Posts Tagged With: food

Hello World!

Capizzi

Capizzi

Howdy everybody!  Figured its time for a post to those anxiously waiting.  Both of you.  First things first tho.  We are fine.  Thank you to those asking via email and social media.  I’ve been pretty much holed up in my house in Staten Island with my family for over 6 weeks.  But with the spouse being a health worker its been quite the hectic ride.  To reduce risk we severely limited our interaction with the outside world even before the stay at home order was issued.  I dont get scared easily, but this has become a strange probabilities game we couldnt afford losing.

As for food, your answer whether I’ve been eating well lies in the previous paragraph.  Not only its been tough to get ingredients, but Staten Island is a food desert compared to the rest of the city.  In fact I’m considering changing the site tagline to “Spelling Well, Eating Pourly”.  Yes, pourly is misspelled on purpose here, as is “Tho” in the previous paragraph.  I just dont care much for the rest of the letters.  When everyone knows what you mean, whats the point of spelling the rest. Like que vs queue.

Last Saturday we finally ordered food after about 6 weeks.  While I never cared for the newer Joe and Pats in East Village, the original in Staten Island is still possibly the best thing you can eat on the island.  Normally getting pizza delivered or picked up in NYC is as routine as doing your laundry.  But bringing this pie home this time was like bringing your first born home from the hospital (sorry second born).  I cried a little, ran two red lights, and reduced our deer population in the process.  SI has a deer a problem and its massive vasectomy effort didnt do much as the deer simply started cheating with New Jersey deer.  Since we dont have sports anymore, at the very least let New Yorkers go out there and hunt for deer.  Win win!

I do have an idea though (oops) that I thought about this morning.  You know who can use a slice of pizza right about now?  The elderly.  While the young(er) are in a position to move around freely, or get pizza delivered to us, many elderly simply cant or dont do this for many reasons.  In the case of my in-laws for example, the better pizzerias dont deliver to them, nor would they even know where to get the good stuff.  I dont know if its going to work or not as I dont have the kind of reach as some of the other influencers but how about this #PiesForSeniors plan:

This Monday, bring your favorite pizza to your favorite elder.  Even if your elder is perfectly capable of ordering pizza him/herself, this should bring a smile  #PiesForSeniors

Pass it around.

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

Wayla – The Good, The Bad, and the Branzino

Wayla lobster pad thaiWayla, Wayan, Wayo.  Confusing times for Google these days.  Most confusing since Ilili, Leyla, Lilia, and Laila.  I’m not making any of this up.  These are all names of restaurants in NYC that sound and spell alike, and some of them opened around the same time.  Naming your restaurant is as important as naming your child.  I remember spending countless of bathroom hours looking at baby names before finally finding the one that clicked.  Its such a great feeling!  Until she says no and puts you in your place.  “Ugly Baby” should be a lesson to all future owners as that perfect name that is both meaningful, and easy to remember.

Restaurant owners should get into the habit of Googling the names before settling.  Wayla opened close to a year ago, yet when I Google it I still get “did you mean Wayan”.  Maybe Google simply figured me out, and tried to warn me.  Its not far fetched AI to build an algorithm that will match you with the correct restaurants.  But there’s not much AI can do to stop them from over-frying the noodles.  For now.

Wayla, considered by some one of the best Thai in the city, still feels super buzzy today.  Hence difficult to reserve, even though their website hints the opposite.  “We accept a limited amount of reservations each evening and welcome walk-ins”.  What that really means is.. “you see those two at the uncomfortable bar that looked like they havnt seen each other in decades and have much to talk about?  As soon as they are done, we’ll text you.  Meanwhile, go to REI and buy something you dont need”.  I was surprised to learn that all tables are reserved, not just a select amount.Wayla Moo Sarong

Much as been said and written about the Moo Sarong, fried noodle-wrapped meatballs that requires a unique set of skills possessed by only one person in the city.  His name is Liam John Neeson.  Its essentially one noodle wrapped around a pork meatball and if the noodle breaks in the process, you need to start all over.  In Thailand this forgotten dish got a life boost after it was featured on a soap opera, but only the wealthy can afford to have this labor intensive dish.  And here we are, eating it in a Lower East Side basement for 9 bucks.  Spoiler alert:  Its not good.

