Posts Tagged With: danji

Hell’s Kitchen – 5 Asian Dishes I Can’t Get Enough of

Blue Ribbon Sushi Oxtail Fried RiceThe latest issue of W42st has a proud theme.  Inside there’s a mini zine where you’ll find 5 Asian dishes I’m mostly proud of

Oxtail Fried Rice at Blue Ribbon Sushi – Bone Marrow added for exceptional richness, while fluffy omelette makes it exceptionally good looking.  Sauteed Squid is a close runner-up

Tofu at Danji – The only tofu I consistently order in NYC.  A Hell’s Kitchen classic

Pad Ped Moo Krob at Larb Ubol– Its like the “Best of Thai” in one dish.  Beautiful crispy pork belly, Thai eggplant, peppercorns, curry paste, and plenty of chili heat

Shredded Beef w/Asian Spicy Green Chili at Gourmet Szechuan 56 – Its so good, it makes you put the phone away.  Besides, I cant catch a signal here anyway.

Pork and Crab Soup Dumplings at Kung Fu Little Steamed Buns Ramen – I’ve ordered them so many times, they’ve stopped asking what I want.  My picture should be on that wall in no time, next to Andrew Zimmern

Danji Tofu

 

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

Date Night:  5 Unconventional Pre-theater Picks

danji-big-korean-breakfastLove is in the air on EWZ, and inside the latest KTCHLST, the mini zine inside the big zine (you see what I did there, Hebrew speakers?).  The big zine is W42st, Hells Kitchen’s own magazine.  And if you cant find it, you are either not looking hard enough or not deep enough (Like I said, love is in the air).  This month on KTCHLST, I list 5 Unconventional pre-theater Picks.  Well, just about all my HK picks are pretty unconventional, but these 5 have a certain Je ne sais quoi.  Ok, one of them has dildos on display, so I can explain that one.  Description are kept short in order to fit inside mini zine

Chaan Teng – Nothing quite like this 9th Ave newcomer offering American Chinese with a twist. If the General Tso and dumplings won’t get you in the mood, the elevated Kama Sutra decor will.

Danji – Semi celebrity chef Hooni Kim dishing out all sorts of Korean awesomeness in this quirky hole. Try the Tofu, wings and the rest, quickly before we have drop the “Semi” part.

Taboon – Ever since the old chef came back, Taboon has been hot hot hot, just like its legendary Taboon (oven). Rumor has it, the Silan dessert can fight impotence.

Mentoku Ramen – A sexier, quiet alternative to the craziness of the more popular area Ramen. Enjoy the fried chicken and Yuzu Ramen with the soothing jazz in the background

Mercato – A solid Italian on the “wrong” side of 42nd with an all Italian staff (extra brownie points). Chef Manu introduces Sardinian, Sicilian and other southern specialties unique to Hell’s Kitchen

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Foodpourri

danji-big-korean-breakfastRandom EWZ food discoveries, announcements, and other nonsense…

Danji, the long time EWZ fave in the kitchen of hell is now doing brunch.  In addition to the best tofu dish in town, you can now enjoy delicacies like the Big Korean Breakfast (top picture), Kimchi bacon fried rice, and their version of the Filipino Sisig.  This medium size Jew did the big Korean Breakfast and (of course) the tofu last week, and as much as I enjoyed them, I would love to try the other offerings next time

Talking about Sisigs, I accidentally had it twice last month.  My favorite was in Maharlika in East Village.  Gorgeously fried pig ears, snout, belly with garlic, chilies on top of garlicky rice.  Just a solid combination of flavors and textures.  And while you at it, try their Lumpia rollsimg_4401

lam-zhou-handmade-noodle-dumplingsHaving trouble sleeping?  Problems in the bedroom, ever since Prosperity Dumplings closed by the health dep’t.  Before you reach for the red pill, blue pill or any pill for that matter, check out Lam Zhou Handmade Noodle in Chinatown.  Even at room temperature, you get some of the tastiest fried pork dumplings in NYC today.  8 for $3 is still quite cheaper than what all the new places charging today

In Pizza news, while I dont normally get excited about Sullivan Street Bakery‘s thin, often room temp Roman pies (I do get excited about everything else), the day I walked into a fresh Pizza Capicola changed all that.  Coppa ham, green olives, chili, fennel, Mascarpone.  A masterful combo with plenty of nice heat to keep your taste buds happy for a while.

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Discoering Los Mariscos in Chelsea Market is like discovering a secret Speakeasy, or Tom Hanks discovering a secret garden full of typewriters.  The Los Tacos #1 team leased the space that leads from the tacos hallway to 15th st where there’s a separate entrance.  The place meant to resemble a Mexican seafood shack, and the Baja style fish and shrimp tacos are as solid as they get in NYC.  And at $3 to $4, quite affordable for Chelsea Marketlos-mariscos

I’ve been eating quite a bit in Brooklyn as of late.  Some ups, some downs, with the highlight coming from the most unexpected, Olivier Bistro in Park Slope.  Homey, basic French Bistro fare done well.  Escargot, Hanger, Daurade special particular standouts.

