Posts Tagged With: Best restaurants in NYC

Z-List Update – 2018

2nd ave Deli Pastrami

2nd ave Deli Pastrami

This is it.  The most important update to date to the legendary, ultra exclusive (according to Harvard) Z-List.  This is a list of 50 of my favorite restaurants in New York City.  If it looks rather random to some, good.  That’s the point.  Its simply my way of answering “what should we eat while in NYC” to 99% of those asking.  All under $100 per person (hence 99%).  The 2018 update features more Italian, Asian, Jewish, and Jews doing Asian:

In:

Pig and Khao, Fiaschetteria “Pistoia”, Ugly Baby, Werkstatt, Faro, Cote, Bombay Bread Bar, Ducks Eatery, 2nd Ave Deli.  Congratulations to the winners!

Out:

Bruno pizza – Not much has changed here as far as I know.  Just like other options more.

Blue Ribbon Sushi – I still like to bring large groups here, but prefer other options overall.

Root and Bone – During a recent meal the signature chicken paled in comparison to its former glory.

Pok Pok – Just cant bring myself to go these days especially since Ugly Baby opened not too far.  A plethora of negative reviews as of late dont help

Distilled – A meh meal last time.  Go to Ducks Eatery for the American stuff

Roberta’s – This (along with pok Pok and Root and Bone) might be the shocker here.  Still love the pizza.  But after a recent meal, you get the sense the pizza is the only reason for the schlep.  Faro is the better choice in the hood

Malai marke – Replacing this Indian with Bombay Bread Bar.

Gotham West Market – Many of the vendors changed over the past year.  It may be even better today.  But its a food court and shouldnt really be on the list

Click here for the complete list

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Pistoia

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The Z-List

Annisa Squid

Updated:  June 26, 2018

The motivation behind this post can be found here so I wont go over it again.  Its essentially just another top 50 list, except that its unlike any other.  Only rule as explained in the previous post is $10-100 per.  Meaning nothing that would cost over $100 or under $10 per person.  An affordable list for the people, by the people (Ok, by one person, but you get the idea).  Here we go, in no particular order.  Big Mazal Tov to the winners!

Taboon

The granddaddy of New York’s haute Israeli/Mediterranean, or “MiddleTerranean” as they coin it.  Located on a lonely corner of Hell’s Kitchen, close enough to the theaters, but far enough from the theaters!  Taboon means oven in Arabic, and that striking Taboon oven is the main greeter on arrival.  A fine Focaccia, Sambusak (bread stuffed with feta) just some of the goodies coming out of that magic oven.  Try the specials or classics such as the Heraim, Branzino, or Chicken Taboon with Israeli Couscous.  And if you leave without properly ending with the Silan, you will leave without properly ending.  773 10th Ave (Hell’s Kitchen) 

Ssam Bar

This one is a no-brainer pick.  “Momofuku cool” was probably invented by someone sitting at one of those communal tables next to a tower of napkins.  Perfect place for first and last date, since on both the goal is to see the other side sweat.  A playful, brilliant, meat and veg heavy menu that features seasonal veggies to go along with classics like the pork buns, country hams, and one of my personal New York faves, rice cakes with spicy pork sausage ragu, broccoli, and Sichuan peppercorn.  You can wait for your table at fuku owned Booker and Dax next door, and have dessert across at the Milk Bar in this all Momofuku corner of East Village.  207 2nd Ave (East Village)

Cote

Where to go for Steak?  A common question on Trip Advisor.  Cote is the unconventional sexy pick these days.  Its one of those enthusiastic recommendations but not quite a a concept you frequent.  A “Korean Steakhouse” which is essentially an elevated Korean BBQ managed by Michelin crowned people.  Here you want to get the Butcher’s Feast, right after you take selfies with the red light district of meats downstairs.  16 W 22nd St (Flatiron)

Pinch Chinese

Take a break from Armani Exchanging in Soho and relax in this quirky elevated Chinese. Its an offshoot from Din Tai Fung, a popular Taiwanese Dumplings chain.  The Dumplings reign supreme alright but dont miss out on the ribs, Dan Dan Noodles and the sensational “Snow Crab in Chinese Restaurant”.  Not to mention the great lunch specials (that sweet cauliflower!)   A serious looking crew behind the glass (like watching surgeons doing brain surgery) is balanced by jokes all over the place.  From the bathroom where uncle is watching to make sure Employees wash their hands, to the menu where you may find Yelp quotes as item descriptions.  177 Prince st (Soho)

Pinch Chinese Crab in Chinese Restaurant

Maialino

Hail to the pig.  I’m discovering more and more Roman eats and dishes all over town these days.  But when its time to recommend just one, Maialino, the always buzzy trattoria inside the Gramercy hotel, is still the safest.  The menu constantly changes, but classics like the Tonnarelli Cacio e Pepe are constant and as good as anything you will find this side of Trastevere.  Thats partly because chef Nick Anderer spent a significant amount of time in Rome learning the craft with the best of them.  The table is still a relatively hard get after all these years, and its also popular for breakfast, lunch and brunch.  This Piggy (Maialino means Pig) got your entire day covered.  2 Lexington Ave (Gramercy)