Its tough to criticize an appetizer that costs $9, but I’ll do my best.  The balls are fried to such a crisp that none of the ingredients shine.  It doesnt taste like anything really.  After the meal, I looked at Insta to see if the colors matched my darker than expected, and saw 50 shades of brown.  I can only guess ours spent an extra 30 seconds in the fryer.  Its $1.50 a pop (you get 6 balls).  For $1.50 you can get a nice plate of dumplings in every corner nearby.  The Chicken Satay ($15) special however was more like it.  Bulky, meaty skewers with an abundant, nicely balanced peanut sauce.Wayla Branzino

The crab fried rice ($24) is one of the better ones I’ve had.  Heaps of chunky crab, albeit as expected for the price of a main course.  The problem with this dish is that there are other attractive noodle/rice dishes on the menu forcing a carb fest.  But I’ll make it easier for you.  Skip the other signature, Lobster Pad Thai ($36) .  The sweet, peanuty flavor of the noodles just doesnt play well with the other dishes and its just an ok use of expensive lobster.  Its a far cry from Wayan’s terrific lobster noodles a couple of blocks away.  Should have listened to Google I suppose.

The saving grace was a fried Branzino ($31).  Normally I wouldnt order fried Branzino in any restaurant but the preparation here was intriguing.  The fish is deboned, flash fried, and cut into cubes.  While I found it much more aromatic than Mrs Z (meaning the fish, not her.  She smelled like Orchids and white Alba truffles).  The fresh herbs and spices was more like the best of Thai on a plate.  The Mango Mousse Sticky Rice was good but could have used some cowbell.  By that I mean something like coconut milk to give it another layer.

Wayla
100 Forsyth St (Basement, Grand/Broome), Lower East Side
Rating: One Z (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that
Recommended Dishes: Branzino, Chicken Satay

Categories: Lower East Side, New York City | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Tito Rad’s Grill- Filipino Power Chow

Tito Rad's Grill SisigI’m starting to get the hang of this.  Rediscovering the borough of Queens.  My friend Howard moving to Jackson Heights was just the excuse I didnt know I needed.  It really feels like a different world out there.  Or 160 different worlds to be exact.  From the price, warm hospitality, to dishes I’ve never heard of.  Its a foodie wonderland.  Highlights so far include a standout crab Ramen at the new Japan Corner, a grocery store in Woodside hosting rotating chefs from Japan.  And Thai Cook at iCook, or “iCook Thai Cook” according to Google, sort of a restaurant within a restaurant.  I’ve been plotting a return trip to that one ever since.

Last week I met a group of Chowhounds at Tito Rad’s, a Filipino grill I’ve wanted to try for a long time.  Filipino food seems to have grown exponentially over the last 20 years in NYC.  I must have had 20 different variations of Sisig during that time (with about half coming from the excellent Mama Fina in East Village).  But in the underground foodie community it seems pretty clear that as far as old school Filipino comfort food goes, Tito Rad’s Grill is the Mothership.  Or the Grandmaship if you will according to their site.

Since 2006 TRG has been serving the community from a seemingly strange looking location, at least when you approach it.  In that corner of Queens Blvd, you might expect to find a place that can renew your license before finding some of the best Filipino food in the city.  Its right next to a Calvary cemetery that has more graves (3 million) than the entire population of Queens.  I dare you to find a food blog that also gives you up to the minute cemetery stats.  Go ahead, I’m waiting.

IMG_2670Considering I eat mostly in Manhattan, I’m all inspired to include prices here, like other not nearly as lazy successful bloggers.  The Sizzling Sisig ($12) oddly listed as an appetizer here is outstanding.  Its chunkier, not as crispy, and milder than most Sisigs I’ve had, but still perfect in a way.  Another winner early on was the Tokwa’t Baboy ($9), deep fried bean curds (Tofu) with braised pork ears.  It worked better for me than the one-note fresh (not fried) Lumpia.  

I though I was back in Prague when we got the Crispy Pata ($14), pork knuckles deep fried to extreme but manageable crispiness.  I found myself reaching for this more than one of their signatures, Inihaw na Panga, grilled tuna jaw.  Good flavor, but slightly off-putting funky aroma prevented me from fully enjoying this.  It comes in s,m,l sizes, but for us, and for me especially, small was plenty.  We were pleasantly surprised however by the Pancit Bam-I ($9), sautéed egg and rice noodles with vegetables, pork, shrimp and Chinese sausage.  Delightfully salty and pungent. 

