Best Falafel in Manhattan

Taim falafelWe are well into Falafel season in New York City (April – March).  I will make this one nice and painless, almost W42st pick-5 style.  When I want a good Falafel these are the only places I consider.  They are fairly spread out, so helps with your sightseeing, quick bite needs.  I cant think of a better, more affordable snack in town other than a well crafted Falafel.  For most of you EWZ old timers, other than one place perhaps (Ba’al) this wont offer anything new.

Nish Nush – Any Falafel discussion should start and end with the Nish Nushes (or Nish Nishe).  Two of them now, though I still prefer the original Tribeca location over FiDi.  Pitas at FiDi didnt do it for me last time.  The regular “Classic” over the other flavors (Tribeca, FiDi) any time.

Taim – Pronounced Ta-eem, as in “Delicious” in Hebrew.  Its indeed delicious, but not exactly a NYC secret.  I have to admit, I changed the wording in the first paragraph to “Consider” from “Frequent” since I dont really frequent Taim as much as I used to.  The Nolita location crowds makes me slightly noxious when I pass by.  But the falafel platter here, with 9 gorgeous schweddy balls, fresh salads, and pita with Za’atar seasoning, is divine.  (West Village, Nolita)

Taim

Taim

Gazala’s – Although not exactly a recent discovery, I feel like the falafel here is.  I’ve had it before, but lately cant get enough of it.  I dont know if its the type of oil they use, but it just tastes fresher.  Nice golden scrips on the outside, perfectly seasoned and herbed on the inside.  This is not a sandwich recommendation per se.  You get the plate with paper thin pita (ask for it) and hummus that is another must order (Hell’s Kitchen)

Ba’al Cafe and Falafel – Tucked away in the quieter parts of Soho, Ba’al is the definition of hole in the wall.  There’s nothing fancy here but a simple solid Falafel sandwich.  My secret weapon (Soho)

Azuri – This is a pick for those looking for a little bit more excitement to their falafel experience.  And by excitement I mean something more akin to riding a scary roller-coaster.  You not only get a beautifully crafted falafel sandwich in a thick whole wheat pita, but you get to deal with Ezra the Falafel Nazi.  (Hell’s Kitchen)

Mamouns – Just kidding.

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Nish Nush

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Gazala’s

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

Not Your Grandpa’s N’eat

N'eat Short RibIts fun to watch the hype machine in play in NYC, and see how things develop.  While I read all the Hot and Buzz lists out there as everyone else, I learned over time sometimes the hard way, that things are not always what they seem.  A name and/or a little bit of money, at minimum $3000 is needed to market yourself as such.  An alum of something good in the world… Noma, EMP, Contra, tickles your interest, with a picture of something beautiful that is cooked for two weeks straight, seals the deal.  “Brian is a recent graduate of Betty’s school of Hospitality and Accounting” is not gonna be nearly as sexy.

Nordic eatery N’eat opened last November in East Village with that kind of buzz.  I walked by it many times, and watched the menu develop and eventually redesigned.   The initial buzz apparently was just that, as reserving now for a prime time table is as easy as getting a table at your local Chipotle.  Whats wrong with this place!?!  What do the village people know that I dont.  You cant get too comfortable reserving tables in NYC these days.  Its either too hard, or you secretly wish for a little harder.  Thats what she said.  I mean my dining companion.  She said that.  And she’s right.

N’eat is casual, quirky fine dining.  The bathroom is blasting Ali vs Frazier in case you missed it.  80’s music includes stuff you dont normally hear, just when you thought you got it pretty much covered.  Wait staff is “East Village Fun” as opposed to “EV hipster, help I’m stuck here”.  When the waiter said  “Still or sparkling, and by still I mean tap”, a small tear came out of my good eye… only to quickly disappear with the usual comical “dishes are meant for sharing”.  Advice as useful these days as “Dishes here are meant for eating”.  A young Filipino female chef, an Atera, and other heavyweights veteran, at the helm.  While its still owned by the same folks including Noma veteran Gabriel Hedlund, something tells me this is no longer the same n’eat, even though it opened just 6 months ago.  So if Grandpa happened to eat here 3 months ago, he needs to…  Ok, I’m trying here.