Stop me when I start sounding like Crazy Eddy, but the new East Village Food Tour is beginning to look like a smashing success food and sightseeing wise.  I assembled a pretty nice route that includes a stop at the always fun Caracas Arepa Bar where we’ll sample some Venezuelan mini Arepas they do especially for the tour.  Not all tours will be the same, but this one is shaping to be one the most popular stops.caracas-bar-pork-shoulder-mini-arepas

img_4469In my constant pursuit of great Soup Dumplings (Xiaolongbao) in NYC that included the much hyped Drunken Dumplings, and others, The Bao in, you guessed it, East Village, makes possibly the best I’ve had in NYC.  Thin skin that holds it on, and a very fine filling of pork and crab which is what I recommend.  Love the dumplings, not so much the stuffier than it should be, $10 per person minimum, space.

Right below Bao on St Marks place is another place we’ve been obsessing with as of late, Spot Dessert Bar.  Playful, imaginary desserts like the Harvest, a plant of berries and soft cheesecake that you water with black rose milk tea.  Dont overlook however the more normal looking and sounding Green tea lava cake spot-dessert-bar

In Bakery news, I cant get enough of Breads Bakery (Jerusalem baguettes, babka, multiple locations), and Arcade Bakery in Tribeca.  Arcade is located in a lobby of an office building and the hours are office kind hours (m-f 8-4).  Go early for the sensational buttery Laminated Baguette, Whiskey-pecan Babka and call me in the morning.

Miso Cherry!  Say it with me, c’mon.  Slower.  Say it like you mean it.  Meeesooo Cherry!  Another wacky Oddfellows Ice Cream flavor that is perhaps the best ice cream/Gelato I’ve had this year.

Stay Hungry My Friends arcade-bakery oddfellows-miso-cherry-ice-cream

Categories: Brooklyn, Chelsea, Chinatown, East Village, Midtown West, New York City | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Best Wings in NYC

Kolkovna Olympia wings

Updated 1/24/17

Ok, so we are all adults here.  We all know perfectly well that these are NOT the best wings in the city.  In the city that never sleeps, and never runs out of wings, there are hundreds of wings out there, not counting the simple bar wings you can find in every corner.  But I’m just one Ziggy, with different taste sensitivities than many readers, and I cant taste them all.  “Decent wings” or “favorite wings” doesnt sound as convincing, or Google friendly.  With that said, there’s only one certainty:  The competition is rather fierce.  And any new joint offering wings has to be creative, and deliver something more than palatable.

Since the average wings researcher has shorter attention than other researchers (eg Ramen), I’m only listing my favorite five, with more solid options at the end

Ma Peche – Jerk Wings. (Upate 9/19/16:  Havent seen them on the menu in a while due to rotating chefs.  Shame, shame, shame!).  If I have to pick one, this is probably it.  The love affair started with the wings being part of the cart service.  Whenever I would bring guests here, my attention span would drop to wings researcher levels until I’d finally spot the cart of dreams carrying them.  These days the wings are part of the menu and they are better than ever.  An explosion of complex jerky, zesty, habanero, brown sugary flavors fill your palate and stay for a few good minutes, or days sometimes if you don’t rush to wash those handsMa Peche wings

Distilled – Distilled Wings.  A former Momofuku alumni has been quietly dishing out great wings in Tribeca.  Distilled may be better known for their mixologist team as of late, but those wings have been on the menu since day one.  These are grade A quality hefty wings.  They are double fried to crispy perfection, and coated with a thick and messy layer of Gochujang (that fermented Korean sauce you put on your Bibimbap).  And they serve it with their own version of not too funky blue cheese dressing to cool things down.  Truly excellent wings.Distilled wings

Danji – Spicy ‘k.f.c.’ Korean Fire Chicken Wings.   Love at first sweat, around four years ago.  I like to bring visitors here on occasion, though I don’t love when they witness me lick my own fingers which may be considered rude.  What’s more rude me thinks is wiping off that awesomeness with wet napkins.  Heat level has been steady all these years, so make sure to have the fantastic tofu before altering your palate.  This is pure delicious heat, as opposed to senseless.Danji - Wings

Biang! – Chicken Wings Skewers. This dish prompted me to bump up this post.  In fact it was as soon as I finished my wing, and right before trying to convince my daughters that its way too spicy and there’s more food coming.  It didnt work, as they gobbled those things in full force.  One can easily overlook them because Biang! is known for just about everything else but wings, but dont make the mistake.  Like Pok Pok below these are full high quality wings, and oh so nicely seasoned to absolute perfection.  And while you at it, also try the Cauliflower skewers.  Yes, not a typo.  Cauliflower!

biang-wings

The Cannibal (Gotham West Market) – Chili and Garlic Wings.  These wings dont carry the same spice punch as the others.  They are milder, but far from lacking in flavor.  The wings are marinated, slow roasted, and breaded before cooked in the Cannibal’s high powered oven.  Kitchen space is limited in Gotham West so they need to be creative.  The zesty aioli and the little oniony salad served on top compliment nicely.  And the skin and the juicy meat are happily married.  And dont forget about the sick Pig’s Head Cuban.  This is quickly becoming my favorite Gotham West menuCanibbal - wings

