missing in NYC.  The result was a less than stellar meal that featured Piedmontese classics that deviated the wrong way from tradition.  Irony and Redemption came seven months later when Tim Caspare of Cotogna, now at Pasquale Jones, whips a perfectly executed Agnolotti dal Plin that would make any Langhe nonna blush.

Pasquale Jones KitchenWhen she said “It will be around 90 minute”, Unlce Boons, Bar Goto started creeping into my head, as its about 85 minutes longer than I normally like to wait for a table in NYC.  But my dining partner, aka first wife, was still 60 minutes away.  And besides, I’m right by my favorite area in NYC… Little Italy!  By the way, a little free tip to restaurants out there:  When you say “It will be around 90 minute”, smiling is the wrong way of going about it when delivering the sad news.  While smiling is generally a good idea, and the #1 rule of fight club, this is not one of those moments.  Just like “your grandma died”, or “the vasectomy didnt go as expected sir”, dont underestimate the sadness of the news.  Smiling while saying it, makes you look like TAO

I wont keep you in suspense.  This was one of the best meals in recent memory (I started eating cashews religiously which extended “recent memory” to about a month).  Pasquale Jones is essentially a more comfortable, more ambitious, better pasta, slightly less creative Bruno Pizza.  The counter facing the action is the way to go, but you dont have choices here.  You get what becomes available.  Attention to detail starts with those super comfortable counter seats.  The ones you can lean back comfortably when you feel the need to unzip.  Reservations through Resy – Forget it.  Only about 20% are out there.  On to the food…Pasquale Jones Cauliflower

Charred Cauliflower – This is one those simple dishes where you get pretty much what you order.  Sure there was blood orange, and some heat to go along, but the star was simple cauliflower that was still raw enough to maintain that crunchy texture.  Although the dish was fine, I did have some serious small dish envy, like the Braised Leeks which looked like the sexiest grilled calamari.

Clam Pie – Good.  I get the sense that this is their early signature pie.  I’m not the biggest white pie lover unless its something like Marta’s Potato Carbonara where the ingredients talk back to you (I should probably see someone about this).  This is not one of those, but satisfying nonetheless.  Perfectly charred, chewy, flavorful dough.Pasquale Jones Clam Pie

Diavola – More like it, but I’m more of a Diavola fan overall.  I wasnt about to order two pies but couldnt decide here.  A bit more heat than the average city Diavola.  Neapolitanish, very similar to Motorino which is a compliment.  Some may expect more refined pizza (a la Bruno) in a place like this, so its important to adjust those expectations.  Its about the total package.

Agnolotti – I already touched on this beautiful dish.  This is a good example of pasta that stays true to its origin, unlike the rest of the Agnolottis out there in town.  This is buttery, explosive, pillowy Agnolotti dal Plin packed with Guinea hen, sage and Pancetta.  PANCETTA!

Rigatoni – Another simple but very solid dish.  Perfectly cooked dry rigatoni, with sausage ragu carrying a nice depth.  Get this!Pasquale Jones Agnolotti

Pear dessert – Proper finish.  They only offer one dessert, different each night I believe.  Baked pear with Vanilla ice cream, olive oil and candied hazelnuts.  The two brick ovens are utilized heavily here.

Zoe Amber Ale – Maine Beer Company.  Solid hoppy, aromatic, complex Amber.  Highly recommend this one

But Ziggy, in Paragraph #4 you used the word “Ambitious”.  What’s so ambitious about Rigatoni, Diavola, and pear.  Good question Timmy.  This is where the steaks and fish come in.  And by steaks I mean those huge $125 dry aged rib eyes that you can hang in your basement and practice on them like Rocky.  They also offer a beautiful pork shoulder, and a Verdure section to boot.  Watching them handle all that meat for two hours, gave me all sorts of impure thoughts.