“Æbleskiver” (say that one time), a Nordic snack usually eaten during Christmas, was a nice little starter.  Like a mini beignet stuffed with braised duck.  The accompanied Lingonberries sauce was just the right delicate compliment.  Enjoyed the Buckwheat toast with Cremini mushroom and fluffy, shredded, Halvah-like Cheddar.  Truffle salt sealed the deal for the brain on this one.

Sunchokes was perfectly cooked into a meaty potato like consistency, served as is with a nice tasting foam.  Foam was fairly prevalent throughout the meal.  While I admire foam as much as the next guy, at some point we were wishing for some veggie texture.  Though the Duck heart tartar had plenty of texture and flavor.  Loaded with chives, chive flowers that blossom one month of the year, fermented mushrooms, chili, and dried rice.  While very different it was an homage of sorts to the Filipino Sisig.  By far the spiciest tartar I ever hadN'eat Duck heart Tartare

Arctic Char came very rare, with just foam and some trout roe. This is where we started missing those veggies.  It was good, but rather forgettable.  Short rib, the most expensive item on the menu was perfectly cooked, most likely slowly sous vided.  The glaze on top was on the sweet side, and the ultra lean short rib you could cut with a toothpick.  It came with a bone marrow and two spreads including fermented onion puree and pepper butter.  Combining the two gave the best results.

N’eat is borderline Nyet.  Its one of those solid two stars that I dont quite see me returning.  I cant really fault anything or any dish other the uniformity of it all.  Yet nothing blew my mind, and the menu featured didnt scream unfinished business.  Neat is a bordeline But I do appreciate the uniqueness and recommend you to try at least once.

N’eat
58 2nd Ave (3/4), East Village
Rating: Two Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that.
Recommended Dishes: Æbleskiver, Buckwheat toast, Duck heart tartar, Short ribN'eat Sunchokes

N'eat Arctic Char

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W42st May Issue – Best Places for Soup

IMG_5904A slight variation to my usual best soups of Hell’s Kitchen post.  This month its part of the food issue on W42st.  Mooncake Foods and their sick Wonton soup is sadly no more, so needed to replace it with Pam which made the list twice in a row.  The only news here to veteran readers is the inclusion of Chong Quing Xiao Mian Noodles.  Try saying it just once.  As usual you will find Ziggy’s EatList at the small Zine inside the magazine distributed all over the neighborhood.  This month’s issue matched my couch perfectly so we may keep it as furniture for a little longer this time.

Pam Real Thai – I’ve had so many Oxtail soups here that I had forgotten how good the other soups are, like the explosive Khao Soi. The most underrated Thai in NYC

Ippudo – Judging by the flavors of the new sesame based Ramen lineup, these guys dont follow the latest Ramen trends. They set them. Waits may be long, but for good reason

Chong Quing Xiao Mian Noodles – Try saying it 10 times, while chewing on their nostril clearing Mala (chili oil) Noodles. The newest quicky on 9th

Totto Ramen – 51st street is the new 52nd street. Apparently the secret of the new location is out judging by the lines. The chicken broth here, especially the Spicy Ramen stupendously good

Pure Thai Cookhouse – Now that Chipotle ditched their Shophouse Asian Kitchen franchise, Pure can change its name back to Pure Thai Shophouse. The soups here are generally great, but I’m partial to the Sukhothai

Chong Quing Xiao Mian

Chong Quing Xiao Mian Noodles

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Best Things We Ate in Denver