American Cut

Picking a good steakhouse in NYC can be as difficult as picking our next president.  This is always one of the most common questions asked on Trip Advisor forum (somewhere between “How much should we tip” and “How illegal are the illegal appartments in NYC anyway”).  Since so many of the steakhouses are essentially doing the same thing while sourcing their meat from the same places, I lean toward the establishments that do things a little different.  What I love about AC is not just the freakishly outstanding cuts like the bone-in dry aged, Pastrami spiced Rib Eye, but the rest of the menu.  Not only you get fantastic appetizers, but they also feature some of the most brilliant sides in the business like the Brussel Sprouts infused with spicy Bang Bang sauce from half sister Khe-Yo.  363 Greenwich St (Tribeca), 109 E 56th St (Midtown East)

Pasquale Jones

One of my favorite new openings of the past few years.  Another one of a slew of great Italian, ironically positioned just outside Little Italy (Osteria Morini. Rubirosa on this list are similarly positioned).  Many swear by the clam pie which is undoubtedly great, but so is everything else.  Try the Ultra-Instagramble Pork Shank for two, braised Leeks and the rotating seasonal pastas like the sick Agnolotti dal Plin.  Dont believe me?  Ask my BFF KW and friends.  Oh and did I mention this is a non-tipping establishment.  Hmmm, wonder how that worked with the BFF.  187 Mulberry St (NoLita)

Pasquale Jones Agnolotti

The Marshal

In a sea of Thai, Ramen, Mexican and Tarot card readers in Hell’s Kitchen, the most refreshing opening the past few years has been one offering exceptional good ol’ American cooking.  I don’t agree with the “New American” tagline (I’m looking at you Zagat), unless “New” stands for Farm to Table.  Relationships with over a dozen farms and skilled cooking allows The Marshal to offer solid Meatloaf, roasted Chicken, Mussels (some of the best we’ve had in NYC) and much more.  The menu also features a a huge array of seasonal sides, and some of the best bread and butter in the business.  Its a small neighborhood place, so make sure to reserve.  628 10th Ave (Hell’s Kitchen)

Kashkar Cafe

This is where you get your Uyghur fix.  A gem like no other on this list, but you will need to schlep there.  Kashkar is located in Brighton Beach, a predominately Russian neighborhood except that its becoming less and less Russian and more Uzbek, Georgian, Kazakh.   And its reflected by the dining options all over.  Uyghur is an Ethnic group living in Eastern and Central Asia including Uzbekistan where Kashkar’s cooks/owners are from, and as far as I know Kashkar is one of the first if not the first Uyghur restaurant in NY.  One of the specialties here is the chewy hand pulled Lagman noodles that you can have as soup or dry with meat and veggie stews (try the Geiro).  The Kebabs are always good, and if you like your plov toasty (like socarrat), try it here.  Then try to figure out how to pronounce Uyghur.  Part of the fun!  1141 Brighton Beach Ave (Brooklyn)Kashkar lagman

Pig and Khao

More like Pig and Wow, what took me so long.  “Top Chef” Leah Cohen continues to dazzle with brilliant Southeast Asian creations, adding dishes seemingly by the day.  Classics like the Sissling Sisig (third generation Sisig with pork head and egg), and Khao Soi are there to stay.  But on a recent visit, its the newer stuff like a spicy Thai mushroom salad, Malaysian fried chicken, and corn that left me speechless.  Because I was eating non stop.  But what I like about this place is that after all those years, Mrs Cohen is still there taking care of business, instead of taking care of 5 businesses as so many celebrity chefs do.  68 Clinton St (Lower East Side)

Somtum Der

Isan by way of Bangkok.  New York has seen a Northern Thai renaissance of sorts the last few years led by this freshly Michelined Somtum Der.  Quite possibly the strangest Michelin Star in history once you consider Somtum’s casualness and low prices (Bib Gourmand is more like it).  But the place does rock with its bold, unbashful flavors.  Dishes like the fried chicken, marinaded grilled pork, and just about the entire fried rice lineup will make you happy (and sweat).  But the namesake Somtum, spicy Papaya salad is unmatched in NYC, and not for the faint of heart.  Colorful, sexy place for colorful sexy readers.  85 Avenue A (East Village)Somtum Der - Goi Hed

Osteria Morini

Michael White’s Osteria Morini would probably make my top 10 list.  Sure Mrs Ziggy would tell you that its loud, the tables are too close, and the seats sometimes make her look short.  And to that I’d say, let Mrs Z start her own blog, and she is in fact short.  But she forgets all about it once we get the food, not to mention that most of the places on this list suffer the same fate on the noise and comfort level. Out of all the Italians on the list, I actually find Emilia Romagna-esque Morini the most well rounded.  Some of the best Salumi in town.  Great Antipasti led by the squid (the breaded version is now an occasional special), and the meatballs.  A fine 60 day aged rib eye.  And the always dependable pastas like the Stracci with braised mushrooms and the Tagliatelle with ragu (the closest we’ve had to the real thing in Bologna).  218 Lafayette St (SoHo)

Cull & Pistol

I put on my helmet and designer protective cup and brave the crowds to eat in this Chelsea Market boat to table.  The seafood menu constantly changes.  But the high level cooking and freshness is constant, partly due to the seafood short commute, sister Lobster Place next door.  Try the lobster roll (done with a lot more love than next door).  Spanish or Portuguese octopus however they make it that day.  Whole Dourade is fried to Thai style perfection.  And if they have it, you must try the insanely good Ecuadorian prawns.  The oyster bar, and its happy hour is another draw.  Chelsea Market (Chelsea)

