Posts Tagged With: Best restaurants in East Village

Foul Witch – The Witches of Easthood

The Witches of Eastwick is a 1987 flick starring the last remaining aging celebrities who didnt declare their political alliances (minus Cher). Foul Witch is a 6 month old restaurant in East Village. To be precise on a rather strange corner of Ave A (Houston), dangerously close to the tourist central Katz’s Deli, and Il laboratorio del gelato. By dangerous I mean you may be tempted to consider them for your first and last course, but I’m here to convince you otherwise, at least for the first course.

Foul Witch is the highly anticipated New American/Italian from the people that brought us Roberta’s, Roberta’s to-go, and Roberta’s in [name any food hall]. It seems like Roberta’s pizza footprints are all over the city, including in the nearby Market Line food hall in the form of a sound NY style pizza by an alumni. But with the now closed two Michelin Blanca, Carlo Mirarchi and co. long proved that there’s much more than pizza up their sleeves.

The hype surrounding Foul Witch means in order to reserve a table, you may want to move to Sidney Australia for a few months where ressies open in the middle of the day. Unless you are a night owl, its virtually impossible to do so here. Are there day owls? I thought all owls are night owls by definition. I dont understand the rationale of releasing reservations at midnight, as oppose to 9 or 10 am as some are doing for us day owls.

Then how did you score one Ziggy? Another outstanding question Timmy. I tried for months. I must have had ‘Notify’ on for many days which for me rarely works. My plan was to arrive 15 minutes prior to opening and get seats at the bar. Instead, early in the morning on the day of, I had two tabs open on Resy (Claud, the other one) and lo and behold, after only a few hundred refreshes, a 5 PM spot opened up. I pounced like a morning puma.

I think every meal at Foul Witch should start with the “Fire and Ice”. Ice for creamy Stracciatella, Fire for ‘Nduja, that glorious spreadable Calabrian goodness. Why not just call it Stracciatella and ‘Nduja. Its not like the rest of the menu is a puzzle. Extra Brownie point for the the delicious free bread in today’s $10 bread NYC. And another brownie for room temp spreadable butter, another NYC luxury. Minus one brownie for no brownies on the menu.

The Veal Tortellini in Brodo is some serious witchcraft. In a very Italian fashion, big, deep flavors come from very little meat. And that sweetness from the amaretto in the Brodo adds another layer. Ingredients, and attention to detail are key as expected, and its especially evident in the Sunchoke Caramelle. Freakishly good candy shaped pasta with lemon, and poppyseeds.

The menu changes more often than the one shown online, so you may be disappointed or thrilled. And while the prices seem fair, you will be tempted to order more than the usual two dish per. One reason is that some of the smaller items like the excellent buttery Sorana Beans are more like glorified sides you’d want to pair with the mains.

The lone main we tried was also the lone miss. The roasted shoulder of goat had a nice flavor, but lacking in texture, and a bit too much gristle for our taste. The buttered turnips and ramps were the best part of the dish. Oh, I just realized why. Buttered! We skipped dessert.

Italian craft beer lovers would be in beer heaven at Foul Witch. Although I really liked my aromatic Portuguese white Douro blend, I’m not skipping the beer next time. Two drinks, 5 dishes, tip/tax amounted to around $200. The space is comfortable, and intimate. As one would expect, friendly and efficient staff, especially Arlet the Sommelier. Go! If you can get in.

Foul Witch
15 Avenue A (East Village)
Recommended Dishes: Fire and Ice, Veal Tortellini, Sunchoke Caramelle, Sorana Beans

Ave Q art on Ave A

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Root and Bone – As Simple as ABC

root and bone gritsBefore I tell you more about this gem in Alphabet City (the last of the Manhattan neighborhoods that hasn’t received a hip name), there are a few developments in my personal life I would like to share with you.  Well, more like events really, not so much developments and not so interesting to the average reader Really.  Two milestones in one day (yesterday) that are fairly significant in one’s growth as a parent and more importantly as an American parent.  The first event was taking my youngest daughter, who is suddenly obsessed with hockey, to her first Islanders game.  Only those readers who experienced this can understand the magnitude of this thrill.  Especially those sport fans who never produced sons experiencing this a bit later on.

