Posts Tagged With: Best food in Hell’s kitchen

The 16 Dishes that Define Hell’s Kitchen Today

Nano Ecuadorian

Nano

15 years behind a desk deep inside Hell’s Kitchen introduced me to the wonderful world of car dealerships, construction machinery, and gay bars. I watched the neighborhood develop, grow and become one of the least appreciated food areas in NYC today.  It is a NYC neighborhood, full of personalities and stories.  9th ave has morphed into a little foodie paradise over the years, while 10th ave is full of destination gems.

Today I sit behind another desk, my own.  But I still visit Hell’s Kitchen about twice a week for work (so subtle) and research, and it still feels like a second home.  As with just about any Manhattan neighborhood, its nice to explore the area on your own.  But to bring some of these stories to life and understand what this neighborhood is all about, I recommend taking a tour (ok, not so subtle).  These are the dishes that define Hell’s Kitchen today in no particular order.  A combination of classics, personal faves, with some fresh meat mixed in between

Chicken Paitan at Ivan Ramen Slurp Shop – Its easy to fall for the classics at Ivan, but this latest invention is my favorite today.  It got the richness and deliciousness of a Tonkotsu bowl without the heaviness.  Its also the first dish to break the rule and appear in both Ivan restaurants (besides the classics)

Chicken Paitan at Ivan Ramen

Seco de Pollo at Nano – Although I’ve known about Nano for a while and enjoyed it in the past, its only in the last year or so that I’ve really discovered this true gem.  Chicken strips cooked with Naranjilla, a sour fruit grown in Ecuador.  Abel, the owner is one of those Hell’s Kitchen personalities you want to meet.  But if you want to see the last time he came to work dressed up, you will need to look at this.

Pepperoni Pizza at Capizzi – The Sacco slice, and the Diavola at Don Antonio are pretty darn great as well, but my gut usually leans toward Capizzi.  The pepperoni is cut thick, giving it more oomph.  And the pizza parlor look and feel takes you to another place and time: Staten Island circa 2016

Capizzi

Shrimp Tacos at Otto’s Tacos – Otto graduated from a mom and pop to a corporation (often the end result of finding success in East Village).  But their signature shrimp tacos are still some of the best in a sea of Taquerias.  They come smartly seasoned, with a tangy homemade serrano cream, fresh herbs and onions.  Wash them down with the homemade Horchata

Silan at Taboon – Vanilla ice cream layered with puffed rice and date honey sprinkled with caramelized pistachios and topped with shredded halva.  Need I say more?  I probably should.  This is one of the most popular big boy desserts in Hell, and its been on the menu since day one.

Taboon Silan

Canotto at Sullivan Street Bakery – You wont find this addictive pastry anywhere else because it was invented and patented by Jim Lahey.  The dinghy shape gives it the name (not to be confused with dinghy shaped pizza terrorizing Napoli purists).  You can find both savory and sweet Canottos but I always go for the Dolce (seasonal fruits, mascarpone, nuts).

Jonah Crab at Gloria – Simple, yet outstanding.  The sweet as lobster crab mixed with strips of Kohlrabi (like a cross between Turnip and Daikon), aided by a thin eggy Sabayon.  Ok, maybe not that simple, but so satisfying.  This mini Le Bernardin is possibly the most underappreciated fine dining in HK.

Gloria Crab

Ratchaburi crab and pork dry noodles at Pure Thai Cookhouse – Confession time.  I dont really order this anymore, as I usually go for for the specials these days.  But its clearly the most important dish at the most important Hell’s Kitchen Thai.  Mix it all in including the Yu Choy (like chinese Chinese Broccoli), and the small amount of broth and you got magic

Pure Thai Ratchaburi

Carnitas at Tacuba – The only Carnitas (Mexican pulled pork) I tasted in NYC featuring that Mission District slow roasted nastiness.  It comes with Chicharron (Cracklings), four little tortillas for you to master your taco skills, but thats not all… A beautiful, tangy tamarind habanero salsa that will make you want to dip your credit cards into.

Tacuba Carnitas

Ika Shoga (Squid) at Blue Ribbon Sushi – EWZ old timers may be surprised by this pick instead of the oxtail fried rice.  They are both quite exceptional.  But while you can get some incredible fried rice dishes all over NYC, I havent seen anyone treat squid quite like this.  Sauteed with ginger and garlic.

Blue Ribbon Sushi Squid

Murg Kesar Kebab at Saar Indian Bistro – Its only been open for a few months as of this writing.  But when someone like Hemant Mathur (Malai Marke, Chote Nawab) opening his first Hell’s Kitchen location it automatically becomes the best Indian in the Kitchen.  I got a feeling that once I taste the much hyped Cauliflower Latkes (they didnt have them last time), I may sub it here.  But these Saffron, lemon and ginger infused chicken strips are melt in your fork exceptional

Chicken Kebab at Saar Indian Bistro

Tofu at Danji – Let me just say this.  I dont really eat much tofu.  But as soon as I get inside Danji, I smell the soy vinaigrette and order this dish even when I dont plan.  The four rectangles are flash fried, and topped with ginger scallion dressing, and that wonderful soy vinaigrette.  The result is crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside, and incredibly delicious throughout.

Danji Tofu

 

Oxtail Soup at Pam Real Thai – The Khao Soi is equally terrific.  But If there was ever a dish that helped me through the last 5 NYC winters, this is it.  Pam is like my Thai Jewish mother making me chicken soups when I’m under the weather.  But instead of boring chicken, you got three marvelous bony oxtails, with a complex fiery broth.  It cures flu like symptoms and summertime sadness.

Oxtail Soup at Pam Real Thai

Soup Dumplings at Kung Fu Little Steamed Buns – Ive seen many moms and many pops getting squeezed out of high rent 8th ave over the years.  But as long as these guys continue to deliver high quality XLB (soup dumplings), they can make it anywhere.  Well, maybe not Staten Island

Trenette at Mercato – I have to list the best Italian in the hood, I just have to.  I dont believe you can go wrong with any of the pastas here.  But I always go for the light Trenette al Pesto Trapanese (almond, garlic, tomato), especially in the warmer months.

