Posts Tagged With: food

Pam Real Thai – Severely Underrated, Still

Pam Real Thai Kha SoiIts a tale of two Thais.  Pure Thai Cookhouse, a jam packed frat party at pretty much any time of the day, sometimes even just outside.  Pam Real Thai, eerily quiet even at peak times sometimes.  Pure has a limited, concentrated menu for Thai standards, while Pam has a megillah that includes all the color of the rainbow curries and other American Thai.  Pure is where I bring visitors to experience the vibe and some regional specialties you wont find anywhere else, while Pam is terribly unattractive and uninviting.  So why do I keep going to Pam Real Thai.

Well, for starters, for some of the same reasons mentioned above.  I dont want to wrestle tourists and locals for a table.  As local as Pure is, the number of tourists that go there nowadays increased dramatically.  I usually dont have much of a problem if I go solo as I can often get a seat on the counter facing the wall, but that means I get a seat by the counter facing the wall!  At Pam not only I get a full table, but I sometimes get an entire section all too myself.  I can spread my legs in all directions including Sharon Stone style and no one will bat an eye.  I can listen to a conversation from across the room (95% theater industry related.  Boy do they like to curse).  I can hear a lung collapse and call 911 before its too late.  At Pure I get to listen to Mandarin or French by the folks sitting  pretty much on my lap, while the rest is white noise mixed in with the bizarre but catchy Thai disco. Pam Real Thai Pad Ped

And then there’s the food.  Pam Real’s food can be, well.. unreal sometimes.  I’ve written much about its Oxtail soup, which inspired me to finally bring my wife and kids for a meal the other day.  That pleasant vinegary heat, and all those chunks of Oxtail which increased over the years means you gotta work it, and may even sweat a little.  But its just so damn good.  Same goes for their outrageous Khao Soi, a Northern Thai curry-like noodle soup packed with chili oil and topped with deep-fried crispy egg noodles.  On a cold winter day especially, the soups work like magic, while in the summer they can cure summertime sadness (worth repeating because its true).

I wish I could keep score of the goodies and badies (food blogger lingo) I’ve had here over the years.   The big complaint from me is that its a very full menu. Steamed Thai Dumplings here can be as good as cheap Thai dumplings or Shumai can get.  Pad Ped (red curry paste, bamboo shoot, basil, and bell pepper) with your choice of meat or seafood is always solid.  I go for the seafood mix (shrimp and squid) when I feel particularly naughty.  Same goes for the rest of the sauteed lineup like Crispy Pork With Basil, Pad Prik Khing (curry paste, long bean and lime leaves).  For the most part these guys are not shy with their spices.  There used to be a time when my go-to Thai dish was Pad Kee Mao (drunken noodles) everywhere and Pam’s seafood Kee Mao was head and shoulders above everyone else in this Thai rich hood.  The generously crabby and excellent crab fried rice is another must get when you are sharing.Pam Real Thai Whole Fish

Crispy fried whole fish is one of those things I rarely order at Thai restaurants because its usually almost purposely overcooked, albeit liberally spiced and herbed.  Here you can have your Red Snapper or another fresh fish a number of ways.  I dont recall the name we tried, but it was smothered with a mild sweetish chili sauce, almost like a mild red Yemeni S’chug.  While we enjoyed it I dont know if I would spend another $28 on it again. The irony here is that I prefer “Thai Style Fish” at menus in non Thai restaurants, like Cull and Pistol.

Pam Real is a solid go.  Dont worry about looks and reviews (very full menu + delivery = reviews all over the place).  With Thai restaurants in Hell’s Kitchen especially looks can be deceiving.   If you want beautiful chandeliers, go to Room Service.  For good honest food, go to Pam.

Pam Real Thai
404 W 49th St (off 9th), Hell’s Kitchen
Rating: Two Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that.
Recommended Dishes: Oxtail Soup, Khao Soi, Thai dumplings, Pad Ped, Pad Prik Khing, Crispy Pork, Pad Kee Mao, Crab Fried RicePam Real Thai Crab Frid RicePam Real Oxtail Soup

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

A Tour Around the World in HK

Meske

Meske

This month’s theme on W42st is travel.  This is just a small sample of countries you can visit while in Hell’s Kitchen, which you can find in the magazine mini zine.  Bring your passports.