One can argue that the second event is even more significant, as it made me connect with the American people like never before.  Everyone, including tourists should do it at least one time during the holidays to show solidarity and patriotism.  We are Americans!  Some of the strange things we do, like tipping and brunch, photo (10)may seem different to some foreigners but this is who we are, and this our culture.  You dont question it, just like I dont question taking my shoes off in other countries, and not assuming that all those wonderful little plates they give you in Portugal when you sit down at a restaurant are free.  I’m talking about, you guessed it because what else could it be, wearing my first Ugly Christmas Sweater.  Although all I have is a spray of Poo Pourri to show for as my consolation prize in the ugliest Sweater contest, it felt great I tell ya.  You see I realized that there’s really no such thing as a fashion failure anymore.  Any fashion faux pas is either brought back by hipsters at some point or makes a big comeback once everyone in the world agrees that its ugly.  Or like in this case, its both!  I’m thinking perhaps I should hold on to those 80’s Hawaiian shirts after all, before Mrs Ziggy cleans the ‘hers and hers’ closet again.

root and bone chicken

Remember that little girl I was talking about earlier?  Other than hockey, she particularly likes mac and cheese and fried chicken.  So when I was looking for a place that serves both last Sunday, a return to Root and Bone was a no brainer.  I first tried their much hyped bird in the summer, not too long after they opened, but I may have been under some heavy Barolo influence which makes me like everything.  This time it was for brunch, affectionately called in my house and every other country, lunch!  But we don’t question, remember?  Southern homey soul food by two Top Chef veterans that look more like “The Bachelor” veterans, via Miami.  Famed Miami Beach Yarbird’s lose is NYC gain.  Well, Yardbird probably didn’t lose anything, its just an expression people.

root and bone wafflesWe started with Grandma Daisy’s Angel Biscuits.  If you ever see something called Grandma Daisy’s Angel Biscuits on a menu and neglect to order it, you are an enemy of America!  These were light, airy and awesome, and once dipped in the gravy-like Honey Chicken jus, awesomer.  Benne seeds (fancy for sesame) and salt on the side for you to dip may be there purely for esthetic reasons, as I didnt feel the need.  Terrific Mac ‘n’ Cheese topped with more biscuit and featuring elbow pastas that will make you donate the elbow pastas in your kitchen cabinet to charity.

I feel like there’s some sort of a chicken renaissance going on in NYC at the moment with both Rotissarie and the fried kind.  You got the new Bird and Bubbles, The Habanero in Ma Peche, Somtum Der’s version, and so many other notables all over town.  The fried chicken here should at least be mentioned in the same discussion.  Its sweet tea brined, and dusted with dehydrated lemon magic powder that gives it that extra zesty tone.  Although, the dusting was more liberal the first time around (perhaps too liberal) there was no flavor lose this time.  The chicken, featuring no greasiness whatsoever is just a solid, juicy fried chicken, with flavors enhanced by the accompanying spiked tabasco honey sauce.  I preferred to sprinkle it on the white meat only.  And in true southern style we paired it with the Buckwheat Waffle that came with Cheddar and Whiskey Maple Syrup

root and bone buscuitsHaving eaten the chicken before, perhaps the most interesting item for me was the so called Trumansburg N .Y. Stone Ground Cheese Grits (top).  They came loaded with corn and ‘pimento cheese’, a spreadable hybrid of cheese and Pimiento (cherry) peppers.  The entire dish is a beautiful medley of textures and flavors.  And in a city filled with mediocre desserts as it seems as of late, the sticky toffee pudding with whiskey sauce and beer flavored ice cream was perhaps the best finish I’ve had this year.

Update:  The Poo Pourri works!  Dont think I need it honestly, but it works.  I may have to bring some to some of my coworkers.  You know who you are!

Root & Bone
200 E 3rd St

root and bone mac n cheeseroot and bone sticky toffee pudding root and bone

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Hearth – The Booze Megillah


February 20, 2017 Update:

This is not your ex’s Hearth.  The 13 year old East Village staple got a makeover, Marco Canora seems happier and healthier, and the menu essentially turned upside down.  Some of the remains like the terrific Gnocchi, the Spatchcock chicken, and the light but pungent Rigatoni with pork ragu are now the classics, but much of the menu has changed.  The emphasis continues to be on highest quality raw material.  In fact you can even say some of this stuff, like the bone broth is life changing.  Although I’m almost ashamed to say I only had it once, from the Brodo window.  While it was great, its hard for this non-resident to go for bone broth in arguably the best food neighborhood on the east coast.