Jun-Men Ramen – Chicken Wings.  A must order for me on each visit since discovery.  4 plain looking wings, but far from plain tasting.  They are double fried to give them a nice crisp, but retain plenty of juice and strong peppery notes from the secret Jun-Men sauce.  Even without the wings this is one Chelsea favorite.

jun-men-wings

Pok Pok – Ike’s Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings.  Unlike the other wings here, wing historians out there are probably already well too familiar with this legendary pick.  Articles, cookbooks, essays, children books (Goodnight Pok Pok Ike’s Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings!) written about these wings.  Somewhat inaccessible to most people so you wont find any tourists or Staten Islanders here normally.  You can have the wings at the Whisky Soda Lounge next door while you wait for your table.   The wings are huge, spicy, garlicky, on the dry side, but flavor packed.  Put this one on your bucket list.  Before the Great Wall of China, after Story Time with Bill Cosby.Pok Pok Wings

Pondicheri – Masala Wings.  These wings are as complex as the name.  Is it Masala wings? Is it Madras?  Doesnt matter, its all good.  The wings are slow baked, liberally coated with Garam Masala, and Mango Powder seasoning and served with two chutneys including chili and tamarind.  They are aromatic and delicious, with the proper texture in and out.  And while you at it, try any of the Thalis for breakfast or lunch, followed by anything from the unique bakery like the ice cream sandwich

pondicheri-masala-wings

Bar Goto – Miso Wings.  Black Sesame, Scallions, House Spicy Miso Sauce.  These are some of the best bar wings you will find in NYC.  But in this semi-classy tiny Japanese cocktail joint, they will test your high-toned manners.  You may find yourself sitting at the bar, talking politics with the bartender, while in desperate need of extra napkins to wipe the Miso glaze around your lips and sponge your sweaty forehead (these are hot!).  And while the bartender exclaims his views on Trump, all you can think about is “Is it Miso, or is it Buffalo”.  And once you think you got your classiness under control, you cant help but lick your fingers.  All of them.  Slowly.

goto-wings

Han Dynasty – Dry Pepper Chicken Wings.  For a white, spicy lover like myself, these are what the Mission Chinese Food wings should taste like.  They are marinated in sherry, cayenne, garlic, white pepper, and ginger. And stir-fried with a hefty dose of chili paste, chili peppers, garlic and scallions.  They are more subdued than Mission’s, but not without its share of nice pleasant heat.  Some of the pepper action bunched together into something reminiscent of a Yemeni S’chug (hot pepper spread).  The skin is as crispy and delicious as it comes, which made me wish for more flesh to balance.  Wonderful stuff!

han-dynasty-wings

FOB – Spicy Chicken Langkawas.  This one is all about the sauce.  When the waiter takes the plate before you are totally done with that sauce, you stare at him like he’s a bully trying to take your food.  The wings are grilled, so not so much of a skin crunch.  But the flavor is there thanks to the wonderful, addictive thick salsa of chilies, lime, and coconut milk.  I’m starting to think that finger-licking-good was invented in the Phillipines, with all that Adobo, and various sauces they make.  The wings are one of many inspiring goodies coming out of this homey Filipino kitchen in Brooklyn

fob-chicken-wings

Other Notables:  Mighty Quinn’s, Mission Cantina, Bonchon, Mission Chinese Food (not a fan personally but it has a huge following), International Wings Factory

Categories: Brooklyn, Midtown West, New York City, TriBeCa | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Book of Danji

Danji TofuA rare phenomenon in my personal dining experience.  Something I very rarely see and actively try to avoid was all around us this time.  The walking dead has nothing on these guys.  The lone approach of avoiding direct eye contact didnt work in this particular case because they were everywhere you turned.  I’m talking about.. you probably guessed it by now..{gulp}… theater goers!  I know, scary stuff.  We saw them on the way to Danji, inside Danji, and even by the theaters!  We saw them walking in and out in a bizarre orderly fashion (a line?) out of the mothership which they call, Ellen Stardust, or something like that.

But it turned out not too painful at the end.  In fact, while I was in the process of suggesting the tofu to the couple next to us in German (“Der tofu ist ausgezeichnet, ich KILLA”), I realized something.  Theater goers are just misunderstood.  They are simply regular working folk, just like you and I.  And thanks to blog posts such as this one, they are able to eat well after watching puppets having sex on a stage, or Book of Mormon.  It also hit me that after many lunches this is my first dinner at Danji and I was simply not emotionally prepared for this change of scenery.