Nano (Ecuador).  Abel and co. redefining ‘hole in the wall’ while dishing out all sorts of hearty traditional Ecuadorian specialties.  Try the homey Caldo de Bola soup

Meske (Ethiopia).  Our “Little Ethiopia” is very little, with only two restaurants right next to each other.  Here you get dirty and use the spongy Injera bread to scoop up all the goodies on it

Pam Real Thai (Thailand) –  Tucked just a bit outside of Thai mecca 9th is perhaps the best of them all (along with Pure Thai).  The Oxtail soup can cure summertime sadness.

Gazala’s (Israel Druze) – The only Druze dining in NYC.  I cant get enough of the Hummus here because the guests I bring never leave me much

City Sandwich (Portugal) – These are Portuguese inspired sandwiches served with a smile.  The best Pastel de Nata (egg tarts) in town, called here Pastel de Crema

Gazala's Moshakal

Gazala’s

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

Where to Eat Roman in NYC

Trapizzino wineI once asked a chef in Piedmont where he likes to eat when he goes to NYC.  Maialino, he said.  But dont you want to eat some Sushi, Thai, or Uzbek, something perhaps hard to get back at home, I asked.  Good Roman food is hard to get here too, he said.  Perhaps for the same reason you see Italians flock to Eataly here.  It took me a few trips to Italy to understand what Italians have been telling me all along.  There’s really no such thing as Italian food.

When in Rome, eat like Romans.  When in NYC, eat the world.  The world includes Rome last time I checked.  And Roman cuisine is one of the great wonders of the world.  It is precise, simple, rustic, and can be absolutely addictive when done right.  If you spent any time in Rome you would be rotating between Cacio e Pepe, Carbonara, Amatriciana, Gricia pastas and thin crust roman pizza, and then spend 6 months trying to find it back home.  Much easier to do so in NYC these days

Maialino – This is the first place that comes to mind.  Head chef Nick Anderer spent some time in Rome studying the art and getting all inspired for all of us.  While its not strictly Roman, it may be the only place that does all four classic pastas (all 4 for lunch, minus the Gricia for dinner), and does it well.Maialino - Cacio e pepe

Marta – Staying with the Anderer theme.  While there were already restaurants out here serving Roman style pizzas, Anderer made people like me notice them.  These are the round matzoh-like cracker thin pies that are generally available only in the evening in Rome (after 7:30).  So if you missed it on your cruise day trip, do not despair.  Just go to Marta and get the Patate Carbonara, arguably NY’s best white pie

Marta Patate alla Carbonara

Trapizzino – They are back baby.  The Roman snack made its debut first 5 years ago in Madison Square Eats by a team properly named, Broken English.  That debut lasted roughly 5 minutes seemed like.  But last week a roomy brick and mortar called by the snack namesake opened in Lower East Side.  Trapizzino are like smallish triangle pizza pita pockets stuffed with various ragus and combinations.  I enjoyed my Oxtail ragu last week, and come to think of it, the Oxtail ragu I had 5 years ago (I’m starting to suspect I really like Oxtail).  They also sell Suppli, the Roman Arancini.

Trapizzino Oxtail

Sullivan Street Bakery – This is the closest thing we have to a Roman bakery.  The only thing its missing is the foot traffic, and hence the constant flow of fresh pizza al taglio (sliced square pizza).  Its tucked deep inside Hell’s Kitchen, and other than the occasional tour group (there he goes again with the self promotion, so annoying), foot traffic is minimal.  But there’s a healthy wholesale business due to the outrageously good bread, and pastries like Bambolini (donuts) and Canottos that keeps those pesky tour guides and locals coming.

Sullivan Street Bakery

Lilia – This is not exactly Roman, and you may say not Roman at all.  But I came out of there feeling like I’ve eaten some of the best Roman inspired food I’ve ever had.  Problem is its now way too popular for a return trip, one of the toughest tables in town today.  But if you are one of the lucky ones, a must try is the Cacio e Pepe like Mafaldine, ribbons infused with Parmigiano Reggiano and pink peppercorns.  And cacio e pepe fritelle which are fritters filled with pecorino and black pepper.

Others – Lupa, Emporio (Roman inspired trattoria/pizza), Via Carota (for the very legit Cacio e Pepe), Barbuto (some of the city’s most notable Carbonaras), Morandi

Lilia Malfadini

Trapizzino

Trapizzino

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

Provo – Food for Thought 2017

IMG_5235

Thai Orchid Duck

On my first night in Providenciales, Turks & Caicos a couple of months ago I had a Provo nightmare.  It started fine, with me walking on the beach with people that I didnt come here with.  All sorts of random people, like my high school music teacher.  But things turned at some point, to the point where I was awoken with a little sweat slowly dripping down my forehead.  On our little walk, we lost track of time, and I missed breakfast time!  Which also meant I missed Seven Stars’ new omelette station.  Yes, the Provo nightmare is a little more subdued than regular nightmares we have at home.  During a dream last night, my oldest fell from the roof of Madison Square Garden on a sled.  Long story!

