Posts Tagged With: food

Top 10 Things We Ate in Venice

Tiramisu at L'Osteria di Santa Marina

Razor Clams at Osteria alle Testiere

If I knew I will not see them again in the next 7 days, I would have ordered 5 more of these if they let me.  Simple yet so addictive in one of the premier seafood destinations in Venice.  And I could have easily subbed this mention with the phenomenal Gnocchetti with shrimp

Osteria alle Testiere - Razor Clams

 

Octopus at Osteria Alla Frasca

Its a lesson in texture, and complimentary liquid.  Its served with two purees – potato, and cherry tomato for you to play with.  The outrageous Pasta Alla Frasca should be mentioned as well, in a place that not only redefines “Hidden gem”, but feels like Uncle Leo’s house

Osteria Alla Frasca - Octopus

Bosega at Osteria Enoteca Ai Artisti

Its always fun bumping into fish I never heard of.  This Adriatic beauty is firm, delicate, and as expected here perfectly cooked.  Served with Jerusalem artichokes chips, and an oniony vinaigrette that even onion haters can enjoy.  Ai Artisti is one of our favorite new discoveries on this trip.

Bosega at Osteria Enoteca Ai Artisti

Seafood Carpaccio at Antiche Carampane

A standout among standouts in a seafood mecca.  There was buttery tuna, seabass, Sicilian red shrimp, Adriatic Langoustine and more local canal residents.  The seafood pastas here delivered big again too.  Repeat #1 for us on this trip.

Seafood carpaccio at Antiche Carampane

Octopus and Potato Salad at Trattoria Alla Fontana

When you stay for more than 96 hours this time, you discover Venetian specialties you didnt know exist.  Like the Octopus and Potato salad which quickly won us over (until we had a stinky one).  At this quiet, canal side Cannaregio joint, this was the freshest and most balanced of them all.  And a not too shabby risotto.

Octopus and potato salad at Trattoria Alla Fontana

Spaghetti with shrimp and Wild Mushrooms at Trattoria Da Jonny

Ok, I admit, I’m fishing here a little.  But this was a very solid pasta, at least on par with many such pastas throughout this trip, with the delicate mushrooms setting it apart.  But the goal is to mention the one place where we were the only tourists.  Try the Tiramisu too

Spaghetti with shrimp and wild mushrooms at Trattoria Da Jonny

Mixed Seafood at Trattoria alla Maddalena in Mazzorbo (Burano)

This brilliant combination of flavors and textures probably led the trip in Wows.  Various kinds of large shrimp, small shrimp with grilled white polenta.  There was an amazing Bacalau-like spread made from a local fish called Dentice.  A fresher than fresh octopus salad.  And something they made from eggs of Sepia that tasted like crab that I couldnt get enough of.  Fantastic value to boot, and another big reason to visit Burano.

Trattoria alla Maddalena - mixed seafood

Baked Scallops with breading and carrots at Salvmeria

Notice a trend here?  This post is not for the seafood haters, many of whom probably stopped reading by now after seeing all this raw footage.  “Best meat dishes in Venice”, is a blog post I may have to reserve for another life.  Salvmeria (yes with a V) is a newish bar attracting mostly locals due to the location.  A location (Via Garibaldi) worth checking out.

Baked scallops with breading and carrots at Salvmeria

 

Meatballs at Vedova

Ok, I’ll throw a bone for the meat lovers still reading.  Although just about everyone, including accountants may find these delightful.  Its a dense filling of mostly bread, but so satisfyingly salty.  This is what this widow (Vedova) is known for.

Meatballs at Vedova

Tiramisu at L’Osteria di Santa Marina (top). 

The older I get, the more I appreciate a proper Tiramisu at the end of the meal.  I have never had so many great looking and tasting Tiramisus in one week, but this last one topped them all.  Here its deconstructed with waffles and slightly frozen cream resulting in different mesmerizing morsels.  A surprising hit out of many from this old timer.

Bonus: daPrette in Padua. 

The only thing we ate in Padua was a targeted snack.  Small Calzone or Panzerotto, which is dough stuffed with different combinations like ham cheese, tomato.  Talking about a fresh, super satisfying snack.  It’s not stuffed like a NY calzone but the dough is so delicious.  Great stop for a quick bite.