Its a relatively small sample compared to the rest of the meat heavy menu.  And while not totally hooked, I’m looking forward to returning and chowing through the rest of the menu.

Tito Rad’s Grill
49-10 Queens Blvd, Woodside (Queens)
Rating: 2 Zs (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that
Recommended Dishes: Sisig, Tokwa’t Baboy, Crispy Pata, Pancit Bam-I

Categories: New York City, Queens | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Toro – The Once Remembered One

ToroNext month I’m turning 50, and this one feels different.  It almost feels like I need to make some lifestyle changes, or at least make a list of things I need to accomplish.  Do I need to take a pottery class or something?  Is there a manual for this?  Age is just a number, until its not.  At 50, you start remembering hockey player’s dads.  At 50, if you go to Toro on Valentine’s Day, everyone around you including the staff will be half your age.  At 50, you are the only one at Toro who doesnt get a bread basket.  Smart!  No bread for you!

When Toro first opened it was the hottest table in the city.  Sometimes places in NYC simply expire in ones mind, and you forget that they exist.  But I needed to be relatively close to Budakkan on this day (debutante’s 18th bash) so Toro was the obvious choice.  After Nishi, Salinas, and others were solidly booked that is, and Cull and Pistol turns out is not romantic anymore.  Who knew?

Toro for the most part delivered.  The space is more smart repurposing of the old Nabisco complex.  In fact I’m pretty sure I was sitting in the exact same spot where the Oreo cookie was first conceived.  Sort of like the Chelsea version of the “I’ll have what she’s having” table.  Toro went from a hot table to the perfect first date spot.  It got that cool factor, and just enough going for it food wise to impress seasoned foodies.

Toro Corn

Courtesy of Open Table

Tapas, you order them and there’s no rhyme or reason to the order they come.  At least  not here.  When the waitress brought the Gambas Al Ajillo, she came back 5 seconds later to ask if we ordered them.  I said “yep, but I wasnt expecting it to arrive so soon (5 minutes after we ordered)”.  That followed by a look of “the answer is yes, Boomer”.  This was closer to a buttery NOLA style BBQ shrimp rather than shrimp swimming in garlic and olive oil.  Thats a good thing.

The Octopus was spanked just enough for a perfect texture, with some squid ink sauce and a Harrisa-like sauce to play with.  Another highlight, perhaps the biggest, was the Maiz Asado, like a Mexican corn on the cob without the cob.  Simple and brilliant.  More simple and almost always brilliant were the Pimientos de Padrón.  I wouldnt dare ask on VD why mrs Z Shishito’s dont come out like this.  The Patatas Bravas were standard but probably an unnecessary order in our case.  If there’s any fault to the random arrivals is that the Patatas should never come last.

Not everything worked though.  The Bocadillo de Erizos, a pressed sandwich of sea urchin, miso butter & mustard seed tasted like two married greasy diner toasts with a hint of sea urchin.  The Rabbit Empanada sounded good on paper, but required much of the accompanied salsa to make an impact.  Same with the fat churros that needed cups full of chocolate gold instead of a drizzle.  And the bread looked ravishing.

Toro is a solid two Z.  Good enough to recommend, not strong enough to return, and in my mind at least, will go back to the dining abyss in about two and a half months.  Too dark for quality pictures

Toro
85 10th Avenue (Entrance on 15th St and, 11th Ave)
Rating: 2 Zs (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that
Recommended Dishes: Gambas Al Ajillo, Octopus, Maiz Asado, Pimientos de PadrónToro Octopus

Categories: Chelsea, New York City | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lamalo – Here’s Why

LamaloBefore I visit a new place I like to spend some time perusing their website.  It paints a picture, and often tells the story.  I love a good story, but they are getting increasingly rare in corporate NYC.  Lamalo site looks like that of a typical modern restaurant in New York, with colorful images of their food, menu, and press galore.  Its always interesting to see what makes the press cut.  In Lamalo’s case, it’s seemingly every possible mention, with the majority about the anticipation and announcement of its much hyped opening. Which really means “our marketing dollars went to good use y’all”.  Not one review.  The only person benefiting from this press barrage is Jeff Bezos.