IMG_5801Bagel at the Delta Terminal JFK before departure.  Ok, it wasnt the bagel, nor it was even in Denver.   But while standing in line for the bagels, and then waiting for the bagels to come out, the entire time (around 30-40 minutes or so) I was talking to Jeremy Roenick who stood on line behind me.  Only the very few of you know about my other obsessions, one of which is Hockey (Or Ice Hockey for some of you foreigners).  Turns out he is a big foodie and we actually discussed very little Hockey.  We talked about food tours, his food adventures in NYC, Turks and Caicos, my food tours, and a bunch of other stuff.  I didnt even mind one bit that they forgot about my order the entire time.  Well until he got his at least and left, then I got furious

Tagliatelle with Meat Ragu at Chow Morso (Avanti Food Hall) – They call this Italian Street Food here, but its really not.  Its more along the lines of ragus and fresh pastas you will get in the fine restaurants of Piedmont and Emilia Romagna.  In the case of their “Bolognese”, you get a flavor packed, minimal tomato, proper meat ragu.IMG_5720

Pabellon Arepa at Quiero (Avanti Food Hall).  Denver’s food truck scene I’m told is a little deeper than NYC’s, and one of the better known trucks is the elusive Quiero serving legit Venezuelan Arepas.  While we didnt have them from the truck, we were able to sample some at one of their premier, busiest food halls, Avanti.  The Arepas have just the right amount of outer crisp, filled with succulent combinations.  We were partial to the juicy PabellonIMG_5716

Creole Shrimp Omelette at Four Friends Kitchen.  There’s all sorts of surprisingly good Southern, NOLA style food in Denver, and we hit on some of them.  This staple in sleepy Stapleton is popular with families partly due to their early brunch hours.  This omelette featuring sautéed Gulf Shrimp, spicy tomato sauce, and filled with creamy pilmeto cheese was spot on.IMG_5724

Kids Meal at Steuben’s – If I only knew.  I dont know if this will read like a compliment or not, but here it goes.  Kids Meal, the burger in this case, comes with Edamame, carrots, cucumbers, an assortment of fresh berries, and french fries.  Adults get a lousy burger.  I would gladly sub mine and the fried chicken for this culinary ecstasy

Agnolotti at Acorn – I’ve had plenty of Agnolotti under my belt, and I got the pounds to prove it.  My doctors say my body mass includes 15% muscle, 10% Halvah, and 7% Agnolotti.  Outside of the occasional Agnolotti del Plin, it very rarely wows, but usually serves as a nice comfort food.  This one with its various textures and flavors from the truffled pecorino, pine nuts, and morels opened my eyes.IMG_5740

Chicken Fried Eggs at Sassafras American Eatery (top picture)- “Accidentally Croele” is a proper tagline for this Denver trip.  We munched on more NOLA stuff here, at least for breakfast, that we ever did in NYC.  Sassafras Bloody Mary lineup alone will send you straight to the nearest fancy hat store to prepare for your French Quarter visits.  But this brilliantly executed egg dish was invented in Denver.  They are lightly coated with flour and bread crumbs, and fried, fried chicken style.  With a little bit of seasoning (minor quibble), its brilliant.  Its worth ordering for the accompanying Buffalo hash alone.

Little Man Ice Cream – Big flavors coming out of this little guy in a giant Milk Jar.  The Banana Pudding was love at first lick.IMG_5825IMG_5808

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Tours Update, Schedule, and Thanks!

IMG_5548Well, its been a heck of a start!  The tours, particularly the Brooklyn tour have evolved nicely.  With so many of you taken or in the process of taking all three tours, I started working on a 4th.  It may take a while to design this one, and I cant quite say where it will be exactly (mainly because I’m not sure myself), but it will be Downtown somewhere.

I’m extremely grateful to the Trip Advisor community, and the wonderful reviews.  I took a chance to do something different without knowing much what to expect.  With so many food tours out there, I wanted to create a “product” that is unique enough and the type of experience I look for when I travel.  But I dont know if I could connect with those few seeking this without the help of the TA community.  So big thanks to TA and everyone who took my tours.

