Staten Island

San Rasa – On Top of the Sri Lankan Ziggurat

San RasaOn the way to Staten Island’s Sri Lankan gem San Rasa the other day, I felt a little uneasy.  I was quickly losing yet another argument in my head.  I’m bringing another couple with me and I don’t have reservations on a Saturday night.  That is because the young man on the phone (I feel a little old today) told me I don’t need to make reservations.  And not because he knew who I was!  “Are you sure?  Its Saturday, prime time and its the four of us”. Emphasizing on the number 4 which can be very large on a Saturday night across the pond.  “Yes, I’m sure sir.  You don’t need reservations”.  Fine!  But if  we come in to a full house and we don’t get a table.. oooh boy.. watch out.  Sentences that begin with F words like “Forget this, we are going to Lakruwana ” will be flying out the door.  Forgetting to take the young man’s name however was the mistake that lead to losing the argument in my head.

We show up to an empty restaurant!  And I don’t mean empty as in a couple in the corner, and a family from France that read about the place on EWZ in the other corner (like last time).  I mean there was no one there.  “Should we leave and check out Lakruwana” briefly entered our minds.  But this is after all, Staten Island’s lone entry in the coveted Z-List, and we made it this far unharmed.  I’ve been to San Rasa for lunch, and dinner at the old location, but this was the first dinner at the new and improved San Rasa.  Seeing it empty disappointed but did not totally shock me.

San Rasa BiryaniWithout upsetting too many people, San Rasa is simply too far for most folks who appreciate good food.  There are plenty of people on the island of Staten that appreciate good food, but not nearly enough to fill a quarter of San Rasa on a Saturday night.  Staten Island doesn’t deserve and cant really appreciate something like this.  Give em a buzzy American Italian trattoria, a pizzeria that serves chicken parm, a few Russians to satisfy the Russian communities, a few glorifies diners like Z-one, Z-two, [Name any chain], and the residents are more than satisfied.  Like any residents in the burbs would I should add.  For most residents the ferry area is quite a schlep (30-40 mins for many) and the true island gems like Sri Lankan Lakruwana, San Rasa, New Asha, and other gems like Enoteca Maria are unrecognizable names.  The ferry area is almost like a Manhattan extension, albeit too far and arguably not interesting enough for Manhattanites.

But as often said on this blog, Sri Lankan food is the number one reason to stay after you take those selfies with lady liberty off the ferry.  The new San Rasa is not only walking distance, but its décor is now much closer to the Sri Lankan museum-like Lakruwana.  The old place was too bare bones and cold looking.  Not that I mind when the food is that good.  Sunday at all the Staten Island’s Sri Lankan is Funday.  By that I mean, some of the best, most unique buffets in the city.  For $12 you get a nice array of vegetable, rice, egg goodies, along with two meat specialties.  Exceptionally great value and the only buffet I take my family.

San Rasa MulligatawnyBut dinner is when the fun really starts.  San Rasa turns out is under new management and new chef.  While the empty house did not exactly look promising, the result was best San Rasa ever.  Meet chef Lalith (one name like Madonna) who has taken the great chef Sanjay lead, adding his own bolder, spicier spin.  You feel it right off the bat with the Mulligatawny soup.  Unlike the prior Mulligatawny, this one is a little creamier, nuttier, spicier, and simply has more oomph.  Thats the only starter I recommend.  Save room for the goodies to come.  Like the Lamprie, an old dutch colony classic that is the one must get here.  The pictures here can only set the bar low, or prevent you from ordering it altogether.  But that would be a mistake.  Proceed with the hoppers and egg hoppers (not available on this day) before hitting the “Ziggurat” shaped String Hopper Kottu, all with your choice of your favorite curry.  And with that my friends I’m announcing the addition of “Ziggurat” to my vocabulary.  A fittingly bizarre combination of Ziggy and Borat (for those that know me too well).

Add the award winning Chicken Biryani to the list of musts here.  It comes oddly decorated as if it just came from a Bar Mitsvah in the Staten Island Hilton.  But I’m betting its the flavor profile that gave it a third place finish in a recent NYC Biryani competition.  Mounds of crispy fried chicken on top of gorgeously spiced basmati with more succulent chicken inside was like no Biryani I’ve ever seen.  And instead of dessert, finish with a fiery sizzling Deviled something.  We usually do shrimp.

San Rasa – better and emptier than ever.  “Ayubowan” – May you live long!

San Rasa
19 Corson Ave, Staten Island
$$
Recommended Dishes: Mulligatawny soup, Lamprie, Hoppes, Kottu Roti, Chicken Biryani, Deviled Shrimp

String Hopper Kottu San RasaSan Rasa Deviled ShrimpLamrais San Rasa

Categories: New York City, Staten Island | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sim Sim – Staten Island’s Lone Uzbek is Legit

photo (4)The island of Staten is not exactly blessed with great dining.  Other than Sri Lankan I cant think of any reason to pay the hefty toll to go there.  Did you ever wonder why Enoteca Maria and Vida are on the Michelin Bib Gourmand list for what seems like forever.  The French inspectors are just way too busy to make room for Staten Island on their schedule.  Some may say pizza is another good reason to come, and to those I’d say you can find just as good or better in the other boroughs.  You just need to know where to look to find them.