Also missing is the story.  There’s an ‘About’ section with no mention of Gadi Peleg and his accomplishments with Breads Bakery.  Instead you see a generic “modern Middle Eastern gem nestled in the heart of NoMad”.  Not sure what makes it modern other than higher prices and being inside a hotel.  Or maybe its because there’s no sign.  The concept of Mezzes served as such may be new to NYC but its been around for 1000’s of years.

Lamalo means “why not” in Hebrew, but its often used, almost like slang.  As in “What if we offer a ridiculous amount of all you can eat spreads, dips, and bread for a set price, say $25 per person?  Lamalo?!?”.  Its essentially a glorified all you can eat buffet of tiny plates like hummus, babaganoush, button mushrooms, pickles, and more.  The most memorable was Skordalia, a potato spread infused with garlic and almonds to the point that it tastes more like beans than potato.  The plates surround a “smaller than I thought” laffa that comes fresh out of the oven but dries quickly, and surprisingly not particularly great.  I’d take the Dizengoff/Zahav pita any day of the week.  Except shabbos.

The spreads for the most part are cleverly executed, and diverse enough to keep things interesting.  There’s a certain pleasant flow here.  The problem is, in a way similar to my issue with Zahav, that the fun stops there.  Unlike Zahav, here you do have variety of large dishes to choose from, but the two we ordered left much to be desired.  A Cabbage “Shank” that was braised overnight with a sweet glaze was interesting at first, but quickly got too sweet and boring.  Its a play on Borscht that doesnt work.

Shabtai-Style Fish featured various kinds of unevenly cooked fried filets is essentially a good mother-in-law fried fish.  Its interesting that they call it Shabtai style considering there’s really no such thing, at least not globally that I’m aware.  As for the sides, the Mejadara worked a lot better than the odd tasting Ful (Fava beans) which I normally love.  But perhaps the best dish at Lamalo is the lone dessert.  A perfectly semi frozen Halva Parfait that really hit the spot.  Like a semifredo covered with shredded Halvah.

But there’s simply not enough here to make me want to come back.  Yes, its a playful concept that can be fun for groups, couples, and heck even accountants.  But tiny plates of mostly spreads and dips can only thrill so much.  You spend some time fishing for your favorites before declaring the winners, but still find yourself munching on the undesirable, because someone has to.  Like a polygamist, who got his favorites, but needs to take the others to the zoo sometimes.  But worse of all, he cant add anymore wives.

Lamalo
11 E 31st St (Madison/5th, Nomad)
Rating: 1 Z (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that
Recommended Dishes: Mezzes (included), Halva ParfaitLamalo Halvah Parfait

Categories: Gramercy, Flatiron, New York City | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Jacala – Anguilla’s Crème de la Crème

Jacala ChickenMy last Anguilla post of the season.  Although I seem to discuss Jacala often on various social media sites including this blog, it occurred to me that I never actually wrote a post about it.  Its only arguably Anguilla’s best.  While Hibernia may be the best overall experience, Ember the most well rounded destination, Jacala has the best food.  I can see many island regulars nodding in approval while reading this, while some shaking profusely.  Dont worry latter group, I got you covered too, albeit with a thin layer of sugar.

Owners Jacques and Alain go way back.  Before opening Jacala 10 years ago, they worked at a famed restaurant at the nearby Malliouhana resort helmed by a Michelin crowned chef for 20 years.  For the past 10 years they created quite the following that can be felt pretty much on every visit (air kisses galore).  The name is a combination of their first names, though if you ask me it sounds like the act of a cat going haywire.  As in “Remember when Mittens went all Jacala on us for no reason?”

Jacala - tuna tartareOn paper, these are my favorite kind of owners.  The fully present ones.  They oversee every aspect of the operation the entire time they are there.  Shmoozing with a customer for 30 minutes is not fully present.  While Alain is busy in the kitchen, Jacques is running the front, taking every order, and even has time to prepare Martha Stewart’s favorite steak tartare, table side.  He will also tell you if you order items that dont exactly mesh.  Its a level of service you just dont see very often.