Cull & Pistol Lobster

Estela

Something tells me Ignacio Mattos can take Gefilte Fish and make it into Foie Gras.  Small plates in a rather strange but cozy location in NOHO (Stands for Neither Here Nor There).  It may feel like you breaking into someone’s house initially so wear protective gear.  Great menu, strong drinks, though dangerously approaching the $100 per person list rule.  Some of the menu regulars like the beef Tartare with Sunchokes (might be best in town), lamb ribs with Moroccan spices should never be missed.  Dido for the Dumplings and Burrata.  And if there’s red Snapper, there’s joy.  47 E Houston St (NOHO)

Ivan Ramen

I’m no longer in speaking terms with them after Ivan inexplicably removed my Whitefish (turned Salmon) Donburi from both LES and Slurp Shop locations.  “Hi”, “Bye”, thats  it.  And contrary to the name and the Tokyo fame, I dont even go here for the Ramen.  So while I would still urge you to try the cleaner, purer ramen, at the flagship LES, I would also go for the creative goodies on the menu like the pickled daikon, meatballs, and triple pork triple garlic Mazeman.  Ivan, an import from Tokyo by way of Long Island, got something special in the LES and Hell’s Kitchen (Gotham West Market).  25 Clinton St (Lower East Side)

Gloria

A solely Pescatarian neighborhood joint and the most refreshing opening in Hell’s Kitchen since Gotham West Market and the Marshal.  The historically dreadful spot on the corner of 9th an 53rd contributed to the freshness.  The days of walking by fast so the dude from the previous Indian incarnation wont see me are long gone.  Its run by Contra and Le Bernardin alums but feels more like a baby Bernardin.  Try the Octopus, Tartare, crab, and the glorious Skate Wing.  401 W 53rd St (Hell’s Kitchen)

Gloria Shrimp

Bar Pitti 

I pity the fool that overlooks this Italian West Village gem.  A sprawling sidewalk is prime real estate in the warmer months, with great food throughout the year.  Forget the menu, and order like a regular from the specials board.  You may see the Pappardelle with rabbit or wild boar ragu, or pasta with summer black Truffles.  On a recent visit I had a fine Tortellini al Sugo that rivaled one I’ve had in Florence.  If you must order from the menu, make it the Burrata.  The very Italian staff may disappoint those looking for an all American service.  But you know who doesnt care about that?  Celebrities, who flock the place like there’s no tomorrow.  268 6th Ave (West Village)

Ugly Baby

The best name in NYC serves some of the spiciest dishes out there.  The name serves as an anti-jinx agent – babies are commonly called ugly in Thailand so not to attract ugly spirits.  Too late for me.  Its BYOB, Bring Your Own Bounty due to its uninterrupted, merciless, delicious heat.  The Khao Soi is legendary and got quite the following (owner owned a restaurant called Khao Soi prior), but today people also flock for the Duck Laab, Skewers and a lot more.  407 Smith St (Brooklyn)

Ducks Eatery / Harry & Ida’s

How ‘about some proper American food for a change in this ocean of world cuisine.  What happens when you combine unconventional NOLA with unconventional BBQ?  An ugly duckling serving killer ribs, rice and beans, chicken wings, and one sick smoked goat neck.  Or head one block over to baby sister Harry & Ida’s for a pastrami sandwich that will rock your socks off.  Or do as I did one day.  Do both!  Ducks – 351 E 12th St.  H&D – 189 Avenue A (East Village) Ducks Eatery - Wings

Santina

Reason #243 that there’s no such thing as Italian food.  Its impossible to classify, and Italians will be the first to tell you that it really doesnt exists.  But we have to refer to them somehow.  Coastal Italian is the best way to classify Santina whose menu primarily centers around fish and veggies.  Try the Cecina, a crepe made from chickpea flour, popular along the Ligurian Sea coast.  You choose the “topping” like tuna or lamb tartar, and you are free to abuse it any way you like (I try to make an airplane, then form wraps).  The Squash Carpaccio is Killa!  One of my favorite veggie dishes in the city.  Next door to the new Whitney, under the south end of the High Line, one might think “Tourist Trap”.  Not this one.  820 Washington St (West Village)

Uncle Boons

With a name like that, how can it not be good.  Have you heard of a place that starts with Uncle or Mamma that sucks?  I didnt think so.  Uncle Boons has the most picturesque website, but not the most picturesque rooms.  At least not comfortable and cozy looking.  But the same can be said about Pure Thai Cookhouse and many of the city’s premier Thai.  The dingiest the look, the better the food.  Other than the desserts, I like just about everything on the menu.  Try the Rotisserie Half Chicken, frog legs, beef ribs, seafood in broth and call me in the morning.  Reservations can be tough, so put your name down and take a walk in Little Italy.  Count how many Ciaos you hear from the fake Italians trying to lure you in.  7 Spring St (Nolita)

Fiaschetteria “Pistoia”

While so many Italian establishments bill themselves as “Tuscan”, “Roman”, “Venetian”, and eventually get sucked into a multitude of multi-regional offerings, Pistoia only knows what to do one thing; Pistoian food!  The family owns a restaurant in Pistoia, near Florence, Tuscany, and for the most part replicating some of the same Tuscan specialties in Alphabet City.  Good luck finding Picci and Pappa Col Pomodoro (A Tuscan classic of stale bread in tomato soup) on the same menu anywhere in NYC.  From the staff, to the menu, and wine, its as authentic as it gets in NYC.  The youngsters of East Village have little clue on how lucky they are.  647 E 11th St (East Village)Fiaschetteria Pistoia prosciutto

