Posts Tagged With: EV Bites

EV Bites – The Dumplings Belt

Mimi Cheg's - Mopu TofuEvidence of the “Pierogies/Vareniki Belt” can still be found on 2nd ave in East Village, dating back to the late 19th century when Ukrainian and Polish immigrants started flocking the area.  Less than a quarter of the 100,000 at the peak, still remain, and the percentage of the Pierogi shops dwindled even more.  We are down to Little Poland near east 12th, the Pierogi speakeasy of Streecha on 7th, and the Pierogi kingdom of Veselka, arguably the most famous and popular Ukrainian in the country.  I may be forgetting one or three.

But these days for every Pierogi joint there seems to be 5 dumpling shops popping up on or off 2nd.  While it may be premature to rename it the Dumplings Belt, there are various articles out there calling East Village our newest and hippest Chinatown.  If it is, its a Chinatown that looks like Little Moldova just as much.

With that said, here’s where you can find some of the best Dumplings on/off 2nd ave these days.

Silky Kitchen – Its not a question whether there’s any legit Hunanese joints in this area, but how many are out there now.  Silky’s dry noodle dishes pack a punch, but its the delicious beef and daikan dumplings that makes me keep coming back.  137 E 13th (3/4)

Silky Kitchen

Mimi Cheng’s (top) – The story of the two sisters (Mimi’s daughters) is inspiring, and the ultra-fresh ingredient driven dumplings in a way reflect that.  While all the dumplings are good, locals flock for the unique monthly specials and collaborations like Foie Gras, black truffle, chicken a la NoMad Chicken, and the explosive Mapo Tofu dumplings available this month.  179 2nd Ave (11/12)

Dian Kitchen – Off off 2nd ave, Husband and wife team dishing out silky Yunanese style noodles based on family recipes.  The pan fried dumplings feature your basic pork/chive/cabbage filling and they are just about perfect.  Well balanced, crispy and delicious.  435 E 9th St (1st/A)

Dian Kitchen Dumplings

 

The Bao – These guys are so serious about their soup dumplings that they stopped making them once they realized they lost their touch.  They were on a break (“Friends” style.  Btw, to learn which member of Friends lives near the Bao, you need to take the East Village tour.  Sorry, papa needs to pay the bills!).  They took their time to relearn how to do it right and these little bundles of joy are now back.  And its worth mentioning the awesome Spot Dessert Bar downstairs.  13 St Marks Pl (3rd/2nd)

Xi’an Famous Foods – Chain or not, the Lamb dumplings at Xi’an is a thing of beauty.  They are the size of large meatballs, boiled and carefully ladened with a killer combination of vinegar, soy, chili paste, and chili oil.  The sauce is so potent, that I wouldnt hesitate to order the spinach dumplings here instead on my healthy every first Monday of the month.  81 St Marks Pl (off 1st)

Xi'an Famous Foods

 

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EV Bites – Goodnight Almond Croissant

Patisserie Florentine - CroissantsEV Bites is a monthly feature (well sort of.  I may have skipped a few), that showcases five places in or around East Village you should know about.  I will occasionally extend the border to surrounding hoods and maybe even mention a name more than once.  East Village in case you are not aware is an incubator for top industry talent, and a goldmine of world cuisine.

Foxface –  The smallest kitchen in the village keeps attracting the most interesting stuff.  Inside the William Barnacle Tavern/Theater 80, out goes Feltman’s Hot dogs, the rebirth of the inventor of the hot dog (or Coney Island red hots) and the best hot dog in NY.  In goes Foxface, the little Sandwich shop that could.  It took me a couple of months to try it, because that’s how long it takes me to get excited about a sandwich shop, but man was it good.  One bite of the well crafted, balanced Smoking Fox (smoked boneless rib, coleslaw, pickles, homemade spicy sauce) is all you need to understand.  Its owned by a duo that used to own a cafe in Tokyo.  Quite the ingredient driven little place, starting with the bread they get from NYC’s elite like Pain D’Avignon and Fat Witch.

Hunan Slurp – Possibly the most important opening out of the countless of Chinese openings over the last few years.  Half of my meals in the area as of late are here.  A fresh Z-list addition.  Cant say enough.  The incredible whole fish, the cabbage, stir fried chicken, Hunan Salad, and the signature Hometown Lu fen.  I will have a dedicated post when the time comes.