Some island regulars however, will argue that the title of the post should come at the very least with an asterisk.  Lets just say Jacques can be a bit gruff sometimes, and may not always handle stress well.  Its not quite Soup Nazi territory but its important to come a little prepared as cultural and language differences can lead to uncomfortable situations.  You may need to assess and possibly adjust.  Perhaps refrain from asking too many questions, request alterations, and interrupt when he tells you the specials.  If your idea of service is an overly friendly chap who will invite you to his daughter’s Bat Mizvah before your evening is over, you may want to skip this one.  But if you are after some top notch grub, you came to the right price.

Jacala Lobster RisottoSimply put, every single dish we’ve had at Jacala ever was outstanding.  That creates all sorts of challenges when you order, choosing between the proven and the new.  Its hard to pass on the magnificently fresh, and expertly crafted Tuna Tartare for example.  Or the stupendously moist and flavorful chicken breast rolled around lobster, chicken mousse, and served over lobster sauce.  The latter has been pretty much on the menu since day one.

Then you have the specials like the Lobster Risotto, far from your typical risotto.  Chunks of sweet lobster, green onion, and just the right amount of heat.  Previously we enjoyed the Calamari Risotto as well.  Lobster dishes in general shine, including the salad, and especially the Bisque.  I already mentioned the steak tartare that I vowed to get last time, but, see previous paragraph.  It will need to wait another year (at least).  And dont discount desserts here either, like the Papaya Panna Cotta.  Sometimes fruits in Panna Cottas overwhelm but Papaya isnt acidy enough and compliments beautifully.  The wine list obviously french leaning (as is the rest of the island).

Jacala fits my taste like a favorite pair of shoes that you can only wear once or twice a week.  Otherwise you risk losing its efficiency or they become stinky.Jacala - Panna Cotta

Categories: Anguilla | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

The Usual – I’ll Have what Everyone Else is Having

The Usual - BurgerAs we get older, mental lists get less and less effective.  We start to forget things, and sometimes get in trouble as a result, especially with the spouse.  The saving grace is an equally forgetful spouse, but not when she has different habits and writes everything down.  Consider my agenda on my day off today:  Write a post, check the tire in my car, call cable, watch Almodovar’s Pain and Glory, take the dishes out (still not allowed to put them in but in the midst of a mandatory online course), and…  I know I had more, including something important that she asked me to do.  But at the moment I dont have the slightest idea what it is.  I suppose I can ask her, but that’s risky in itself.  

Successful people write shit down.  The great Jerry Seinfend said that as you get older you lose your creativity, and the way to combat that is to sit down and write.  He writes for two hours every day.  It’s sort of what I’m doing right now.  I should be writing something about The Usual but instead I’m writing about, well, nothing really.  Like Seinfend, its a blog about nothing.  I wasnt planning to write about nothing when I started writing a few minutes ago.  I definitely planned to write about something.

So as a result of accelerated fading mental lists, about a year ago, I started making a list of new restaurants I’d like to try.  And pretty much ever since then I’ve been staring at The Usual on top of that list.  It wasnt that I ever put it on top.  Its just the oldest name on the list that I kept bumping down in favor of others.  Burger joints still gets your attention, but with so many good ones out there, its hard to get overly enthusiastic.

I first heard of Alvin Cailan when he opened Eggslut, a popup at the Chef Club Counter, offering his famous (in LA at least) egg sandwich.  Eggslut now has locations in LA and the Cosmopolitan hotel in Vegas.  The Cosmo shaping up to be a foodie paradise, attracting the crème de la Crème seems like.  The Filipino-American Cailan is also famous for hosting The Burger Show on Youtube.  And burgers and fried chicken are the focus in NYC, instead of egg sandwiches and Filipino food.  Although rumors are that Cailan will open a Filipino restaurant here soon enough.The Usual - Sprouts

I think Cailan and team figured at some point that at a place called “The Usual”, an online menu is almost useless.  Its not there as of this writing.  People generally come for one or two items, the burger or fried chicken.  We ordered the former as the main, and the latter as the first course.  When we come back, that and only that would be my order.  Among the other dishes we tried were Kung Pao Brussel Sprouts that were cooked well but needed a bit more flair.  And a baked cookie and ice cream that was too sweet and uninspiring.