Cementing the belief even more that pound for pound, Nolita is the best eating neighborhood on the east coast.  This is also another no-topping establishment.  I failed to talk about it, because its really a non-issue until you are reminded about it when you you get the bill.  Its like Santa suddenly shows up to kiss you softly on the cheek

Pasquale Jones
187 Mulberry St (Kenmare) – Nolita
Rating: 2.5 Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that
Recommended Dishes: Diavola, Clam Pie, Meatballs, Leeks, any pasta

Pasquale Jones Rigatoni Pasquale Jones Pork Shoulder Pasquale Jones Dessert Pasquale JonesIMG_3897

Categories: New York City, SoHo, NoHo, Nolita | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Krok – A Viable Pok Pok Replacement

Krok - Pad Kra-PraoThis is more of an important public announcement, rather than a full restaurant review.  Pok Pok, as expected by some, ran its course and closed around a year ago.  I never want to see restaurants close, but admittedly, I havent visited Pok Pok in the final year or so.  The fact that it was never open for lunch (weekdays), and other serious Northern Thai joints like Ugly Baby popping up in Brooklyn had something to do with it.  But with Krok, opening up in its place there are reasons to celebrate, and visit.

You might as well call it Krok Krok, as its not awfully different than the previous tenant.  Krok’s menu is street food and Isan leaning, which means BYOB, Bring Your Own Bounty.  While they may tone it down a bit for the white boys, toning it down here still means plenty of nice, bold flavors.  After just one sit down, and a takeout order on another evening, I can tell you that this is some serious strong stuff.  And being within six degrees of Pure Thai Cookhouse helps.  Chef/partner Krit Ploysomboon cooked at Land Thai Kitchen, Pure’s UWS sister.  Another partner owns a Thai restaurant in Queens.

KrokEvery dish I’ve had so far was outstanding.  The Pad Kra-Prao, minced chicken (you can get pork instead), stir fried with garlic, chili and a vibrant basil sauce is especially superb.  Another great chicken dish is the Gai Yang Bu-ri-ram, herb marinated and grilled with garlic, lemongrass, pepper, served with spicy sweet & sour and tamarind chili dipping sauces which you may or may not feel the need to use.

The fiery Moo Num Tok leads the grilled entrees column for a reason.  Marinated Pork with herbs, lime and chili.  It’s quite fragrant, and addictive just like the rest of them.  The rice helps spell relief and so is the cabbage and cucumbers combo that comes with some of the dishes.  If you are not getting them, ask.  The lone green curry with chicken I’ve had so far was spot on.  Looking forward to getting more intimate with this menu.

Krok
117 Columbia St (Kane), Columbia Street Waterfront District, Brooklyn
Rating: 2 Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that
Recommended Dishes: Pad Kra-Prao, Gai Yang Bu-ri-ram, Moo Num Tok

Krok - Curry

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

Berber Street Food – By Mother of Dragons

Berber Stree Food - Berber FeastNow that I got your attention…

The story is all too familiar, but the outcome in this case has a GOT type twist.  Girl starts working as a waitress at some of our higher ends.  She then graduates from the French Culinary Institute, before working at names like Gramercy Tavern, Per Se, Daniel.  She then leaves to travel around the world to collect more inspiration before opening her first establishment.  The girl becomes chef.

But the big twist in this story is in the type of establishment.  Every time I sit in one of the four tables at tiny Berber Street Food in West Village, I wonder if there’s another place remotely like it in NYC.  “Afro-fusion” is one way to describe it, but in order to understand what it means one needs to have a few meals here and meet Diana.  She is as fierce, and confident as they come, with unrivaled talent and passion to boot.  As the New Yorker put it, Diana “has the West Village wrapped around her finger”

Berber Stree Food

This is not the case where I was blown away by the first bite.  The Jerk wings had this  familiar and pleasant fruity tone, but not quite as sharp or spicy as the Caribbean style jerk I’m accustomed to.  Dont get me wrong here.  I smothered these babies, licked every finger, and didnt wash my hands that afternoon, or evening.  I just wasnt in a rush to come back, but oh so glad I did.

The love affair started with visit #2 when I had a bowl of rice, Black Eye Peas, seasonal green beans, and jerk chicken that came in a stew-like form this time.  It had this addictive sweetness, and spicy enough to leave a nice tingle.  Although if you want more spice, the intense Habanero sauce that accommodates the dish (if not, ask) will do.  Enjoy it with the terrific homemade Ginger Lemongrass juice.  Although on another visit the scent of the Morrocan mint tea next to me was hypnotizing.

