Posts Tagged With: East Village eats

Foxface Natural – A Star is (re)Born

Long time readers and my East Village food tour (RIP) participants are all too familiar with Foxface, the little sandwich shop that could. It is now Foxface Natural. As in the natural progression from a successful sandwich shop to a full service restaurant in the former Harry and Ida’s space. This first meal was a bitter sweet moment for me, after spending countless hours munching on pastrami at Harry and Ida’s over the years. They did call the cops on me once, but two nights in jail was a very small price to pay.

My first meal, of most likely many, at Foxface Natural was a memorable one. Though there’s one tiny issue with the place I should tell you about first. Its not really open yet. This was a pre-opening hummus and oysters themed event with chef Maoz Alonim of the famed Basta in Tel Aviv. EWZ historians will tell you that I dont normally attend such events, as I’m more of a “see you in about a year” type. But I attended this one, as I’m all too familiar with chef/owner Sivan’s capabilities.

So this is more of a public announcement rather than a lengthy review. What we got was a small preview of things to come. And with Sivan’s range, its anyone’s guess what will be on the menu on day one. Although something tells me the plate of the most distinct tasting pickles I’ve ever seen, and I, will exchange pleasantries in the future.

The old smoker that stayed behind is responsible for most of the hits. A superb lamb shoulder sitting on top of ultra creamy hummus, with a punchy green S’chug (Yemenite hot sauce). I’m more of a red S’chug guy, but good S’chug is good S’chug. Another hit was a slow smoked goat that comes with a soothing spiced yogurt sauce, almonds and mint.

And just because we dont eat nearly enough Feta at home (inside joke), we just had to try the Feta with eggplant, roasted in the new wood fired oven, sitting on a beautiful nettle puree. The lone dessert of Tahini Gelato with pistachios was just the proper finish.

Its a refreshing “mom & pop” debut in an increasingly corporate Manhattan. Old Harry and Ida’s fans will not recognize the new space, about a year in the making. The bar dominates the long room (I forgot to take pictures), and its safe to expect good wine. There will be wonderful smoked meat, glorious fish, but more importantly with Sivan, expect the unexpected.

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EV Bites – Sia, Fina, Chika, and Ginger

Ginger & Lemongrass Spicy LemongrassA new transgender accounting firm in East Village?  Not exactly.  Besides I’m pretty sure the name is already taken.  EV Bites is a new monthly feature, showcasing 5 places in or around East Village you should know about.  I will occasionally extend the border to Nolita and LES, and maybe even mention a name more than once.  East Village in case you are not aware is an incubator of top industry talent, and a goldmine of world cuisines.  A little taste of the outer boroughs in the city

Le Sia – A new Beijing style seafood and skewer destination next to tourist mecca McSorleys on East 7th.  Didnt think much of it at first after passing by so many times with my groups, but today word of mouth is spreading like wild fire.  And fire is what you can get when ordering their seafood boils.  I will have more on Le Sia soon but if you cant wait, get the Crawfish, Mung Bean Jelly, chicken wings skewers, garlic eggplant and send me a thank you note.  But wash your hands first, it can get messy here

Le Sia - Mung Bean


Ginger & Lemongrass (top)- Another newish spot, this one on Rivington in Lower East Side, dishing out Vietnamese and Thai inspired soups, salads and sandwiches.  Owner/chef Petra Rickman, is a Czech native who fell in love with Vietnamese food in Prague and spent significant time in Vietnam learning the craft.  This is her and Fiance Michal second location after finding success in Whitestone, Queens (Hanjan, Danji’s Hooni Kim is a fan).  In three cold weather visits so far, I had nothing but the outstanding deeply flavored soups, with the Coconut Lemongrass being my favorite so far.  You have your choice of chicken, beef and shrimp.  I’m partial to the chicken.

Mile End – Montreal’s Mile End neighborhood’s Jewish history is similar to that of Lower East Village.  Schwartz’s is Montreal’s answer to Katz’s, and Smoked Meat is their answer to Pastrami.  You can find Montreal style bagels, Smoked Meat, Matzoh ball soups and much more at Mile End in the Bowery.  But lately I’ve been enjoying their Poutine which is better than any I’ve had in Montreal in fact.  They have rotating Poutine specials like the one with Nashville hot chicken last month (pictured, should be a regular on the menu), and Duck Confit with Foie Gras this month.  But you cant go wrong with the regular Poutine with that wonderful salty Smoked Meat.  Good craft beer menu as well

Mile End Poutine

Mama Fina – Filipino food is one of the examples I use when I mention the wealth of Ethnic foods in East Village and nearby Lower East Side compared to any other Manhattan neighborhood.  Add Alphabet City newcomer Mama Fina to the local Sisig war.  Though unlike Pig & Khao, Maharlika and co, this Mama is not playing exactly fair.  Its a full onslaught of a dozen Sisig variations featured on the menu, from Pork belly to Salmon, to Pusit (squid).  Interesting that they dont offer third generation Sisigs like the pig’s face parts offered at the other joints, and you have to request for the egg yolk.  I only had the pork belly so far which I liked so much I forget to take a picture.  That nice looking, smelly Pusit is next!