Mercato TrenetteBourekas at Gazala’s – Although a bigger and potentially better Gazala’s just opened in UWS, the little Hell’s Kitchen institution feels like the flagship.  And 9th ave wouldnt be the same without these warm flaky, outrageously delicious pastries lining up the window front.

Gazala'a Place Bourekas

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Gotham West Update

Gotham West Market 2

Latest on Gotham West Market and the next Most Interesting Man in The World….

https://eatingwithziggy.com/2014/03/28/gotham-west-market-top-eats/

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HK Guide Update

Annabel PizzaA Frenchman walks into a bar with a chicken on his head. ‘What the hell is that?’ asks the barman. The chicken replies, ‘I don’t know – it started as a wart on my ass and grew.’

A little French chicken humor for ya to set the mood.  The list is getting bigger, my sense of humor is getting smaller, here’s what I’m adding…

Pizza and Beer – Annabel.  Just tried it a few hours ago (the things I do for you people.  And for what?).  Just opened last week.  Kinda striking, woodsy space.  Great Neapolitan like wood oven pizza with nifty toppings like ricotta, duck prosciutto, blueberry chutney, an even better looking craft beer menu on tap, fresh pasta and more.  Cant wait to explore the rest of this menu.  Behind the name is another cow story

Vietnamese – Co Ba 53.  About time we get some decent Vietnamese here.  Nice Pho (soups) and Bahn Mi and very affordable combinations for lunch. Try the Banh mi thit -assorted cold cuts, grilled honey plum glazed pork, house made pickles, cilantro, jalapenos, and mayo.  For something a bit more exotic but really exceptional try the Bun Co Ba – Crispy spring rolls with grilled tiger shrimp, and honey plum glazed pork over rice vermicelli with fresh herbs, served with a chili lime dressing and peanuts.

Sushi – Ageha Sushi – So I went on a Sushi Sabbatical of sorts in the neighborhood and discovered.. new Italian bars that I’m very excited about!  And yes, decent sushi can be found here indeed.  At Ageha I felt most comfortable alone, and with a group.  Sashimi is nice and fresh, and the Chirashi although not too traditional, was plentiful and very satisfying.  For something slightly higher end looking but just as affordable consider Shimizu which also has excellent lunch deals.

Rotisserie Chicken – Poulette.  Little French Chickens invading Hell’s Kitchen.  Young French dude, quits his job in finance to follow his dream.. manufacture French style Rotisserie Chicken.  Only a few weeks old.  I tried the half with 2 sides which turned out to be a bit of a struggle to finish for a big eater like me, so a quarter chicken next time.  This thing was love at first bite — Moist, delicious, coated with plenty of herbs which was the difference.  Some of the best Rotisserie I’ve had.  This is more of a fast food place.  If you require more of a restaurant for your chicken needs, try Inti on 10th for Peruvian style Rotisserie chicken, and Ceviche.

Stay hungry my friends!

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Best Dishes in Hell’s Kitchen – Round 3

Pad Ped Moo Krob at Larb UbolPad Ped Moo Krob at Larb Ubol (above) – Everything I love about Thai food is bundled oh so nicely in this dish.  Crunchy, well cooked fatty pork, sweet pleasant chili heat, green peppercorn galore, that wonderful curry paste, and plenty of veggie action including Thai eggplant which I cant get enough.  Perfection on a plate, but not for the heat sensitive.  Dont confuse this unassuming Thai on 9th/37th with the rest of the mostly mainstream Thai on 9th and 10th.  This is Isan (North) cooking at its finest.  However, if you still hesitant to trek to Hell’s Kitchen out of fear of being kidnapped by the Westies,  Zabb Elee in East Village may do the trick

Rotisserie Chicken at Poulette – Little French Chickens invading Hell’s Kitchen.  Young French dude, quits his job in finance to follow his dream.. manufacture French style Rotisserie Chicken.  Only a few weeks old, and not in the Guide quite yet, but will be be very soon.  I tried the half with 2 sides which turned out to be a bit of a struggle to finish for a big eater like me, so a quarter chicken next time.  This thing was love at first bite — Moist, delicious, coated with plenty of herbs which was the difference.  Some of the best Rotisserie I’ve had.  This is more of a fast food place.  If you require more of a restaurant for your chicken needs, try Inti on 10th for Peruvian style Rotisserie chicken, and Ceviche.  Mrs Z wont allow me to quit my job and do what I do best… hard boiled eggs Rotisserie Chicken at Poulette Al Pastor Tacos at Tehuitzingo – Midlife crisis is pushing me into a taco craze as of late.  When I don’t eat out with my lunch buddies, I construct a little taco tasting in a neighborhood abundant with Taquerias and Bodegas.  Tehuitzingo, a bodega turned Taqueria is always the last stop, and their porky goodness Al Pastor is second to none.  When they closed, food tour leaders went on a collective hunger strike (only two meals a day), but not only they reopened, they multiplied (second branch on 9th/41st). tehuitzingo al pastor Ceviche Mixto at Inti – Talking of Inti, why not feature one of their specialties.  The Peruvians, I bet you didn’t know, invented quite a lot of things that keeps society ticking.  Transportation systems, roped bridges, Pisco Sour, and yes they invented the ceviche.  At Inti you get fresh chunks of fish, shrimp, octopus and calamari marinated in lime juice and mixed with red onions, cilantro and rocoto hot pepper, and served with sweet potatoes and baby corn.  Good luck finding this in a Pio Pio near you. Inti Ceviche Ice Cream & Popsicles at the Brooklyn Kitchen – “Winter Is Coming” says Game of Thrones.  Get the summer goodies while you can.  Enter Gotham West Market, go straight, look down, deliciousness awaits.  Amazing artisenal ice cream sandwiches, and popsicles from popular area vendors like La Newyorkina.  No mass production stuff here.   Small batches and high quality ingredients is key.  You will not taste anything better than this

