Nolita

Uncle Boons – Finally!

Uncle BoonsShaky initial reviews, death in the family, Michelin, the dog ate my restaurant sheet – Just some of the reasons why I never made it to Uncle Boons before.  The bizarre Michelin star actually helped for about 5 minutes since I happened to see a tweet of the leak before the news broke out, and I was able to reserve a table immediately.  But on the day of the visit, I had to cancel, and reservations since then are virtually impossible.  Just like Pasquale Jones, and others who use Resy for roughly 20% of their tables, reservations are hard to get.  Solution:  Another gondola stroll throughout Little Italy while you wait for your table.

Ironic isnt it?  That Nolita, which means North of Little Italy, that famous food street, is arguably the best food neighborhood on the east coast.  Estella, Cherche Midi, Rubirosa, Pearl & Ash, Osteria Morini, Pasquale Jones, Balaboosta, Uncle Boons are just some examples of what you’ll find in this little tiny Foodie paradise.  Thats an impressive list of Z-Listers, and Z-list wannabes.  Taking that Little Italy, Chinaton stroll is one way to combat the NoLita popularity.  Though I fear, one day, one of these “Ciao” guys trying to lure me inside a Little Italy establishment will give me an offer I cant refuse.  Btw, when a total stranger says ciao to you out of the blue, there’s zero chance that he’s Italian.

Uncle Boons Frog legsWhen you walk inside Uncle Boons you immediately notice two things.  1)  How uncomfortable everyone looks.  2) Rotisserie chickens slowly spinning behind the glass.  Clearly the chickens are there to serve as hypnosis, especially against French Rotisserie chicken loving Michelin inspectors.  Otherwise, how else would you explain the anti-Michelin scene at the bar and on the side of the entrance.  One woman was practically bent sideways while enjoying her Yum Kai Hua Pli.  Considering there are two other rooms, one with communal tables, leading you to your table is like the dining version of Russian roulette.  We survived the bullet at first it seemed, but then realized the third wheel of the booth next to us, has his back practically leaning against our table.  The place is so cramped, taking pictures of the food means taking pictures of your neighbor food as well.

But all is well at the end when the food is this good.  The two Per Se veterans created a Pok Pok like menu that is very far from your average Thai.  Just like Pok Pok’s Andy Ricker did, Matt Danzer & Ann Redding traveled all over Thailand, gathering inspiration.  And just like at Pok Pok, creative drinks is part of the game, and a certain chicken is more than just sitting pretty for Michelin inspectors.Uncle Boons Chicken

Frog Legs – If you’ve never had frog legs before, this is a good place to start.  If you had them before, order it still.  Garlic & soy marinated juicy fried legs over addictive glass noodles, and lemongrass & Thai herb salad.  There’s not a whole lot of meat on those bones understandably, but every bite counts in a big way

Crab Fried Rice – A pretty standard fried rice with heaps of chunky crab.  The flavor is there, but if there was one thing missing from that texture is some crunch by way of socarrat

Rotisserie Half Chicken – By itself, with all its tenderness and juiciness, the chicken would have been a solid but somewhat dull dish.  Which is where the sickest green mango salad comes in, along with two dipping sauces.  The lemongrass, Ginger sauce in particular works like magic with that chicken

Seafood in Broth – Another terrific dish.  Red Snapper, prawns and clams in a rich Turmeric broth.  Mrs Z’s favorite dish of the night.  Mine was the chicken

Beef Ribs – I almost ordered it, and sort of wish I did after the table next to us got it.  The best thing I can tell you for now is that it smells amazing.  Next time I would order it along with the chicken with banana blossom salad which I was all set to order until the waitress warned Mrs Z that its extremely spicy.

Dessert – I feel like the Yelp fave coconut ice cream sundae is a bit overrated.  Though it didnt make Mrs Z make a Robert de Niro face and start spitting profusely as she normally does with coconut.  The condensed milk soaked Brioche was like a French Toast gone wrong.  I dont expect greatness out of Thai dessert, so I’m not deducting anything for that.   Uncle Boons is quite possibly the best Thai in NYC right now

Uncle Boons
7 Spring St (Nolita)
$$$
Recommended Dishes: All of the above (except the Brioche)Uncle Boons Talay Uncle Boons Fried Rice Uncle Boons Coconut Ice Cream

 

 

Categories: New York City, Nolita | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

Emporio- Romancing the Stove

Emporio - Prosciutto Pizza I love Valentine’s Day.  The Vermont Teddy Bear, 1-800 Flowers, Viagra/Cialis commercials are in full swing.  Roses of every color sold everywhere.  Macy’s perfume girls are out in full force.  Restaurants offering heart shaped pizzas, and special Valentines Day menus.  I love it because I don’t have to do and see any of this.  These days I’m given special instructions, sometimes written, of exactly what’s expected of me.  And I execute those instruction in the best possible way I can.  “Throw out the garbage”, “Take the dishes out”, “Call your mother”…. stuff like that.  I was told it’s called “Communicating”.  Another reason V day isnt that special in my household is that it happens to be my youngest’s birthday.  In your face Hallmark.