But the dish to get here might be the Djolof Fried Rice with chicken.  It may just rival the best Biryani you ever had and then some.  The same chicken is used as a wrap in the Shawarma sandwich.  Plenty of Middle Eastern dishes here due to the North Adrican connection.  There’s also Koftas, Moorish Kebabs, and her own falafel interpretation on the menu.  Diana is like Einat Admony reborn in a way.

Berber Stree Food - Pudding

 

Every time I come here I see the team grow a little bit.  Yesterday the cook (not Diana) felt especially generous with the “Berber Feast”, slowly roasted chopped leg of lamb that is marinated for a few days with Harissa and cumin.  You get more Harissa on the side, along with other spreads, a couple of nifty salads, and couscous.  A taste of a Berber (North Africa ethnic group.  Diana’s father side) wedding feast where they serve whole pigs as such.  This has potential as a house specialty.  On another day Diana was experimenting with an off menu North African pudding that tasted like something you may get at one of her old employers, like Per Se.

Half a block away, visitors from around the world, flock to Joe’s for its above average NY slice (I get mine at Sacco and elsewhere).  While at Berber, you’ll find returning locals including students going for the cheap bowls and sandwiches to go.  Berber is slowly becoming a little local hangout, where Diana knows everyone and you end up making new friends.  This is possibly the best thing to pop in West Village in years.Berber Stree Food - Wings

Berber Stree Food - Chicken BowlBerber Stree Food - Djolof Fried Rice

 

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Kāwi – At the Cutting Edge of NYC Dining

Kawi Tuna

July 20, 2019 Update:

Its a new record me thinks.  The quickest update in the history of Eating With me.  While the EWZ statisticians check the validity of these claims, let me tell you how awesome Kawi is.  Kawi is awesome!  Its scary how easy it is to get a table for 4 on a Saturday night.  They keep a big chunk of the space for walk-ins it seems, and its just a little unnerving to get in so easily when you account the quality here.  Lets call it mild Ma Peche Syndrome.  The location in Hudson Yards may have something to do with it.

But in three months, Kawi got even better.  Shortly after the first report, they started to offer dinner, and essentially unleashing phase two.  Stews, specifically Yesterday’s Stinky Soybean Stew that is generating a lot of attention but absent on our last visit.  Instead we settled for the Oxtail & Brisket Jjim, a fiery meat stew with sweet potatoes that were no match to the Habanero.  If you like spicy meat stews you will enjoy this even in the summer.

Kawi - Oxtail & Brisket Jjim

You can have an enjoyable meal here just by ordering from the Hot Anju column.  You will be hard pressed to find better wings than the white pepper wings, flakier fried fish than the cod, and more flavorful ribs.  All already mentioned below.   But the dish to get these days may very well be related to my least favorite dish from the previous post, rice cakes.  The Wagyu Ragu with table side scissored rice cakes has the type of Umaminess not experienced since I tried the Ssam Bar spicy rice cakes.

But I’m yet to have a flawless meal here.  While we enjoyed the rice that came with the Grilled NY Strip, the beef wasnt particularly beefy or inspiring last time.  And note to self:  Skip Trading Card drink, stick to BTS

Kawi - Wagyu Ragu Rice Cakes

April 16, 2019 Post:

I will start this one the same way I started the previous post.  It took me some time to warm up to Hudson Yards.  After all, it represents everything that is wrong with NYC dining today.  Higher rents and a surging mouth shift from the mom and pop to the corporate.  One doesnt need to walk too far to find available space, and the rate of closures seems to be accelerating.  There’s a street on 3rd Ave between St Marks and Stuyvesant where every single retails space is available.  They were all taken not too long ago.  With Hudson Yards we got a little closer to Vegas.