Ice Cream Sandwich at Brooklyn Kitchen La Newyorkina Popsicle

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The Marshal – Farm to Hell’s Kitchen

 

Courtesy of The Marshal

Courtesy of The Marshal

Adventurous diners, ready for some Pig’s Blood Flatbread with Smoked Salmon Roe? Perhaps a decadent Mugwort Foie Gras, or how about the good ol’ Geoduck?  Well, you will find none of that at the Marshal in Hell’s Kitchen.  Not even close.  In fact chances are that you will have a hard time bragging about your meal to your girlfriends and making it sound remotely sexy.  “OMG so we had this thing called Meatloaf that was like the most amazing thing ever.  Here’s a selfie of me and the meatloaf”  Meatloaf, Pot Roast, Salmon.. there’s no conceivable way to make them sound sexy these days.  But this 6 month old 10th avenue “Farm to Table” comes as close as you can get

Processed with VSCOcam with s5 preset

Courtesy of The Marshal

Adventurous Foie seekers should still be able to appreciate the flavors and attention to detail here.  Although the menu reads like “American (Old)”, just about every item is listed almost like a paragraph describing the origin of the ingredients.  The back of the menu features 14 local farms where they source much of those items.  Almost like eating at Da Roberto in the village of Montisi, Tuscany.  Almost!  “Slow Food” models such as Roberto, and other Farm to Table places in Italy are simply called restaurants, or Trattorias. While in the US, its a concept.  But it is what it is.  And in ethnic happy Hell’s Kitchen, Solid “American” may seem like a concept in itself.

The Marshal - BreadRule of thumb – when you see bread on the menu in NYC as opposed to your typical free basket, get it.  The warm French Loaf is crunchy and soft in all the right places and will make your taste buds believe it was baked seconds ago especially for you.  Bread and butter bliss.

Chicken Liver Pate was solid.  Refreshingly fresh Caprese included sizeable sweet tomatoes, with handmade mozzarella, fresh Shushan Valley basil and balsamic reduction.  But the early highlight came in the form of the meaty, scrumptious Newfoundland Mussels.  Its creamy, garlicky white sauce is so appetizing you want to dip anything in it…bread, fingers, metrocards, anything!The Marshal  -Mussels

And then there was that meatloaf which was just like at grandmas.  That’s after grandma graduated from Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Institute followed by a 2 year stint with the Canadian navy.  Similarly, the goat cheese and herb stuffed chicken just doesn’t get much more tender and juicy than this.  The wood oven Mac and Cheese with bacon hit the spot.  On another visit I enjoyed a perfectly cooked and juicy burger which is only available for lunch.The Marshal - Meatloaf

The sides here require a PHD in sides.  We opted for a fine bacon wrapped wedge of white cabbage, simple roasted potatoes, and a sweet potato and kale au gratin which took the gold.  And don’t leave home without trying the mammoth hot fudge, walnuts, cherry, vanilla ice cream, or any of the other two desserts featuring ice cream from the nearby Je & Jo.  Welcome to the hood Marshal.The Marshal - Mac n Cheese The Marshal - Caprese The Marshal - Sundae

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Best Dishes in Hell – Round One

Little Chef - Egg BowlDear readers, it is with extreme pleasure and slight gastro discomfort that I welcome you to the first installment of Best Dishes in Hell, where we feature 5 dishes to target in this little foodie heaven I like to call Hell’s Kitchen.  Each of these bites is guaranteed to put a smile on your face and put all your troubles behind.  Or not!

Bourekas at Gazala’s Place – Bourekas, or Bourek is something I ate often as a child, but not really by choice.  I hated it!  So if I list a Bourekas in this space, it can only mean that this is not your ordinary Bourekas.  Your choices are normally Feta with spinach or Feta with sun-dried tomatoes.  I prefer the latter.  One bite of that beast to feel that explosive, rich, flaky goodness and you’ll understand why.  And did I mention that it comes with a side of my favorite Hummus in the city.

Gazala'a Place BourekasEgg Bowl at Little Chef – The winter version below, while the regular version is pictured on top.  Health food that I would gladly go out of my way for, but luckily I dont need to as I work 12.3 minutes from Gotham West Market (I timed it).  The current version features porky cranberry beans, salsa rojas (roasted red salsa), and just about the sickest breadcrumbs on the planet.  Same breadcrumbs featured in the non-wintery bowl which includes fresh greens and assorted roasted veggies like broccoli and potatoes.  Glorious stuff my friends

Little Chef Egg Bowl WinterSausage Pizza at Capizzi – Avid readers of EWZ already know that there’s no reason to cross bridges and tunnels for pizza.  However, very few places in the city (Manhattan) have that homey pizza parlor feel that is very common in Brooklyn and Staten Island.  Capizzi tucked away in “Downtown Hell’s Kitchen” got it and more.  This pie is a sausage fest of deep flavors made from fresh ingredients cooked in a wood fired oven.  Not quite NY style pizza, and not quite Naples style, but very NYC

CapizziAkamaru Modern at Ippudo – A recent article by the NYT reaffirms the belief that Hell’s Kitchen is a ramen force to be reckon with.  And in the middle of this ramen revolution is this super popular Ippudo branch.  Start with their terrific smooth pork buns and move on to the Akamaru, a complex porky broth and just about as addictive as Ramen gets in NYC

Ippudo - AkamaruCanotto at Sullivan Street Bakery – Love at first bite.  Sometimes its slightly off, but for the most part its pastry perfection.  Brioche filled with mascarpone, berries, topped with crumbs and some salt.  What I love about this is that every bite is different.  On one bite you taste chewy, cheesy, salty, next is crunchy, fruity, and so on

Sullivan St Canotto Sullivan St - Canotto

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A Major HKSG Update

Inti CevicheMajor facelift to the Hell’s Kitchen Survival Guide folks.  Not just a little botox job, I’m talking about a Joan Rivers.  Many additions, 1 extraction, and some clarifications (what to eat in Pure and Mercato), and a bunch of breakfast places.  A marked improvement over the previous number of breakfast places, zero!