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Categories: Italy, Venice | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Traif – Hold the Gefilte

Traif - Foie GrasIn order to understand the name, one first needs to understand the location.  One block over to the south is Hasidic Williamsburg, the most ultra-Jewish neighborhood in a borough loaded with Jewish neighborhoods (around 5).  Once inside Hasidic Williamsburg you are not mistaken where you are.  This is the one place in Brooklyn I’m not comfortable touring with visitors and I declined such requests in the past.  Traif simply means “non-kosher”, a term not really used much even with Jews.  Practically next door is sister restaurant Xixa, the Mexican version of small plate Traif.  Xixa is pronounced Shiksa which means gentile girl, especially one that attracted a Jewish boy.

The Jewish husband cooks in Traif, while the Shiksa in Xixa.  This type of Chuzpah would normally attract a visit from the local Rabi.  Perhaps the logo of the pig with a heart in the middle on the Traif door legally prevents it from happening.  And the Shiksa in the other place complicates things further.  A third venture called Kish Mein Touchess would essentially entice a riot but thats just a rumor (which I’m starting here).  Traif is a pork-centric establishment after-all.  But you get the sense that even if you remove all the porkiness like the bacon around my drink rim Rude Little Pig (meh), this will still be a very good restaurant.

Traif

This is the type of place that expires on me over time.  Its 8 years old, generating nothing but praise and a steady young local crowd.  But at some point, due to the location you move on and forget all about it.  Its easy to get lost in the shuffle in this town that produces at least 20 new good ones every month it seems.  The menu reads Spanish tapas-like, but once you take a closer look, its tapas meets New American.  And while there’s always a risk attached to a tasting menu as such, the $55 chefs tasting at Traif is build to impress.

We started with a glorious welcome, a cup of creamy chickpea soup.   Then came perfectly seared scallops on a bed of mushroom risotto.  The intense mushroom perfume especially elevated those scallops nicely.  Its an odd one to start a tasting menu, but the heck with rules.  Simpler but tasty combinations followed like King Salmon with avocado, and Squash with cheese toasts.  Spicy tuna tartare over eggplant tempura was one of the more memorable early on.  If you are not a fan of Sweetbread, the riff on General Tso’s here may convert you.  Another hit was a gorgeously seared duck sporting a nice outer crisp.Traif - Scallops

Perhaps the most impressive dish of the night however was a seared foie gras with yukon potatoes, bacon, and sunny side up egg.  A tangy sauce and proper spices tying everything together and its Siman Tov ve Mazel Tov in your mouth.  Would love to come back to this.. alone.  On the other hand, the worst dish was the orange ribs.  Its tender!  Thats the only thing I can say about it.  Gnocchi with mushrooms and shaved black truffles – cant go wrong with that.  Finishing, in your face style, with bacon donuts with coffee ice cream beating the weak Panna Cotta.  All in all this is another GO folks!

Traif
229 S 4th (Williamsburg, Brooklyn)
Rating: 2.5 Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that
Recommended Dishes: Tasting Menu

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

The 100!

EWZ

Thank You!

Its been a fun ride to 100.  I met so many cool people from all over the world.  From the Maori family from New Zealand who decided to buy a Durian and eat it in a parking lot in Brooklyn’s Chinatown.  To the Italian barber from England who keeps sending me clients.  Needless to say first full year has been a story filled blast.  Thanks to everyone who took the time to review me on Tripadvisor, and to the extensive Tripadvisor forum community.  Your support means a lot and keeps me from losing weight going.  Special thanks to the nation of Australia!  Good luck in the next Eurovision thing

The Brooklyn, East Village, and Hell’s Kitchen tours took a life of their own.  They are like my children and therefore very difficult for me to choose.  There’s not a day that goes by without me thinking on how to improve them.  And sometimes, on occasion I even do something about it ;).  Like adding Green-Wood Cemetery to the Brooklyn tour, or the city’s best Almond Croissants to the East Village tour.  Thanks to all the awesome vendors that make this possible.