With that said, its hard to curb the Hudson Yards enthusiasm.  A mega public art piece dedicated to the Shawarma (aka Vessel).  Little Spain with its big names, and little balls.  Jose Andres is from Asturias, so why not serve Asturian dishes that are hard to impossible to get here like Fabada and Arroz con Pitu instead of more Paella which is really just a Valencian specialty.  And then there are the new Momofukus to save the day.  Peach Mart,  a new Fuku branch, and Kāwi – perhaps the #1 reason to go to Hudson Yards today.  

Kawi

Eater NY

This is another Momofuku outpost where the cuisine is hard to describe to out of towners.  Executive Chef Eunjo Park describes it as “playful” and thats pretty much how you can describe the rest of the Momofukus.  Inventive, Asian (mostly Korean) influenced lab recipes.  I call it Momofunk.  While this one feels more Korean than the others, the Kitchen, for the time being at least, consists of Fuku All Star Avengers, like Josh Pinsky, bringing in some of their own influences.  The sweet and sour ribs, the clams – I’ve seen clips of this movie before.  But while Park is getting some temporary help, this is entirely her baby.

As of this writing, Kawi is open for lunch only.  I cant think of any such place that started as such, but considering the location it makes sense in this case.  Rumors are that dinner will include more stews and much of the same.  The space is spacious and quite striking.  Some of it overlooking the very open, action packed kitchen.  On my fist visit, while sitting facing that kitchen, I witnessed a team of five chefs and managers closely, and somewhat nervously following a health inspector.  At some point me and the inspector briefly exchanged smiles and nods, so I would like to believe I had something to do with the earned “A”.  This place is cleaner than my house after cleaning.

Here’s the food rundown at Kawi which means scissors in Korean, hence the brilliant cutting edge title…

White Pepper Wings – The prototypical wings at a higher dining establishment.  There’s a curious Yelp review out there urging to skip this item – “The wings are not crispy and the chicken meat is not juicy”.  That could be so at that time, but what I got was pretty much the opposite.  Crispy, peppery, and juicy alright.  These are three whole wings, and a must get for the wing lovers of the world.

Kawi Wings

Fried Cod – In a strange way, this glorified mini fish and chips without the chips might be the most memorable dish here for me.  You will be hard pressed to find a flakier, more fresh-tasting, lightly battered fish.  But its the gentle Yuzu spray that elevates it to the point of thinking about it many days later.

Kawi Fried Cod

Sweet & Sour Ribs – No surprise here as I’ve had and touted similar ribs at Nishi before.  While its a slightly different flavor profile, this is the same fall of the bone, succulent goodness.

Kawi Ribs

Madai Tartare – One can live here a lifetime and not realize the importance of raw seafood (Hwe or Hoe) in Korean cuisine.  Kawi has a column devoted to it.  Called a Snapper but technically a prized Sea Bream, this is a firm, delicious fish treated properly at Kawi.  I would opt for at least one “HWE” here.

Kawi Madai

Spicy Yellowfin Tuna Kimbap (top)- If you like spicy tuna rolls, you may want to avoid this at all costs as you may not be able to enjoy them the same way again.  Love that crunch from the fried Myoga (ginger) bits especially.

Spicy Roasted Rice Cakes – Just like at Ssam Bar, this is yet another brilliant use of rice cakes, that come with scissors.  Its topped with a good amount of crispy puffed rice, chili jam and ham that blends in nicely.  While interesting, this is more of a large side dish, suited for larger groups as its big and can be a bit heavy.

Kawi Rice Cake

Dry-Aged Striploin Set – Just what dry-aged beef should taste like.  Served with a Miso-like soup, an assortment of fried veggies, and delicious rice with more beef fat.

BTS – One of the cocktails we tried.  I wouldnt list a cocktail unless its good.  Its good!  Soju, honey, strega, lemon.  On the sweeter side, but nicely balanced.

Kakigōri – This is their version of the Japanese ice dessert.  Ultra light, not too frozen shaved ice with whipped cream, ginger syrup, and pear.  Like a perfected Halo-Halo.