Sim Sim is not another reason to travel all the way to the Midland section of the island, but it’s a solid alternative, and new experience for the islanders.  While Manhattan is not exactly known for great Uzbek (I cant think of one decent), you do have plenty of good ones in south Brooklyn (Kashkar Café, Nargis to name a few).  But the island residents have finally a legitimate Uzbek that can perhaps open the doors to some competition.  And competition, as always, is the healthiest recipe.  When you bump into the lone Indian restaurant in Pocatello, Idaho, you can bet your Vindaloo that you probably did not exactly discover a jewel.  But Sim Sim is closer to the exception than the rule

At the helm in the kitchen is an Uyghur cook (ethnic group living in villages all over Asia), dishing out all the Uzbek classics… Manti, Samsa, Plov (this one with raisins) and those chicken kebabs that require that special Uzbek touch.  The Uzbeks know how to grill em.  The cook comes early in the morning to start the preparations that includes pulled Lagman noodles, at this point only available in soup form.  The place is small and homey.  Freshly renovated and decorated to resemble a casual Uzbek hang out place.  The owner is Russian who operated the previous incarnation of the space, but now somewhat bravely, trying to insert some freshness into the island.  No alcohol permit here, so bring your vodka, though a solid Kompot (Russian fruit punch) is always available

Sim Sim Staten Island photo (1) photo (2) photo

 

Categories: New York City, Staten Island | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

What to Eat in NYC – The Ethnic Plays

Taim falafelContinuing the What to Eat in NYC miniseries.  Part 1 is here.  Ethnic food is a big part of our daily diet hence it requires its own page.  What should you target in NYC of course depends on where you are coming from, but these are generally the areas of excellence in NYC…

Eat Thai – NYC has a thriving Thai food scene, and for reasons unknown to me the area known as Hell’s Kitchen is leading the Pad pack.  New Thai restaurants keep opening and existing ones keep multiplying right next to each other.  Yum Yum 1,2,3 all on the same block, and Wondee Siam with its three locations is another example.  But my favorites are Pure Thai Cookhouse with its vibrant menu, and fun vibe, and Larb Ubol specializing in Isan (North Thailand) cooking.  Lately however I’ve been cheating on those two with an old timer, Pam Real Thai.  Outside of HK, you got the great Somtum Der in East Village, and the popular Uncle Boons not too far.  Zabb Elee is another excellent Isan, and if you can somehow make it to Pok Pok in Brooklyn, you are in for a treat.  While not exactly Thai, the Laos inspired Khe-Yo is quite unique in itself and deserves a mention

Pure Thai Ratchaburi

Pure Thai Ratchaburi

Eat Indian – We eat a lot of Indian food, and the scene overall is fairly competitive.  Between Curry Hill and Curry Row in the East Village alone you have a slew of very good options.  In the East Village, guidebooks and TV shows may direct you to the Gimmicky Bricklane Curry House, but I suggest heading to Malai Marke around the corner.  In Curry Hill you have Chote Nawab, the vegetarian Vatan, and the southern flavors of Kokum and Anjappar.  Moving uptown, Moti Mahal Delux is part of a worldwide chain known for their butter chicken, and newcomer Awadh across in the west.  But if you are mesmerized by the Times Square lights and cant leave, Basara on 9th may do the trick

Moti Mahal Cauliflower

Moti Mahal Cauliflower

 

Eat Middle Eastern -Middle Eastern plays a big part in our Mediterranean diet.  You got a few mini empires fighting for the top rights.  Einat Admony with Balaboosta, Bar Bolonat and Taim is perhaps the biggest Israeli name at the moment.  While Taboon continues to be a strong option in midtown, especially now with its original chef coming back.  Baby sister Taboonette dishes out unique healthy[ier] street food in Union Square.  Modern Lebanese hot spot Ilili has been around for some time now.  Gazala showcases her Druze specialties in two location, Gazala’s and Gazala’s Place.  And Zizi Limona in Williamsburg is a product of three veterans who know how to treat the classics well.  Speaking of which…

Bar Bolonat - Creme Brulee

Bar Bolonat – Creme Brulee

Eat Falafel – While visitors seek that perfect New York Cheesecake, keep in mind that we New Yorkers argue more on who has the best Falafel.  Is it Taim  in the village?  Is it Azuri in midtown where watching Ezra make it is like watching Picasso paint.  Or is it the nostalgically cheap Mamoun’s.  None of the above.  Top marks go to Nish Nush which is yet to be discovered by many locals, and those who did will certainty not appreciate me touting it.  But the others, especially Taim’s marvelous platter, and Azuri’s sandwich and Shawarma will do you just fine.