The book on Danji is this.  A playful menu that includes more than one signature dish in a cozy setting that feels nothing like your average pre-theater dining spot.  The menus are inside the drawers in front of you, and no matter how many times I go there, I always, without fail, hand the menus to the waitress only to be reminded again that I can just put them back in the drawer.  One of these days.  Here’s what to get at Danji

Lunch:

Tofu – I’ve already written about this one extensively.  Quite possibly my favorite veggie dish in NYC.  Normally what I do is let someone else have the extra chicken wing and pretend to be polite, in order to get the extra tofu.  I throw them a bone (literally) and they fall for it every time.  Not Mrs Ziggy however, though she did split the last one.  This is pure awesomeness.

Bulgogi Beef Sliders – Another one of the signatures.  You get two sliders but you can add more if needed.  Small, and packed with sweet deliciousness.  I’ve written about them before as well.

KFC Wings –  I can only think of a few wings in town that I prefer.  Ma Peche’s jerks , maybe Pok Pok.  Plenty of joyous heat and complexity in this one.  The key is not to wash your hands for a few days after eating them, or until your next convention.  Whichever comes sooner!

Bibim-bap – This is  a traditional rice dish with marinated veggies, egg, spicy gochujang sauce and the item you choose (beef, pork, veg, etc).  I’m partial to the Kimchi Pork, but its all good.

Danji tofuDanji SlidersDanji - WingsDanji Bibim - Bop

Dinner:  Any of the above except Bibim-bap which is not available, plus…

Garlic honey wings w. sesame seeds – My guests this evening actually preferred this over the spicy wings

Spicy Yellowtail Sashimi –  This was a surprise in a way since I was expecting more of a basic Yellowtail Sashimi, but instead they were wrapped around some veggies sitting on top a lovely chojang sauce.  Good flavors throughout.

Soy-Poached Black Cod W. Spicy Daikon – Last week we were invited to Fushimi one of those Nobu wannabes in Staten Island.  Inexplicably Fushimi removed their Black Cod from the menu (we were there before) to Mrs Ziggy’s chagrin.  So ordering this classic at Danji was a no brainer, and it did not disappoint.  Sweet, perfectly cooked cod, along with a hefty piece of daikon that was braised until it had the texture of a potato.

Kimchi Bacon Spam Wet Fried Rice – A grower.  One of those dishes that kept growing on me to the point of not able to stop eating.  There’s ham, bacon, pork belly, egg on top, more of that spicy korean sauce, and plenty of toasty socarrat for the occasional crunch.  Excellent stuff!

Spicy Octopus w. thick noodles – I’m a bit more on the fence on this one.  I enjoyed it, but I couldnt help but wonder if the dish would be better served with a milder sauce perhaps to bring out the flavors of the octopus a bit more.  Still, I pretty much demolished this thing and recommend it

No dessert.  Just walk along 9th and go to something like Annabel, or if you have the time, Gotham West Market for Ample Hills Salty Crack Caramel.

Danji
346 W 52nd St
$$$

Danji Sashimi Danji Cod Danji Fried Rice Danji Octopus Danji

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Best Dishes in Hell’s Kitchen – Round 4

Blue Ribbon Sushi Oxtail Fried Rice

Rest of the rounds can be found here

Oxtail Fried Rice at Blue Ribbon Sushi – Responsible for roughly 27% of my wet dreams.  We are blessed with all sorts of crazy fried rice dishes all over town (Ivan Ramen, Gato, Pure Thai), but this one may top them all.  Adding to the richness are bits of bone marrow, and on top of all this craziness is an egg omelette.  Once you mix it all, you get something really special.  This Blue Ribbon is inside the 6 Columbus Hotel, and depending on who you ask it may not be exactly in Hell’s Kitchen.  Some sites like Yelp think it is, and if you ask me, deliciousness should know no borders (I just came up with this)

Danji Tofu

Tofu at Danji – I smell this dish as soon as I go in.  Along with the fiery Korean Wings (some of the best in the city), Bulgogi sliders, the tofu is a must order for me on every visit.  The fact that its a tofu dish alone, and its on this list speaks major volume.  Four rectangles are flash fried, and topped with ginger scallion dressing, and that wonderful soy vinaigrette I smell upon arrival.  The result is crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside, and incredibly delicious throughout.  You will want to eat every single detail of this dish.

Pork Buns

Steamed Pork Buns at Kung Fu Little Steamed Buns Ramen – These are Xiao Long Bao, aka Soup Dumplings, not the pork buns we know and love (Momofuku, Ippudo).  In fact everything about the place is confusing.  The Ramen is not exactly Ramen, there’s no Kung Fu anywhere, and the pork buns are not pork buns.  But they are quite spectacular, once you develop the art of eating them properly.  You may want to hold a napkin in your right hand initially as you may splatter some juice on your neighbor.  But practice will make perfect , and after a few of these babies you will be eating them like a pro.  Just scoop it up unto the soup spoon (add some vinegar before or after), nibble once to make a hole, let the steam out for a few seconds… attack.  This is not a place to linger, nor for a fancy pre-theater meal, as you may share your table with common folk who may not be wearing Louboutin.