But the burger was inspiring alright.  Not a designer, fancy one that you’ll find in say NoMad Bar.  Just a solid, well crafted burger.  Two quality smashed patties with American Cheese, garlic aioli, and just enough onions.  Its beefy, well balanced, and just the right size.  And for $20 as you’d expect, served with excellent fries that came with ketchup and a curry aioli.  Combine the two for maximum oomphness.

I’ve heard much about Cailan’s fried chicken.  But oddly, a Korean fried chicken instead on the menu these days.  Not so odd once you try it.  It got all the elements of perfect fried chicken.  Its clean tasting, supremely moist, with just the right amount of crunch and flavor from the thinner than it looks skin.  Perhaps the best KFC (Korean) I’ve ever had.  Looking forward to trying the rest of the menu.  Not really.  I’ll just have the usual.

The Usual
30 Kenmare St (Mott/Elizabeth)
Rating: 2 Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that
Recommended Dishes: Burger, Fried ChickenThe Usual - Koren Fried Chicken

Categories: New York City, SoHo, NoHo, Nolita | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Hell’s Kitchen Guide – Winter 2020 Update

Tulcingo Del Valle Chile RellenoA much needed update to the “Bread and Butter” of this blog.  Seven year old Hell’s Kitchen Survival Guide still outperforming all other posts year after year.  The Z-List and the Turks & Caicos page complete the top three.  There are many sources for Hell’s Kitchen out there today but I truly believe this is still the most comprehensive and up to date of the bunch.  Most HK guides written by people who dont spend much time there and/or dont really understand the area well.  But enough about me…

Whats new in 2020?  Mexican, Thai, Ramen, Korean continue to dominate, so naturally three additions fall into that group.  I’m seeing more and more Chinese/NOLA style boils popping on 9th, and a slow moving shift from East Village (either opening more locations or moving).  Its good news for HK but a little sad because it means owners relying a bit more on tourists.  Still, that didnt save some of the places that closed lately like Gloria (I tell ya that location is cursed).

Dropped from the list:

Otto’s Tacos – Still like the shrimp tacos, but getting a little inconsistent.
Mentoku Ramen – Just prefer EAK and the old-guards
Benares – Closed
Gloria – Closed
Merilu Pizza – Closed

EAK RamenAdded to the list:

E.A.K. Ramen Hell’s Kitchen – My Ramen of choice these days.  First successful infiltration of IEKEI (pronounced EAK) style Ramen in NYC, albeit on tourist heavy restaurant row (46th) for some reason.

UOGASHI – This is it!  The Holy Grail in this Sushi deprived Kitchen.  An East Village import.  The space housed a different sushi place which explains why it took me 6 months to realize and try it.

Le Sia – Its one of those rare situations where I add a place to the guide before my first visit.  I’m well too familiar with Le Sia in East Village and what these guys are capable of.  Its a very fresh opening.  Expect fiery Chinese style crawfish/crab boils, BBQ skewers, and the type of authenticity the neighborhood isnt used to.

Tulcingo Del Valle – Shame on me for waiting this long to add this one.  I just never took it very seriously I suppose.  A 20 year old Pueblan feels like the last of the neighborhood bodegas.  No shortcuts, fresh or bust approach is the secret.

Alan’s Kitchen Mexican Cuisine – This one is a tentative addition as its new and I’ve only been once, but the Carnitas here so far are Mission-esque (Mission District is a Mexican paradise of sorts in SF).  The tacos are so good I hear Los Tacos nearby are changing their name to #2

Click here for the full guide

Click here for the map

Alan's Kitchen

Alan’s Kitchen

 

 

 

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

Brooklyn Food Tour Update

Frequently Asked Questions updated.

Most important is a new meeting point.  Due to extensive construction by Gran Morsi, I’ve been experimenting with a new location for a while, but will make it official now.  We now meet at Mattress Firm Tribecca (yes with two c’s) – 140 Church St.  Thats in Manhattan, not Brooklyn.  Its on the corner of Warren and Church, but we meet on the Warren side.

As usual please check your email prior to the tour for any changes.  Construction is spreading all over NYC like wildfire.  Its a poor analogy these days but its true and sad.  I may need to change the meeting point last minute.

The tour keeps evolving.  Less emphasis on Dumbo (due to, you guessed it, construction).  More emphasis on Brighton Beach (Added my favorite Georgian Bakery), and Green-Wood Cemetery.  Look for a blog post on the latter soon.  Dumbo was a minor stop anyway.