Nish Nush - Falafel

Eat Ramen – We are in the midst of a ramen revolution in NYC, and I dont hear anyone complaining.  Except for Mrs Z perhaps who wants to go to Ippudo now on a regular basis including Jewish holidays.  In Hell’s Kitchen alone you can feel that craze.  Even former none ramen establishments are joining the fun.  The delicious Akamaru Modern at Ippudo is leading the pack, while the Spicy Ramen at Totto is not far behind.  Ivan Ramen in Gotham West is another option, though I would be tempted to get the Smoked Salmon Donburi, formerly known as Smoked Whitefish Donburi instead.  But to get a fuller taste of the Ivan without sounding too dirty, one must go to the downtown location.  One option that gets overlooked by many is Bassanova in Chinatown with its fiery and unusual Green Curry Ramen.  And while you ate it, give the lemon and pepper Ramen a shot as well.

Ippudo - Akamaru Modern

Ippudo – Akamaru Modern

Eat Chinese – Some folks familiar with the Chinese scene here, may be asking themselves at this point, how is this guy going to cover our entire Chinese arsenal in one paragraph.  I cant, and I wont, but I’ll offer a small glimpse just like with the rest.  Some of the best Chinese Food is offered outside of our many Chinatowns, like the Szechuan Gourmet empire (I frequent the one on 56th st).  A recent discovery for me is Kung Fu Little Steamed Buns and their addictive Shanghai style soup dumplings.  Talking of which, Prosperity Dumplings is perhaps the biggest value in town, and that’s saying a lot.  Mission Chinese Food is the hottest Chinese play in the city right now, and may even be when you read this a year from now.  Han Dynasty, a Philly chain is doing a lot of things right seems like.  And do check out at least one of our Chinatowns.  Dim Sum in Golden Unicorn, or if you feel adventurous, East Harbor Seafood Palace in Brooklyn’s Chinatown, followed by cruising along tourist free zone 8th ave.

Gourmet Szechuan 56 - Shredded beef

Gourmet Szechuan 56 – Shredded beef

Eat Mexican – Lower your eyebrows and listen up.  The notion that there’s no decent Mexican in NYC is sooooo 2013.  In the last few years a slew of exciting young chefs like Alex Stupak has given us some very cool options.  Stupak perhaps is leading the rat pack with the Empellon empire… Empellon Cocina is the flagship, Empellon Taqueria is the high end Taqueria, while the new Empellon Al Pastor is the more basic Taqueria highlighting the namesake Al Pastor.  Other options include Tehuitzingo, the fine taqueria in Hell’s Kitchen and its bigger neighbor Tulcingo Del Valle.  Visitors flock to the more polished and Toloache practically in Times Square, and while I don’t have any quarrels with it (I recommended it myself), I tend to feel more at home in the previous two.  Los Tacos #1 at the Chelsea Market is another great option if you can brave the crowds, though I would opt for something more along the lines of Otto’s Tacos which is in the process of opening a branch in Hell’s Kitchen.  Another one to consider is Mission Cantina, home to the best Burrito in NYC, not surprisingly coming from the Mission neighborhood in SF

Mission Cantina Tacos

Mission Cantina Tacos

Eat Eastern European – Perhaps this is more for the Coney Island bound tourists who should keep in mind that there’s much more to downtown Brooklyn than a Hot Dog.  The area adjacent known as Brighton Beach is loaded with all sorts of great Uzbek, Russian, Georgian and even Uzbek/Korean delights.  Consider Cafe Glechik on Coney Island Ave, sort of a Russian institution in the area.  Or perhaps Tone Cafe, aka Georgian Bread for the great Adjaruli Khatchapuri.  Uzbek/Uyghur specialty Kashkar Cafe is an absolute gem, and one of my favorite restaurants in whole of Brooklyn.  For a livelier Uzbek filled with Russians on a daily basis there’s Cafe Nargis a few blocks north on Coney Island ave.  Cant leave Manhattan but still want a small taste?  Veselka, Oda House, and Uncle Vanya in midtown should be able to take good care of you.  Unless you are a vegeterian

Kashkar Cafe - Geiro Lagman

Kashkar Cafe – Geiro Lagman

Eat Tapas – Basque, other Spanish, Mediterranean tapas galore all over.  In Chelsea alone you can Patata Brava to your heart’s delight, starting with tiny Tia Pol and ending with Toro near the Chelsea Market.  In the East Village you have the fun Cata, and lately I’ve been itching to go back to her sister AltaTertulia has its fans in the West Village, while I’ve been enjoying its sister El Colmado in Gotham West Market lately.  Many locals are in love with Casa Mono, but I need a bit more convincing.  And watch out for newly opened Espoleta, some big names behind this project

Casa Mono Razor Clams

Casa Mono Razor Clams

Eat Miscellaneous – Do you honestly need more ideas?  I didnt think so.  But all of this is just scratching the surface of what the greatest food city in the world has to offer.  In Staten Island for example, you can take advantage of the large Sri Lankan community by trying the museum-like Lakruwana, San Rasa or New Asha.  Vietnamese food, while still lagging behind other cities, is getting better.  Try Co Ba and Co Ba 53.  How about some Korean like Danji, Jungsik, HIT Korean Deli or Food Gallery 32Filipino inspired?  We got plenty of that too.. Lumpia Snack Shack, and Maharlika are just some

Overwhelmed?  Join the club.  I only live here.