Pam Real Oxtail

Oxtail Soup at Pam Real Thai – This is a no-brainer since I included it in the Best Dishes of 2014.  Delicious lasting heat, complex broth, with two hefty meaty bones.  Fatty in all the right places, like slow dancing with your mother-in-law.  If my mother-in-law could cook like this, I would have an affair.  I believe it has miracle powers (cured all my flu like symptoms, and frontal balding).  It’s my favorite soup in the city of Ramen.  Disregard the lazy, minimalistic decor at this old timer (compared to the rest of the Thai in the area).  Though once you try Pam’s cooking, the decor will look like something out of a contemporary French country catalog

City Sandwich Egg Tarts

Pastel de Crema at City Sandwich – Yes, we are listing the city’s top sandwich stop and not having a sandwich.  Criminal in a way.  Until you try these things at this Portuguese inspired joint.  Yes, I suppose you can find them in your nearest Chinatown as well (They were introduced to China via Macau while under Portuguese rule).  This is the Portuguese national snack.  A creamy egg custard inside a flaky crust.  But if an egg tart is not to your liking, try their mini Panna Cotta

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

Five Pre-Theater Restaurants to Target

Taboon inside

Taboon

The other day I was checking out a restaurant in the theater district for a friend and the very first line of the first Yelp review made me almost spit out the Shawarma I was eating.  “Theater District is well known for its dining”.  What? Where? Boise?  If you say it out loud to someone in the subway you will get crazy stink eye stares from the locals.  The pre-theater bunch on 46th street and around has plenty of decent options like Carmen’s, Becco, Basso56 and its not necessarily a bad idea to dress up and go to one of those.  Most likely the average place is an upgrade over Boise.  But considering the level of cooking you find everywhere else in NYC, the truth is that Theater District dining is close to the bottom of the pack.

But the point of this post is not to slam Theater District dining, though I do get some pleasure from it it seems.  The point is to make it easier for the Hell’s Kitchen’s guide followers to pick a solid, affordable but somewhat unconventional place to eat before or after your show.  The HK guide is one big mishmash of mostly cheap ethnic eats, not really suitable for pre-theater unless thats what you are after.  So to make it easier for the readers I’ve flushed out five places out of the guide where you can have an exceptional meal.  All these places are not in the district but close enough (5-10 minute extra walk on average depending on the size of your heels).  Or you can just take a 5 minute taxi ride that will add $5 to your $500 evening.  I think you can afford it

Taboon (Middle Eastern)

In that spot (10th/53rd) you gotta be good to succeed.  Nothing but data centers, a liquor store, a deli and appartment buildings surround you.  Taboon utilizes its good looking “Taboon” oven to create the type of Mediterranean/Middle Eastern dishes that will make your kids put down their phones and tell you about their day.  Yes, that powerful.  One of the top chefs in Israel help create the menu for Taboon initially.  Try any of their bread specialties, the chicken with the Israeli couscous (big and bubbly just like I like em), and the sick Silan, one of my favorites desserts in the city.

Taboon

Danji (Korean)

An instant winner with the Michelin man, this Hooni Kim’s Korean inspired tapas joint dishes out greatness in consistent fashion.  When you sit next to your new friend at the Broadway show who will boast about her Filet Mignon at Joe Allen, astonish her with the Tofu with Ginger Scallion Soy Vinaigrette, and the fiery Korean Chicken Wings, Bulgogi Beef Sliders and the Pork BibimBop you just attacked at Danji.  And after you explain to her what a Bibimbop is, perhaps its also a good time to tell her that there’s also a Joe Allen in Miami Beach where she lives and/or she can get a decent filet mignon in Boise

Danji

Mercato (Italian)

You have a plethora of Italian joints in the area.  Plenty of mediocre ones with Becco and Carmens one of the better and most popular, especially with families seeking family style dining.  But I have a different spin on “family style”.  Instead of sharing one huge chicken parm and penne alla vodka (Carmens) or order the all you can eat pastas of the day (Becco) why not share four or five different pastas that are much closer to the true south Italy cooking, vs the the south Italy cooking Americans often confuse with.  Pastas like the stupendous but simple Trenette with garlic, almonds, tomato and basil, or the rich gnocchi with finger licking beef and pork ragu, or the pasta of the day like the Cavatelli.  This is true Italian, by Italians, with Italian accents (for those with a Fish Called Wanda syndrome)

Mercato

The Marshal (American)

Sysco, Cargill, Fats R Us, are some examples of names you will see if all the area restaurants would require to print their distributors on the back of their menus.  But at the Marshal you will see the 14 local farms they deal with to produce just about every ingredient on the menu.  This is our answer to Slow Food in Italy.  If something is no longer on the menu it means its not currently grown.  A brilliant sides lineup, along with the best bread and butter in the area, followed by roasted chicken, meatloaf, best mussels this side of Newfoundland, and an amazing ice cream sundae to boot.  American food, in America, cooked by Americans (with a little bit of help by Central Americans!)