Click here for the full guide

Additions:

Peruvian – Inti.  10th ave is the new 9th ave.  Can someone go here please? Anyone?  Bueller?  Its always empty for some reason and it would be a real shame if it closes.  A Pio Pio alumni with a twist.  And the twist being empty ceviche.  Great looking and tasting Ceviche Mixto (top), Fresh fish chunks, shrimp, octopus and calamari with red onions, cilantro and rocoto hot pepper.  Add sweet potatoes for much needed contrast and baby corn and you got yourself a heck of a dish.  Or try the always reliable Rotisserie chicken which I’ve had so many times prior to snapping the streak finally

Dominican – Lali.    Read this while listening to this.  Ready? Lets go.  Love this new discovery.  Home cooking cant get any more homey than this.  Small, Diner-ish, Reggaeton music blasting in the background to help you chew.  And the 2 nonnas serving including Lali,  well you just want to take one of them home.  You get whats available today which will normally include some sort of beef stew, chicken, ribs.  Go for the braised chicken if available, or the beef stew, with rice and beans of course.

Lali stew

BBQ – Daisy Mays.  After a 5 year hiatus I’ve decided to check it out again to see if its HKSG worthy and looks like it is.  Well, barely.  Not so much of an endorsement I know but if you are looking for delicious ribs, while its not the best BBQ in town, its satisfying.  And as is the case with everything in life, Dry Rub over Wet.

Mexican – Toloache.  I realize that there’s a better chance seeing Lindsay Lohan win an Oscar than seeing tourists (without guides) in one of those bodegas I’ve recommended.  So another option is needed.  Try to sit downstairs (a chili’s atmosphere otherwise).  Good tacos (lobster yum!) but on the small side.  You can make an argument that its not considered to be in Hells Kitchen, but its close enough.

Korean Fried Chicken – Hell’s Chicken.  Or “Hell’s Kitchen” as I read it in my head 100 times while passing by, mumbling “how can another restaurant call itself Hell’s Kitchen” until I finally looked closer and its CHICKEN, not Kitchen.  The wings are glossy, meaty and tasty.  Try the Garlic Soy.  This is a very tentative addition to this list as I’ve only been here once and reports out of Yelp hint on some inconsistency.

Gotham West Market.  The most exciting thing to happen to Hell’s Kitchen since Ezra the Falafel Nazi cracked a smile 4.5 years ago.  I’ve been here only a couple of times (day 1 and day 2) so much more on this during the next update, but meanwhile here’s a post on what its all about

El Colmado -Deviled Eggs

Farmer’s Markets – Stiles on 52nd is a tiny market with a big heart and Outer Boroughs prices.  You also have the 57th st Greenmarket on 57th and 9th open Wednesdays and Saturdays from about mid April to December.  What fantastic timing on my part, eh?

Café/Bakery – Bis.Co.Latte.  How did I miss this spot the past 10 years.  50 shades of Biscottis baked in the back of this colorful cheerful Café.  GREAT daily Risottos,  soups like the Tuscan inspired Ribollita, and the Tuscan inspired Tuscan White Bean soup.

BisColate Risotto

Café – Café Ole.  Click on the Reggaeton link for this one as well.  This hole in the wall has been here for some time now and the place I probably frequent the most.  Simple, delicious sandwiches, paninis, soups and my go to place for fresh salads.  And then you have Anna the owner who will teach you how to salsa by the time your order is ready.

Café – Rex.  The new kid on the block and by kid I mean Rex, the hardest working baker in HK.  And only 3 years old!  Ok, not really, he’s 4 now!  Ok, not really again, his father helps out a little but still.  Nice muffins here – Try the Morning Glory.

Bagels – Pick-A-Bagel.  Ess got nothing on these guys.  This is by far my favorite bagel place in the area, and trust me I’ve looked.  A good place to try the walnut raisin spread but I normally go for a simple bagel with butter.  Muffins are great in size and taste, and the only place that has Ziggy’s fave banana nut.  Its a great concept:  You say “Bagel” and they pick one for you.  🙄

Diners.  Westside is the classic, Georgio’s Country Grill the not so classic, and Renaissance is somewhere in between.  All 3 offer your no frill basic diner fare.

Removing:  Uncle Nick’s.  Just one too many dry kebabs.  Took a group here last time and just cant think of any reasons to keep recommending this

Places tried but didnt like:  Nook, Turco twice (seems geared more toward tourists than Ziggys

Click here for the full guide including what to order in Pure, Meske and much more

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The Hell’s Kitchen Survival Guide

Hell FoodUpdated: July 10th, 2017

“One more block” is what I normally say to tourists who come to NYC to experience one of the best NY attractions (Broadway shows) along with one of the saddest NY attractions (Theater District Dining).  One more block and you are in the middle of ethnic galore 9th avenue.  To experience eating in NYC, one of the greatest food cities in the world, one should take advantage of one of its greatest strengths, ethnic dining.  From amazing Sri Lankan food to fiery Thai.  Most visitors don’t realize that you wont find any Theater District Restaurants on any “Best of” lists, but you WILL find some of the following.  And if you insist on fine dining, why not go to something like Ma Peche, Lincoln, Marea, or The Nomad which are not in the district but a short cab ride away or a nice stroll on Broadway.  You already paid $300 to see Muppets having sex on stage, surely you can afford a $5 cab ride to make the night complete and eat at some of New York’s finest.