Jungsik Steak

Jungsik Steak

Categories: Brooklyn, Chelsea, Chinatown, East Village, Gramercy, Flatiron, Lower East Side, Midtown East, Midtown West, New York City, SoHo, NoHo, Nolita, Staten Island, TriBeCa, Upper West Side, West Village | Tags: , , , , , | 11 Comments

Houston Street, We Have a Problem!

161A Note from the Editor:

In the summer, during my much anticipated staycation, there was a moment on the High Line that is etched in my mind.  We found ourselves almost paralyzed, stuck in rush hour Sunday afternoon traffic behind a family of 4, a rooster, and a pair of parakeets.  It was like a zoo!  We’ve seen our share of tourists at the High Line before but not to this degree, and with characters no less.  We needed to get out of there and we had to do it fast, after a bite of the Delaney Brisket of course.  A trip to the storied High Line coupled with braving the crowds of the Chelsea Market is now firmly on the tourists path.  Great for NYC, and all those Chelsea eateries that must be thriving just about now, right?  Not exactly.

A few weeks ago someone asked me if my knowledge of Hell’s Kitchen extends to Real Estate, for the purpose of finding a new home for La Lunchonette, a long time Chelsea institution.  In what seems like a daily occurrence of businesses closing its doors, La Lunchonette is just another one to bite the dust of rising rents.  Culprit in this case:  The High Line.  The park, along with new zoning permits attracting Real Estate developers who now see a lot of green in West Chelsea, and I’m not talking about the plants along the High Line that no one looks at anyway.  Current building owners succumb to offers they can’t refuse, essentially forced to evict their tenants in many cases.  According to Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York, the High Line is the cause of La Lunchonette’s demise, and presumably, many more will follow.

I guess we are done with gentrifying the island and now focusing on hyper gentrification?  I’m not pretending to know anything about economics or real estate.  I’m just a poor software developer who wants to have a f*** bagel or matzoh whenever I choose to, or whenever Jewish holiday dictates.  Excuse my Yiddish there.  Oh did I mention Streit’s Matzo Factory is closing soon and so is the original Ess-a-Bagel to make room for Bank of America and you guessed it.. a bagel shop.  How can anyone afford to run a business or live in NYC anymore.

The Union Square Area alone is one giant “For Rent” sign, led by Union Square Cafe which is forced to move after its lease is up.  Restaurants are getting squeezed left and right from 57th street to Houston Street.  In Hell’s Kitchen the action is slowly shifting to the West.  A Mexican restaurant owner recently told me he couldn’t afford being on 8th ave anymore and had to move all the way to 10th.  Meanwhile downtown, Brigadeiro Bakery finally found affordable space in Soho after selling their Brazilian Truffles from a Basement nearby for years.  Do you have a Bodega (Mexican deli) near you nowadays?  Bodegas are closing all over or forced to transform and unbodega themselves.

So whats in store for 2015 and beyond.  Brace yourself for more Bank of America, 7-Eleven, Chipotle, and Eataly which plans to open two more stores in NYC in the future.  While I love Eataly as much as the next guy (I spent 3 hours there last Sunday), I need more Eatalys like I need a pimple on my ass.  This expression never made much sense to me, until recently when I finally got one.  Those things can be truly annoying.  Anyway, I cant help but wonder how many more small mom and pops will close as a result of two more Eatalys.  Places like Di Palo’s, where you get a much more personal service, need to cherished like we cherish our kids.

But is it time to panic?  Yes!  I suppose 2014 also saw many new restaurants open, and I believe I even saw “Record Year” being proclaimed somewhere out there.  But with that I also noticed that my spending has increased, so no doubt I’m paying for the rent hikes as well.  How many of the new openings are truly affordable, with entrees below $20.  For every Lumpia Shack there seemed to be 10 Batards opening last year.  In Hell’s Kitchen new business owners used to find refuge on 9th ave, but now they find it on side streets where foot traffic is much lighter, or 10th ave where traffic is even worse.  Whenever I walk to Inti, a Peruvian gem on 10th where the Rotisserie chicken rivals anyone’s, I always wonder how they are still in business.  My co-worker believes they have a healthy delivery business

I still believe NYC is the greatest food city in the world, don’t get me wrong.  And the options I have in lower Manhattan, Brooklyn, Staten Island, and Queens are limitless.  But I’m a little worried about the direction.  Perhaps the worry is for nothing and I should stick to writing about food.  Time will tell.  Meanwhile, avoid the High Line

Ziggy

Editor in Chief

Categories: Brooklyn, Chelsea, Chinatown, East Village, Gramercy, Flatiron, Lower East Side, Midtown East, Midtown West, New York City, Queens, SoHo, NoHo, Nolita, Staten Island, TriBeCa, Trucks, Upper West Side, West Village | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

Dude, You Are Researching NYC Food All Wrong

002Dear Tourist,

So you’ve decided finally to go on a “Holiday” to New York City.  Mazal Tov!  You probably read by now in your guide books that NYC is the greatest food city in the world.  And you are probably waking up every morning thanking god for the gift that keeps on giving, the TripAdvisor Rankings.  Between the rankings, the guidebooks, and all the great recommendations by your neighbor’s house sitter Betty (you must go to bubba gump you must) who eloped to NYC last year with 75 of her closest friends, you are all set.  Right?  Not exactly.  Lets take a moment and examine what is wrong with the above plan, and come up with a new one.

