New York City

Top 10 Dishes of 2018

Mushroom salad at Pig and Khao – One of two places making their second appearance on the Top 10 (the other is Pinch Chinese).  Once you start veering off the classics at some of them, only then you start to realize how good they really are.  And at the moment to me, this wild Mushroom with sliced shrimp, coconut, and chili salad is the unsung hero of P&K.  Its also one of the spiciest dishes here, so pair it with the most coconutty coconut rice out there.

Pig and Khao Mushroom Salad

Hummus at Vish – I often say that in this city we eat the world.  And its a wonderful thing.  But for better or for worse we rarely eat something that resembles its origin.  Tuscan food is not really the same as in Tuscany.  Uzbeki is not the same as in Uzebkistan.  And Lobster is not exactly the same as in Maine even though its the same lobster.  But the silky smooth, almost watery Hummus at Vish was one of those rarities, “Ratatouille Moment” if you will.  This hummus strongly resembles hummus in Israel.  Thats because Vish is an offshoot of an Israeli chain, and they make it the only way they know, multiple times a day.

Vish Hummus

Vish

Mafaldini at Scampi – To go to Scampi and not get the Mafaldini is like going to Katz’s and not getting the Pastrami.  Its a riff on the traditional Scampi and a serious contender with Lilia for the best Mafaldini in NYC.  Chef/owner PJ Calapa (Ai Fiori, Costata) Chooses Mafaldini for more chew, and tosses it with fresh shrimp, white wine, garlic and chili flakes.  But what makes the dish work wonders is the crunchy toasted Filone breadcrumbs (toasted with garlic and more).  The best way to eat this however is mix in some of their homemade Bomba dip midway.

Scampi Mafaldini

Seco de Pollo at Nano Ecuadorian Kitchen – If you are looking for the Avant-garde, the new and exciting, the hummus mention already hinted that this is not that list.  I tend to gravitate toward the Robert Sietsema kind.  Seco de Pollo is a hearty Ecuadorian chicken stew and Nano is one of the only places in the city to make it.  Its cooked with Naranjilla, a sour citrusy fruit grown in Ecuador.  Its a dish I eat every week.  Hint hint

Nano

Upma Polenta at Bombay Bread Bar – Upma, Oprah, Upma, Oprah.  I feel like saying it every time I mention it.  The first thing I tasted at BBB was the best thing, and showcases that Floyd Cardoz brilliance.  Its Semolina based earthy goodness with mushrooms and hints of Coconut and Kokum.  Like the most delicious grits you will ever encounter.

Bombay Bread Bar - Upma

Cauliflower at Miznon – Once in a while you come across a dish that dare I say, changes your life.  Ok, slightly.  A dish that makes you replicate it at home over and over again.  The eggs at Gato is one such example.  While people flock to Miznon for the fluffy pita sandwiches, rightfully so, they miss out if they skip this seemingly simple whole cauliflower.  Its delightfully salty and absolutely addictive.

Miznon Cauliflower

Wind Sand Chicken at Pinch Chinese – This is a Hong Kong classic that I havent seen on any other menu in NYC, but variations exist.  Its a $51 bird (as of now) that is cooked like Peking duck (which they also have).  Two days of Marinating (cinnamon, star anise, other herbs and spices), drying, spanking, and repeating.  The skin gets thin and crispy, and the flesh redefines moist.  Garnished with fried garlic flakes, like the “sand” that the wind brought, hence the name.  Maybe if they closed the door once in a while, they wouldn’t have this problem.

Pinch Chinese - Wind Sand Chicken

Porcini Flan at Bouley at Home – A staple at this house, and the previous Bouley residence.  Why reinvent all the wheels if some work so well.  The “Porcini Flan” is more like a superb earthy soup featuring Alaskan Dungeness Crab, and a Black Truffle Dashi that I can drink all day long.