But I’m more convinced now that this may be New York’s best Gnocchi dish.  The texture of these melty pillows cant get much better.  This time a little more peppery which means more brownie points.  And when you get a pasta dish like the Rigatoni that is not smothered in saucy ragu, but tastes just as rich, its a home run.  The Rigatoni itself had a nice bite and was cooked to a perfecto al dente.  This night we also discovered a wonderful tender rabbit with polenta (below).  Although the mushroom app didnt wow as the hen of the woods last time, I would still order mushroom here.  And the Cecina sent us back to the old town of Lucca.

But the main reason for the 2 stars instead of 3 is the value.  I rarely complain about dish sizes here.  I think I complain more about dishes being too large if anything.  There’s no doubting the quality of the four pieces of Hanger, but when you share with your family of four steak loving freaks, you are left with a few bites and a tease.  This steak is about 50% smaller than similar steaks. Same idea goes for the $22 Roasted Octopus.  Its an app priced like a main.  And the time when you got some nice slices of Sullivan Street Bakery bread for free are over I suppose.  But this is high rent New York City.  And chefs that can survive this long in this ultra competitive city know a thing or two.  We complained a little to ourselves, but at the end of the day, we left full and satisfied.  Hearth is still a Go!


July 21, 2014 Post (Shivers, I wrote this?)

I’m on page 18 of the Wine List at Hearth, and I still haven’t seen any mention of wine.  I am about to get brainwashed into ordering a Riesling by the 10 pages of why I should be drinking more Riesling, followed by an essay about the glory and history of Riesling, followed by a solid argument that Riesling is more fun than babies.  This is like letting one of those Jehovah witness pairs inside your house (Why do they always come with a kid?).  Readers, this thing is freakin 75 freakin pages.  It provokes you, it challenges you, and it makes you order Riesling

I called it the mothership because Hearth and its Megillah spawned a whole bunch of Terroir wine bars all over town.  I think their goal is to have one for every page.  We passed one just between the parking spot and the restaurant.  Inside its a little bit dark (for the camera), a little bit loud, and I’m a little bit hungry.  “Put yourself in our hands” the top of the menu reads.  NEVER!  Havent you done enough?  I’m sitting here writing this, drinking a freshly purchased cheap Riesling straight from the bottle.  Anyway, no tasting menus tonight as we are with the kids this time.  Here’s what we ordered

Ricotta Sformato – A nice ode to the dysfunctional Broccoli family.  Roasted Broccoli, Pine Nuts,  Cauliflower, Spigarello and ricotta.  Enjoyed this one

Hearth Ricotta Sformato

Grilled Quail – Expertly cooked quail with rosemary, but what stole the show was the accompanying salad of Faro, Cucumber, Onions, Quail Egg, and very nice tomato preserve that tied everything together.  I would order just the salad

Hearth Quail

Rigatoni with pork ragu – Outstanding! Not your typical heavy ragu.  More like a light summary version.  In the picture you can barely see any pork, but there was just enough porky goodness. Ther was peas, ricotta and more rosemary, as if fellow Tuscan Cesare Casella of Salumeria Rosi came to visit.  Note:  Only two pastas at this Tuscan inspired joint, an attribute I actually find refreshing.  The smaller the amount the better

Hearth Rigatoni

Gnocchi side – This led to an uncomfortable conversation with the waitress as I remember reading years ago about the legendary gnocchi of Hearth as one of the best gnocchi dishes in NYC.  I asked the waitress if there was perhaps another more substantial gnocchi dish on the menu before (answer is no) and I had to repeat a few times “don’t get me wrong, this is great”.  This was excellent but basic cheesy buttery pillowy gnocchi side dish.  I do recommend getting this

Hearth Gnocchi

Spatchcock Spring Chicken – Good, moist, but after a few bites tasted like ordinary chicken.  Not as flavorful or imaginative as all the great chickens we’ve enjoyed over the years in the city (NoMad, Annisa, Louro, Scarpetta), but still a solid shareable option for the picky eaters.  If not for our Grouper fest last week in Turks and Caicos I would have ordered the fish here.Hearth Chicken

Veal and Ricotta Meatballs – Absolutely delicious meatballs.  But once you take out the Swiss Chard Cannelloni that comes along you are left with $10/meatball.  Perhaps the priciest in NYC?