Whats wrong with the TA rankings:  Everything, and nothing.  Its just totally meaningless, especially in NYC.  TA is a great traveling tool, but pretty much totally useless in NYC as far as restaurants are concerned.  The main reason for its uselessness is that there are much better research tools in NYC. (more on that later).  But lets discuss the rankings for a second shall we.  They are so flawed and so out of tune with reality that’s not even funny.  The top 50 at the moment is a bizarre mishmash of classics and places I never even heard of.  First of all the TA algorithm puts some major weight on the number of reviews.  So older establishments may be higher than better reviewed younger ones.  And then there are those that have 27 remarkably high reviews that made it all the way to the top 20.  And not to mention that 25 of them may be coming from all their employees and families.  I always recall this one particular place in Milan where the owner single-handedly put his place #1 with a bunch of obvious fake reviews.  At some point he mistakenly gave himself one star, and that followed with 4 quick glorious reviews with a similar language.  And once real reviews started coming in, he found himself arguing with every reviewer

But fake reviews don’t have much of a bearing on the busy NYC listings.  Tourists do.  TripAdvisor is predominately used by tourists, and its especially true in NYC.  While you may see locals contribute in other towns and countries where there’s not much of a choice other than TA, in NYC locals use other sites like Yelp.  Now, couple the tourist factor with the high volume factor I mentioned above and you can see why something like Basso56 will be near the top as its heavily reviewed by tourists thanks to its location near Times Square.  Besides Basso, at the top of the Italian chain on TA at the moment you can find other Italian behemoths like Rafele, Piccola Cucina, Via Della Pace – places I never even heard of.  But if you need more convincing than “Ziggy never heard of”, why not just go to Chowhound where all the NY foodies hang out and pull threads that discuss the best Italian in town.  You will not find any of those places mentioned.  What you will see mentioned are places like Maialino (#95), Babbo (#602), Marea (#194), Lincoln (#882), or even Ziggy fave Costata (#2605).  TA numbers are all over the place as you can see, well outside of the top range for the unsuspecting tourist.  So while you are eating a Carbonara with cream and bacon at a high ranked theater district place near you, locals out there enjoy the real thing with Guanciale and egg at Maialino.

Same applies to using the rankings everywhere else in the world.  My favorite restaurant in our adapted home of Turks and Caicos is Caicos Cafe, rated #20 at the moment, pretty low in T&C standards.

Now, its time to ditch the guide book.  Ok, wait.. pick it up.. its actually quite useful for many things.  But not so much for food.  Yes, you will get some good tips on some NY icons like Katz’s and Russ and Daughters that I recommend.  But then you have something like pizza (namely Grimaldi’s) and bagels that NYC is so famous for.  While you will not easily find better pastrami than Katz’s, you will easily find better pizza than Grimaldi’s.  Actually, all you need to do while standing on line at Grimaldi’s with the rest of the tourists is look to you left at Juliana’s window to see where the real Grimaldi is doing his thing nowadays.  But you dont even have to leave your neighborhood in Manhattan to get great pizza that is arguably better than Grimaldi’s.

Besides pizza, your guide book will mislead you in other areas.  E.g.  Hell’s Kitchen is not a safe area, the place for Italian is Little Italy, and Times Square is a foodie paradise.  Your guide book may be up to date as far as facts are concerned (MoMA hours) but not concepts.  Little Italy is now a block inside Chinatown riding one of those concepts.  There are no Italians living there.  Another thing to keep in mind is that the food contributors to the guides may not be necessarily “foodies”.  Rick Steves for example does not strike me a foodie, and to follow his advice in Italy or anywhere else is Europe in this day and age is pretty silly.  Eating at guidebook recommended establishments and high ranked TA spots also means eating with other tourists who are doing exactly the same thing.  Some may find comfort with that, but if you are reading this blog chances are you want to eat where the locals eat.

And as for your neighbor Betty recommendations go, treat them like meeting your dentist at the supermarket.  Smile, and move on.  Unless Betty, is an avid Eating With Ziggy reader and/or does any of the following…

Read Chowhound – as I mentioned, this is where many of the NYC foodies hang out, and where I get many ideas.  Chowhound is probably my wallet’s single worst offender.

Read Yelp Reviews instead of TA reviews.  I already touched on this, and its fairly simple.  Locals use Yelp, tourists use TA.