Here’s to the next 900!

Cheers,

Ziggy

Categories: New York City | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

The Curious Case of Gino Sorbillo, Pizza Legend

Sorbillo MargheritaAnticipating a famous Pizzaiolo grand opening in NYC is like anticipating flu season.  You hear about it in the media long before it arrives.  You wonder if you should do something about it this time, because you kinda like this life thing.  Then you end up forgetting all about it and doing nothing.  I dont recall ever standing in line for pizza, and I dont recall ever taking a flu shot.  Perhaps you can get the flu while standing in line in this brutal cold?  Not really sure, and not about to take any chances in what seems like the worst flu season in recent memory.  My family needs me.  I think.

If I could fit a longer title it would have said something like this, “Gino Sorbillo – love at first bite, hate at last”.  Ok, that sounded much longer in my head.  But it was really a tale of two visits for me at this highly anticipating pizza opening.  I should really do a third visit, but my wallet has other ideas in mind these days (Uncle Boons Sister, Madame Vo, Martina, etc etc).  More about the wallet thing later.  But we are talking about a pizza legend from Napoli opening his third location after Napoli and Milan.  NYC is certainly the right place to flaunt this kind of skill.  But we are talking about New York Pizza city after all.

If you read this blog longer than a few months or took my East Village tour, you know that New Yorkers live and breath pizza.  We have Neapolitan, Roman, NY style pie and slice joints, Detroit, Chicago, Staten Island, State Island bar, grandma, grandpa, and baby pizza at our finger tips.  Ok, I made the last one up but you get the idea.  New Yorkers are surrounded by pizza, and many of them are really really good.  That includes Neapolitans like Keste, Don Antonio, Eataly, and even some obscure places like Brunetti and Pasquale Jones dishing out well crafted awesomeness.  Opening a pizza place in NYC, and especially East Village requires some major chaloopas, but we New Yorkers welcome any such thing with open mouths.  Perhaps if the place was a little more unique like offer free flu shots with the pizza, New Yorkers would pay more attention

On both visits the place was almost empty.  Granted it was on my after touring hour of 3pm, but I still expected bigger crowds considering the hype.  The first thing I noticed is how large the pizzas are.  At around 13-14 inch they seem to be an inch or two larger than your average city Neapolitan.  That makes it even more of a challenge to fold these babies as the Neapolitans are naturally soggy in the middle.  We should be lucky that these imports are even cutting them for us.  Curious if they cut it for mayor De Blasio who visited both NY and Naples locations.

The first pizza I tried, Margherita with Buffalo mozzarella was outstanding.  Ingredients really popping, with a soft, airy crust that was folded almost like a calzone due to the size of the slices.  Even though the slices didnt hold their own, the flavors were there.  By my second visit I was ready for the Nduja which is becoming one of the more popular pies here.  The first few bites were promising but I got bored fairly quickly with this one.  The spicy salami spread (Nduja) was alright, but couldnt save the rest of the pie that includes uneven crust with Roman-like crunchiness at times.  This time each slice was totally falling apart when you lifted them to the point of (chills) fork and knife consideration.  And at almost $30 after tip/tax the cost/flavor ratio really took off for my liking.  A few blocks out at Martina, that ratio comes back to earth with individual pies costing a third of this, while still filling.

So while not a strong recommendation, I do encourage you to try this pizza legend and form your own opinion.  At the very least, you may get a Ratatouille moment reminiscing about your time in Napoli where you wanted to try the famous Sorbillo pizza, but just couldnt cross the street!

Sorbillo Nduja

Categories: East Village, New York City | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Osteria alle Testiere {Venice} – 7 Years!

Osteria alle Testiere - ScallopsIt was a timely cue to a timely nap.  Mrs Z could not contain her excitement and ordered her favorite drink (Spritz) the first chance she got.  Then she quickly rediscovered the old formula.  Long flight + drugs incurred during long flight + Spritz = Fall asleep during lunch at Al Portego, almost on top of the couple sitting next to us, sporting a strange looking smirk.  I dont think I’ve seen this expression before in the 20 plus years or so.  Like Robert de Niro smelling Durian.  But the good news was that we were 5 minutes away from our comfortable new bed at the exceptional Ca’ Amadi.  And I needed both of us well rested for the first highly anticipated meal of the trip.  Even though I havent had a successful nap since I was 0.