BTW, did anyone else notice that the Vermont Teddy Bear is getting bigger and bigger.  This is so bizarre, that it almost looks like an SNL commercial.  I cant even begin to imagine the look on her face when I bring one of these home.  Who gets to go first out the window.  Me or the bear.  Most likely bet it’s the bear, with me stuffed inside it.  I might as well bring her a small container full of ants hovering around a severed finger.  It will result in just about the same reaction.

EmporioBack to Emprio.  Oh, we havent even started.  Emporio does two things well – both of which combine to about 35% of my body mass.  Pizza and Pasta.  You see me write about places that do pizza well, and places that do pasta well.  But very rarely I come across a place that not only does both, but does both well.  The “Romancing” also stands for Roman.  And while I dont quite see those classic Roman “Cucina Povera” pastas like Carbonara and Cacio e pepe on the current menu, I dont particularly mind.  In NYC, they open them, and slowly adjust to the demand and neighborhood.  So a Sicilian place today, may not be so Sicilian tomorrow.

But the pizzas at this Aurora group owned were Roman alright.  As usual I like to start any pizza relationship with the Madame, Margherita.  And here it is a fine rendition, with quality raw materials including fresh Buffalo Mozzarella sitting on that wonderful Roman style super thin crust.  Same kind of promise followed with the Emporio Margherita which simply adds Prosciutto di Parma to the basic.  The pies, although thin, are not Matsoh like as in Marta’s house, but when the dough is as delicious as this, I’m more than ok with this.  The Spicy Sopressata featuring fior di latte mozzarella was a ok.  Sopresatta not quite as refined as others (eg. Don Antonio).  And it wouldnt be a Roman pizza without a Roman pasta disguised as pizza.  Here you got a fine Gricia, with Guanciale, Black pepper, provolone and pockets of fresh ricotta that you smear on other slices.  Nicely done.Emporio - Gricia

Pastas may have been specials on this V Day, led by the outragously delicious Gnocchi alla Norcina.  Parsley green Gnocchi mixed with Porcini, house made suasage. more fresh ricotta and the kicker… crushed Black truffles.  Albeit not exactly like “shaved”, its rare to see pastas with black truffles priced the same as truffle oil.  More of that black truffles but not as defined can be found in the terrific Raviolacci.  Pierogie like ravioli filled with ceamy burrata and topped with brussel sprouts leaves.  The seafood Taglierini, while good, did not posses similar flavor explosions.  Perhaps a little more of that Calabrian Chili or something to balance the “one noteness”.

Emporio is one of those names that have been on my radar for a while, but I somehow never found the right opportunity to go.  A bustling, fun, casual trattoria in the bustling, fun, casual Nolita.  Another marked improvement over the Little Italy spots just a block away. Go!

Emporio
231 Mott St (Nolita)
$$$

Emporio Raviolacci Emporio - seafood Taglierini Emporio Gnocchi

Categories: New York City, Nolita | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The NYC Trip Report that Left Me Speechless

Annisa SquidAnd starving.  Like, literally starving to death.  There was a point where I realized that the safest time to read Aynat’s (Trip Advisor handle) daily accounts of her NY adventure is between 6 and 6:45, before my stomach wakes up from its beauty rest.  This was not Aynat’s first trip to NYC, and she already logged countless of great meals under her belt.  But this time it became apparent after day two (out of 27) that included a marathon meal at Ko (the best marathon there is), that Aynat picked up her game to almost unreachable levels.  From my vantage point (living room, transferring to kitchen soon) this is the Michael Jordan of trip reports.  The basketball player, not the chef.  Although the chef is pretty darn good too (miss Rosemary’s in Vegas dearly).

I read trip reports on various boards like Chowhound and Trip Advisor on occasion, and it usually doesn’t take long to get a sense of the due diligence involved.  Aynat on the other hand, essentially has redefined food research, and is probably already planning her next trip to NYC (best medicine to post vacation blues..  Alcohol.  Second best.. rebook).  This was 27 days of eating bliss and blissful eating.  After her trip was over, I figured it would be criminal not to write something about this on EWZ, but the challenge was how.  So I asked Aynat to compile a list of her favorite dishes of the trip and here are the results.  Top 20 dishes (comments are mine) with pictures whenever I could find them

Momofuku Ko – Chef’s Multi Course Tasting Menu.  Its impossible to pick one dish from this 18 dish ecstasy.  Its like asking Evander Holyfield which Illegitimate child is his favorite.  Perhaps the best eating experience NYC has to offer at the momenyMomofuku Ko Razor clams