Hunan Slurp

Hunan Slurp

La Rossa – Hate the generic sounding name, love the pizza.  This is from yet another Italian pizza legend, Stefano Callegari who owns some of Roma’s best and the inventor of the Trapizzino.  We are just missing Bonci (Interestingly he owns two in Chicago).  I like to start my pizza relationships with a light no frill meal which means a basic Margherita, and this one did not disappoint.  Although from Rome, its more Neapolitan-style featuring a light and airy dough with great ingredients all around.  But the pizzas to get are most likely the Roman inspired Carbonara and Cacio e pepe baked with ice in order to “glue” the ingredients better.  Technically just inside Soho on Lafayette.

Dunhuang Noodles – Its getting to the point where its hard to limit this feature to just one Chinese, but they are all so very different.  Dunhuang specializes in Northwestern Chinese food, and is growing a la Xi’an Famous.  In the winter I usually crave spicy noodle soups, and very few in the area beat Dunhuang’s Braised Beef Noodles and Lanzhou Beef Noodles these days.

Patisserie Florentine – Is no more!  That group from Canada that makes the semi-annual pilgrimage to Patisserie Florentine after pre-ordering ALL their Almond Croissants will soon get the painful truth just like I did.  Only in East Village a place with a perfect Yelp score offering a legend-esque product can still close.  I’ve watched these Almond Croissants make countless of people smile over the years on my tours.  But hey, its East Village.  There’s plenty of fish in this sea.

La Rossa Pizza

La Rossa

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EV Bites: Why East Village

 

Instead of the usual monthly EV Bites, I figured I’ll spend a few minutes talking about the dynamics that makes East Village the best food neighborhood in NYC, therefore North America.  It will be quick, and painless, and delicious.  And I will offer a few names as exhibits A, B, C, D (a little Alphabet City humor.  Though I’m a little tired as I’m writing this and not entirely sure how funny it is, and whether I’m making sense at all).  But here it goes.  There are enough names here to cover at least two EV Bites posts

A few weeks ago I was talking to another young entrepreneur like myself (stop laughing!), the owner of Dian Kitchen, a Yunnan fast casual just opened in East Village (rice noodles, cold chicken salad, fiery sweet potato fries – Go!).  Not surprisingly she said that East Village was the only area she was able to find affordable space in Manhattan.  This is something I hear often, and is sad and scary in a way.  But the unfortunate reality is generating a lot of fortune for the NYU residents, and young professionals living in the east

Due to that “affordable” rent and availability, East Village has slowly morphed into an incubator for up and coming talents like Alex Stupak, Marco Canora, David Chang and even Bobby Flay started his career in EV.  It breeds corporations.  Its ultra competitive environment these days helped generate mini chains like Mighty Quinn’s, Otto’s Tacos, and Luke’s Lobster.  As the saying goes, “If you can make it in East Village, you can make it anywhere”.  Ok no one really says that, but its true.  When the opposite occurs, a successful establishment in another neighborhood opening a location in East Village, success doesnt come nearly as quick, as evident by the cricket sounds at Frisson Espresso (really good coffee but so empty).

This competitive, survival of the fittest environment helped generate an incredibly diverse selection of cuisines and establishments that are really good at what they do.  If you are simply an above average Szechuan or Isan, chances are you wont see your one year anniversary.  On my tours I often use Filipino food as an example.  While you will be hard pressed to find a Filipino restaurant in [Name any other Manhattan neighborhood], in East Village you have a quiet Sislig Sisig war.  Same goes for Venezuelan.  You can even find International stores, spice stores, and more obscure cuisines like Georgian, Jamaican, and even something called American food (Ducks Eatery).

And you get the sense that there’s something in the East Village air that keeps the owners on their toes.  Whether its Marco Canora reinventing Hearth, Nick Anderer perfecting Roman pies, or Will Horowitz inventing new foods.  These guys are not exactly counting on tourists, office workers, or local residents to simply walk by, but become destinations to New Yorkers looking for the best.  They dont rest because they cant afford to.

But it wasnt always a great food neighborhood.  For a while it was simply the place to get Pierogies.  You still can do that at Streecha (They are back after summer break) and of course Veselka that still boast hefty brunch lines.  But the Pierogy belt is now surrounded by Little Japan.  And Little Japan is now surrounded by quite possibly, our richest (culinary wise) Chinatown.  This is more of a fresh phenomenon where Queens establishments like Szechuan Mountain House and Dun Huang are now testing EV palates.  They are joining the likes of first timers like Le Sia and Dian Kitchen, and the more established Xi’an, the Bao, and Han Dynasty.  Dozens of new Chinese opened in the past few years and most of the survivors are excellent.