You need to understand the complexity of making reservations for this 8 table room in order to see the humor in this scenario.  A group of 4 walked in, noticed an empty table to the right, and decided to grab it, only to be asked politely to leave.  Helga, we are not in Nuremberg any more.  I had to grab the 9 pm slot (7 or 9) weeks in advance, and call from the airport in Frankfurt to confirm.  One of the more difficult tables to get, though nothing compared to the big tables of the big apple.  Reason being:  Ask any Joe and Schmo that knows anything about the Venice Seafood dining scene and Osteria alle Testiere will be mentioned in every conversation.Osteria alle Testiere

They are running out of room to display accolades on their door front.  Real accolades, not “Rated on Trip Advisor”.  Why would anyone put this on their window at this day and age is a mystery to me.  It’s essentially the equivalent of “We exist”.  Osteria alle Testiere also understandably running out of room between tables.  So before you get to to your seat, you need to quickly determine whether its more polite to showcase the couple next to you your front or behind, while they are chewing on their razor clams.

We started with one of the many seemingly timeless specialties. Scallops with orange and leeks in a light tasty broth that made the table bread to great use.  Grilled razor clams were simple yet so addictive.  I watched the owner carrying them to every table with envy, even though we just had them.  The only place we’ve seen them in Venice.  Unlike the outstanding Spaghetti with clams which we’ve seen everywhere.  Another popular dish here.Osteria alle Testiere - Gnochetti

But surprisingly, the little Gnochetti may have stolen the show.  Tiny firm, succulent potato pillows beautifully absorbing the delicate white wine sauce with fresher than fresh shrimp.  Tuna steak with a sweet aged balsamic was good but forgettable compared to the rest of the delicacies.  Semifredo-like Zabaione with just enough hazelnut liquor to give Mrs Z that look again, was a solid finisher to another outstanding meal at Osteria alle Testiere.  Washed it all down with a young but potent Soave.

“Dont wait another 7 years, I’m getting old”  The owner told us as we were leaving with a very satisfied looking smug.  I dont believe him.  Nothing has changed.  Things change in a much slower pace in Italy.  I will see you in 7 my friend!

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The Pure Thai Cookhouse Survival Guide

Pure Thai RatchaburiI started this blog in 2012, about 2 years after Pure Thai Shophouse opened on 9th ave.  Yes, it was called Shophouse back then, until two lawyers from Chipotle walked inside demanding a name change.  Little Pure Thai was apparently a threat to Chipotle’s brand spanking new Asian Kitchen Shophouse brand.  And what do you know, the threat was apparently real.  Long time readers of this blog know the story.  The initial idea was to create a sense of a Thai street Shophouse-like environment inside.  The place is after-all “if you sneeze you may miss it” tiny, cramped, slightly uncomfortable, and sometimes even smells a little.  My type of place.  But if not your type, this post may help.

It feels like Pure has been open a while longer considering how many times I’ve been there (somewhere between 50-100).  I used to go there with co-workers whenever I felt like it, until it got so popular that we would need to leave the office at 11:45, 15 minutes before opening.  We would sometimes even have practice drills and those who’d fail would be on a three month lunch probation.  Over the years, I’ve seen it become a lot more popular with tourists.  When I get emails from visitors (tour inquiries, hate mail, marriage proposals, etc), Pure is mentioned more than any other place.  But not only I’m glad its successful, I couldnt keep it a secret if I wanted to.  In the great sea of 9th ave Thai, there’s really nothing like it.  And while establishments next door are adjusting to mass tourism with increased prices and smaller portions, Pure continues to do it the only way they know how

Pure Thai Pork

Pure Thai Pork

There’s a reason why Pure has been on the Hell’s Kitchen Survival Guide from day one.  If you are simply after rainbow colored curries, and the basic Pad, Pure may not be the right place.  But as I will mention again soon, if there’s a curry dish on that board in the back, it instantly becomes the best curry on 9th.  Pure’s specialty is noodles, soups and old family, and regional recipes from all over Thailand.  Here’s a little noob guide to help you take advantage of this little gem