I will also take this opportunity to include a little upcoming schedule due to impending time off.  I know this is all unconventional but nothing about this is.  If none of these dates work for you still send me your dates, and anything after June 4th

Unless specified, Hell’s Kitchen starts at 2, East Village at 11, Brooklyn at 9:00

4/27 – Free
4/28 – East Village, 10:15 am start. 4 spots left
4/29 – Brooklyn 2 spots left
4/30 – Hell’s Kitchen, 10 am Start, 2 spots left
5/1 – Free
5/2 – EV 3 spots left
5/3 – Free
5/5 – HK 2 spots left
5/6 – EV 2 spots left
5/8 – Free
5/9 – HK 4 spots left
5/10 – Free
5/11 – EV 5 spots left
5/12 – EV 10:30 2 spots left, EV 3:00 PM 4 spots left
5/15 – Free
5/16 – Free
5/17 – HK 11:00 2 spots left
5/19 – HK 3:00 2 spots left
5/20 – 6/4  No Tours

As usual, any tour inquiries send to EatingWithZiggy@gmail.com

Tour website:  https://eatingwithziggytours.com/

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The Truth About Tipping – And Why it Needs to Go

Denver trip, a little pressed for time, no time to write anything this week. Enjoy this oldie but important

Eating With Ziggy

Pasquale Jones Tip Free Pasquale Jones

From EWZ Editorial:

Yes, I actually have nothing to write about.  Other than a great meal at Biang! with new Chowhound friends, it was sort of a meh week that included lunch at the hottest restaurant in NYC at the moment (High Street on Hudson).  I do have various post ideas at the moment, but not about individual restaurants.  And I will need another visit to Biang! to write about it.

Tipping in NYC can be not only confusing, but a highly debated subject even among locals.  This is gonna be short and painless, but I will start by offering a quick guide to tipping in NYC, which I mentioned before

1.  If the service has been exceptional – Tip 20% (on top of the tax, before tax, is up to you.  We tip on top)

2.  If the service has been a little less than stellar…

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Pam Real Thai – Severely Underrated, Still

Pam Real Thai Kha SoiIts a tale of two Thais.  Pure Thai Cookhouse, a jam packed frat party at pretty much any time of the day, sometimes even just outside.  Pam Real Thai, eerily quiet even at peak times sometimes.  Pure has a limited, concentrated menu for Thai standards, while Pam has a megillah that includes all the color of the rainbow curries and other American Thai.  Pure is where I bring visitors to experience the vibe and some regional specialties you wont find anywhere else, while Pam is terribly unattractive and uninviting.  So why do I keep going to Pam Real Thai.

Well, for starters, for some of the same reasons mentioned above.  I dont want to wrestle tourists and locals for a table.  As local as Pure is, the number of tourists that go there nowadays increased dramatically.  I usually dont have much of a problem if I go solo as I can often get a seat on the counter facing the wall, but that means I get a seat by the counter facing the wall!  At Pam not only I get a full table, but I sometimes get an entire section all too myself.  I can spread my legs in all directions including Sharon Stone style and no one will bat an eye.  I can listen to a conversation from across the room (95% theater industry related.  Boy do they like to curse).  I can hear a lung collapse and call 911 before its too late.  At Pure I get to listen to Mandarin or French by the folks sitting  pretty much on my lap, while the rest is white noise mixed in with the bizarre but catchy Thai disco. Pam Real Thai Pad Ped

And then there’s the food.  Pam Real’s food can be, well.. unreal sometimes.  I’ve written much about its Oxtail soup, which inspired me to finally bring my wife and kids for a meal the other day.  That pleasant vinegary heat, and all those chunks of Oxtail which increased over the years means you gotta work it, and may even sweat a little.  But its just so damn good.  Same goes for their outrageous Khao Soi, a Northern Thai curry-like noodle soup packed with chili oil and topped with deep-fried crispy egg noodles.  On a cold winter day especially, the soups work like magic, while in the summer they can cure summertime sadness (worth repeating because its true).

