Posts Tagged With: East Village

Fiaschetteria Pistoia – Under the Alphabet Sun

sThere’s Off the Beaten Path, and then there’s Avenue C.  When I first heard of Fiaschetteria Pistoia about 6 months ago, I had to see it to believe it.  You hear about places open in Alphabet City, but rarely so far east.  Its a good news, bad news situation for residents and the many students who call East Village and Alphabet City their home.  It’s great to see businesses open and thrive, but at the same time we may be looking at a rent squeeze.  On the bright side, I’m now able to sit outside on Avenue C.  Something I wasnt able to do not too long ago during the more violent days of the Alphabet (I’m using Marvel lingo here.  As in “we need to defend our [Hell’s] kitchen)

You almost assume that any town just outside of Florence would be sleepy when compared to the tourist mecca nearby.  But Pistoia, just west of Florence on the road to Lucca (another gem) is filled with culture and nightlife.  And in the middle of that nightlife is Fiaschetteria La Pace, the big brother of Fiaschetteria Pistoia.  Fiaschetteria, in the more traditional sense means a small wine bar, more associated with Florence.  Back in the day, Tuscan wine was brought in from the vineyards in straw-bottomed bottles called Fiasche and sold in these tiny open wine bars, like street food.  A dying breed just like the Lower East Side Jewish delis that once roamed around the area where Pistoia calls home

Pistoia is as far removed from Italian/American as a place can be in NYC.  Much of the staff including the cooks, a family and friends affair, from you guessed it, Pistoia.  A human pasta machine in full display busy making the Picci, a rarity in NYC because its slightly more labor intensive.  Limited but adequate English throughout adds to the charm.  Even the wine “menu” may seem strange to some.  A basket with 8 house wines, dropped on a table or chair near you to explore and sniff.

There’s only one thing that sings Tuscany more than Picci.  Pappa can you hear me?? Pappa al Pomodoro a rustic dish not so easily found in NYC.  Mainly because tomato mush (“Pappa”) with stale saltless Tuscan bread doesn’t usually scream fine dining.  But this is indeed a good one.  Many may also bulk at the idea of Picci served Cacio e Pepe style.  But in south Tuscany this kind of Roman influence is common, and Picci got a bit more of a bite.  And yes, you even have a Cinghiale (wild boar) sighting here.  Here it is served with Maccheroni, a pasta that is a little more generic than I’m usually led to believe.  I was expecting tube shape, but got flat noodles that you can use to make little tacos with that meat Fiaschetteria Pistoia Pappa al Pomodoro

In Pistoia, Maccheroni Sull’Anatra (slowly cooked duck ragu) is usually served on an annual July festival.  In Alphabet city I can get it any day now.  This regular (I’m told) special became my favorite pasta here after three visits.  On the last visit, I also enjoyed Crostone Fagiolino, another Pistoia specialty of bread topped with cooked prosciutto, chicken liver and Mushrooms.  Eating this requires a little work, but it pays off overtime.  Standards like Prosciutto and Tiramisu are top notch here.  Tiramisu is so good in fact that I havent tried any other desserts here.

Fiaschetteria Pistoia
647 E 11th (Off C), East Village
Rating: Two Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that
Recommended Dishes: Any of the Prosciuttos, Pappa al Pomodoro, Crostone Fagiolino, Maccheroni Sull’Anatra, Picci Cacio e peppe, Tiramisu

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Not Your Grandpa’s N’eat

N'eat Short RibIts fun to watch the hype machine in play in NYC, and see how things develop.  While I read all the Hot and Buzz lists out there as everyone else, I learned over time sometimes the hard way, that things are not always what they seem.  A name and/or a little bit of money, at minimum $3000 is needed to market yourself as such.  An alum of something good in the world… Noma, EMP, Contra, tickles your interest, with a picture of something beautiful that is cooked for two weeks straight, seals the deal.  “Brian is a recent graduate of Betty’s school of Hospitality and Accounting” is not gonna be nearly as sexy.

Nordic eatery N’eat opened last November in East Village with that kind of buzz.  I walked by it many times, and watched the menu develop and eventually redesigned.   The initial buzz apparently was just that, as reserving now for a prime time table is as easy as getting a table at your local Chipotle.  Whats wrong with this place!?!  What do the village people know that I dont.  You cant get too comfortable reserving tables in NYC these days.  Its either too hard, or you secretly wish for a little harder.  Thats what she said.  I mean my dining companion.  She said that.  And she’s right.

N’eat is casual, quirky fine dining.  The bathroom is blasting Ali vs Frazier in case you missed it.  80’s music includes stuff you dont normally hear, just when you thought you got it pretty much covered.  Wait staff is “East Village Fun” as opposed to “EV hipster, help I’m stuck here”.  When the waiter said  “Still or sparkling, and by still I mean tap”, a small tear came out of my good eye… only to quickly disappear with the usual comical “dishes are meant for sharing”.  Advice as useful these days as “Dishes here are meant for eating”.  A young Filipino female chef, an Atera, and other heavyweights veteran, at the helm.  While its still owned by the same folks including Noma veteran Gabriel Hedlund, something tells me this is no longer the same n’eat, even though it opened just 6 months ago.  So if Grandpa happened to eat here 3 months ago, he needs to…  Ok, I’m trying here.