When to come:  As I mentioned this place has gotten very popular over the years.  If I’m solo I come whenever I want.  Two people can try as well with a solid backup option in mind (Danji).  They will call you when your table is ready if theres a long wait (plenty of bars on 9th).  But most convenient time is right when they open (noon), or 2:30 to 4:30 pm

What to expect:  You can look at the pictures to get a sense of the type of space.  Some of the friendliest people you will ever meet in NYC.  The staff functions like a family, some of which have been there for a while.  Sometimes they close for a few days for a retreat in a house they own upstate NY.  While I never felt totally uncomfortable there, this is as far as it gets from Michelin comfort.  You may sit on tiny stools, sharing a tiny table, staring at your partner or an old Thai action movie poster.  And then there’s the 80’s Thai disco to complete the moodPure Thai

What to order:  The reason for this post….

Green Papaya Salad – This is a classic Thai dish that you can get everywhere including all over 9th ave.  But Pure’s version is… well, pure, loaded with addictive heat and dried shrimp.  If you never had a Papaya Salad before, you came to the right place.

Roasted Baby Back Ribs – These ribs wont win the coveted Crazy Roscoe BBQ championship any time soon (Ok, I totally made that up), but this is finger licking magic, loaded with bean paste, oyster sauce, sesame, sitting on top of the luckiest lettuce on the planetPure Thai Ribs

Jungle Curry Fried Rice With Chicken – Some of the best simple looking fried rice dishes you’ll find in the city.  Fragrant, and spicy (notice a trend?  It ends soon).  Serves as a great side dish or main.

Ratchaburi Crab & Pork Dry Noodles – This is the Oprah Winfrey of the Pure dishes.  A dish liked by everyone.  A specialty of Ratchaburi region, where one of the owners (wife) hails from.  Its very mild and so a safe dish for the heat challenged, but satisfying enough for those seeking bolder flavors.  Scoop up the broth to the top and mix this baby well.

Pure Thai Ratchaburi

Wok Curry Paste With Pork (second from top)- More delicious heat.  Loaded with the best of Thai… string beans, Thai eggplant, bamboo shoots, green peppercorn, basil, and kaffir lime curry sauce.  One of my favorite Wok dishes here, along with the Chili Turmeric With Beef, and Roasted Chili With Shrimp

Sukhothai Pork Noodles Soup – One of my favorite soups in Hell’s Kitchen.  It got the depth, the aroma and all kinds of pork action.  Three different textures of pork in fact including craklings.Pure Thai Sukhothai

Special – When you come in, treasure awaits on the board in the back.  The mains are more exciting.  Often beef or shrimp sauteed with some kind of spicy paste, market fresh veggies, Jasmine rice, and a fried egg.  And as I mentioned before, if its curry, it instantly becomes the best curry on 9th.

Mango or Pumpkin Sticky Rice – Possibly the most important tip here since you can easily miss it.  Its the lone dessert, always on the board as a special.  Sometimes its Mango, Pumpkin and sometimes both.  Served on top of sticky rice, with sesame and coconut milk on banana leaf.  Its warm, with just enough sweetness, and simply heavenly.

Thai Iced Tea – Goes without saying.  This is a good one

Pure Thai Pumpkin

Pure Thai Cookhouse - Curry Special

Categories: Midtown West, New York City | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Best Ramen Dishes in Hell’s Kitchen

Ivan Ramen - Chicken PaitanYes, I know, I’m about 24 hours late on this.  Its beginning to feel a lot like spring here compared to what we experienced the previous 4 days.  Today I can finally wear just enough layers and headgear to be recognizable and to comfortably go to the bathroom during tours.  And I dont need to inspect the mummies I’m with every 30 minutes to make sure these are the people I’m touring with

Although during this cold spell I’ve been craving mostly Thai and Vietnamese soups, Ramen is usually the more common medicine.  So for the latest issue of W42st, that colorful magazine you see all over Hell’s Kitchen, I wrote about my favorite Ramen dishes in a neighborhood that is perhaps most Ramen heavy in NYC today.  Remember the four pillars of Hell’s Kitchen:  Ramen, Mexican, Thai and Gay bars.  Come to think of it, Gay bars is the only one I didnt write about.  I’m on it.