With that said, here’s the best food in Hell…

New:  Food Tours of Hell’s Kitchen, East Village and Brooklyn

Top Dishes – Round 1

Top Dishes – Round 2

Top Dishes – Round 3

Top Dishes – Round 4

Top Pre-Theater Options

Best Burgers

Best Pizza

Best Thai

Best Soups

The Sandwich Awards

Gotham West Market Top Eats

Ivan Ramen Whitefish Donburi

Food Halls

Gotham West Market –  Perhaps the coolest thing ever to open in Hell’s Kitchen.  In a city suddenly flooded with all sorts of food halls, this is one of the more intimate, and less visited ones.  Main reason being the tourist free zone of 11th and 45th, making it more of a neighborhood stop.  Only about 9 high quality vendors, and a bicycle shop.  Ramen, tapas, burgers, Mexican, health food, sushi burritos, meat purveyor, high end coffee, and to top it all, some of the best ice cream in town.

Middle Eastern

Falafel – Azuri Cafe.  Soup Nazi meets Oscar from the odd couple.  Ezra’s grouchiness is well documented, even on his menu.  A couple of weeks ago I saw him smile but I’m pretty sure it was gas.  But the falafel here is a piece of art.  Skip the 3 ball recession platter and go for the sandwich, or the excellent chicken Shawarma.

Middle Eastern – Gazala’s Place.  Fabulous Druze cooking.  Some of the best Hummus in town (I spent plenty of time in Israel including the druze village where Gazala came from so I know my Hummus).  The place is slightly larger than a shoe box.  More like a hers and hers closet (in my house at least.  I count my blessings to have 2 shelves left).  The only complaint is I wish for better bread than the paper thin lafa to scoop the stuff.  I’m not big of the Bourekas overall, but the cheese and sun dried tomato Bourekas here is solid.  For more of a takeout middle eastern you may want to consider The Hummus Kitchen on 52nd.  Surprisingly all kinds of great hummus in the area.

Gourmet Middle Eastern – Taboon.  One of the most successful, hidden gems in the area.  A creative menu created by a top Israeli chef coining the term Middleterranean.  Try any of their bread specialties baked in their Taboon oven, and the Silan (below), one of my favorites desserts in the city.Taboon Silan

Doner Kebab/Turkish – Turco.   This is perhaps the closest thing we have to the German Doner Kebab (Turkish immigrants in Germany made it the most popular fast food snack since the invention of the Speckpfannkuchen and Zwiebelkuchen).  The main culprit is that thick, crispy tasty pita bread that holds its own for the most part.  I slightly prefer the chicken over the lamb but you should try both.

Asian

Korean – Danji.  The best Korean Tapas in the area by far.  Ok, probably the only one but its still quite good, and not quite tapas.  You will be hard pressed to find better chicken wings in the area, and the sliders aren’t too shabby.  Michelin people agreed (initially), rewarding it a star soon after opening

Ramen -Totto Ramen.  Shoe box setting and potential long waits adds to the charm at the original.  Just write your name on the board outside (Not Seymore Butts – already done) and wait.  Order the spicy Ramen, add the egg and you are all set.  Newer, bigger Totto located a block away 464 West 51st.  Less wait if any than the original

Ramen – Ippudo Westside.  Perhaps the most exciting HK opening in 2013.  One block away from Totto and others making HK a NYC Ramen powerhouse.  Just like Totto, this is an experience, but a little different.  Its bustling, noisy, energetic, and that’s just the wait inside and out.  Clearly my favorite here so far is the Akamaru Modern, but you must add the egg, and for a little more spice the spicy miso paste.  Highly recommend this one

Ramen – Mentoku.  Three is a crowd you say?  I disagree!  The other two are now well known oldtimers, and these days you will most likely find me at this relaxing no-line, no hassle, newcomer.  Start with the simple but the delicious fried chicken and finish with the spicy Yuzu-Kosho.

Japanese – Blue Ribbon Sushi.  Not all chains are created equally.  This is far from Applebee’s.  And depending on who you ask, and the day of the week, this is not exactly in Hell’s Kitchen but close enough (Yelp thinks that it is).  Its located in the SIXTY Hotel on Columbus Circle (on 58th st).  Whether you are a sushi lover is irrelevant in this case.  Good fried chicken, steaks, and the sick oxtail fried rice alone is worth the price of admission.  And other goodies such as the excellent Ika Shoga (sautéed squid), and Kanpachi Usuzukuri (amberjack sushimi) worth detouring.

Japanese – Mocu Mocu (closed).  More Japanese goodies in the hood, though there’s really nothing like this one.  Artsy, nifty but very casual spot that is still trying to find its bearings.   Essentially all sorts of Japanese street food and snacks.  Takoyaki (octopus balls), Oshinko (homemade pickles), soups like the terrific white bean and Sausage Miso, Okonomiyaki (savory pancakes), Obanyaki (dessert pastries), decent wings.  This project is a collaboration of two sisters with the help of Hiroko Shimbo, an acclaimed Japanese cookbook author.  Unlike the atrocity across the street El Original, this place hasn’t spent a day on any hot list, while flying under everyone’s radar.  Its all in the marketing.

Thai – Pure Thai Cookhouse.  Not your average NYC Thai food among a plethora of all kinds of great Thai on 9th.  No drunken noodles,  no red curry, no green curry and not even purple curry on the menu.  What you do get is something a bit more authentic with all sorts of complex flavors and extra heat.  Read the post for what to order.  Update 12/3/13:  These days I really enjoy the ribs, Curry Paste with Pork, Ratchaburi crab and pork with dry noodles, and the pumkin custard with coconut sticky rice off the board (not on the menu)

Pure Thai Ratchaburi

Pure Thai Ratchaburi

Thai – Larb Ubol.  An offshoot of Zabb Elee in the East Village, specializing in authentic Isan cooking.  Like Pure, some of these dishes not for the faint of heart.  Even more so here actually.  If you want your typical American Thai dishes this is not the place.  Go to something like Kare Thai on 10th or Wondee Siam 2 instead.  In Larb Ubol what you get is complex flavors like you never experienced before (unless you did!).  Try the Pad Ped Moo Crob – Crispy pork, thai eggplant, basil, peppercorn, ginger, and spicy curry paste, and the duck larb.

