Posts Tagged With: East Village Restaurants

Timna – Chutzpah Nation

Timna Octopus

March 26, 2017 Update:

At Tompkins Square Park, just east of Timna, there’s a Temperance fountain, constructed in late 19th century to help locals with their alcohol self restrain.  Drink water, avoid booze.  Sounds easy enough.  A primarily German neighborhood did all it could to maintain the legacy, up until the prohibition.  Today the park is surrounded by bars!

No such temperance, self restrain luck with Timna’s new spring menu however.  Dish after dish of dazzling combinations between the newcomers and the old heavyweights like the Kubaneh and Octopus, testing my self control and wallet.  Like a fat kid in a candy story, I want to eat all you got, now!

Perhaps if fat kids would eat cauliflower like this, the world would be a healthier place.  At Israeli establishments we are attracted to Cauliflower like Trump to Twitter.  But it was the cured tuna Sashimi that stole the show yet again early on with all its visuals, textures and flavors.  There was melt in your fork short rib with even better mushroom, and cheesy gnocchi done Roman style (Semolina).

The mains sealed the rare triple Z rating.  Legendary octopus whisperer Nir Mesika dishes out killa Octopus which I already discussed in great length here and below.  But on this night a new dish stole the show.  Two hefty fillets of marvelously cooked Striped Bass with Israeli couscous (aka Pearl Couscous invented for the digestive challenged David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first Prime Minister). I’ve been to places where one such fillet made the entire dish for the same price.  Mesika feeds his diners like his children.

Chutzpah Nation is clicking on all cylinders.  A full house of the young and the restless meant we belong alright, albeit texting was required sometimes to communicate.  My dish descriptions dont describe very well in this case.  There’s an art form to the way Mesika assembles each plate, with the goal to accommodate all senses.  We havent run into many chefs with this style.  From such a small kitchen come this ingredient heavy plating.  Not every bite is the same, and in some cases you even scavenge hunt.  Oooh, a raisin, I found a raisin!  Lets look for another one.  Mrs Z and I make our own fun!

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June 22, 2016 Post:

I will make this one nice and simple for you.  Pressing for time as of late, with only a week or so before I leave you yet again on another eating assignment (Sicily).  This one will be the biggest and baddest assignment ever, with a lot of interesting surprises in store.  Though I may be suffering from my first ever FRFS (food research fatigue syndrome).  I’m now seeing Busiate in my sleep and sometimes even when awake, like while watching the Euro 2016 (Football/Soccer).  As much as I’m enjoying the Euro’s, its best served as a rather harmless sleeping pill.  A much needed one since I’m not getting enough sleep as of late due to the mating season in my bedroom.  No, not what you think.  Birds! male birds, doing the entire Hava Nagila rendition at 4:30 in the morning in order to attract their female counterparts.

East Village in June, as I was showing to my Aussie friends, feels like mating season as well.  Its the east coast capital of pretty people.  Friends that live there give 2nd Ave nicknames I can not repeat here.  And on buzzy St Mark’s, in the middle of all that, you find little Timna, a modern Israeli joint with Nir Mesika (Zizi Limona, Milan, knows his hummus geography) at the helm.  When I visited young Mesika in the kitchen, I was announced by the manager Downton Abbey style.  The guy has all the talent and knowledge in the world, but has the look of someone in the early stages of a soccer career, rather than a world class chef.Timna Sashimi

Other than a slight discomfort at the rounded table at the back, with some A/C issues, this was a very enjoyable evening.  Started with the infamous freshly baked Kubaneh that comes with some yogurt, a tomatoee salsa and “Jalapeno Salsa” which is essentially green Yemeni S’chug.  If you have a Challah fetish, you will wet yourself over the taste and texture of this thing, and its a must get for groups especially (I wouldnt order it solo).  But as with most bread courses out there, its a bit overrated, and serves as a sharp reminder that the free bread course days are just about over.  Give me The Marshal french loaf with homemade butter any day of the week.  The obligatory Cauliflower that you will find in every Israeli corner, did not disappoint.  Here Mesika elevates it with curried yogurt, dried grapes among other deliciousness.  A veg-ful burrata is more proof that a sprinkle of Za’atar (oil in this case) makes everything better.