Chicken Paitan at Ivan Ramen Slurp Shop (top)- While the average folk go for the classic dishes that made Ivan famous, savvy W42st readers should opt for the latest and greatest.  The richness and deliciousness of a Tonkotsu without the heaviness.

Yuzu-Kosho Ramen at Mentoku – Solid Ramen with no wait in Hell’s Kitchen is like finding a parking spot within 30 minutes.  Love the way they cut that Chasu so thin, and that spicy, zesty Yuzu paste carries some serious depth.

Spicy Ramen at Totto (bottom)- Its that complex spicy sesame oil that transforms this thing into an umami of flavors.  On a really cold day, it doesnt get much better than this.  Ok, maybe Turks and Caicos.

Akamaru Modern at Ippudo – Its a good time to catch up with your virtual friends while waiting for your table.  Two hours later you can return the favor by posting this sumptuousness.

Tonkatsu with Spicy Black Garlic Sauce at Hide-Chan Ramen – If you like it ultra rich and porky, it doesn’t get much richer than this. Get the fried chicken too while you’re at it.

totto-spicy-ramen

Categories: Midtown West, New York City | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Trattoria alla Maddalena {Burano} – Best Value in Venice?

Trattoria alla Maddalena - mixed seafoodDuring my Brooklyn tours, we visit one of my favorite stores in NYC, Vintage in Brighton Beach.  Its Turkish owned featuring sweets and various foods from all over Europe and Middle East.  And every time I’m inside, it doesnt take long before I find myself staring at a particular brand of ice cream in the fridge, reminiscing about what I could only indulge in about once a year as a child.  Same type of thoughts come moments earlier when we visit Coney Island.  “Awwwwee”, said no one.  But today, in my late 30’s (ok, 47 to be exact), I can afford to eat one of those babies more than once a year.  And I do cherish every one of those moments.

You dont have to grow up poor to appreciate the little things in life, and good value.  A part of that is still in you.  But it does help.  After spending 6 days in Venice, two things seemed fairly clear.  I most likely saved the worst for last.  Meaning I wasnt overly excited about the last food choices, and things just couldnt possibly get any better.  Second thought was that I forget how expensive is Venice.  Maybe not NYC and London prices, but certainly above almost all Italian cities we visited.  Especially, possibly unfairly compared to neighbors like Sicily and Croatia for example.  But on the last day, things shockingly got better and for lunch at least, a whole lot cheaper.  I inadvertently saved the best for last

Trattoria alla Maddalena - Gnocchi

Burano – Now I understand!  It will make you forget about that Murano place you visited moments ago.  Like a slap in the face movie studio as soon as you get off the boat.  But its {probably} best to get off the Disney-like island for food as deliciousness awaits just across the bride on the sleepy island of Mazzorbo.  It is home to the Michelined Venissa and its vineyard.  And quietly playing second fiddle is the exceptional Trattoria alla Maddalena.  I dont know why I came with low expectations but I’m glad I did.

After a great start, a sizable plate of delicious mussels and clams, we were greeted with the most unique mixed seafood plate of the trip (we had a few).  A brilliantly balanced combination of flavors and textures.  Various kinds of large shrimp, small shrimp with grilled white polenta.  Polenta in all shapes and sizes frequent the menus of Venice and this was the best we’ve had.  There was an amazing Bacalau-like spread made from a rare fish (to me at least) called Dentice.  A fresher than fresh octopus salad.  And something they made from eggs of Sepia that tasted like crab that I couldnt get enough.Trattoria alla Maddalena - clams and mussels

Another thing we couldnt get enough of in Venice is simply prepared seafood pasta and gnocchi, and the gnocchi with crab here was another succulent hit.  Monkfish, like a good Skate, can be so delicious when fresh and just simply grilled.  I regretted not having more prior to this one.  In Venice, Panna Cotta is another item you want to consider every other meal or so (when taking a break from the incredible Tiramisus here), and this one topped with strawberry compote did not disappoint.