Thai – Pam Real Thai.  I was hesitant to add this one for too long, partly due to having two Thai places on the list already.  But.. a) Many EWZ readers have already been to Pure and/or Larb Ubol, b) The Oxtail Soup, and c) Just about everything else I’ve had here is pretty darn good.  Setting redefines minimalistic, and the place could use some refreshing, but I dont go there for the decor.  Try the Pad Kra Prow (w/shrimp), Pad Prik Khing, Khao Soi, best Kee Mao Seafood in the hood, and the Oxtail Soup which is just about my favorite soup on the planet.

Sushi – Han Sushi.  Newcomer on 10th and 56th trounces all area sushi with its freshness and flavor.  Once you overlook the heart shaped rice on the Chirashi plate, you will see the best raw value in the area

Chinese – Gourmet Szechuan 56.  By far the best Chinese in the area.  Like Pure Thai, Spice level significantly higher.  Loving the  Shredded Beef w/ Asian Spicy Green Chili especially

Chinese – Chaan Teng.  One of the newest kids on the block (9th ave).  American Chinese with a twist… as in dildos.  Yes, its decorated in a way that forces fathers to have that talk with son while sharing Chaan Teng’s take on General Tso’s Chicken.  Perhaps the most inventive and daring (Chicken Skin Dumplings) menu and decor on the block

Chinese/Dumplings – Kung Fu Little Steamed Buns Ramen.  A little piece of Chinatown on the border of Hell’s Kitchen, steps away from Times Square.  Contrary to what the name suggests, this place isnt known for its ramen, but for its soup dumplings. The place is tiny, and at peak hours there could be a line but it moves quickly.  Communal tables add to the fun, but try not to squirt that dumpling soup juice on your neighbor.  Unless its a Broadway actor

Pork Buns

Indian – Basera Indian Bistro.  I tried every single Indian in the area, and keep going back to this one.  Friendly, big, and best lunch specials by far.  This is your average American Indian, but done right.  Good Tikka masala, lamb Biryani, but its just about a Chicken Chettinad fest for me as of late.

Indian Lunch Buffet – Benares.  I’m not normally into lunch buffets these days, but this is one that my co-workers and I enjoy lately.  What I like about it is that they dont offer the usual conventional Tikka and Chana Masalas, but various shrimp and lamb dishes with proper Unamerican degrees of heat and flavor

Rice Burgers – Yonekichi – A piece of East Village in HK.  Rice burgers may sound weird or one of those trends that goes nowhere, but those little things are actually delicious. I wasnt too sure at first but it grew on me quickly.  Its light and healthy, and with the added fried egg can be quite satisfying.  People complain that they are small and they are.  But the Combos that may include Shishitos and succulent potato wedges will fill that void.  For around $14 that includes a drink, this is actually one of the best and most delicious deals around.

Italian

Italian – Mercato.  This is quickly becoming not only my favorite Italian in the area but my favorite restaurant in the area.  Truly flavorful, mostly authentic southern Italian (from south Italy, not south Staten Island) dishes like the excellent homemade Trenette (below) with garlic, almonds, tomato and basil.  A cozy Trattoria, with an all Italian staff.  Check out the simple spaghetti, the meaty gnocchi, Sardinian specialties, and look for any specials like the excellent Cavatelli

Mercato Trenette

Italian – Il Melograno.  A lot of mediocre Italian in the area.  This is not one of them.  No frills, small, cheap(er) Trattoria sitting in a location where its almost impossible to survive unless you are doing something right.  Owner from Brescia, no stranger to Northern Italian cooking.  Try the Pappardelle with sausage and truffle oil.  In the warmer months locals flock to their sidewalk wine bar Il Baretto on 11th.

Seafood

Gloria.  The most refreshing new face in the area since The Marshal.  You can read all about it here

American

Wine and Cheese bar – Casellula. Great wine and.. you guessed it.. Pork Ass sandwiches.  Small, not the prettiest bar but the food more than makes up for it.  Just leave it to them to make you a cheese and meat assortment with some vino and enjoy those asses

Bar/Gastropub – Brickyard.  “Bout bloody time” says a random Irish site visitor.  Dont know why it took me so long to add this to the list.  To me this is more of a true Gastropub than the Spotted Pig, the mother of the NYC Gastropub scene.  A bar first, restaurant second.  Claire, the perky (I mean personality wise, not…) bartender will take good care of your drinking and Sports needs.  Over 20 craft beers on tap, wall to wall screens, and food that is pretty darn good for a bar.  Build your own burger, includes a leaner but deadly Bison patty.  And the truffle fries here are more addictive than at the popular Umami downtown

Bar/Gastropub – Shorty’s.  Calling this a Gastropub may be a stretch, but you do come here for the Philly Cheesesteak.  I’ve had it in Philadelphia, and I can assure you that this is the real deal.  Same bread (arrives daily from “Le Bus” in Philly and finish baked in house), same steaks, same Whiz, same style, same everything.  Owner apparently was part owner of the great Tony Luke’s in Philly.  If you never had one, you are in for a messy treat.

Burger – Island Burger and shakes. Great burger, and you guessed it… Churrascos (chicken breast sandwiches).  I tried many burgers in the area and took many bad ones for the team, but those guys always do it right.  There’s a huge menu of different combinations.  I like the Barzel’s but your best bet is to try what looks good to you, or ask the waiter.

Farm to Table – The Marshal.  One of the most exciting additions to the neighborhood in recent years.  They have a relationship with 14 local farms whose ingredients fill much of the seasonal menu.  Just about everything they do, they do well.  From the terrific french loaf, to the meatloaf and roast chicken, to the ice cream sundae. Ditch the diner and go to this neighborhood spot to experience American cuisine at its finestThe Marshal - Meatloaf

Pizza

NY Slice – Sacco.  An old timer.  No 99 cent slices here (more like $2.50), but a NY slice as good as it gets

Slices – Merilu.  My kind of family.  Merilu from Torino dishes out great thin slices along with her kids while the dad just eats the stuff.  Come on Friday or Saturday to try Merilu’s excellent meatballs

Neapolitan Pizza – Don Antonio.  Opened by two Naples veterans who know a thing or 3 about pizza.  One of them also owns the popular Keste in the village.  Try the slightly fried Montanara that no one else does, and my fave Diavola boasting the best sopressata in town.