Chikalicious Dessert Bar – Chika Tillman is one of the most respected pastry chefs in the city.  Ok make it the country.  How many other pastry chefs out there are also famous in Hong Kong, Tokyo, Seoul, Dubai and more.  There are 13 other Chikalicious outposts around the worls.  But the East Village institution will always be the original.  It is as packed as ever, and Chika’s smile is as infectious as its been since they opened 15 years ago.  This is where you sit at the bar, watch Chika and crew work and go “I’ll have what she’s having”, which is usually one of the most famous “Cheese Cakes” in the city” –  the Fromage Blanc Island.

Chikalicious Cheese Cake

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Momofuku Ssäm Bar – Mama Funky!

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

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

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

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

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

The Great…

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

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

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

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

The Ok…

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

The Eh…

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

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

Momofuku Ssam Bar

207 second avenue (13th street)

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

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East Village Quick Bites – Zabb Elee and Arepa redemption

Continuing the East Village food invasion. Had a few eating hours to kill before Ave Q (very nice) and so went back to my new favorite hang out place with a friend.

 Zabb Elee – How do you know if its authentic Thai if you havent been to Thailand?  Bring someone with you that was there – Check.  Make sure there are no curries, pad thai and Kee Mao/drunken noodles on the menu – check.   I first read about Zabb Elee on  SeriousEats and couldnt wait long to try it.  Now I cant wait much longer to try again.  

A nice array of Som Tum dishes (Green Papaya salad) fills the menu and is kinda a house specialty.   We tried the one with dried shrimp and peanuts – nothing like I’ve had before.  I heard about how spicy this can get and it was extremely hot out so we opted for the mild version (thats the excuse I’m going with today).   Really enjoyed this dish.   But the highlight for me was the Pad Ped Moo Krob.   Crispy pork, green peppercorn, ginger, Thai eggplant and spicy curry (see photo).   So much flavor in this one.   Pork is deep fried and then fried some more…  pretty much burned texture but tasty nonetheless.  Very tasty!!  Some of the best and unique thai I’ve had in a while. 

Liquiteria – Needed a cleanser.  Super refreshing fresh juices.  My friend is into juices and this is one of his faves.

Dirt Candy – couldnt get in. Needed resvs to eat the dirt, who knew?  Its a tiny hole in the wall popular vegeterian btw

Caracas Arepas bar – What do you do when you dont like it the first time?  You come back to try it again asap.   Much much better this time around.   My friend enjoyed the La Mulata and I got the Muchachos (to compensate for all my dessert talk) – grilled Chorizos with spicy cheese (grilled with jalapenos) and peppers.   Even the Arepa itself tasted better this time.   Like pita on crack.


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East Village Quick Bites – Perfection in a bun

Luke’s Lobster – Maine Lobster is one of my favorite things to eat in the world and this is definitely one of the best lobster rolls I’ve had.   Buttery, fresh, meaty, deliciousness.  Nice rolls, a few sprinkles of seasoning instead of mayo – nice touch.  Well done!  Expensive ($16) but oh so worth it.   Perfection in a bun!!

Caracas Arepa bar – 2 locations hugging Luke’s Lobster. Went to order my Arepa while waiting for the Lobster.  Hey thats how I roll 😎 .   Mildly disappointed however with the Pabellon arepa but I think it was more of an ordering mistake.   Shredded beef with black beans to me dont go together with the mooshy sweet plantains.   Love the plantains but on the side please, not as part of a sandwich. 

South Brooklyn Pizza – last stop. It was just ok. The slice to me was missing… what do you call it…ahhm…  its on the tip on my tongue… oh yes.. FLAVOR.   Maybe my taste buds got all screwed up and too demanding by that point, who knows.  Will try again later.

Stay hungry my friends!!

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East Village Quick Bites – The Smith

The Smith – For the Mac and Cheese portion of the tour. This is my youngest favorite food and she declared it “As good as S’mac”.   It WAS really good.   Creamy and cheesy goodness and with that crispy top,  must be one of the best in the city. even asked the creator to share the recipe which you can find there and on The Smith site.   

But that was not the only creamy and cheesy thing about this place  😉   If you go down to the basement there’s a black and white photo booth and right next to it there are holes in the wall. Take a peek at the lower hole and you see… 20’s porn.  No, not people in their 20’s.  1920’s!!  Dont ask me how I can detect the decade 😳   Problem is it can get a little uncomfortable peeking through a hole while people walk out of the bathroom right next to you.   You feel like you have to explain to EVERYONE..  “ahhm, it’s not what you think…hehe.. really.. look…Its 20’s porn”. 

 Chikalicious Dessert Club – You guessed it.. time for Pizza… err Dessert. This must be one of the coolest dessert spots around. Great Macaroons, Fantastic apple cinnamon crisp but best of all were the “worth the 15 minute wait” chocolate lava cakes.   Best Lava cakes ever. You eat while you watch Chika do her thing across the street at another Chika-something-or-rather.  Very popular sweet spot.

After that we took a walk in the vibrant tompkins square park. Got the kids busy looking for the monument remembering the General Slocum disaster, the biggest one to hit NYC in terms of human loss before 9/11. 2 days before father day in 1904 over 1000 mostly German immigrants perished when the steamboat caught fire.

Photo courtesy of

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