Hearth Meatballs

Hen of the Woods side – Even though I’m the only one in my family that likes mushrooms I had to have this thing.  Its such a distinct earthy taste, and so so ugly looking (I cant even show you the picture or the selfie I took with it)

Panna Cotta – Good but could have used a little more berry compote.  Venice Panna Cottas spoiled us forever.  I also noticed they have an Affogato which made me wonder if Affogato can be without any sort of liquor (just ice cream and espresso) and lo and behold it can.  I learned something new today

Overall we enjoyed this one and can comfortably recommend Hearth especially to the pickier eaters out there

403 E 12th St
Recommended Dishes:  Quail, Rigatoni, Gnocchi, Meatballs, Rabbit, Mushrooms, Cecina

Hearth Panna Cotta


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Momofuku Ssäm Bar – Mama Funky!

Ssäm Bar KitchenWhen the going gets tough, the tough turns to his iPhone auto-correct to come up with the title

After surviving 5 full days of this I needed a strong meal.  It was like having unexpected construction at home the past week.  5 full days of the youngest practice walking on the high heel shoes she chose for her big Bat Mitzvah day.  5 days and counting.  And the day is not until February.  I needed something real good, not Hearth which I had scheduled originally but something stronger.  The answer came off a tip from Kathryn from Chowdown about the new Chanterelles dish at Mama Funky.  So instead of the famous Hearth Gnocchi, I got Gnocchi that gave me a Ratatouille Moment like never before

Momofuku Ssam BarSsam Bar is located in the Momofuku quarters of the East Village.  Ok, I may be getting ahead of myself a little here, but that’s the direction we are heading looks like.  Next to Ssam around the corner you got Momofuku’s popular Booker and Dax bar, right across the street you got Momofuku’s Milk Bar, and a block away you have of course Ko, the 2 Michelin Star powerhouse.  David Chang is to East Village what beards are to the Red Sox.  Or something like that.

The place for the most part.. borrowing yet another line from Breaking Bad… Tight, tight, tight.  If you are a group, 3 or more, you not only get a table but you can also take advantage of some of the family style offers like the Bo Ssäm meal (slow cooked pork shoulder, a dozen oysters, white rice, bibb lettuce, ssäm sauce, kimchi and ginger scallion sauce) and the popular whole rotisserie duck.  However, if you are 1, 2 you get the long communal table where you sit across from each other.  No room for camera which I didnt bring anyway.  To my right, a guy who suspects his neighbor is a serial killer.  To my left, a tower of napkins! Sitting with easy access to an unlimited amount of napkins is surprisingly comforting.

Ssam bar - Roasted ChanterellesWith that said, the food is heavenly.  Between the 6 dishes we shared, 4 great ones, 1 ok, 1 eh!  The breakdown…

The Great…

Striped Bass – Raw, with lychee, rye guajillo bonji, and cilantro.  Just enough acidity and very tasty.  Mrs Ziggy will only eat raw if its exceptional and she ate this

Roasted Chanterelles – Excellent! With scattered ‘drops’ of egg yolk and melted bone marrow.  Just a nice combination of flavors all around.  Coudnt get enough of this dish

Ssam Bar DuckRoasted Jurgielewicz duck – Expertly prepared tender duck with barley, butternut squash, and cranberry.  I found myself wanting more sour from the accompanying stuff but a very nice dish overall

Spicy Pork Sausage & Rice Cakes –  Insane! By far my favorite dish.  And I almost didn’t order it.  When I asked about the dish, the waiter assured us it was “Very Spicy” and “Exactly like the one at Mission Chinese” which I don’t care much for.  But I decided to order it anyway and he couldn’t be more wrong.  Plenty of heat but plenty of joy.  Its a beautiful medley of ground sausage, chinese broccoli, sichuan peppercorn, and the awesome rice cakes which were essentially Korean Gnocchi made from rice flour.  A top dish of the year nominee.

The Ok…

Apple Kimchi –  With maple labne, jowl bacon, arugula.  It like eating a well spiced apple.  Its a popular dish and I still recommend ordering it but I just didnt find it as thrilling as the others

The Eh…

Cashew Hozon – Like a cashew “hummus” with some off-putting anchovies.  A regular fresh hummus would have been preferred.

Dessert here is limited so we went to the Milk Bar which we found just ok.  I suggest heading to Chikalicious Dessert Club on East 10th or Sundaes and Cones.  Highly recommend Momofuku Ssam Bar

Momofuku Ssam Bar

207 second avenue (13th street)

Ssam bar - Apple Kimchi Ssam Bar - Spicy Pork Sausage Rice Cakes

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