San Rasa / Lakruwana / New Asha / Randiwa

Sri Lankan on the island of Staten is one reason to stick around after taking the ferry (99% of the tourists dont).  Maybe its the only reason.  Sure Staten Island boasts some great pizza and the famous nonnas of Enoteca Maria.  But if there’s one area that it got unquestionably covered is Sri Lankan, thanks to its large Sri Lankan community.  Influences from India and colonial powers like the dutch helped generate something of a cross between Indian and Thai.  Quite a delicious cross.  These day we are partial to Randiwa for dinner and New Asha for lunch.  But you cant go wrong with any of them

The NoMad Bar

One can argue that this is really the true gem of the NoMad hotel.  Other than the location, and the name, the two NoMads dont really have that much in common.  This bar has a lot of things going for it, starting with its striking modern, classic NY look and feel.  The mixology is some of the most creative you will find in NYC (try the Start Me Up).  But to me its all about the food that redefines bar cuisine entirely.  The burger is perfection, one of the best in NYC.  Carrot tartare, Bay Scallops and quite possibly the best Chicken Pot Pie you will ever eat are some of the other highlights.  No reservations.  During the week it can get Meshugenah, but not so much on weekends in this rare case.  1170 Broadway, entrance on 28th (Nomad)

NoMad Bar Carrot Tartar

Khe-Yo 

Soulayphet (Phet) Schwader and Marc Forgione’s Khe-Yo is the place you bring a spice loving foodie on a first date.  Chances are you’ll get lucky that night with an assortment of Laos inspired bold flavors in a buzzy, sexy atmosphere.  They start you off here with a bang.. bang bang sauce, a fiery concoction of lime, chili, and fish sauce.  Along with the complimentary sticky rice it sets the tone for a spice extravaganza.  The complex Jurgielewicz Duck Salad, the quail of dreams, the crunchy coconut rice balls, like a Havah Nagila in your mouth.  And if they happen to have the half sister American Cut inspired Pastrami spiced Rib eye that night, might as well buy a lotto ticket.  157 Duane St (Tribeca)

Werkstatt

Last year I didnt add this eclectic Austrian to the list partly due to the location.  But now I realize that its the location that makes it so good.  You can pretty much draw a line separating Brooklyn’s gentrified with the not so gentrified half and you’ll find Werkstatt positioned right in the middle.  You can couple it with a visit to Historic Prospect South, Prospect Park, or Brooklyn Museum.  Some flock for the Schnitzel, Goulash, and “Best Pretzel in NYC”, but these days I go for the numerous fish specials like Skate wing.  Its a severely underrated neighborhood joint that should be the envy of every neighborhood.  509 Coney Island Ave (Brooklyn)Werkstatt Pretzel

Rubirosa

Sometimes a man just wants simple spaghetti with meatballs, and a no fuss New York style thin pizza pie.  Not just any man, an American man!  It would be criminal not to include a Rubirosa on a “Best” of NYC list.  While most tourists spend their hard earned money in Little Italy because their guide books says so, you Mr and Mrs savvy, will head to nearby Rubirosa for a proper meal.  The pizza, including perhaps the best vodka pie this side of Moscow, is top notch.  The family has been serving those pies (including to yours truly) for over 50 years in Staten Island’s famed Joe and Pat’s.  Besides pizza, you have the a aforementioned pastas with red sauce, chicken parm, and other classics.  These goodfellas do New York Italian well.  235 Mulberry St (NoLita)

Faro

Bushwick is the Big Bang Theory of NYC neighborhoods.  I rarely make the effort to visit, but when I finally, do I wonder why.  There is all sorts of interesting dining in Robertaville these days, and Faro with its well deserved Michelin may be leading the pack.  I’ve only been once as of this writing, but I have full confidence in this ingredient driven, seasonal farm to table Italian in a Bushwicky industrial space.  The pastas especially are standouts.  436 Jefferson St (Brooklyn)

Oiji

Come for the potato chips, stay for the rest of the menu in this newish Korean in East Village.  The two young chefs developed a playful menu that includes one of the most talked about dishes of the year, honey-butter chips, apparently a huge hit in South Korea these days.  “Most disgustingly addictive thing I ever ate” is what I said about these chips when I tried them.  But I’d recommend this one even without the chips, with dishes such as the Cold Buckwheat noodles, Fried Chicken, Oxtail, and Truffle Seafood Broth.  Another hit in where else, East Village.  The hits just keep coming and coming like erectile dysfunction commercials.  119 1st Avenue (East Village)  

Oiji Jang-Jo-Rim

Jun-Men Ramen

One of my newer faves, little Jun-Men is quietly doing all sorts of wonderful things in Chelsea.  Every time I eat here, I discover something new.  Last time I discovered my Achilles Tendon (as it started to bother me), followed by some of the best chicken wings I’ve had in recent memory (two weeks these days give or take).  Before that it was the fried rice, and before that the mesmerizing uni mushroom mazeman.  And the ramen here, not too shabby.  I’m partial to the Kimchi Ramen with bits of juicy Pork Shoulder.   From the outside the place looks like a nail saloon, but from the inside it looks like a modern nail saloon with an open kitchen.  Anyone knows a good Podiatrist?  249 Ninth Ave (Chelsea)