Bowery Meat Company – Bowery Steak with Salsa Verde, Whipped Potato.  The ribeye cap, arguably the cows most delicious part is rolled into this hockey puck of dreams. One of the most delicious steaks I ever ate.  Aynat agrees.Bowery Meat Company Bowery Steak

Marta – Carbonara Pizza with Potato, Guanciale, Black Pepper and Egg.  I’ve watched Nick Anderer try to perfect this Roman beaut over the first few months, until he settled on arguably the best white pie NY has to offer.   Aynat also liked the Rabbit meatballs very much.Marta Patate alla Carbonara

Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Bistro –  Oxtail Fried Rice with daikon, Shiitake & Bone marrow. Aynat hesitated at first with this one.  “Why is he suggesting Fried Rice, in a hotel no less.”  Easily made the top dishes mark, along with the brilliantly simple sautéed squid (Ika shuga)Blue Ribbon Sushi Oxtail Fried Rice

The Marshal – Wood Oven Roasted Meatloaf stuffed with Mozzarella, Squash Carrots and Kale.  Sometimes a man just wants to eat meatloaf. Apparently same rules apply for women.  One of Hell’s Kitchen’s hidden gems, dishing out proper farm to belly American classics.The Marshal - Meatloaf

Annisa – Barbecue Squid with Thai Basil and Fresh Peanuts (top picture).  Aynat asked me about some of my favorite squid/octopus dishes in town and I directed her to one of Anita Lo’s best sellers.  Needless to say she liked it.

Ivan Ramen – Pork Meatballs with Buttermilk Dressing, Bulldog Sauce, Bonito.  Perhaps it’s the hypnotizing dancing bonito flakes, the tangy Bulldog sauce, or those tender juicy meatballs. Whatever that is, hope this LES Ivan branch keeps it on the menu for a while.Ivan Ramen Pork Meatballs

Alta – Shrimp and Chorizo Skewer with Avocado, Garlic and Sherry Vinegar.  Another winner at this old tapas staple.  Aynat also praised the Brussel Sprouts with apple, Creme Fraiche and pistachios.  The dish that essentially made us start cook Brussel sprouts.  And many chefs around town followed.

Balaboosta – Crispy Cauliflower With Lemon, Currants and Pine Nuts.  It’s not an Israeli meal without a cauliflower dish. (Hmmm, I knew something was missing from my meal in LA last night).  This is one Balaboosta mustBalaboosta - cauliflower

Nougatine at Jean Georges – Fried Calamari with Basil Salt and Citrus Chilli Dip.  Never been to Nougatine so never had it.  But I can just taste it…

Root and Bone – Crispy Free Range Fried Chicken, Tea Brined and Lemon Dusted.  Perhaps the NYC fried chicken to beat, along with Ma Peche’s Habanero infused bird.  The brine and the magic dusting gives it a deeper, lasting flavor. Aynat also really admired the Charred Asparagus with Fire Roasted Tomatoes and Crunchy Peanuts. And talking about deeper and lasting, Root and Bone apparently means something else entirely down under (where half of the owners are from.  Coincidence?)root and bone chicken

Santina – Guanciale e Pepe.  Aynat also hit some of the new kids on the block, and enjoyed Santina’s Cecina as well.  I’ve personally been to Santina three times now, so ye.. I’m a fan too.Santina Guanciale e pepe

Rounding the top 20…

The NoMad Restaurant – Suckling Pig with Ramps, Potatoes and Salsa Verde.  Been twice, never had it

ABC Cocina – Spring Pea Guacamole with Warm Tortillas

Timna -Lamb Saddle with Persian Lemon Dust, Black Garlic Mousse, English Pea Purée.  Along with Fried Cauliflower (doh!) with Homemade Labane, Curried Tahini and Sumac.  Top of my to do list

Inti – Ceviche Mixto.  Love this dish.  They make great ceviche hereInti Ceviche

Mercato – Gnocchi in Beef and Pork Ragu.  Havent had this in a while and got tomorrow free.  m..u..s..t r..e..s..i..s..t…

Kati Roll Company – Unda chicken roll.  Never had it.

Gazala’s – Sun dried tomato Bourekas with Hummus, salad and olives.  Still best hummus in town

Ample Hills Creamery – Salted Crack Caramel.  Seriously addictive ice cream (like seriously!) .  Aynat also gives major props to the Sullivan Street Bakery Bomboloni and Amorino gelato.

So there you have it.  There were many other great dishes Aynat enjoyed in this one, but these are the highlights.  This is a great starting point for those researching their next trip.  Thanks Aynat for this glorious report

Categories: East Village, Lower East Side, Midtown West, New York City, NoHo, Nolita, SoHo, West Village | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

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