Read or Subscribe to Grub Street – You can get all sorts of interesting ideas there, especially from the power rankings.  Same idea applies to Eater, or Serious Eats.

Hang out in the TripAdvisor NYC Forum.  You dont even have to participate.  Its amazing how much knowledge you can get just by reading the forum for a month or two.  There are plenty of locals who contribute on a daily basis, and you can also find many discussions on dining by using the search feature

And the most important tip…

Read EatingWithZiggy.  Whats so funny.  Where do you think I derive my ideas from.

Happy eating, and happy planning!

Categories: Brooklyn, Chelsea, Chinatown, East Village, Gramercy, Flatiron, Lower East Side, Midtown East, Midtown West, New York City, SoHo, NoHo, Nolita, Staten Island, TriBeCa, West Village | Tags: , , , , | 6 Comments

Lakruwana – The Power of the New York Times

I don’t know anyone who reads the New York Times.  Heck, I don’t know anyone who reads newspapers.  Half of my friends don’t even read.  I just asked my kids if they even heard of the New York Times… No!!  Ok, they are 2 and 3 but still, you get the point.  With that said when a restaurant is mentioned in the NYT positively and gets at least one star, look out.  To some this is a bigger deal than a Michelin Star.  You may even argue that the verdict doesn’t matter as Guy Fieri found out.  Attention is attention

Lakruwana

On Saturday I took my wife and 4 friends to Lakruwana, a Sri Lankan spot in Staten Island that I’ve written about before here.  As soon as we entered the restaurant I suspected something was wrong.  Still waiting for water and menus, or a human 20 minutes in, that feeling slightly intensified.  Before you knew it, a ‘Godfather’ like line of locals and hipsters out the door trying to get the owner’s attention which we so desperately needed as well.  The place was packed.  but then it hit me.  I’m there for the exact same reason as everyone else.  I also read the NYT article a few days earlier about Lakruwana and felt the same urge to cancel my plans (Briskettown in Williamdburg) and go there.    

Lakruwana - HoppersEventually things settled down, the hipsters left, and we got our food, albeit all the dishes at the same time which is always fun (since there was no room at least one dish had to be held by someone).  The food for the most part was very good.  Quite an excellent Mulligatawny soup to start things off.  Good Lamprais, Hoppers, Kottu Roti (first for me) but what stole the show on this particular night was the Deviled Chicken which I couldnt get enough of. 

After the meal the owner confirmed to me that they were simply not prepared or didnt know how to prepare for this.  Still, Lakruwana, with its museum like settings and terrific cheap food is quite possibly the best reason for hipsters to take the ferry over.  Except perhaps right after a NYT mention, or during a festival in Bushwick 

Lakruwana - Lamprais

Categories: New York City, Staten Island | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sri Lankan in Staten Island – Another reason to visit

LakruwanaLets recap some of the biggest reasons to come to Staten Island…

1)  Staten Island Ferry.  Staten Island is a very unique place.  One of the biggest attractions in NYC is to get there and then get the hell out of there.

2)  To see Meerkats on a lookout at the Staten Island Zoo.  If you have never seen this, here’s an example from another zoo…  

3)  The new annual “Running of the Zebras and Ponies”.  I have a feeling this is going to be a big hit.  Here’s a footage from the last event (play the video)

4)  To see “The Yankees”.  Its the Staten Island Yankees, but most tourists will not know the difference.

5)  For the new “EYE”.  Ok, its a Ferris Wheel that hasnt actually been built yet but is in the works, and it will be bigger than the London eye.  

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-06-26/nyc-said-to-plan-staten-island-ferris-wheel-to-rival-london-eye.html

LakruwanaAdd Sri Lankan food to this impressive list.  Sure you have some other nice options like Vida, and the rotating nonnas of Enoteca Maria, but nothing perhaps is as unique as the wonderful Sri Lankan cuisine on the island.  Since the late 60’s Sri Lankans have been flocking the island to create the 3rd largest Sri Lankan community in the US.  Here are 2 of the better options on the island of Staten

LakruwanaLakruwana – Entering Lakruwana is like entering a Sri Lankan museum with every inch of the restaurant decorated from floor to ceiling.  We did their excellent Sunday buffet served in clay pots.  From Boiled egg with curry to Kale with coconut, to Pol and onion Sambols, and the delicious crispy pork.  Although there were only 2 meat dishes, even the carnivores will admire the different variety and the complex flavors.

Sanrasa – Here we did a saturday dinner.  Although Sanrasa has more of a homey look and feel as opposed to Lakruwana, the flavors are as spectacular.  The chef used to work for Lakruwana and also I believe for a saudi prince.  If its good enough for a Saudi price, its good enough for Ziggy.  Some dishes we tried…

Chicken with cashew curry – very good. nice and tender chicken
Lamb with black curry – lamb a little dry but the sauce more than made up for it. Couldn’t get enough of it really.
Hoppers – very nice and unique, like little spongy pancakes made with rice flour and coconut milk, with some cooked with eggs
Kottu Roti – nice. They have an array of roti and hopper specials that come with your choice of meat curries
Lamprie – This is the house special and a must IMO. All kinds of goodies including rice, meat, curry, caramelized onions, cashews, all baked wrapped in banana leaf.  An old Dutch influenced classic
Deviled Shrimp – Fantastic, Thai-like, very spicy sizzling unpeeled shrimp with veggies.
Lamb Biryani – very good
Nice Mango Lassi as well.