I wish I could keep score of the goodies and badies (food blogger lingo) I’ve had here over the years.   The big complaint from me is that its a very full menu. Steamed Thai Dumplings here can be as good as cheap Thai dumplings or Shumai can get.  Pad Ped (red curry paste, bamboo shoot, basil, and bell pepper) with your choice of meat or seafood is always solid.  I go for the seafood mix (shrimp and squid) when I feel particularly naughty.  Same goes for the rest of the sauteed lineup like Crispy Pork With Basil, Pad Prik Khing (curry paste, long bean and lime leaves).  For the most part these guys are not shy with their spices.  There used to be a time when my go-to Thai dish was Pad Kee Mao (drunken noodles) everywhere and Pam’s seafood Kee Mao was head and shoulders above everyone else in this Thai rich hood.  The generously crabby and excellent crab fried rice is another must get when you are sharing.Pam Real Thai Whole Fish

Crispy fried whole fish is one of those things I rarely order at Thai restaurants because its usually almost purposely overcooked, albeit liberally spiced and herbed.  Here you can have your Red Snapper or another fresh fish a number of ways.  I dont recall the name we tried, but it was smothered with a mild sweetish chili sauce, almost like a mild red Yemeni S’chug.  While we enjoyed it I dont know if I would spend another $28 on it again. The irony here is that I prefer “Thai Style Fish” at menus in non Thai restaurants, like Cull and Pistol.

Pam Real is a solid go.  Dont worry about looks and reviews (very full menu + delivery = reviews all over the place).  With Thai restaurants in Hell’s Kitchen especially looks can be deceiving.   If you want beautiful chandeliers, go to Room Service.  For good honest food, go to Pam.

Pam Real Thai
404 W 49th St (off 9th), Hell’s Kitchen
Rating: Two Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that.
Recommended Dishes: Oxtail Soup, Khao Soi, Thai dumplings, Pad Ped, Pad Prik Khing, Crispy Pork, Pad Kee Mao, Crab Fried RicePam Real Thai Crab Frid RicePam Real Oxtail Soup

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

A Tour Around the World in HK

Meske

Meske

This month’s theme on W42st is travel.  This is just a small sample of countries you can visit while in Hell’s Kitchen, which you can find in the magazine mini zine.  Bring your passports.

Nano (Ecuador).  Abel and co. redefining ‘hole in the wall’ while dishing out all sorts of hearty traditional Ecuadorian specialties.  Try the homey Caldo de Bola soup

Meske (Ethiopia).  Our “Little Ethiopia” is very little, with only two restaurants right next to each other.  Here you get dirty and use the spongy Injera bread to scoop up all the goodies on it

Pam Real Thai (Thailand) –  Tucked just a bit outside of Thai mecca 9th is perhaps the best of them all (along with Pure Thai).  The Oxtail soup can cure summertime sadness.

Gazala’s (Israel Druze) – The only Druze dining in NYC.  I cant get enough of the Hummus here because the guests I bring never leave me much

City Sandwich (Portugal) – These are Portuguese inspired sandwiches served with a smile.  The best Pastel de Nata (egg tarts) in town, called here Pastel de Crema

Gazala's Moshakal

Gazala’s

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Where to Eat Roman in NYC

Trapizzino wineI once asked a chef in Piedmont where he likes to eat when he goes to NYC.  Maialino, he said.  But dont you want to eat some Sushi, Thai, or Uzbek, something perhaps hard to get back at home, I asked.  Good Roman food is hard to get here too, he said.  Perhaps for the same reason you see Italians flock to Eataly here.  It took me a few trips to Italy to understand what Italians have been telling me all along.  There’s really no such thing as Italian food.