Mesika assembled a playful menu with influences from all over the world (Chinatown salad!) especially in regards to the raw stuff.  A Ceviche salad featuring mahi on this particular night was the weakest of the ones we tried.  A fine tzatziki tartar with minced lamb delighted Mrs Ziggy especially.  And the Mediterranean Sashimi featuring cured tuna, green Tabouli salad with quinoa, and crispy beat “leather” did the trick, including in the looks department  A somewhat deconstructed lasagna featuring slow cooked tender spareribs, and Jerusalem artichoke chips is another example of Mesika’s playful brilliance.Timna Shakshuka

But the most interesting dish of the night sounded the most boring, Bedouin Octopus.  Mesika tenderizes, sous vide style, the heck out of this thing (I’m guessing by the size, it was enjoying the coast of the Portugal a few days prior).  A bit softer than I like my octopuses.  Then he finished it on an open flame like the Bedouin 200 kilometers south of Mesika’s home in Israel.  This is by far the smokiest Octopus I’ve ever had, and one of the better, even while lacking the proper texture.  We skipped dessert.

Brunch in Timna is another delicious event.  And one of the better brunch values out there.   For $25 you get a selection of small salads (salatim) to share, any of the entrees, coffee (very good), and the obligatory Mimosa.  We sampled an average Hummus Masabacha which I’m not a big fan to begin with.  A nice Sabich Croissant, though I still prefer my Sabichs in a pita.  One of the better Shakshukas out there.  And a very solid burger with fried egg.

Timna
109 St Marks Pl (1st/A)
Rating: Three Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that.
Recommended Dishes: Kubaneh, Cauliflower, Mediterranean Sashimi, Octopus, Fish, Shakshuka (brunch), Burger (brunch)

Timna Salatim Timna Masabacha Timna Burger Timna

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Narcissa – The Cow Says Mmmm

NarcissaReaders, meet Narcissa, the cow resident at the Locusts farm on the Hudson.  Narcissa’s hobbies include walking by the river, grass, and Turkish prison movies.  Unlike Rob Lowe whose looks killed his career, Narcissa killer looks keep her at the top of the food chain, or pretty close to it.  The new restaurant at The Standard in East Village is named after her.  An honor you just don’t see these days.  We are talking about the full name, not just the first letter the way soooo many babies are named these days.  I mean if you gonna name your baby after your great aunt Ethel, Emma is not gonna cut it.  And who decided it has to be the first letter anyway.

Narcissa, just like the cow, is a stunner.  Two spacious, comfortable, nicely laid out rooms.  Perhaps a little too attractive to accept the initial offering of the seats next to the busy reception area, while the rest of the row was entirely empty.  The couple seated right after us questioned the move as well, but elected to stay.  I never understood the logic behind this practice, but no harm done.  A very interesting cocktail list with the least imaginative names:  “Roll in the Hay”, “So Pretty”.  Or fairly imaginative depending on how you look at it.  Started with a spicy offering (forgot the name) but much preferred the latter herby and refreshing “Gentleman’s Framer”.Narcissa

If you haven’t figured it out by now, Narcissa is all about Farm to Table.  Unlike other Farm to Tables that could be easily called American or American (new), the veggies here truly shine.  Juts about every menu you see these days has that one veggie main, usually the first dish, that is normally lonelier than that single sock in your sock drawer you keep just in case its partner by pure miracle comes back one day.  That lone dish in Narcissa is the star of the menu, the Carrots Wellington.

Narcissa - Short RibsLets start with the apps.  Two well cooked Short Rib pieces with pastrami spices, buttermilk and radish salad with a nice amount of mustard presence.  The pastrami wasnt evident much, but the dish enjoyable nonetheless.  The sweet “meaty” Crisped Beets with bulgur salad, apples, and creamed horseradish was similar in some ways to the short rib dish.   Just a nice combination of textures and flavors.  I never ever order beets anything as I don’t particularly care for them but this was really nice.

The highlight as mentioned was the middle course of Carrots Wellington.  Should have ordered it as the main course and the Barley Risotto as the middle as originally planned, but commitment issues prevailed (Its a carrot dish!).  The sweet, tender carrots did a great job replacing the beef in those pastries, and the accompanied veggies especially the earthy Bluefoot mushrooms elevated this thing to the next level.  The carrot dish to beat perhaps (over Pioras) in NYC

Narcissa - Carrot Wellington

The two mains were far less thrilling however.  The duck breast was lacquered, undercooked (for my taste) on the rare side, covered by a thick fatty layer, with cranberry sauce.  Just didn’t care for the overall texture and flavor.  The best part was the gingered butternut squash on the side with spiced cranberries.  Should have ordered the much better looking lamb loin.  We expected much more from the “whole” Branzino, filleted and topped with a salad that included fennel and onions that were somewhat off-putting to Mrs Ziggy.  Dried up fairly quickly by the time I got to it.  A rarity for us as we prefer the simpler way we grill them at home, with the bones and skin and all, lemon and olive oil.  Carrot fries tempura style side was the saving grace of the mains.  Just get all the carrot dishes here.Narcissa - Duck Narcissa - Branzino

Desserts were stellar.  Just about the best carrot cake (what else) you will ever eat, and an even better runny creamy chocolate tart with toasted bananas and espresso ice cream.  Yummo!