“Æbleskiver” (say that one time), a Nordic snack usually eaten during Christmas, was a nice little starter.  Like a mini beignet stuffed with braised duck.  The accompanied Lingonberries sauce was just the right delicate compliment.  Enjoyed the Buckwheat toast with Cremini mushroom and fluffy, shredded, Halvah-like Cheddar.  Truffle salt sealed the deal for the brain on this one.

Sunchokes was perfectly cooked into a meaty potato like consistency, served as is with a nice tasting foam.  Foam was fairly prevalent throughout the meal.  While I admire foam as much as the next guy, at some point we were wishing for some veggie texture.  Though the Duck heart tartar had plenty of texture and flavor.  Loaded with chives, chive flowers that blossom one month of the year, fermented mushrooms, chili, and dried rice.  While very different it was an homage of sorts to the Filipino Sisig.  By far the spiciest tartar I ever hadN'eat Duck heart Tartare

Arctic Char came very rare, with just foam and some trout roe. This is where we started missing those veggies.  It was good, but rather forgettable.  Short rib, the most expensive item on the menu was perfectly cooked, most likely slowly sous vided.  The glaze on top was on the sweet side, and the ultra lean short rib you could cut with a toothpick.  It came with a bone marrow and two spreads including fermented onion puree and pepper butter.  Combining the two gave the best results.

N’eat is borderline Nyet.  Its one of those solid two stars that I dont quite see me returning.  I cant really fault anything or any dish other the uniformity of it all.  Yet nothing blew my mind, and the menu featured didnt scream unfinished business.  Neat is a bordeline But I do appreciate the uniqueness and recommend you to try at least once.

N’eat
58 2nd Ave (3/4), East Village
Rating: Two Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that.
Recommended Dishes: Æbleskiver, Buckwheat toast, Duck heart tartar, Short ribN'eat Sunchokes

N'eat Arctic Char

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More About the East Village Food Tour

img_4226To describe East Village is like trying to describe our presidential race.  One of a kind bizarre, full of characters, twists and turns, and an extremely complicated history.  In some ways East Village reminds me of Sicily.  A long history of invasions of different peoples, cultures, and a lot of pain.  Like Sicily, seeing it is like seeing layers of paint.  And watching that paint while munching on an Israeli Bourekas, Philipino Lumpia, or a Xi’an spicy chicken wing is like… “Making watch paint great again!”  Or something like that.

Like the Hell’s Kitchen food tour, no tour will be the same.  We will have a few sit downs in some carefully selected spots that will differ from tour to tour.  Some of them I’ve been enjoying for years, while some discovered recently.  Unlike other food tours where strategic deals are made with the establishments regardless of quality, quality comes first. (oh boy, I’m starting to sound like Crazy Eddy)

img_4469While one may question the validity of Hell’s Kitchen being a hot food neighborhood (historically it hasnt been), you wont hear similar arguments about East Village.  Its arguably the best food neighborhood on the east coast.  Its not only extremely diverse, but well represented in any “Best Of” discussion.  From soup dumplings (Xiaolongbao) to BBQ ribs, to tacos.

We will pass by some important sights that helped shape the neighborhood and really NYC overall.  Plenty of history and photo opportunities

We will follow the Mosaic Trail.

You will hear stories that will bring the area to life.  Stories and events that even most New Yorkers arent aware of.  Some involve celebrities living in the East Village.

img_4396Small, private groups (up to 5 people) will enable you to experience the neighborhood like no large groups can.  I dont even need a microphone nor a pole with a chicken attached to it.  The only chickens you may see will be on skewers.

The timing of the tour 2-6 allows me to introduce you to some of these places and people in a more comfortable, relaxing pace, avoiding the crowds of lunch and dinner.  I try to finish by 6, although sometimes we have some fun and stay a little longer.  If you have a show to catch however, you will not have a problem.

$60 per person (for now)

Meet at 11:00 am at 26 Astor Pl, in front of Chase Bank.  http://tinyurl.com/hv8478g

For any inquiries and availability email EatingWithZiggy@gmail.com
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Tuome, Can You Hear Me

Tuome SkateI had the entire conversation rehearsed in my head while sitting in the car waiting for our table.  The smiling dude from Tuome said we came too early and that our table wasn’t ready, but the good news was we could wait by the bar.  Memorandum to restaurant owners of NYC:  If the tiny little bar of yours is completely full with no standing room allowed whatsoever, don’t point to it and say you can wait by the bar.  You look like an ass.  I said we’ll wait in the car (freezing conditions btw), while staring at the two empty drafty tables by the entrance making him aware that I see those tables and he better not give them to us when the time comes.  Reminiscing about a certain Yemeni cafe in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn where we froze to death, and they built a museum around us.  When we finally got the callback, we were offered a choice of a drafty table, or not drafty one in the center of the room.  Hmm.. let me go back to the car and think about this one a little bit.  OK, I’ll take the nice and warm one in the middle of the room.  Close call, but we are off to a fantastic start.