Pies – Capizzi.  A solid alternative to the Don Antonio, John’s craziness and perhaps the closest thing to a pizza parlor you can only find in the outer boroughs.  The ingredients speak for themselves, like the bright, fresh tomato sauce and the extra meaty pepperoni and sausagesCapizzi

Latin

Empanadas – Empanada Mama (Closed for now due to fire) – Empanadas are like little patties, and should be on everyone’s area walking tour.  Try the spicy chicken, the meaty Brazil, and before you try the Viagra make sure there’s ample space between you and the person in front of you.  Hmmm, this sounded much funnier in my head.

Ecuadorian – Nano.  This hole in the wall on 10th has some serious “nona” action going for it.  An “I cant believe this is not Peruvian” Ecuadorian has joined Lali and the rest of the growing latin gang in the immediate area.  Try the homey Caldo de Bola soup which made the Best Soups in HK cut.  For lunch you got various deals that include the Seco de Pollo, chicken strips in a mild but pleasant gravy, and Sango de Res, beef in a soup like green plantain sauce, among all kinds of other surprises

Peruvian – Inti.  10th ave is the new 9th ave.  Can someone go here please? Anyone?  Bueller?  Its always empty during lunch for some reason and it would be a real shame if it closes.  A Pio Pio alumni with a twist.  And the twist being empty ceviche.  Great looking and tasting Ceviche Mixto (below), Fresh fish chunks, shrimp, octopus and calamari with red onions, cilantro and rocoto hot pepper.  Add sweet potatoes for much needed contrast and the traditional baby corn and you got yourself a winner.  Or try the always reliable Rotisserie chicken

Inti Ceviche

Peruvian/Large Groups – Pio Pio.   Ok, I give up.  Pio Pio is a chain.  In fact I think the official name for this one is Pio Pio 8, or something like that.  It’s also not the best Peruvian in the area (Inti gets my vote), and it wont win any James Beard or Z-List awards any time soon.  But whenever I’m asked the question I loath the most by my employer.  A last minute place for a large group that is not only affordable but will make everyone happy, this is the first place that comes to mind.  Good drinks, rotisserie chickens, and much more.

Dominican – Lali.    Read this while listening to this.  Ready? Lets go.  Home cooking cant get any more homey than this.  Small, Diner-ish, Reggaeton music blasting in the background to help you chew and move, and the two lovely nonnas serving including Mrs Lali herself.  You get what’s available today which will normally include some sort of stew, chicken, or ribs.  Go for the braised chicken if available, or the beef stew, with rice and beans of course.  Breakfast and lunch only

Mexican – Tacuba.  I realize that there’s a better chance seeing Lindsay Lohan win an Oscar than seeing tourists (without guides) in one of those last remaining bodegas/hole in the walls deeper in the area.  This is the latest from Julian Medina of Toloache fame. And everything I’ve tried so far from the octopus sandwich for lunch to the Carnitas for dinner suggests GO!

Tacos – Tehuitzingo.  Skip the fine dining Mexican here and try a Bodega, a Mexican deli that also happen to serve some nasty stuff.  Some of the best bodegas in town just happened to be in Hell’s Kitchen.  Try tacos like the Al Pastor and tortas from any of the two convenient Tehuitzingo locations.  Update:  Recent renovations has made this one less bodegaish

Tacos – Otto’s Tacos.  The first addition I didn’t even need to try.  I’m well too familiar with their East Village spot, and those shrimp tacos (hmmm, how you doing!).  But I did of course had my fix on day two of this most important Hell’s Kitchen opening since Gotham West.

Miscellaneous

Ethiopian – Meske.  This is a fun place for groups.  Just order a bunch of plates and watch them create the plate of dreams.  Use the spongy Injera bread below to scoop up all those goodies.  Queen of Sheba practically next door also worth consideringMeske

BBQ – Daisy Mays.  After a 5 year hiatus I’ve decided to check it out again to see if its HKSG worthy and looks like it is.  Well, barely.  Not so much of an endorsement I know but if you are looking for delicious ribs, while its not the best BBQ in town, its satisfying.  And as is the case with everything in life, Dry Rub over Wet.

Chicken Over Rice Guy – 11th and 51st (Northwest corner).  Every neighborhood has a favorite chicken over rice guy.  This one is mine.  Try the chicken over rice!

Farmer’s Markets – Stiles on 52nd is a tiny market with a big heart and Outer Boroughs prices.  You also have the 57th st Greenmarket on 57th and 9th open Wednesdays and Saturdays from about mid April to December.  What fantastic timing on my part, eh?

Diners.  Westway is the classic, Georgio’s Country Grill the not so classic, and Renaissance is somewhere in between.  All 3 offer your no frill basic diner fare.

Bakeries/Cafes/Sandwiches

Sandwiches – City Sandwich.  Sorry I have to use that “one of the city’s best” again.  From Naples to Lisbon to the huge Portuguese community in Jersey, comes some of the best bread in the area, with some of the most unusual ingredients like blood pudding, sandwiches worthy of a run-on sentence.  Just try to study the huge menu ahead of time so you dont feel pressured or confused once there.  I like some of the egg sandwiches (egg based sandwiches got its own section) like Bench Girl, and of course the only on Tuesday, porky Roberto

Bakery – Sullivan Street Bakery.  Talking about no brainers. Another “One of the best in town” and the source to many top restaurant’s bread baskets like Scarpetta and Maialino.  Try some of the bread, the spectacular Canottos (the sweet ones), Bombolonis (donuts on crack), and the chocolate almond croissants.  Many love their pizzas but its the other stuff that makes me go there almost weekly these daysSullivan Street Bakery

Café/BakeryBibble & Sip.  One of the new kids on the wrong side of the block.  Technically just outside of HK but deliciousness sees no borders!  A place where you can unwind and BS all you want (it says so right on their logo).  The Earl Grey Banana Bread is quickly gaining neighborhood fame.  Add the Earl Grey Panna Cotta (notice a theme?), Matcha Cream puffs, scones, the morning egg sliders and all sorts of rotating daily goodies.