Bowery Meat Company

Every time I sneeze, I get hiccups, and a new steakhouse is born in NYC.  The competition is quite fierce these days, and so you need to do something unique to stand out, like this modern steakhouse in the Bowery.  It got a little bit of NOLA in it (broiled oysters), a little bit of Italian in it (sick Duck Lasagna for “2”), a little bit of burger in it (fan-freakin-stastic cheeseburger), and a lot of great steak.  Try the Bowery Steak, a ribeye cap rolled into a hockey puck shape.  Arguably the best part of any animal, and something you wont find in any steakhouse.  Don’t believe me?  Ask Justin Bieber9 E 1st St (East Village)

Nishi

This is quite possibly the best Momofuku today not named Ko, headed by ex Ko virtuoso Josh Pinsky.  There’s all sorts of nonsense out there about Nishi being uncomfortable, marred by identity issues, and owned by an owner everyone loves to hate.  But at the end of the day, David Chang is just a boy, standing in front of a city, hungry for deliciousness, which he delivers time and time again.  This is essentially a mini Ko, with some dishes resembling their smaller counterparts like the Bay Scallops or the roast pork.  Other dishes like the Butter Noodles (FKA Ceci e Pepe) and the outrageous Clams Grand Lisboa show the same whimsical mastery as in Ko.  232 Eighth Avenue (Chelsea)

Nishi Beef Carpaccio

Mercato

This is the Bar Pitti of Midtown, but different in some ways.  A small Trattoria hidden somewhat on 39th off 9th, popular by locals and tourists alike, but especially popular by Italians.  I frequent this place often, and I don’t remember a time I didn’t hear patrons speaking Italian.  Unlike many of its competitors nearby, it feels like home, a sense of belonging.  Mercato is one of the few in the city that specializes in dishes from Italy’s southern regions and Sardinia, like the Malloreddus, Sardinian Cavatelli.  Other dishes like the Trenette al Pesto, the fresh Spaghetti, Gnocchi with the meaty ragu, and the daily specials like the other Cavatelli will keep you asking for more.  I do, all the time, but they dont understand me!  352 W 39th St (Hell’s Kitchen)

FOB

Fresh Off the Boat (FOB) homey Filipino BBQ on picturesque Smith st.  They dont make ’em like this anymore.  Underappreciated places like this exists in NYC no doubt (perhaps in Queens), but I just dont know any.  Not the glitziest decor around, with much of the focus on what goes on your plate.  The Chicken Adobo is getting better with age (well it is an overnight chicken after all), and the Fish Inihaw is soundly in the must category for us each time.  And those wings and that sauce belong in a competition somewhere.  271 Smith St (Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn)

Marta

Like Bruno Pizza, Marta is not your uncle Vinny’s Pizzeria.  This is more like cousin Nick, as in Maialino’s Nick Anderer.  There has been a wave of fancy pizzas opening in NYC in the last few years but none I feel are quite like Marta at the Martha Washington hotel.  As with Bruno, you can have a fine meal here without even touching the pies (I’m looking at you rabbit meatballs, and then I slaughter you, chicken).  But skipping the cracker like Roman pies would be a monumental mistake.  I sat there when they first opened and watched Nick throw out pie after pie until they got it right, and that Patate Carbonara is one of the glorious products of that hard work.  29 East 29th Street (Flatiron)Marta Patate alla Carbonara

Bar Bolonat

Einat Admony and her pink scooter got yet another hit after Balaboosta and Taim (with Combina just opened).  Modern, mostly small Mediterranean/Israeli plates featuring Einat’s trademarked bold flavors.  Start with the Jerusalem Bagel with za’atar, straight out of the Mahane Yehuda market.  Move on to the veggies like the beets and Japanese eggplant, before the heavyweight staples like the Zabzi Tagine, Shrimp with Yemenite Curry, and Hudson Street Kibbeh.  And if the Halva Creme Brulee is not available, I suggest you make a scene.  Thats the only way they’ll learn.  611 Hudson St (West Village)

Danji

When life gives you chicken, you make Korean Chicken Wings.  This fun Hell’s Kitchen Korean is popular with Broadway show goers, tourists, and locals alike.  Once you find the menu (hint:  its in the drawer on your lap), go with the classics like the sliders, tofu, and the wings.  And then cautiously proceed to the Bibim-bap, fried rice with egg, and whatever else chef Kim got in store that day.  I like to bring out of town visitors here, vegetarians, and also out of town vegetarians.  Always a good time at Danji.  346 W 52nd (Hell’s Kitchen)

Mighty Quinn’s

There was a time when finding good BBQ in the city was as difficult as watching a constipated baby.  Those days are gone.  Those that still say that need to come out of the their shell, and go straight to East Village and East Village only.  Yes, there are little Mighty Quinn’s all over the city these days and I suppose any of them may satisfy you.  But for the purpose of this list and to maximize deliciousness, I recommend only the Mother Quinn, or the mothership if you will.  As with most of the BBQ joints here, its self serve cafeteria style.  Just about everything they offer is great, starting with the mammoth Brontosaurus Rib, and ending with the brisket, ribs, and pulled pork.  This is American cuisine, cooked by Americans, for Americans (and tourists).  103 2nd Ave (East Village)