The Marshal - Bread

Ippudo (Ramen)

You may not be able to hear each other,  but you will have more fun than 96.5% of all the restaurants in the district.  Between all the shouting of the staff every time someone comes in (“welcome”), leaves (“Thank You”) or goes to the bathroom (“aim well”), and the slurping of the best noodle soup you will ever have, you wont have time to talk to your spouse anyway.  Dont be surprised if you are the only none Asian couple in the room (unless you are not a non Asian couple of course).  The best pork buns in the city (I tried a bunch) and you will be hard pressed to find better Ramen than the splendid Akamaru Modern

Happy Eating!

 

Ippudo

 

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

Best Burgers in Hell’s Kitchen

The Marshal*** Please excuse horrible iPhone pictures.  I get light headed if I don’t eat the burger right away and I rush the picture taking process.  I do think of you audience, but not at that moment *****

First of all, let me just be the first blogger to say this… most likely these are NOT the best burgers in Hell’s Kitchen. There are way too many places providing quality burgers in the area, and contrary to popular belief, I am human and cant possibly eat all of them and/or judge accordingly.  This list is also a list of places where you can most likely find locals as opposed to tourists.  So no Shake Shack, Bareburger, 5 Napkin, and not even the napkinless Five Guys.  That’s not to say my picks cant match against any of those guys.   I’m also trying to mix and match different types of burgers even if it means including something that’s not even considered a burger but worth mentioning.  Special attention is also paid to the fries and the place itself.  Another reason why you wont see Shake Shack.  “So why are you calling it Best Burger, Ziggy”?  Good question tommy.  For the same reason everyone else does.  Its much more Google friendly than “exceptional burgers”, or “decent Burgers”, and besides, they might very well be “The Best”

Island Burger and Shakes – Perhaps the obvious one and the place I frequent the most.  Great Burgers and.. you guessed it.. Churrascos!  Churrascos are chicken sandwiches grilled in over 30 ways – blackened, or spiced any way you want it.  The same goes for the top quality burgers where you have all these combinations to choose from including various toppings like Au poivre, pesto and even peanut thai sauce.  And 6 types of bread including a fine Ciabatta.  But don’t be afraid to try a very simple one with swiss, and perhaps sautéed onions or mushrooms.  What separates them from the rest is that they always grill the burgers to perfection (unless you are with a group of 8 as happened to me yesterday).  A medium rare is usually a medium rare.  Fries here are good but extra, though I usually share them with someone.  Oh and I’m noticing lately lunch specials of $10 that includes a plain burger, fries, beer, and a flue shot.

Island Burger

The Marshal –  (top) I already discussed The Marshal extensively but haven’t discussed the burger. As with anything else on the menu, attention to detail here is key.  An oven roasted fatty patty, a combination of chuck, brisket, and hanger along with kidney fat produces a perfect 80/20 fat ratio. This is the juiciest thing I’ve had since college!  No fries here but the duck fat potato chips and slaw make up for it.  The menu changes regularly so if you show up and the burger is not on the menu, I suggest you make a scene (how else they gonna learn).  Or just have something else for a change

Genuine Roadside – Essentially a Shake Shack fast food burger without any of the pain.  Every time I pass by Shake Shack on 8th ave I just want to shake a random German sock and sandals tourist and explain that there’s nothing in the land of pizza and burgers worth standing in line for.  Because you can find similar quality just about everywhere.  My only visit to this Shake Shack location was as much fun as a Vasectomy.  At Genuine, in food mecca Gotham West, you walk in, order, get a beeper, and wait a few minutes at one of the many booths available, instead of the standing room only Shake Shack.  Get the Double Stack, with american cheese, sweet pickles and house sauce which is essentially a mayo, ketchup, and mustard blend.  The patties are 80% chuck, 20% hanger, on the small side like Shake Shack and generally cooked well.  Fries are extra and well worth it.  But the one item on the menu I prefer over everything else is the Buttermilk Chicken Sandwich

Genuine Roadside

Brickyard Gastropub – For the health conscious.  If you noticed that burgers with diet coke is not helping you lose wait, try beer with Bison Burger.  You see what I did there kids?  Bison meat is leaner than cow meat and has more nutrients.  Brickyard offers regular burgers of course, and bison burgers that are slightly gamy and very tasty.  But you must pinky promise that you will order the truffled fries as well.  On first look they will seem greasy, but than you suddenly cant stop eating them.  A total opposite than my experience with the truffled fries at the super popular Umami.  But the burgers at this sport bar are solid overall.  And a cute Irish bartenderess that knows her food can only be a major plus

Brickyard Gastropub

Bulgogi Sliders at Danji – If the overrated Montmartre Patty Melt can be seen on “Best” lists than I’m adding sliders.  Its my blog, I make the rules, and those sliders will make you break the rules.  In a CNN 2011 reader’s poll of the World’s 50 most delicious foods, Bulgogi, a Korean style marinated beef was voted #23.  Soy Sauce, garlic, sake, car keys, and a whole bunch of stuff go into a typical marinade, and you can sample this deliciousness at Hooni Kim’s Danji with a lovely spicy pickled cucumber & scallion salsa.  Add the tofu and KFC wings while you at it