Kāwi
20 Hudson Yards
Rating: 3 Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that
Recommended Dishes: Cod, Wings, Ribs, Tuna Kimbap, Madai Tartare, Oxtail & Brisket Jjim, Wagyu Ragu Rice Cakes, Kakigōri, BTS (drink)

 

Categories: Hudson Yards, New York City | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Foxface – Sandwich Academy

It took me a while to warm up to this one.  After all, I was a fan of the previous tenant, Feltman’s of Coney Island, a hot dog joint with a story.  The reincarnation of the original Coney Island Red Hots, invented by Charles Feltman in 1867.  Owner Michael Quinn, packed and left about 6 months ago, and a sandwich shop now occupies the space inside the William Barnacle Tavern (a former prohibition era speakeasy) on St Marks.  My level of enthusiasm needed some time to get going on this one.  What can they possibly do in this tiny ‘hers and hers’ closet size kitchen?  Magic apparently.

The available space was ideal for Ori and Sivan who live in the same building.  According to EV Grieve, they grow some of the ingredients in the garden behind the building.  A Zero Kilometer Slow Food destination if you will.  Maybe they even have a few black pigs roaming around the back munching on East Village acorns.  How else would you explain the hard to get Culatello (Prosciutto so prized, it has its own name) that was featured one week.  The rotating ingredient driven, whimsical sandwiches keeps Sivan and Ori on their toes, and fun to follow on Instagram.  And their brief stint in Tokyo taught them a few tricks.

It starts with the high quality bread from Pain D’Avignon which they also sell separately.  The sandwiches rotate based on availability of carefully selected ingredients and to some degree… Sivan’s dreams.  When she dreamt about camels, camel meat made it to the menu.  When she dreamt about being attacked by angry Bisons, there was revenge in the form of Bison Heart with Tehini, pickled onions, and greens.  On occasion, You may see the cleverly light “Oh Boy”, wild Argentinian jumbo Red Shrimp with homemade shrimp sauce and pickled tomato.

Some sandwiches include their orange based spicy sauce that elevated Mrs Ziggy’s already fantastic chicken cutlets back at home.  They sell the bottles now for $5.  No matter what sandwich you select, the three to five ingredients dance together in harmony, producing a well balanced combination.  But if I have to pick one sandwich its the signature Smoking Fox – Smoked Boneless Rib, Coleslaw, pickles and that zesty hot sauce.

EWZ historians claim that this is the first post about a place with less than two Yelp reviews (one as of this writing).  This is some strong stuff, and a lesson to us all.  When you come across a seemingly low overhead business, dont dismiss it quickly.  There could be a creative team behind it, that likes to dream.

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Jun-Men Ramen – Come for Nails, Stay for Italian

Eating With Ziggy

fried rice Jun-men ramen Photo by Jun-Men Ramen

March 29, 2019 Update:

I cringe sometimes when I read things I wrote over 3 years ago.  I had to take an entire paragraph about Cialis, yes Cialis, from this post because its not very relevant or funny today.  But here it is.. an oldie but.. Ok, just an oldie.  Z-List staple Jun-Men is clicking on all cylinders, and established itself as one of the most important Chelsea neighborhood hangouts.  Well, you cant hang out for too long as the place is very small and waits can stretch to the corner.  But this is the only place I know where you add yourself to the list on the ipad in the front, where you can see exactly how many are ahead of you.  A good spot to go before Hudson Yards if you want to eat “local”

The Ramen here settled down to a silky smooth…

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Categories: Chelsea, New York City | Leave a comment

50 Shades of Vessel

IMG_0123In case you didnt get your daily Vessel fix today, here’s a good one.  Well, as good as my iPhone can take at least while my big boy camera collects dust.  And in case you’ve been living under a rock, or Staten Island, the Vessel, aka The Honeycomb, aka The Giant Shawarma is a 200 million giant art structure in the just unveiled Hudson Yards (aka pretty mall).  You need tickets to get inside and the process of getting them at this moment is as difficult and convoluted as the process to get tickets to The Last Supper in Milan.  But at least its free.