And then there’s exhibit M.  It is easier for me to find a McDonald’s and other American chains in Madrid than East Village.  EV is down to one sad looking McDonald’s on 1st ave.  The last time a Starbucks opened, there was a quiet protest by the local residents.  EV boasts the highest percentage of coffee shops per capita on the east coast.  And the vast availability of cheap foods like tacos, Arepas, and Japanese noodles can be head spinning at times.  There’s a good reason why I chose East Village to run food tours.

 

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EV Bites – Taco Crawl

Tacos Morelos

Tacos Morelos

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 for top industry talent, and a goldmine of world cuisines.

In this issue I’ll focus on Tacos.  In case you’ve been living under a rock, or in Staten Island, you are missing out on a Taco renaissance.  These are the golden years for taco lovers, and its just getting better and better.  This crawl features 4 places and an unrelated dessert that is convenient to the crawl.  The only thing to keep in mind here is that Empellon usually opens at 4 (1pm on weekends), and the dessert place may be closed in the evening.  So check the times.  Its best to do this on weekends.

Shrimp Tacos at Otto’s Tacos – I’ve tried every taco here over the years but I keep coming back for this deliciousness.  A good example of the so many NYC mini chains today that started in East Village.  Try the Horchata here as well

Carnitas at Taqueria Diana – While I prefer the Hell’s Kitchen location, this is solid enough.  The sitting may be sparse but this is a walking crawl, not a sitting one

Break time – Check out The Museum of American Gangster, and the prohibition era speakeasy on St Marks

Beer Braised Tongue at Empellon Al Pastor –  The namesake taco is excellent, but once I discovered the Pork tongue it was no going back.  Its all in that delicious, tangy sauce they make that elevates this thing.

Cochinita Pibil at Taco Morelos – This s possibly the most authentic of the bunch, and East Village overall.  Wonderful, tender, slow roasted pork on a homemade tortilla is hard to beat.

Break time – Check out whats happening in Tompkins Square Park, my favorite NY park.

Almond Croissants at Patisserie Florentine – Finish with some of the best Almond Croissants you’ll find in NYC.  Though the Canelles arent too shabby either

One of these stops is an important stop on this world famous East Village tour

Enjoy!

 

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EV Bites – June 2018

Szechuan Mountain House - Chicken with Chili

Szechuan Mountain House

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 for top industry talent, and a goldmine of world cuisines.

Szechuan Mountain House – I’ll start with the most important one and the one worthy of its own post.  Lately we are seeing quite a few of these Queens establishments spilling out into the city and this one is possibly the most important one.  There was no need to wait for word of mouth, or reviews as it got popular from day one.  I sometimes SMH at the lines to SMH.  This is not for the faint of heart though.  The menu is loaded with “Mala” tingle triggers like the beef Slices with Enoki Mushrooms in Sour Soup, and Stir Fried Chicken with Dry Red Chili Peppers.  The only dish I didnt care for after 4 visits is the dry Shrimp with garlic.

Miss Lily’s 7A Cafe – In my constant pursue of jerk chicken perfection after Ma Peche dropped its wings from the menu, I think I found them at Miss Lilys east side little sister.  But there’s a lot more going on in this Jamaican diner, starting with the party scene (pray that its someone’s birthday that day) and the hefty and juicy jerk chicken roti

Miss Lily's 7A Cafe - Wings

Uncle Boons Sister – I almost gave up on this fast casual little sister after a curious fried Skate dish that stayed on the menu for about 5 minutes.  My facial expressions probably did it.  And you can very easily see everyone’s facial expressions in the 5 tables inside this hole in the wall.  Its not super comfortable but its quick and easy, and sometimes at 4 pm that is what you want.  Try the fiery fried chicken Laab, and the flavor packed Thai basil stir fry with fried egg

Uncle Boons Sister - Fried Chicken Salad

Superiority Burger – Lets not talk about why it took me all these years to finally try this celebrated burger, but concentrate on this:  Its fu$#ng awesome!  For someone like me who will never crave a veggie burger, I essentially need to be passing by while about to pass out in order to have this.  This little guy had a lot more going for it than any Shake Shack burger I ever had.  And today I came back for seconds and added the famous Broccoli salad and the infamous Superiority Water!

Martina – For Dessert!  East Village is loaded with amazing ice cream.  Once you are done with the pizza and the best white bean dish in NYC, try the Fior di Latte soft serve at Martina.  But you must add the toppings especially the cherries in order to make this do its magic

RIP Anthony Bourdain

 

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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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