Add to that a plate of mixed veggies, a cheaper than water carafe of house white and the final bill of 86 Euros.  We had another great meal the same night for almost double that amount, and just about every such full meal we had was above and in some cases way above 100.  This was closer to the value we found just across the pond in Croatia earlier this year.  This is another major GO!

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Top 10 Dishes of 2017

Nur Eggplant

Lobster Fra Diavolo at Nishi.  A beautiful mammoth mess consisting of 1.5 lb flash fried salt and pepper coated lobster on a bed of garlic, chili and XO infused spaghettoni (emphasis on the chili).  Lobster comes cracked and ready to easily fish out perfectly cooked meat, while the escaped crunchy Tempura flakes adds some texture to the pasta.  Its a $62 triumph.

Nishi - Lobster Fra Diavolo

Chicken Paitan at Ivan Ramen – Not the Ramen that made Ivan famous, but the one that may convert the nonfans.  The richness and deliciousness of a Tonkotsu without the heaviness that follows sometimes.  The only dish other than the classics that broke the rule and became available in both Ivan Ramen locations.

ivan-ramen-chicken-paitan

Chengdu Fish Fillet With Pickle Vegetable at Legend of Taste – A spice loving family of 4 can easily share this outrageously delicious Szechuan soup.  I shared it with 6 and 4 in different visits.  Plenty of flaky flounder and chewy Enoki Mushroom.  Pleasant heat sneak up at you.  Even good an hour later when it cools down.  Only problem with this legend is that its in Whitestone, Queens.

legend-of-taste-chengdu-fish

Smoked Goat Neck at Ducks Eatery – A revelation of sorts.  Dont know why it took me so long to try it.  It may sound like something that is not everyone’s cup of goat, but once you see what goes into this dish, it may be hard to resist.  It redefines tenderness, succulence, and simply outstanding all around.  The only restaurant in NYC that serves this dish.

Ducks Eatery Goat Neck

Skate Wing at Gloria – Very few things in life can be as satisfying as a well cooked Skate.  Seems like once a year or so these days I score a good one.  At Gloria the skate is simply seared with butter and sprinkled with magic dust.  Opened by two Contra alumni, Gloria is the best thing that opened in Hell’s Kitchen since Gotham West Market.

Gloria Skate Wing

Eggplant Carpaccio at Nur (top)– Maybe the best looking dish out of the bunch, and the only vegetarian this time.  Like a Baba Ganoush gone wild.  Smoky, creamy, crunchy at times, and something you just want to “Scarpetta” the heck out of.  Not every spoonful is the same.  Chef Meir Adoni is sort of a legend in Israel opening his first in NYC, and just knows how to handle those veggies.

Snow Crab in Chinese Restaurant at Pinch Chinese – This is one of those dishes that you continue to think about months later, sometimes even at inappropriate moments.  Glass noodles with heaps of crab, dressed with an outrageously delicious fermented bean sauce with chilies and scallions.  The crab was plentiful but almost plays second fiddle to the noodles with sauce.  Pinch is an underrated gem in Soho

Pinch Chinese Crab in Chinese Restaurant

Sizzling Sisig at Pig and Khao – East Village and Lower East Side is slowly transforming into Sisigville (pig’s face parts come sizzling and topped with egg yolk).  And the best Sisig I had is at this Filipino inspired celebrity chef Leah Cohen’s flagship.  Very nice depth, flavor packed, and not as strong tasting as other Sisigs.  No additional sauce needed for this one.

Pig and Khao Sisig

Laab Ped Udon at Ugly Baby – Maybe the best thing to open this year is this fiery Brooklyn Thai from an old Brooklyn friend.  And this larby Duck Salad is one of the classics early on.  Complex, addictive heat, and unlike any Larb or larb-like salad you will ever have.  Spice level is fairly high in all dishes here, but in particular in those that have words like “Spicy” in the description.