But lets get straight to eating.  The biggest takeaway from the last trip is that we should start limiting trying new places.  As much as I try to find some new spots for you and me, this is just not working.  The old guys just keep chugging along, while new places, and especially resort places keep pretending and delivering odd experiences.  There’s one exception however.

Caicos Cafe – Nothing new here.  Our usual first and last stop.  But I start to get the sense that these guys wont be around here for too long.  Wahoo Carpaccio is the same sea butter awesomeness self.  Got two grilled calamaris this time to avoid World War Z.  The lobster Fra Diavola didn’t do it for me this time around. Just missing some of that old pop.  But the old Oriechiette with pork sausage ragu is back with a vengeance, showing very nice depth.  The Octopus starter here is a slap your sister wowster!  Brilliantly cooked on top of this delicious “I can’t believe this is not hummus” chickpea mousse.  Black Tagliolini continues to be a must, and the steak and ribs are very underrated here.IMG_5066

Solana – In NYC, during my Hell’s Kitchen walks, I show visitors the various Thai restaurants and how to tell between the good and not so good.  A big clue is in the looks department.  The ones that look like dingy dives are far better than those with sexy looking rooms with expensive chandeliers.  Such is the case in some cases with Provo, and especially with Solana taking the place of EWZ fave Seaside.  A marked improvement in the looks dept, with dumbed-down food. The blackened fish sandwich is the same Swai as before but not blackened enough, hence blander.  An “award winning” Conch salad paled in comparison to Seaside’s Peruvian conch salad.  Fried Calamari plate looked gorgeous, but a quality and quantity fail.  This is owned by the Vix group people, and I just dont think they care about ingredients nearly as much as looks.

Flamingo’s – The only news here is that they now accept CC.  In other news, the Curried Grouper is still the same melt in your mouth flaky goodness.  An island classic that requires some research (like reading this blog) to know about it.  This time we also did some dirty dancing with a fine jerk chicken and passable ribs.  But you come here for lunch for the grouper and rum punch.IMG_5086

Le Bouchon – Nothing to see here, move a long.  Another great meal at good ol’ reliable LB.  They keep experimenting (on me sometimes), stretching that menu, and stretching that sidewalk to the point that no one can see the board anymore.  Soups are still great.  Escargot is still perfection.  Octopus Carpaccio is outrageous (but not cheap).  The steps to produce it read like IKEA instructions.  Au poivre still rules the island Games of Steak.  And on this night a nice crispy snapper with buttery Beurre Blanc sauce.

Simone’s – The strong exception as far as new places go.  We tried it for lunch last time and liked it enough to come back for dinner.  Its the resort area Three Queens if you will, but still a small schlep from the hub to La Vista Azul resort.  Simone, formerly with Sharkbites, is a sweetheart, and treats family like customer!  Oh wait, I think I got it backwards.  The “Conch Ceviche”, now that Seaside is gone, perhaps the Conch Salad to beat.  A beefy fresh Wahoo, like a thick and juicy, flavor packed Swordfish.  Local fishermen dine here both times we were here.Simone's Conch Salad

Thai Orchid – If you follow this blog, you know how much I love Thai food.  So it may sound odd that this is my first time trying Thai Orchid in Provo, but really it shouldnt be. Crispy Duck was exactly what I expected. Crispy, understandably dry, but quite good especially once you add some chili sauce. A lot of nice flavorful crackling action. The Snapper Choo Chee was pretty good too. It’s a thicker, dryer red curry.  With a fresher Caicos Snapper it would have been a chooooo chooooo! instead of choo chee.  Ok, I try.