 

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Simon & The Whale – Not your Grandpas Hotel Dining

Simon & The Whale - CrudoWhile we were dining at Simon & The Whale the other day, we noticed something thats becoming less and less peculiar these days.  We were the oldest people in the room by what looked like quite the margin.  That includes the wait staff.  Our waiter could have been the son I was never given (even though he confused Dorade for a Sea bass, something my son would never ever do).  But didnt all these kids get the memo that hotel restaurants are horrible tourist traps?  They may not have lived long enough when it actually was.  In NYC at least.

And so where is the “mature” hanging out these days anyway?  We were also the oldest at Broken Shaker, the rooftop bar at the same hotel (Freehand).  Some kind Millennials asked us if we were lost and offered help.  Did the entire Generation X move to Staten Island?  Oh never mind.  Found them in the Upper East Side.  But are we getting closer to Young Pro City that just got accelerated with the introduction of Hudson Yards.  I’m a soon to be 49, frontal balding Tour Guide middle aged professional.  Where do I belong?

Simon & The Whale

Courtesy of Freehand

But these days, hotel dining in NYC is not only perfectly acceptable, but trendy.  Just look at The NoMad, The William Vale, The Freehand, and any other hotel that begins with “The” these days.  They all offer a plethora of creative chef driven dining options.  And your ears perk a bit higher at the sound of “At [hotel name]” these days.  For example: “The Magician at Mikes Pub” vs “The Magician at The NoMad Hotel”.  There’s no question which magician I just have to see.  The competitive dining and real estate environment today means you can no longer afford to have a hotel restaurant that sucks.  Is that all good news? No, not really.  But let’s leave that for another gloomy day post.

Simon & The Whale along with The Studio and George Washington Bar at The Freehand is run by Happy Cooking Hospitality founded by Gabriel Stullman and his wife.  With the hotel launch, HCH essentially transformed into a dining empire, adding to a resume that includes Fedora, Bar Sardine, Joseph Leonard and other places I dont really frequent.  Matt Griffin, the Fedora and Bar Sardine chef, is now at the helm at Simon & The Whale, named I believe after Stullman’s son who likes to play with whales.  A practice we dont endorse here on EWZ.  Its a seafood focused New American menu.  Which really means fancy food that can not be called Italian or French.  Although it’s one or two pastas shy from Italian.

Simon & The Whale - Whole Fish

Black Bass Crudo – If I have to pick one dish, this might be it.  Mrs Z said the sauce reminded her of her childhood. A ratatouille moment if you will.  But I think she was just under a major Spritz  influence by that point.  It was just a nice spiced miso.  Along with the sliced radishes (daikon I believe) and the crunch of the puffed rice, this was a very pleasant bite

Smoked mussels – Fine but skippable. You fish them from a small jar and spread on wheat crackers.  Not overly flavorful or smoked.

Squid ink Tagliatelle – Very nice, albeit there’s really no squid ink mixed here as the name may suggest (to some).  Its simply black pasta (made with squid ink) mixed with fresh seafood, with a little heat.

Simon Burger – Had this on another visit and as expected just a solid burger from the team that got burger fame at Bar Sardine.  Well cooked meat, and top notch craftsmanship.  And the crunch from the crispy shallots tricking your brain to believe there’s an especially nice sear here.Simon & The Whale - Burger

Whole Fish for Two – Expertly cooked Dorade.  For two really means for two in this case. Very often dishes for two can be for 3 or 4.  Served on top a thin, delicate Madras curry, and creamy white butter beans (fava).  Delicious but a bit overpriced at $60.

Cauliflower (side) – Listed as a side, but closer to an appetizer we sometimes see in middle eastern places.  Its good.

Almond Milk Panna Cotta – Possibly the best Panna Cotta I’ve had in NYC.  I find that chefs often mess around with Panna Cottas way too much, but this was just perfect.  The combination of the cream, tangerine, and the crunch from the caramelized cocoa nibs worked beautifully.

For drinks she enjoyed the Crazy Charlie, a Spritz-like with Mezcal and grapefruit. My Negroni was a little off but manageable.  The great wine list didnt have many glass options, but there was a rare Grillo (Sicilian white) sighting so I had to take advantage. This is a Go!