A few important bathroom tips in a place called “The Standard”.  Remembering how you got there may not be enough.  Pay attention to the tiny red light on the door.  Turn the lock all the way.. again (learned the hard way – sorry strange lady).

A fine meal overall.  Narcissa is not for everyone (I must get the Cialis commercials out of my head).  But if you want to experience something different, especially root vegetables that come to life in ways you never had before, check it out

Narcissa
21 Cooper Square
$$$
Recommended Dishes: Short Ribs, Crisped Beets, Carrot Wellington, Carrot cake, Chocolate tart

Narcissa - Chocolate tart Narcissa - Carrot cake

 

 

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Malai Marke – Shiva latest + German Draft Beer = Success!

I will make this one short and sweet and spare you the usual nonsense.  East Village is kicking butt lately.  What else is new.  Already perhaps the best foodie neighborhood in NYC which makes it one of the best in North America, things are only getting more and more exciting, and deserving of a run-on sentence.  Its almost like something new pops up in the East Village on a daily basis.

The title refers to Shiva Natarajan, not what you do when your goldfish dies (sit shiva).  Malai Marke is the latest from Natarajan, the king of Indian food in NYC.  Shiva owns more restaurants than I own boxer shorts and briefs combined (note:  I know what you thinking and its really none of your business.  Its between me, my wife and my briefs.  I should have more briefs but mrs Z keeps throwing out all my “air conditioned” ones whenever she packs for vacation).  While Shiva virtually owns Curry Hill including Chote Nawab and about 4 eateries on one block, his presence on “Curry row” is now firmly established with Malai Marke.

I’ve already been to Malai Marke twice now, sampling all sorts of complex deliciousness…

Garlic Naan fresh from the oven as good as it gets.  German draft beer, major bonus.

Kurkuri Bindi – Okra.  Fried and dry which was a surprise. I was expecting a saucy okra but  it was still very good.  Reminded me of one of those spicy Indian nut snacks.

Bindi Sasuralwali – I much preferred this Okra – “okra you would eat at your in-laws house.” as it says on the menu just like in Chote Nawab. If anyone here can introduce me to someone who’s parents can cook like this I might need to reconsider my status. My in-laws don’t even know what Okra is.

Chicken Xacuti – Outstanding!  Had it twice already.  Mild but subtle, with roasted coconut, peanut, and poppy seeds

Lamb Madras – One of the better Madras dishes I’ve had.  Tender lamb and the dish overall was fairly similar to the Xacuti

Tand Mix Grill – Another must for me.  Great chicken tikka, Tandoor, unique lamb kebabs with just enough heat

Lamb Chettinad – So good. Thicker and heavier than the others but in a good way.  Again I expected more heat but was pleasantly surprised with just the right amount.

Chicken Tikka Masala – something I eat often but never in places like these even tho I’m always sure it would be much better. This was no exception.  Creamy and perfectly buttery, tho I sort of liked it more as an occasional bite vs eating it continuously if it makes sense.

Chicken Rizzala – Green nutty korma almost dessert like compared to all the other dishes.  Korma is another dish we eat often at home and this was like eating it for the first time.

As with pretty much any Indian restaurant I would not bother with dessert.  East Village has too many great choices like Chikalicious, Big Gay Ice Cream, Sundaes and Cones

Add another one to your East Village list people.  and excuse the horrific Iphone pictures please

Malai Marke - Tikka masala Malai Marke- Garlic Naan Malai Marke - Chili Chicken Malai Marke - Bindi

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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.  Oprah.com 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 Foodspotting.com

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East Village Quick Bites and Merchants House

Pomme Frites – First time for me.   Its all about the sauces here.. tried a variety of them.   Mango chutney and garlic mayo were good, organic truffle not so much, Vietnamese pineapple tastes weird at first but was growing on me. I think I prefer well seasoned fries overall more.   I wouldn’t go out of my way to come here.

Mamouns Falafel – Very good falafel – nice and crispy on the outside.   Beware of the hot sauce.   I love hot sauce as much as the next guy but this is “lower lip burning” hot.   I don’t know why it’s always the lower lip burning.   Lamb Shawarma was good but we had better in Brooklyn.

Took a small food break to visit the Merchants House,  the oldest free-standing family home in NYC.   Well preserved furniture and interesting stories not only about the family but also about the poor Irish servants at the time.   You will only give this place proper justice if you go through the rooms while reading the well informative and sometimes humorous booklet they hand to you.   Check it out.  After Mamouns we explored the 300 years old St Marks on the Bowery church and went back to eating

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