There you have it folks.  Another reason to come.  As if you needed any more after surviving the running of the zebras and ponies

Categories: New York City, Staten Island | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Hey reader, want to help Staten Island? Here’s how

We spend our entire lives witnessing and discussing various disasters, natural or not, occurring all over the world.   Its then somewhat surreal when one of those hits your back yard.

Its our turn to ask for help and here’s how you can…

Simply show up.   Grab some supplies (masks, gloves) and perhaps even some pizza and simply show up anywhere in the affected areas like South Beach, Ocean Breeze, Midland Beach, Oakwood Beach, New Dorp Beach and Oakwood Beach.

Some of the neighborhoods like Ocean Breeze have set up a facebook page where you can get more details and meetup times.  https://www.facebook.com/AngelsRelief

You can also follow “Occupy Sandy” on facebook and on http://interoccupy.net/occupysandy/. They give you some fairly specific needs at any given time.

If you want to send money that would go to Staten Island directly you can do so with the Sillar Foundation, www.tunneltotowers.org. Click on Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund, then check the box for “Staten Island“. If mailing a check put “Staten Island” on it.

You can also stop by at the Sillar Foundation headquarters at 2361 Hylan and drop supplies there. They are right in the middle of things arranging BBQ’s and helping out in a big way.

Other ways to help…

*The Red Cross is accepting donations of large packages of bottled water at their temporary kitchen, 2900 Veterans Rd. (Home Depot parking lot). 

*Large donations (truckloads, shipping containers) can be sent to a 60,000-square-foot warehouse at New York Container Terminal at 300 Western Ave. near the entrance to the Goethals Bridge – secured by Molinaro and Rep. Michael Grimm — that is storing supplies for distribution to hurricane victims. Please call, (718) 816-2000 to coordinate delivery. Only large-scale donations will be accepted at this location.

*Volunteers are needed to drive, sort items and unload vehicles. They should report to Midland Beach (981 Father Capodanno Blvd).

*Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis, who organized a cleanup of Midland, New Dorp, Oakwood and Cedar Grove beaches over the weekend, is continuing her efforts. Volunteers should bring what tools they can — rakes, shovels, push brooms and work gloves to help remove debris and help clean out homes damaged by the storm. In addition, manpower is needed to move donated items to the New York Container Terminal, said Ms. Malliotakis. “We are looking for trucking companies with trucks, U-Hauls or vans to transport goods to the container port,” she said.

*Project Hospitality is seeking volunteers and donations. People can register as volunteers, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Project Hospitality, 100 Park Ave., Port Richmond, to help receive donations and restock the organization’s storm-damaged warehouse. The organization is also taking donations of new socks, toiletries, canned food, heavy duty garbage bags, C and D batteries, underwear, sweatpants, sweatshirts, towels and blankets.

*Movement Church, based in Castleton Corners, is looking for volunteers to clean out destroyed homes, as well as donations of children’s clothing, socks, underwear, diapers and baby food. Clean-ups are taking place each day between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. Volunteers can report to Hett Avenue and Marine Way. For more information call, 718-812-9894 or 718-216-9416.

*Donations of cash, goods, services, or to volunteer, can be made at: http://www.nyc.gov/html/nycservice/home.html.

*St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Bulls Head is accepting clothing, cleaning items and personal necessities.

*Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts will be collecting food from shoppers to help restock Project Hospitality’s pantry Saturday between 9:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. at Pathmark at 2875 Richmond Ave. in New Springville, Key Food at 450 Forest Ave. in West Brighton, Shop Rite at 2424 Hylan Blvd. in New Dorp, Stop & Shop at 2754 Hylan Blvd. in New Dorp, Pathmark at 3501 Amboy Rd. in Prince’s Bay and Key Food at 778 Manor Road in Westerleigh.

*Young Israel is collecting donations of cleaning supplies, such as garbage bags, gloves, bleach and mops that can be left in the lobby of 835 Forest Hill Rd. in Willowbrook.

*Those interested in volunteering with the Red Cross can call 1-877-RED CROSS or consult http://www.nyredcross.org. To make a monetary donation, text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to automatically give a $10 donation.

*The Mayor’s Fund to Advance the City of New York, which has a Hurricane Relief Fund, is accepting donations at: http://www.nyc.gov/html/fund/html/donate/donate.shtml.

*United Way Hurricane Sandy Recovery Fund is accepting monetary donations, which can be made online at http://www.uwsandyrecovery.org. A $10 donation can be made by texting the word RECOVERY to 52000.

*New Dorp Moravian Church needs baby clothing, baby food and formula, blankets, towels, sheets, pillow cases and pillows. The church will be serving food on Saturday. Donations are being accepted at the Diforte Agency at 1194 Hylan Blvd. between 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. from Wednesday to Friday.