Mighty Quinn's Brisket

Capizzi

Now THIS is a PIZZERIA!  Unlike places like Bruno Pizza and Marta, Capizzi is all about the simple, no fuss, individual pies.  Raw material is top priority here making every ingredient count.  Consider the pepperoni that will make you go “Feh” at every subsequent pepperoni elsewhere.  Its sliced nice and thick, with some kick to it.  Same attention to detail with the rest of the ingredients.  But what I like most about Capizzi, is the space.  Unlike the more famous competitors in the area like Don Antonio and John’s, this has all the making of an old fashioned Staten Island style pizza parlor.  And speaking of SI, there’s now a new bigger Capizzi sister in SI on Hylan blvd.  547 Ninth ave, Hell’s Kitchen

Minetta Tavern

Out of all the city’s old-timers, this is perhaps the most distinct.  Minetta doesn’t look like much from the outside on busy Mcdougal, but once you get through those red curtains, its like stepping back in time.  There aren’t many restaurants out there that are consistently mentioned in various “Best” lists.  The Black Label burger set the trend for fancy aged beef burgers, and the Cote de Boeuf is still one of the most sought-after meats out there.  Even if you skip all that and have other  menu classics like the Pasta Zaza or the Oxtail terrine, chances are high for a fine meal.  113 Macdougal St (West Village)

Lilia

It took me 4 weeks to train my Google to stop showing me results for Ilili (Gourmet Lebanese) whenever I searched for Lilia.  Bad Google, Bad!  But once everything sorted out, it was all systems go.  Lilia is across the pond (not that one, another pond) in Williamsburg’s former auto shop district so a lot more local than tourist.  Missy Robbins, Barack Obama’s favorite chef in Chicago (when he was a senator) dishes out freakishly good pastas like the Cacio e Perect Malfadini and Agnolotti.  The vegetables all over the app section featuring the best of Union Square Market.  Great simple meat dishes, and all sorts of “Little Fish” and “Big Fish” hugging the menu.  She must be a PJ Harvey fan.  Or Dr. Seuss?.  567 Union Ave (Williamsburg)

Lilia Agnolotti

Tia Pol

West Chelsea is known for some of the city’s best Spanish Tapas joints.  And Tia Pol, one of the originals, is leading the pack.  You can probably play Six Degrees of Tia Pol, with the number of related Tapas spots in the area and all over town.  This is the perfect spot to bring your Mother in Law as its dark and noisy.  Especially if you MIL is into squid ink rice, best I’ve had in this city.  Octopus salad, Patata Bravas, shrimp with garlic are all dependable, and so are the Bocadillos (sandwiches) for lunch.  This is as fun as it can get in Little Barcelona (it will catch on).  205 10th Ave (Chelsea)  

Pure Thai Cookhouse

I almost did, but can’s leave out my most frequented.  A super casual deep hole in the wall on “Little Bangkok” 9th ave.  If you blink you may miss it.  I used to go here when they were called Pure Thai Shophouse until two lawyers from Chipotle showed up demanding a name change (long story).  There is no curry of any color on this menu, but a nice selection of regional specialties like the Ratchaburi with pork, crab and dry handmade noodles made in the “shophouse” like corner inside.  The ribs are usually a hit.  Papaya salad, jungle curry fried rice, and the always reliable fiery pork with curry paste.  And as with any place, if there’s one dessert on the menu, get it.  Coconut sticky rice with pumpkin custard, like the gift that keeps on giving   766 9th Avenue (Hell’s Kitchen)

Pure Thai Ratchaburi

Via Carota

A turbulent start is turning into a very smooth ride.  This is quickly becoming a local West Village institution and one of my favorite Italian in town.  No reservations is fine with me, being early lunch as my normal go to.  The same menu for lunch and dinner is greatly appreciated (and somewhat rare), and the many daily specials keeps the juices flowing even more.  Although many of staples like the Cacio e pepe, chicken, and the sick Funghi with smoked Scamorza makes ordering specials here virtually impossible.  51 Grove St (West Village)

Bombay Bread Bar

I’m not one of those old Tabla devotees like many others (I’m just old), but I cant get enough of Floyd Cardoz’s current incarnation in Soho.  Yes, there are delicious variations of Naan and dosas and you will pay for every item, but its the rest of the rotating elevated menu that wows every time.  Like the Upma Polenta, one of the dishes that made Cardoz famous.  195 Spring St (Brooklyn)

2nd Ave Deli

What happens when you flood this page with Jews doing Asian food (Ivan, pig and Khao…) but no Jews doing Jewish food? You get Jewish guilt the size of a New York Matzoh ball.  While tourists flock from midtown to downtown (Katz’s) for that elusive pastrami, we sneak into midtown for the same quality in a much more relaxing setting.  Abe Lebewohl’s legacy lives on!  162 E 33rd St (Murray Hill)

2nd ave Deli Pastrami

Hearth

This ingredient focused, Italian influenced ole’ timer continues to impress.  Marco Canora seems to have found the right formula, creating a menu that is essentially for everyone… Meat freaks, health conscious, pescatarians, vegetarians, vegans, accountants, every one really.  Some of the old classics like the Rigatoni and Gnocchi, and the impressive Spatchcock chicken are joined by new classics like Cecina and Rabbit.  And that wine bible is still perhaps the NYC wine list to beat  403 E 12th St (East Village)