Simon & The Whale
23 Lexington Ave (23/24 at the Freehand Hotel), Flatiron
Rating: 2.5 Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that
Recommended Dishes: Crudo, Burger, Squid ink Tagliatelle, Whole Fish, Cauliflower, Panna Cotta

Simon & The Whale - MusselsSimon & The Whale - Squid ink Tagliatelle

Categories: Gramercy, Flatiron, New York City | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

Hunan Slurp – Substance Over Style

Hunan Slurp - Pepper and PorkIts 14:30, I just finished another East Village tour, and I’m hungry.  An inside peek into my head… “I still have time for Hunan Slurp before the kitchen closes for a smoke break.  Or should I just get another sick sandwich from Foxface?  Where exactly did I park my car?  If I sprint to the car with the sandwich, will it make it or get all soggy.  How do you spell mausoleum anyway?  Its cold and I really feel like noodles, preferably swimming in something spicy.  Ok, Tatsu Ramen it is!”.

I did end up having one of the better bowls of Ramen this winter at Tatsu, called “Bold Ramen”.  But the Hunanese noodle joint on the same block is where my thoughts are these days.  I picked Tatsu because I’ve been to Hunan Slurp so many times lately, I’m having my Amazon mail forwarded there (yes I switched from Dell’anima after a complaint was issued).

Hunan Slurp - Hunan Salad

Hunan Slurp, along with Le Sia, Szechuan Mountain House and some others is leading the charge in what is dubbed by some as “Chinatown North”.  A most important Chinatown that looks nothing like a Chinatown.  The past five years saw an explosion of young entrepreneurs opening shops covering a variety of regional Chinese cuisines.  While they are young, the kitchens are staffed with very capable, experienced cooks.  And a more recent phenomenon is popular Flushing and Sunset Park joints like 99 Favor Taste, and Szechuan Mountain House testing the waters of the more glamorous East Village.

Contrary to the what the title may suggest Hunan Slurp is stylish alright.  In fact its one of the most tastefully decorated restaurants in the area.  A lesson in restaurant design. Thats because owner Chao Wang who grew up in Hunan’s second largest city, is a former artist.  But in a city where style over substance is much too common, its always refreshing to see stylish spaces where the food is the real attraction.  Its a first date for foodies kinda place.  Here’s the food rundown…

Hunan Slurp

Hunan Salad – This is a thing of beauty and not really “Salad” by any means.  Preserved eggs wrapped in eggplant topped with pepper and dressed in soy and sesame oil.  Like Baba Ganoush with makeup.  A must get.

Cabbage – Sounds awful.  Looks even worse.  Who wants to eat a plate titled cabbage?  Me!  After my first introduction to Chinese style cabbage at the Fei Long Market in Sunset Park I never looked back.  When done right its addictive.  And this one ladened with garlic, chili and soy, was one of those.

Fresh Whole Fish – Possibly the best thing I’ve eaten all year.  The whole fish is chopped so it looks like fillets with bones.  Covered with garlic, ginger, and a supremely flavorful homemade chili sauce

Hunan Slurp - Fish

Chicken – The closest dish to American Chinese, and still a good get.  Stir fried chicken with young ginger.  The hot plates here can seem pricey (this is $25) but they are very shareable.

Hometown Lu Fen – Probably the closest thing on the menu to a signature dish.  Sliced Beef, Char Su, Peanut, Cucumber, Bean Curd, Crispy Soy Bean and plenty of silky thick rice noodles that sucked all the little amount of broth.  Pretty sure I sat next to Terri Hatcher while eating this.  I didn’t ask, but she did ask me if I’m Ziggy, and I said no.  Don’t like to be bothered while eating

Pepper & Pork – Mifen (rice noodles) is the specialty here.  There are all sorts of nifty combinations on the menu, and this is just one of them.  Its like soup topped with a delicious juicy stir fry.

A rare 3 Z’s!

Hunan Slurp
112 1st Avenue (6/7), East Village
Rating: Three Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that
Recommended Dishes: All of the above

Hunan Slurp - ChickenHunan Slurp - Hometown Lu Fen

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

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