Ugly Baby Duck Salad

Fromage Blanc Island “Cheese Cake” at Chikalicious Dessert Bar – Best dessert I’ve had this year came from an oldie but goodie.  Its delicate, elegant, and super light.  Like delicious fresh cheese mixed with cloud.  Its worth just going in order to meet the master Chika Tillman herself.  But if this dessert scene is a little foofoo for you, try the faster Dessert Club across the street and go for the Nutty Professor ice cream.

Chikalicious Cheese Cake

Other Noteables:  Soy Keema at Indian Accent, Goi Hed at Somtum Der, Spicy Lemongrass soup at Ginger and Lemongrass (new Lower East Side location)

Happy and Healthy New Year to all my readers and all the fun people I met over the year.  Thanks for a great 2017!

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Mastering Cicchetti in Venice

IMG_7382The best tip I can give you when you go to Venice with kids is this:  Start planning your return trip without them.  Meanwhile you scout, you observe, you take notes, and study.  And by the time you return you can pretend to live like a local for just a few days, and do crazy things like have a full meal before dinner.  You may even be proficient enough to able to spell Cicchetti without Googling, like the pro that you are.  Cicchetti (Chee-ke-tee) is Venice’s answer to the aperitivo (Aperitif).  Its the Venetian happy hour.  They are served in bars called Bacari, usually 5 to 7 pm, but some are open throughout the day for the rest of us tourists.

We travel because we want to see and experience different.  Taking a peek at Ziggy’s current culture back home, things are looking fairly reversed.  5 to 7 pm is when I have dinner.  At 9 when the Venetians go out to eat, I may have a small Cicchetti of my own.  And by 10 pm when the Spaniards (our next focus) go out to eat, we watch Netflix and fall asleep by 11.

In a way I was glad that my planned Cicchetti crawls failed.  I had to cancel a Cicchetti tour so we could attend the lighting of the Menorah at the world’s first ghetto (as they say “happy wife, happy Ziggy”.  Seriously who says that?!?).  And my self planned Cicchetti crawl was a complete bust for a variety of reasons.  But after visiting and enjoying a few Bacari during the week, I now get the sense that this type of forced Cicchettiing is the wrong approach to this social scene.  And while I see the appeal of a crawl, I also see the appeal of doing what the Venetian do.  Go to one, meet your buddies, and see how things shape up.  Or visit one when you dont have the time for a full meal, like before a concert.

Cà D’Oro alla Vedova – This is one “Widow” I would trust with my life.  They are famous for the meatballs and rightfully so.  Its a dense filling of mostly bread, but satisfyingly salty.  The white beans, grilled calamari, and octopus salad are delicious as well.

Cantine del Vino già Schiavi – One of the oldest and more popular Bacari around, specializing in nifty crostini like combinations like smoked swordfish, ricotta with walnut purée, egg Funghi and truffle cream.  These are my recommendations, but you can also look around and just pick what looks good to you.  English descriptions next to each one.

Bar Alla Toletta – Tramezzini, fat crustless sandwiches is something you’ll see all over Venice, and this is the best place to try it.  We are partial to the tuna

IMG_7273Salvmeria – The newest kids on Via Giuseppe Garibaldi block isnt too concerned about its spelling on Google (Yes, its a V in there) because its main aim is locals, not so much tourists.  Although far removed from the tourist route, this is one of the most picturesque streets in Venice.  The clever assortment of wine goes as far as Moldova.  Try the Salumi, and baked scallops with breading and carrots if they have

Al Portego – We had a full sit-down meal here.  But judging by the quality, and the army of Cicchetti lovers we had to fight in order to get to our table, this place looks legit.

IMG_7135Fritoin del Gondolier – Its more of a street food shack that can be as convenient as Cicchetti.  Here you can try some fried goodies like Mozzarella in Carrozza (a fried sandwich with fillings like ham) and fried cream squares on a stick.  Those creamy squares can work well with hot chocolate from Vizio Virtu not too far away

Instructions:  You dont need no stinking instructions.  Ok, I didnt mean to sound brusque there.  Too early in the morning.  But every place is different, and you need to remember that you are in Venice.  Chances are you are not the only clueless tourist inside.  Just smile, point and shoot!  And order a glass of red or white, or ask what other wine options they have available.

Categories: Italy, Venice | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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