One of the most fun changes, for me at least, is a new game we now play.  I tell a lot of stories during the tour, and one of them is false.  At the end of the tour you will try to guess the fake story.  I started doing it mostly with Australians as a way for them to pay more attention and stop looking for squirrels 😉

Unlike the other two tours, this one is not bookable on Trip Advisor/Viator yet.  Best and only way to book is via email.  EatingWithZiggy@gmail.com

Tour Details here

Reviews here

Complaints here

Categories: Brooklyn, New York City | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Zahav (Philly) – Almost Golden

Zahav

Courtesy of Zahav

It only took 10 years.  Pretty much everyone I know including my oldest who now lives in Philly made it to Zahav before me.  Winning the coveted Outstanding Restaurant at the 2019 James Beard awards, the Oscars of dining in America, didnt help my quest.  It doesnt seem like its mission impossible, but over the years, every time I tried, I failed to reserve a table.  So last Sunday I sent an email declaring myself available in case of a cancellation, and lo and behold, an hour later I had a table reserved for four.

The story is inspiring.  While it was Michael Solomonov and Steve Cook’s third restaurant when they opened Zahav in 2008, it wasnt an immediate success.  They barely made it through year one.  Judging by the number of hosts we spotted last Sunday, these guys have gone a long way.  To get the James Beard prize a restaurant must be open for 10 consecutive years.  Solomonov and Cook struck gold, or “Zahav” which means gold in Hebrew.  But Zahav in this case is more of a reference to Jerusalem, city of gold.  The food touches on Jerusalem’s street food, and the room mimics elements of its hidden courtyards.  Supposedly!  It was a little dark.

Ordering at Zahav is like a surprise math quiz that you dont want to screw up.  The much touted Tayim tasting menu works for some, but not all.  For our family, it made more sense to order a la carte.  iPhone flashlight was used to see the menu, take some god-awful shots, and on occasion make sure the people sitting across are still my children.  Gone are the days when I get embarrassed when someone uses flash at my table.  I’m now that guy.

The food for the most part lived up to the hype.  The Salatim, miniature size rotating salads of the day were all on point, with everyone reaching for different favorites.  More scrumptiousness followed with the Mezzes, where the cauliflower, the Israeli staple, and Haloumi being particular standouts.  The good news is that the signature silky smooth hummus is awesome.  The bad news is that the silky smooth hummus is awesome.  I’ll explain.

The grilled section dubbed “Al Ha’esh” (literally means “on top of fire” – my favorite kind of grilled) were well-thought-out, expertly cooked tapas size “mains”.  The Lamb merguez was good but overshadowed by the the others.  The excellent grilled eggplant reminded me of eggplant in some Chinese restaurants.  The Chicken Shishlik (Kebab in Russian, one of the many influences in Israeli cuisine) was zesty and quite juicy.  And the two bites I had of the Branzino were great.

Everything was cooked well and featured nice combination of flavors and textures.  But at the end of the day something was missing.  It could be the only large dish of the house, the signature whole-roasted lamb shoulder which is only available via the larger “Mesiba” tasting menu.  I’m pro business.  I dont usually suggest how restaurateurs should conduct their business, as they do things for a reason in order to survive the game.  But as a consumer, it would have been nice to have this dish available for us.  Some of us got smaller stomachs (mine is shrinking), and the Mesiba (party in hebrew) just meant way too much food.  I didnt want a party, but a casual get together.  Instead we watched this glorious looking plate parade all over the room, while we take small bites off our tapas.

I suppose we could have chosen more than one chicken or fish, and had our own mini Mesiba if you will.  But on your first visit, you fall into the trap of trying various dishes, and the habit of ordering a dish more than once is foreign to us.  The lack of large plates meant a couple of bites in some cases, and just when your taste buds start to warm up to a new flavor, its gone.  At the end of the meal we all agreed that our favorite was the hummus, a dish I’ve had many times at Dizengoff.  Granted, it was even more awesome here.  But on my highly anticipated first visit, I was craving a knockout dish I hadn’t had before.  Otherwise, the prices are fair, and its a true gem in center Philly that would do fairly well in NYC.

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