Happy eating and stay hungry my friends

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Categories: Midtown West, New York City | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Tourist in My Own Town – Day 3

053Not really needed on one of the best eating days of the year but to ensure proper drool action, lets start the weekend with my Friday lunch with the boys at work.  It’s becoming a company tradition where I take my coworkers to lunch like on a school field trip (single file, no holding hands). We call it Eating With Ziggy.  This time it was a special occasion so I took them to Danji, a sort of favorite go to spot lately.  I got the usual suspects to share… the addictive tofu, KFC wings, Bulgogi sliders (rule number one of fight club – order the sliders) and both bibimbaps.  Cant recommend this highly enough.  Well, I can, but choose not too.  Slightly different menu for dinner where all those dishes are available and more.
Danji Bibim - Bop
This time we left the house at 8 am much to more confusion from the neighbors (where are their kids, why are they stuffing a suitcase in the car again, are the kids in the suitcase).  We don’t talk to the neighbors on the left who’s main mission in life is to see all their neighbors suffer.  But I digress.  Very light breakfast at home was necessary in order to save room for what turned out to be one of the best eating days of the year.  Hmm, I believe I already said that.
The entire morning centered around the brilliant Summer Streets.  It’s like the biggest baddest block party imaginable. Ok, perhaps not the baddest.  For three Saturdays in August the entire park avenue and connecting streets from Brooklyn bridge to around 70th st or so is closed to traffic the entire morning, or from 7 to 1 to be exact.  Bikers, walkers, babies, joggers take advantage with the help of volunteers from New York Cares that control traffic, and even try to entertain sometimes while controlling traffic.  Some seem happier to do it than others but I give big kudos points to all of them.  In addition, you have all sorts of pit stops along the way… Zip Lining, Yoga, Whole Foods giving away free food, concerts, free walking tours, wall climbing, bicycle riding lessons, and much more.  A great way to spend the morning with other New Yorkers.  We parked near our hotel of choice (more on that soon), and rode the bikes to around 30th st in order to walk inside the Park ave Tunnel to the sound of water and waves.  If you ever wondered how Cast Away middle of the ocean feels like, you wont get that feeling here.  They choose a different artist every year to for the sounds.098 095 093 099 058 052
The end of the tunnel you pretty much at Grand Central Station, so like true tourists we took the opportunity to visit it.  Their was a wedding couple taking pictures while posing way too proper for the purpose.  We tried to take an audio guide tour but couldn’t quite wait the extra few minutes for the audio guide person to come back from her break.  It said “will be back in 15” and I swear we waited over 7!  Ok, we are not the most patient people.  I’m waiting for someone to bring me a Cronut directly so I could finally try it.  Right before entering the station we found ourselves at the Grand Hyatt, which felt just (slot machine sounds) shy of a Vegas hotel
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089We then proceeded to the Public Library Main branch and proceeded to do what every normal parents normally do in town without their kids.. go to a children book exhibit.  The ABCs of It exhibit was more interesting than I expected.  History of famous children books and their importance.  Stories like that of a couple who fled Paris right before a Nazi invasion carrying the drawings of a monkey named Fifi.  “Curious Fifi” would have been a better name than Curious George if you ask me.  A fun corner depicting the history of Goodnight Moon.  Nothing about goodnight Ipad, and my favorite classic Goodnight Schnitzel, but whatever.  Goodnight Moon was my favorite book because it was easy to read, short and sweet and I was able to go back to watching the hockey game in no time.  And upon exiting the library there was that wedding couple again following us with the same exact pose.073 091
Back to Summer Streets, we walked Park ave a bit to the Whole Foods pit stop where we enjoyed..nothing! due to the lines.  Picked up bikes and rode to the lower end of the “festival” where things got a bit more chaotic (in a good way).  But just before we picked up the bikes we did what every tourist to NYC must do, eat a hot dog.  I havent eaten in like 3 hours and I was starving
Our lunch was at Ivan Ramen flagship in the Lower East Side, with our young friend Victoria who recently moved to the East Village.  This is my second visit to this location, but I’ve been to the Slurp Shop in Gotham West many times.  They don’t share the same menu.  I will try to write a separate review if I have a chance but meanwhile here’s what I recommend to try at the LES flagship
Pickled Daikon – With dried shrimp that taste closer to breadcrumbs than shrimp but quite yummo!
Chinese Broccoli & Garlic – The pickled garlic is what did it for me
Ankimo Dirty Rice (dinner only) – Ankimo is essentially monkfish liver but dont be scared.  An absolute must
Pork Meatballs – Perfection.  Cant get any more tender this
Triple Pork Triple Garlic Mazemen (dinner) – Didn’t have it yet but perhaps the most popular dish here
Four Cheese Mazemen (dinner) – Rich and flavor packed
Salmon Donburi (lunch) – Like the whitefish Donburi at Gotham West but with Salmon instead.  Fantastic dish
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110Not much dessert here but no worries.  One of my new favorite “I cant believe its not gelato” ice cream spots is not too far at the underrated Essex Market, Luca and Bosco.  Named after the owners dogs.  Two girls, one of whom picked up some valuable trade secrets in the gelato capital of the world, Florence Italy.  The Drunk and Salty Caramel with Bourbon is my pick  again but I urge you to try the rest
We then walked around East Village with Victoria and made our way to the hotel.  I don’t know if it was the beer or lack of sleep but exhaustion hit, and I was craving a hotel bed badly.  And yes, we went back to the Hyatt Union Square and THIS time I got the view I wanted, of the brick wall.  I suppose a view of the city would make more sense to the average tourist but I rather face peace and quiet.  Our room was away from the elevator this time as well, and while the design was a bit different, still the same great king size bed and pillows, decent size, nice shower, and here’s the kicker…  “Great Location” is something you see in just about every hotel review, whether the location is UWS, Times Square, no matter.  Its a cliché.  But, I honestly cant think of a better location than this.  You could come up with some other nearby hotels that may be slightly better situated than the corner of 4th and 13th st, but, this is as center as it gets to great dining, great neighborhoods, and everything else pretty much.  You can walk just about everywhere from here including Times Square.  We walked to Battery Park the next day.  Highly recommend this baby Hyatt.  From baby Hyatt to baby NoMad…113
115After some relaxing at the Hyatt we met up with friends and walked toward the most highly anticipated meal of the “trip”, the new NoMad Bar.  It was even better than anticipated.  Fantastic bay scallop, and carrot “tartar” starters, first rate duck sausage, and as expected a burger that can rival anything in NYC right now.  But that’s not all folks.  The NoMad famous truffled/foie grased chicken can be had in the form of the most luxurious and delicious Chicken Pot Pie ($36).  They bring you the pie with the Foie on the side, and mix it in table side.  Needless to say the most extrodinary Chicken Pot Pie you will ever have.  But that’s not all.  The infamous $110 Cocktail Explosion we shared was a big hit with everyone.  One of the most memorable meals of the year.
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We then made a tourist mistake.  We took a cab to Washington Square Park just to cross it again to reach the next destination.  This time they had what looked like a Shakespeare in the Park session which I’ve never witnessed before.  Our destination was Comedy Cellar which was sold out of all shows, hence the mistake.  Oh well.  We briefly considered the Argentinian aerial acrobatics Fuerza Bruta but then settled for plan A, The Hundred-Foot Journey movie which dictated our next day dinner destination (second only to one of the best lobster rolls I ever had)
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Categories: Gramercy, Flatiron, Lower East Side, Midtown West, New York City | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Danji – One of a Kind