TuomeThe front room is rather small, rustic, and quite East Villagy.  Tables very close together which can be a good thing (more on that later).  When someone walks behind you, you bounce a little like that bouncy at the Museum of Sex.  The only other room I explored was the tiny unisex bathroom.  It was one of those cold, pee every 2 hour days in NYC which brings yet another tip.  Before watching a Russian movie like ‘Leviathan’, going an hour before is way too soon.  You need to visit the bathroom right before the movie, as the concept of editing still hasnt made it to mother Russia.

Where was I, oh yes, Tuome.  Or “Toe Me” as Thomas Chen’s parents used to pronounce “Tommy”.  Formerly with Eleven Madison Park and Commerce, this is Toe Me’s first crack at managing one.  The American menu is interesting, playful, and full of Asian influences.  Annisa light if you will.  Unlike Annisa and the momofukus out there however, there’s a clear sweet tone in some of the dishes.  And the playfulness in a way backfires a little while showing some immaturity (“Pig Out” for 2 can easily be pork dish for 1, table side “espuma” squirting).  But, at the end of the day, the outcome was quite positive.

Chicken Liver – Good, Very good actually according to liver freak mrs Z.  Silky smooth, looking like a plate of hummus with a pool of olive oil in the middle.  Except in this case its Maple syrup which added much sweetness but an enjoyable dish nonetheless

Tuome Deviled EggsDeviled Egg – Nothing like any deviled eggs I’ve had in my young Deviled Eggs career.  Three eggs, breaded and fried, with a nice dollop of chili-garlic sauce that made all the difference.  Just a great combination of textures and nice deep lasting flavors.  Perhaps the dish of the night

Octopus – This is an excellent puss.  One tentacle, surrounded by porky XO sauce on one side while waiter squirts “Espuma” (fancy for foam) on the other.  Doubt East Villagers are impressed by table side squirting any more.  Maybe a better fit for Theater District where you can even get away with “Espuma”.  The leg was nicely cooked, not too mushy or too hard, and the XO sauce I couldnt get enough of.  Reminiscent of the All’onda XO with Soppressata.  The only thing is I wished the leg was a bit bigger, like Portuguese octopus I see on occasion.  A few bites of the meaty part and you are left with a long slightly overcooked skinny dude.  Great dish still.Tuome Octopus

Next was a welcomed wait after all three small plates came at the same time 10 minutes after we sat down. Proper pacing of the dishes seems like a rarity these days.

Short Rib – Another exceptional dish.  Extremely tender and juicy, with a sweet glaze and more sweetness from the sweet potato puree.  Very good dish, but felt all too familiar.  Unlike the other dishes, nothing out of the ordinary here but I’d order it again.  Its just that the city is suddenly loaded with exceptional short rib and beef cheek plates

Skate (top) – Good, really good according to Mrs Z.  Nice size, lightly fried, with cauliflower bits and Marcona Almonds.  Good flavor though got a little boring toward the end.Tuome short Rib

Brussels Sprouts – Outstanding side.  One of the better ones we’ve had in NYC.  Mixed with more of that Pork XO, with raisins and grapes providing a nice balance

Rice – Yet another great side.  Sticky rice with sweet Chinese sausage (a bit too sweet), duck fat packed inside Lotus leaves.  Another dish where most of the excitement came from the initial touches, but I would certainly order again.  This is one of those places where sides require special attention.  The Corn looked good as well

Pig Out for two – This is their specialty but with just the two of us we opted to try more of the menu and sides instead of being in the mercy of one dish.  The gimmick seems to work for them, but as a customer I dont see a reason why they cant evenly divide the 10 pork belly squares by 2 and offer individual sizes.  So the brilliant plan was to get friendly with the neighbors and try theirs.  We half succeeded… jokingly offered any help if they required and even gave some advice on visiting Iceland, but no {porky} dice.

Chinese Beignets – Dessert is not a strong suit here.  This is at the moment the only option and if it continues than perhaps some help from Anita Lo may be required to perfect these Beignets.  However, this wasnt nearly a complete loss as the three condiments provided especially the ice cream with red bean paste saved the moment.

For such a young chef who started out as an accountant, Tommy is doing a lot of things right.  I’ll be back (if I’m still welcomed)

Tuome
536 East 5th Street
$$$
Recommended Dishes: A rare all of the aboveTuome Liver Tuome Rice Tuome - Brussels Sprouts Tuome Beignets

 

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