When in Rome, eat like Romans.  When in NYC, eat the world.  The world includes Rome last time I checked.  And Roman cuisine is one of the great wonders of the world.  It is precise, simple, rustic, and can be absolutely addictive when done right.  If you spent any time in Rome you would be rotating between Cacio e Pepe, Carbonara, Amatriciana, Gricia pastas and thin crust roman pizza, and then spend 6 months trying to find it back home.  Much easier to do so in NYC these days

Maialino – This is the first place that comes to mind.  Head chef Nick Anderer spent some time in Rome studying the art and getting all inspired for all of us.  While its not strictly Roman, it may be the only place that does all four classic pastas (all 4 for lunch, minus the Gricia for dinner), and does it well.Maialino - Cacio e pepe

Marta – Staying with the Anderer theme.  While there were already restaurants out here serving Roman style pizzas, Anderer made people like me notice them.  These are the round matzoh-like cracker thin pies that are generally available only in the evening in Rome (after 7:30).  So if you missed it on your cruise day trip, do not despair.  Just go to Marta and get the Patate Carbonara, arguably NY’s best white pie

Marta Patate alla Carbonara

Trapizzino – They are back baby.  The Roman snack made its debut first 5 years ago in Madison Square Eats by a team properly named, Broken English.  That debut lasted roughly 5 minutes seemed like.  But last week a roomy brick and mortar called by the snack namesake opened in Lower East Side.  Trapizzino are like smallish triangle pizza pita pockets stuffed with various ragus and combinations.  I enjoyed my Oxtail ragu last week, and come to think of it, the Oxtail ragu I had 5 years ago (I’m starting to suspect I really like Oxtail).  They also sell Suppli, the Roman Arancini.

Trapizzino Oxtail

Sullivan Street Bakery – This is the closest thing we have to a Roman bakery.  The only thing its missing is the foot traffic, and hence the constant flow of fresh pizza al taglio (sliced square pizza).  Its tucked deep inside Hell’s Kitchen, and other than the occasional tour group (there he goes again with the self promotion, so annoying), foot traffic is minimal.  But there’s a healthy wholesale business due to the outrageously good bread, and pastries like Bambolini (donuts) and Canottos that keeps those pesky tour guides and locals coming.

Sullivan Street Bakery

Lilia – This is not exactly Roman, and you may say not Roman at all.  But I came out of there feeling like I’ve eaten some of the best Roman inspired food I’ve ever had.  Problem is its now way too popular for a return trip, one of the toughest tables in town today.  But if you are one of the lucky ones, a must try is the Cacio e Pepe like Mafaldine, ribbons infused with Parmigiano Reggiano and pink peppercorns.  And cacio e pepe fritelle which are fritters filled with pecorino and black pepper.

Others – Lupa, Emporio (Roman inspired trattoria/pizza), Via Carota (for the very legit Cacio e Pepe), Barbuto (some of the city’s most notable Carbonaras), Morandi

Lilia Malfadini

Trapizzino

Trapizzino

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Timna – Chutzpah Nation

Eating With Ziggy

Timna Octopus

March 26, 2017 Update:

At Tompkins Square Park, just east of Timna, there’s a Temperance fountain, constructed in late 19th century to help locals with their alcohol self restrain.  Drink water, avoid booze.  Sounds easy enough.  A primarily German neighborhood did all it could to maintain the legacy, up until the prohibition.  Today the park is surrounded by bars!

No such temperance, self restrain luck with Timna’s new spring menu however.  Dish after dish of dazzling combinations between the newcomers and the old heavyweights like the Kubaneh and Octopus, testing my self control and wallet.  Like a fat kid in a candy story, I want to eat all you got, now!

Perhaps if fat kids would eat cauliflower like this, the world would be a healthier place.  At Israeli establishments we are attracted to Cauliflower like Trump to Twitter.  But it was the cured tuna Sashimi that stole the show yet again early on with…

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