*Silver Lake Masonic Lodge in Port Richmond and Silver Queen Chapter, Order of the Eastern Star joined together to provide non-perishable food, water, clothing and other necessities. They need donations of cleaning supplies. For more information, call 347-416-3288 or tmartin@rwdsu.org.

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Staten Island – Viva la Vida

Our goldfish Ziggy Jr. is not well.  He hasn’t eaten in 2 days, he is slow to react to disturbances and stimuli, and his poop has sort of a mahogany tone to it.  Our history with previous Ziggy jr’s indicate that he does not have much time left.

What Ziggy Jr. desperately needs is a meal at Vida (OMG I can just see Vida’s owner rolling her eyes at this transition :roll:).  Vida has all the ingredients for a fun meal with the family.  It got that nice neighborhoody vibe, quirky waiters, and home cooking that is better than mama’s.  Ok, cooking better than my mama is not exactly a stretch (thankfully my mom does not read this blog, nor does she know I have a blog, or knows what a blog is) but Silva Popaz, Vida’s chef/owner sure knows her stuff.  Vida is a chef’s restaurant.  When the chef de cuisine is out, the restaurant is closed.  So many more known establishments in the city don’t follow this rule.

Reading the menu at Vida is like visiting Disney’s Epcot.  It’s as eclectic as a menu can get.  Between the Asian style shrimp, Gumbo, Hummus,  chicken Francaise, and the rest of it, all major continents are well represented.

We started with the always reliable Vida bites — pulled pork, pico de galo and avocado sauce on bread.  Another regular for us is the mussels with cilantro, shallots, garlic, and white wine.  This decadent sauce normally screams for some serious  finger dipping, until they bring more bread.  I wasnt quick to wash my hands following the meal.

Vida

For main the wonderful special Butternut Squash Lasagna with marsala reduction well demonstrated Silva’s talent and originality.  The marsala, just like with Scarpetta’s foie gras ravioli added nice intensity to the dish.

Vida

My feeling of uncertainty after not getting my usual gumbo dish this time and ordering something I normally never do, did not last long.  The special chicken stuffed with sausage, spinach and mushrooms was outstanding.  Perfectly crisped skin with that savory filling made every morsel regret sharing the dish with Mrs Ziggy.

The kids were enjoying their linguine Fra Diavolo with shrimp, calamari, mussels, and Asian style hanger steak.  Sorry about the quality of the pictures which I blame on lack of lighting, and lack of skill

I normally get the bread pudding for dessert but this time I was convinced to try the Tiramisu cheesecake.  Wowser!  Perfect finish to one of the best meals we had in Staten Island.  Is wowser an acceptable food blog word I wonder?  I’m still new to this blogging thing and I dont want to embarrass  myself.

Silva gets much of her culinary influences from her trips around the world.  A recent trip to Morocco can almost assure a bigger arsenal of exotic spices and perhaps a nice Lamb Tagine in the near future.

Vida up until recently was the only restaurant in Staten Island included on the coveted Michelin Bib Gourmand list.  Its like a michelin star for affordable neighborhood joints.  The excellent Enoteca Maria has now joined the list for 2012.  If Vida is not Staten Island’s best, she is not far behind.

Recommended dishes:  Vida Bites, Mussels, Gumbo, Stuffed Chicken, Tiramisu cheesecake

Categories: New York City, Staten Island | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Staten Island – Nonnas Gone Wild at Enoteca Maria

Thats what you get when you combine Italian nonnas and Nirvana (as in smells like teen spirit Nirvana).  A party!  a slightly unconfirtable one but still.

This Enoteca (wine shop for those scoring at home) comes with an interesting concept.  Nonnas representing different Italian regions taking turn each day of the week cooking.  There’s a set menu on one side and today’s nonna menu on the other.  You can see the stories and more about the concept on their site.  What you also see on the site is something probably 98.3% of the folks dining there miss.  Below the concept, the cooks, the menu, the wine you got this…

The Music: Our music selection is an eclectic compilation from the past and the present: classical, rock, jazz, world, and everything in between. Sometimes…it gets loud!”

He’s not kidding!!  Much to the surprise of some older folks, families, singles, pretty much everybody.  Arguing is useless as I’ve witnessed on a few occassions.

But I’m here for the food.  Sampled quite a few after 2 visits and these were the highlights:  Burrata – Smooth, creamy    mozzarella goodness.  Meatballs – Very flavorful.  Rabbit stew – Tender, meaty deliciousness.  Didnt see the rabbit on the second visit so must have been a specialty of one of the nonnas.  I would time my next visit to coincide with the rabbit nonna.

On an island packed with all sorts of Italian establishments, Enoteca Maria is the only one that has that authentic menu I can only see in other boroughs.   Rock on Nonnas!!

Photo courtesy of Glen Dicrocco  (I’m guessing to the tunes of Iron Maiden in the backgound 👿 )

Categories: New York City, Staten Island | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

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