Chote Nawab

Confession time.  I’m a little less enthusiastic about this Curry Hill pick since the ownership change.  The menu is the same though spice levels took a hit it feels, and in some case missing all-together, hence off the menu.  Like the Kori Gassi my favorite curry dish here is not available at the moment due to issues with getting the proper spices from India.  But there is still plenty to love here like the Bindi, Biryani (get the shrimp), and Chettinad.  While they no longer contain the old heat levels, the flavors are still there.  And the lunch specials are still hard to beat.  115 Lexington Ave (Kips Bay)

Totto Ramen

I was passing by Totto’s original location on 52nd the other day and noticed the entire surrounding now includes signs in both Japanese and English to respect the neighbors by clearing the sidewalks and “be polite” to them.  All without properly disclosing who should we unleash our frustration on instead.  Well, this is no longer a problem for me now that Totto opened on 51st and 10th, but by the looks of the crowds in the original, not everyone got the memo (a whopping 5 min walk).  The bonus of 51st is the excellent Dons (rice bowl) like spicy tuna which you get at half price with your ramen during lunch.  The ramen is chicken based, and some of the best in town (I’m partial to the Spicy one).  But if you head instead to Ippudo nearby for the great Akamaru Modern and pork dumplings, I wont stop you.  Heck I may even join.  Multiple Locations, two in Hell’s Kitchen

Timna

Octopus whisperer Nir Mesika lives, breathes, and showers in Hummus Mediterranean. Though influences come from all over the world.  Every plate showcases these inspirations, with unparalleled attention to detail.  The rotating menu is always full of surprises, but the Kubaneh, Mediterranean Sashimi, and the legendary Bedouin Octopus continue to fight for the throne.  And then you have some of the best brunch deals around, where you can sample a very proper Shakshuka.  109 St Marks Pl (East Village)

Timna Shakshuka

 

Categories: New York City | Tags: , , , , , | 19 Comments

The NYC Trip Report that Left Me Speechless

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rounding the top 20…

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

ABC Cocina – Spring Pea Guacamole with Warm Tortillas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mercato – a Diamante in the Rough

Mercato Trenette

I was never so eager to write a “Next Post” after that last one.  But work, and a vigorous Sexual Harassment training were in the way.

What do Hell’s Kitchen, Staten Island, and Brooklyn have in common? A mafia filled history, and a lot of mediocre Italian food.  Coincidentally, these are the 3 places I spend the most time in due to work and marriage constraints!  But as Bob Dylan taught us “Times They are a-Changin”  That’s right, changin without a “g” at the end.  In the case of Hell’s Kitchen, there’s still a lot of mediocre Italian food to entertain the theater goers.  But the last few years a few diamond in the rough spots emerged, biggest being Mercato on 9th and 39th.

Mercato NYCAvid followers of EWZ (both of them) already know all about this Hell’s Kitchen treasure.  Mercato (means Market in Italian) is as authentic as it gets in NYC.  Here’s why…

1) Owners from Puglia, chef from day one is Sardinian, and every waiter is Italian.  Yes, every single one.  And if I may say, all being Italian, fairly good looking bunch as well.  I dont go here for this particular reason, but perhaps a sense of belonging got something to do with it!

2) The menu is jam packed with Sardinian, Sicilian, Pugliese specialties (more on that later)

3) Italians love coming here.  I’ve heard Italian spoken here by diners on every single visit.

4) Inside it just feels like a rustic Trattoria in Florence (and Ive been to plenty of those)

5) One of these is usually parked next door

Mercato - Bread

I’ve been to Mercato about 10 times since my first time 6 months ago.  I’ve taken friends, co-workers, family, family of co-workers (not an affair, just fooling around!) and I feel very comfortable recommending it on the boards.  There’s nothing really outrageous about the food.  Its simple, honest, and true to the regions of South Italy.  While there are all sorts of goodies on the menu I come here primarily for the Primis (pasta/gnocchi)…

Spaghetti with fresh tomatoes, garlic & basil – Like on a first date, before meeting the parents and answering “am I fat” questions 20 years later, you may want to take the core product for a spin.  This is a very passable basic Spaghetti dish with profound freshness all around.  As with many of the dishes on the menu, everything is homemade

spaghetti

Homemade Trenette with almonds, garlic, tomato and basil (top picture) – Possibly my favorite pasta here. Simple, intense flavors, and at $12 the best price/taste ratio.  You will simply not find this anywhere else

Gnocchi in beef and pork ragu – Another one of my favorites.  The gnocchi are wonderfully chewy, pillowy, and on the small side.  It looks like its swimming in sauce but its firm enough to soak in just the right amount of the meat ragu.  And what meat ragu it is!

Gnocchi

Orecchiette pasta with broccoli rabe, anchovies, bread crumbs, garlic and olive oil – A Pugliesi without an Orecchiette dish is like Roman without Carbonara.  Its very simple, if you like anchovies get it.  If you dont, dont.