Café – Café Ole.  Click on the Reggaeton link for this one as well.  This hole in the wall has been here for some time now and the place I probably frequent the most for quick simple lunch.  Delicious sandwiches, paninis, soups and my go to place for fresh salads.  And then you have Anna the owner who will teach you how to salsa by the time your order is ready.

Café – Rex.  The new kid on the block and by kid I mean Rex, the hardest working baker in HK.  And only 3 years old!  Ok, not really, he’s 4 now!  Ok, not really again, his father helps out a little but still.  Great coffee, scones, and muffins like the Morning Glory.

Bagels – Pick-A-Bagel.  Ess got nothing on these guys.  This is by far my favorite bagel place in the area, and trust me I’ve looked.  A good place to try the walnut raisin spread but I normally go for a simple bagel with butter.  Muffins are great in size and taste, and the only place that has Ziggy’s fave banana nut.  Its a great concept:  You say “Bagel” and they pick one for you.  🙄

Sweets

Chocolates – Kee’s.  What happens when you leave your corporate job to follow your dream and open what eventually becomes one of NY’s finest chocolate shops?  You open another one, and another one, and on 39th st in Hell’s Kitchen.  Creamy explosion, the words that come to mind once you chew on one of the 50 or so truffles and chocolates.  Top notch craftsmanship doesn’t come cheap.  But still, a good option after lunch at Mercato, Larb Ubol, or Capizzi.  Or before dinner, whatever takes.

Pies – Little Pie Company.  While everyone is obsessing with cheesecakes, those in the know come here for the insane Sour Cream Apple Walnut Pie.  When I was walking home on my birthday earlier this year, guess what I picked up on the way.  Laundry!  But then…

Healthy

 

Fresh From Hell.  Quite a few healthy places surprisingly closed the past few years like Mooncake Foods despite being popular.  But tiny takeout FFH is a solid new alternative with fine sandwiches featuring Sullivan bread, and the best split pea soup this side of wherever they make the best split pea soup.

Just a Bit Outside

Best HK dining that’s not actually in HK – A new category for theater goers and those who want to experience some of NY’s finest that happened to be just outside the area.  Consider Lincoln, Ma Peche, Marea, The NoMad, Betony

There are more slightly less desirable options which I will not include but there you have it.  Stay hungry my friends!Mercato

Categories: Midtown West, New York City | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 47 Comments

Best Thai in Hell – Pure Thai Cookhouse

Pure Thai - Beef Pad Prik KhingThis is the first of a series of posts about the best food in Hell’s Kitchen, a neighborhood in Midtown West, NYC.  I already posted about the Best Pizza in the area, but this is the first individual restaurant posting out of many to come.

A quick stroll on 9th avenue, the heart of Hell’s Kitchen, brings up 2 questions.  Why am I craving for Bourekas, and why are there so many Thai places around.  There must be at least 100 of them, not to mention all the ones on 10th avenue nearby.  Ant to top it you also have entire franchises nestled in there.  Wondee Siam 2 is almost across from the original (I prefer the newer space and food).  Yum Yum 1, Yum Yum 2, and Yum Yum 3 are all right next to each other.  Yum Yum 2 recently represented the Yum Yums in the 9th avenue food festival and I’m not sure why Yum Yum 1 and Yum Yum 3 were absent from the event or the reason Yum Yum 2 was representing instead of Yum Yum 1.  But I digress

I tried many of the Thai spots over the years, but since I discovered Pure, the “trying” part shifted to trying every item on Pure’s menu.  Pure to me is purer Thai than the rest.  Not only it feels you are in a foreign country once you enter (its slightly bigger than a shoe box, a hers and hers closet f you will.  Yes thats what we call it in our house.  I recently lost 2 more shelves to her shoes. I’m lucky I got something left), but the menu doesn’t boast the regular American Thai dishes you see everywhere else.  You don’t see the usual green/red curry, drunken noodles, pad dishes that just about every single spot on 9th got (although I enjoy them from time to time like the excellent Kee Mao in Kare Thai on 10th).  What you do get in Pure is all sorts of complex flavors leading to a Pure culinary ecstasy.   Here are some of my favorites…

Pure ThaiBeef Pad Prik Khing & Crab Meat Omelette (top picture) – This is my a new favorite discovered on a recent visit with my friend Alex.  Its not on the menu but often appears on the board as a special.  Tender, limey, juicy, super flavorful beef cubes with long bean, and sugar snap peas, with this beautiful crab and scallion omelette sitting on a bed of Jasmine rice which was absolutely perfect with the light curry sauce.  Fantastic dish all around and worthy of a run-on sentence!

Ratchaburi crab and pork with dry noodles.  These guys are serious about their homemade noodles, and this is one dish to sample it.

All kinds of fabulous Wok action:

Curry Paste with Pork,  Chili Pepper with Chicken, Cashew Nuts with Shrimp, Chili Turmeric with Beef (Below. Very tasty with plenty of heat)

One particular rice/noodle dish I like is the Jungle Curry fried rice with Chicken – fairly spicy so use caution.

Many of the dishes especially with 3 stars next to the names are not for the faint of heart but you can also ask them to reduce the heat level.  Remember what I said about authentic?  Authentic translates to Thai spicy (vs American Thai spicy).  Its BYOM – Bring Your Own Milk spicy so watch out with those starred attractions., and enjoy Pure Thai Cookhouse in Hell’s Kitchen  Pure - Beef Turmeric

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