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

Categories: New York City | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

February 24th, 2020 Update:

Time to update this oldie but goodie.  Its only been 6 years, though I’ve been doing surprise inspections on and off during that time.  Why did it take me so long you may ask.  Its very simple.  Not much has changed.  Same owners, same menu, same lentil dip they give you at the beginning of each meal, same layout I know like the back of my hand, same everything.  In a city where chefs constantly feel the need to reinvent themselves every now and then, Mercato is pretty much the same its been since it opened a decade ago.  BTW, does anyone really know the back of their hand well?

The location of Mercato has a lot to do with why it stays the same.  In that corner of Hell’s Kitchen, they get their fare share of tourists, and theater goers, which also enables them to stay open throughout the day while many siesta-ing.  But they are just far enough from the midtown hustle and bustle, and the bulk of bridge and tunnelers seeking a different kind of red sauce.  Safe to say its a Hell’s Kitchen staple that stuck to its niche as a no frills Trattoria celebrating the Italian south, Puglia, Sardegna and Sicily especially.

Mercato OrecchietteLike with so many such Italian joints in the city, pasta here reigns supreme.  The Trenette is always reliable as a light, nutty alternative to the Spaghetti al Pomodoro.  I’m not as in love with it as I used to, but I still order it when I’m sharing for its interest factor.  If you want something more robust, the homemade Malloreddus, tiny but potent Sardinian Cavatelli with wild boar ragu is a Mercato classic and a safe bet.  Same with the Gnocchi, though I didnt have it in some time now.

Here you want to pay special attention to the specials.  The Orecchiette with sausage and Maitake (Hen of the Woods) last time was possibly the most satisfying special I’ve had here.  The odd inclusion of crispy dried sweet peppers didnt interfere with the joy.  Dido for the slow roasted juicy pork shank.  The only thing I wouldnt order again is the Tagliata (sliced steak) which rarely resembles the motherland version in most places anyway.  The Semifreddo however, you just want to kiss and say “I knew it was you Semifreddo”.  Or you can just eat it with a spoon like we did.

January 31, 2014 post:

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!

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 (9th)
Rating: 2 Zs (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that
Recommended Dishes: Spaghetti, Trenette, Malloreddus, Gnocchi, Fave E Cicoria, Semifreddo, Pasta Specials

Mercato - Octopus Mercato

Categories: Midtown West, New York City | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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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