Danji Bibim - BopI will make this one nice and quick, just like a lovely lunch at Danji in Hell’s Kitchen.  Photos this time courtesy of the Iphone 5 with semi sweaty palms.  Spring was cancelled this year in case you haven’t noticed, so we went from winter straight to sweaty palms

Danji, the only restaurant in the world that owns both a Michelin Star and a spot in Ziggy’s Hell’s Kitchen Survival Guide.  No one else can claim this dubious distinction.  Hakkasan, the only other Michelin Star establishment in Hells Kitchen, tried but failed.  Maybe next year Hakkasanians.  Don’t know how Daniel and Masa alumni Hooni Kim feels about this accomplishment, but my gut tells me he probably doesnt even know.  I mean seriously, how many people you know even heard of Michelin Stars!  Certainly none of my Korean American friends.

Anyway, Danji is the type of place you take your sexy new coworker for lunch to introduce her to the neighborhood.  I cant think of a better culinary introduction to Hell’s Kitchen, even though Danji is not located on the prettiest block (ugly industrial looking office buildings + an army of people waiting for a table at Totto staring at their phones).  Reservations arent accepted for parties less than 6, but I never had any trouble getting a table for 2 and something 4 for lunch.  The menu, which you will find in a drawer under your table is full of a Korean inspired fancy bar food.  Mostly small plates.

After several lunches with family, friends, loved ones, here are 4 dishes that will make your taste buds go Gangnam style

Tofu W. Ginger Scallion Dressing soy vinaigrette – Creamy interior, crunchy exterior, delicious all around.  One of the best tofu dishes I ever had.  EWZ historians claim that this is the only recommended tofu dish on EWZ

Danji tofu

Spicy ‘K.F.C.’ Korean Fire Chicken Wings honey, garlic, four chilies – These are simply some of the tastiest wings you will ever have in NYC.  Plenty of heat, plenty of joy, and plenty of finger licking followed by Gynecologists convention like finger smelling session

Danji - Wings

Bulgogi Beef Sliders spicy pickled cucumber and scallion salsa – One of Danji’s specialties.  Small and explosive

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Kimchi Pork Bibim-Bop satur farm vegetables, jidori egg, and aged kimchi w. pork – My latest discovery (top picture, below mixed).  Mix in all the goodies with the sauce  and you got a beautiful medley of textures and flavors.  Note, my vegan friend, lets call her Phoebe (because thats her name) really liked the veg version.  Bring your vegan friends here.

Danji - BibimBop Danji

 

Categories: Midtown West, New York City | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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