Bouley at Home - Porcini Flan

Gnocchi Alla Romana at Faro – Bushwick produced one of the best meals and sadly one of the worst (Roberta’s) last year.  All the pastas at Faro were outstanding but this one particularly stood out.  This is semolina based Gnocchi that tastes more like fried polenta. Served with slow braised rabbit.  The playful pastas keep rotating and changing and so this is not on the current menu, but Faro still worth checking out.

faro gnocchi

Tacos at Taqueria el gallo azteca – I never thought the day would come.  Staten Island appearing on a Best list.  The most exciting thing to open in SI last year was Dave and Busters, followed by Shake Shack, and the lines are forming at the new Chick-fil-A in the mall as we speak.  But El Gallo Azteca in St George not far from the ferry served the best tacos I ever had in NYC.  Heaps of juicy steak and chorizo goodness, reminiscent of Mission District.

taqueria el gallo azteca tacos

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Via Carota – The Road More Traveled

Eating With Ziggy

Via Carota FunghiDecember 30th, 2018 Update:

Happy New Year!

How did Via Carota become the most perfect restaurant in nyc? Very simple.  They stick to their guns and they deliver.  Their menu hasn’t changed much over the years and may even seem boring to some.  But its well balanced, and the execution is consistently flawless.  It slowly developed into one of my safest recommendations.  And the fact that they don’t take reservations made it into an approachable but busy neighborhood darling.  Otherwise it could easily turn into another Lilia.

It’s almost fitting that it’s signature dish is something so widely available below 14th, the Cacio e Pepe.  It’s amazing how such a simple dish can generate this level of craving.  I get asked about it often on my tours.  To avoid World War Z last time with the family, I ordered two of them.  But for a while it looked like the signature…

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Pig and Wow!

Southeast Asia is a wonderful place for the culinary minds out there.  But so is Southeast Manhattan.  Specifically the square of Lower East Side, East Village, Nolita and Noho that incorporates a high concentration of chef driven joints including some of the city’s most prominent Asian.  But when zooming in on a small area around Clinton street in LES, you will find “Little Judasia” – Jews doing kick ass Asian.

Leading the charge in Little Judasia you got Leah Cohen (Pig and Khao), Ivan Orkin (Ivan Ramen), and Petra Rickman (Ginger and Lemongrass).  Ok, I’m not too sure about the Czech born Rickman, though Rickman is a common Jewish name.  We need a confirmation or a conversion in this case.  But this is already far and away more interesting than Little Italy to the west.Pig and Khao

Pig and Khao simply put is one of my favorite restaurants in the entire city.  Although I’ve written about P&K before and added it enthusiastically to the Z-List, I’ve never actually written a post about it.  That enthusiasm is slightly marred by the fact that after many flawless meals, the only hiccups came on the last visit when I introduced P&K to my oldest.  But I find myself mentioning it more often than any other place these days.  Especially to those embracing the bolder flavors, or want to experience something new.

Here’s a list of my current favorite dishes

Thai Mushroom Salad – The unsung hero.  With all the attention that the Sisig and Khao Soi are getting, to me its this shroom/shrimp/chili concoction that is perhaps the best dish here.  Its also one of the spiciest, so pair it with the most coconutty coconut rice out there.

Pig and Khao Mushroom SaladSizzling Sisig – The most celebrated dish here, and perhaps the most famous Sisig in a city not famous for Sisigs.  Reason being part taste, part novelty, part Instagram.  But it is very good and something I order almost every time. Its not a traditional, but third generation Sisig that includes all pigs head parts (cheeks, snout, etc).Pig and Khao Sizzling Soi

Khao Soi – Exceptional depth in this one.  Hard to say how it compares to Ugly Baby and Pam Real Thai as I havent had them recently but this is excellent.Pig and Khao Khao Soi

Malaysian Butter Prawns –  Five huge, plump, perfectly cooked prawns that are clean and easy to peel unlike similar dishes out there.  Its ladened with this crumby buttery mixture that is so addictive we it with a spoonPig and Khao Shrimp

Grilled Sirloin – This is just a perfectly seared Sirloin but as with so many southeast Asian joints comes with a playful set.  You get cabbage and a spicy Isan fish sauce to practice your taco making skills.Pig and Khao Sirloin

Malaysian Fried Chicken – I’m including this even though the dish went from a 9 to a 7 on my last visit when the bird perhaps spent a minute or two longer in the sin bin.  But when its on, its as good as any fried chicken dish you will ever have in NYC.Pig and Khao Malaysian Chicken

Thai-Lote – A side of grilled corn with sambal butter, toasted coconut flakes and kaffir.  Get this!

Good but would not get again – Ribs and Halo Halo

Pig and Khao
68 Clinton St (Rivingston/Stanton), Lower East Side
Rating: 3 Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that.
Recommended Dishes: All of the above

Pig and Khao Corn

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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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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

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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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