Orechiette

Fave E Cicoria – Its the Pugliesi Hummus.  Popular especially in the winter months.  Purée of fava beans, chicory, and Extra Virgin Olive Oil.  Deliciously salty and quite good

Mercato - Fave

Pay special attention to the pasta specials here.  Yesterday I had a terrific Cavatelli with spicy short rib ragu.  Same goes for the Fusilli (below) with slow braised pork ragu I’ve enjoyed in the past

Mercato - Fusilli

The one dish I really want to try but always get disrupted by a special is the Malloreddus which is homemade Sardinian cavatelli-like “Gnocchetti” with braised wild boar ragu

I’ve had plenty of other dishes here like the Octopus, Sardines, Tagliata (sliced steak), but chose to highlight the selective ones

Mercato

$$

352 west 39th st

Recommended Dishes: Spaghetti, Trenette, Gnocchi, Fave E Cicoria, Pasta Specials

Mercato - Octopus Mercato

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

NYC – Top 10 dishes of 2013

NoMad breadAnother year, another amazing eating year in the city of New York.  Keeping up with all the new and excitement here is like keeping up with the Kardashians.  But 2013 proved to be one heck of a year, probably the best ever.  And if there’s ever a post on EWZ that could be helpful to visitors or locals seeking great chow in NYC, this is IT!

Ma Peche – Fried Chicken (with a side of the Brussels Sprouts).  I’ll start with the last great dish.  Haute Fried Chicken doesnt get any better than this.  Habanero, coriander, black pepper and other spices used to create this fried pieces of awesomeness.  Its a large shareable whole chicken at $48, but for lunch you can get half for $24 which can still feed an Armanian village, or 2 Americans.  And the amazing Brussels Sprouts dish are worthy of their own spot here.

photo (4)

Ivan Ramen Slurp Shop– Smoked Whitefish Donburi.  With salmon roe, sweet soy dashi, cucumber, scallion over rice.  Need I say more?  I probably should.  Tell me if you heard this story before.  A Jewish man from Long Island opens a Ramen shop in Tokyo which becomes critically acclaimed, then comes back to NYC to open a Ramen shop in the New Gotham West Market in Hell’s Kitchen.  Sounds familiar? The Donburi is a nice clash of the 2 cultures (Japan meets Jew)

196

Momofuku Ssam Bar – Spicy Sausages & Rice Cakes.  Second Momofuku mention already (Ma Peche is the first)   This dish is insane.  Plenty of heat and 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.  Puts the Mssion Chinese rice cakes to shame.  Photo courtesy of Never Too Sweet

Betony – Short Ribs.  A revelation!  Tender, full of flavor goodness.  It takes 3 days to make them we were told.  We told the waitress that we cant stay that long, but we quickly understood the meaning.

Betony - short ribs

Maialino – Tonnarelli Cacio e Pepe.  Its so simple, it shouldnt be here.  But along with the carbonara perhaps my favorite dish at one of my favorite Italian spots in the city.  Perfectly creamy, peppery, and addictive.  Having it sit there among the other pastas on the table is like visiting the bunny ranch after trying out all the bunnies, and constantly picking your favorite.

Maialino - Cacio e pepe

The NoMad – The Chicken.  This is a no brainer, and a top dish nominee even before it reached our table.  Once you get over the facts that a) is costs $78 (for 2) and b) its freakin chicken, you will enjoy this one no doubt.  Perfectly crispy skin, moist juicy white meat, along with some foie gras and black truffles (all cooked) nicely tucked beneath the skin.  Each bite of that combination together was a Tour de Force.  But that’s not all.  Add a glorious plate of the dark meat with garlic espuma (foamy light garlic goodness) in the middle to share.

NoMad Chicken

Ippudo – Akamaru Modern (with egg).  “Welcom”, “Goodbye”, “Aim Well”? I have no idea what they are screaming in Japanese at Ippudo every time someone arrives or goes to the bathroom.  All I know is that this is my favorite dish here.  Rich, complex pork broth, along with hefty pieces of pork belly.  Add the egg and spicy miso paste for even richer flavors

Ippudo - Akamaru

Costata – The Costata.  Perhaps the dish of the year.  A mammoth 44oz $120 very shareable Tomahawk Ribeye cooked to perfection.  Basted ever so beautifully with a rosemary brush, this beast was a feast for all senses.  Add some Black truffle butter, fries and asparagus, but good luck remembering the sides in between bites of perhaps the best steak in town

Costata - Ribeye

Nish Nush – Falafel.  I know Falafel.  I grew up with falafel.  My car runs on falafel (its the trade-in period while waiting for the new car so dont want to use the real thing).  This is good falafel.  Fresh pita from the oven, and free (great) hummus can only help

Nish Nush - Falafel

Kashkar Cafe – Geiro Lagman.  Little Asia in little Odessa (Brighton Beach) and perhaps the only Uyghur spot in town.  I’ve had this dish 3 times in the last 8 months.  Nice and chewy hand pulled noodles with lamb, veggies, cumin, garlic, other spices and herbs make up this highly palatable dish.

Kashkar lagman

Special mentions:

Malai Marke – Chicken Xacuti (and Bindi Sasuralwali)
Sakagura – Maguro Tartar
Pure Thai – Wok Curry Paste with Pork
Mercato – Trenette
Jungsik – The rice dish that comes for free for b-day boy 😉
Louro – Octopus Bolognese (tie with monkfish)
Mission Chinese – Kung Pao Pastrami

Categories: Brooklyn, Chelsea, Chinatown, East Village, Gramercy, Flatiron, Lower East Side, Midtown East, Midtown West, New York City, SoHo, NoHo, Nolita, TriBeCa, West Village | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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