Chinson’s – Goat curry fix, Check.  Spiciest goat curry out there, which is surprising considering how sweet their Chinese fried rice is and other dishes.  Jerk chicken was on point. But the best thing surprisingly was a pulled pork sandwich. Heaps of juicy pork with a sweetish and sour sauce.  Note to self, again… you dont like ginger beer!  Chinson is now on the regular rotation, graduating perhaps into dinner nextIMG_5181

Cocovan – A new addition to the Coco Bistro family, an Airstream parked in the CB parking lot operating only at dinner time. Perhaps a play on words on Coq au vin.  Love CB, but didnt love, nor quite frankly got Cocovan.  The Shrimp tacos were meh.  Didn’t taste much shrimp, nor blackened, nor “coconut hummus”.  Duck tacos were more like it if not a little dry.  Sweet and sour Caicos lobster tasted like fine rock shrimp tempura.  Lamb lollipops tasted like an average, slightly overcooked baby lamb chops you get at your nearest kebab house with an $8 per lollipop price tag.  20 mins, $120 later with some of us still hungry, now what do you do.  It felt like an overpriced resort lunch with familiar flavors to me, but I have no doubt this will be popular.  I would rather go to something local like Caravel.  Or perhaps a niche player, serving fresh fish tacos, or high quality burgers.

Hemingway’s – If there’s one place that feels like home.  Our first meal on the island over 10 years ago, and nothing changed.  That includes the women running the front who see our girls grow and hairline shrink.  We come here for lunch and order just two things, fish tacos and fish and chipsIMG_5208

Pavilion – First visit to the newish (2 years?) fine dining at the Somerset, in the old O’soleil (aka O’SoSmall?) place.  Hits and misses throughout, and essentially a one and done deal for us.  Good conch spring rolls.  Tasty Poke style tuna cubes sitting on top of avocado that was not fresh, with even less fresh banana chips on the side. C’mon, at a place like this you can’t serve this.  Well cooked, supersized lobster was the star of show, beating the snapper.  Grouper, a major fail.  Crispy battered into a mushy, oversized fish and chip gone horribly wrong.  Ambiance of a typical hotel restaurant.

Sweet T’s – Fried chicken stop on the way to the airport.  Best value on the island

Stay hungry my friends!

Categories: Turks and Caicos | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Via Carota – The Road More Travelled

Via Carota FunghiWhen I’m wrong, I’m wrong.  When I make a mistake, its usually a big one.  After all, I am human, and I need to be loved just like everyone else (as the great Morrisey once put it).  Its a rarity for me to come back to a place I didnt love initially, and thankfully it was only a year in this case.  Thanks to the power of social media, and foodies whose opinions speak much more volume than the rest of the media, we can now make New York Italian great again.

Another rarity:  I’m writing about a place I’ve only dined at solo.  When an Italian restaurant with this caliber opens in NYC offering the same great menu all day long, one needs to take advantage during the day.  One of the biggest differences between eating in Italy and the US is the disparity between lunches.  In Italy, lunch is taken almost as seriously as dinner and in many cases there are no separate menus between lunch and dinner.  Since I eat mostly out during lunch, you get extra brownie points for this kind of menu.

But something tells me Rita Sodi and Jody Williams know a lot more about Brownies than I do.  Even prior to this at I Sodi and Buvette, they proved they can flat out cook.  Mario Batali is a fan.  At Via Catota they created the type of corner eatery where you meet your friend for lunch after a long trip in Thailand.  The initial hype stemmed from the names involved, was probably unfair for a place like this, but many Villagers took advantage early on.  Today, dont be surprised to see the place full during lunch.Via Carota Cacio e Pepe

Its worth coming back here just for the Funghi.  I love a good Mushroom dish, but very rarely I get a dish that speaks to me in this kind of language, Yiddish.  Oyster, Maitake, Trumpet and one more I didn’t recognize perfectly grilled with all that wonderful earthiness, on top of smoked grilled Scamorza, with shallot, garlic, and olive oil vinaigrette.  A mishegas combination that works oh so beautifully.  It could be NYC’s mushroom dish to beat.

Yesterday the Rabbit tasted like a mighty fine fried chicken, with wonderful herby notes throughout.  Nicely done, but with the caveat that it may taste very much like chicken when its fried like that.  The Tonnarelli Cacio e Pepe here is as legit as it gets west of Rome.  I preferred it over the popular Pappardelle with wild boar ragu which tasted very average to me on the first visit. Another interesting dish is the fagioli all’ucceletto, a tomatoee stew of beans and sausages.Via Carota Rabbit

The rest of the menu is a a vegetarian delight, ranging from the very Tuscan Ribolita to what seems like “best of market” veggies.  Regulars pay attention to the rotating array of specials which doesnt leave much room for menu criticism (pasta offerings may seem light at first glance).  The most famous dish here is perhaps the Svizzerina, a cross between steak tartare and a rare bunless burger.  Will be back with family or friends to this one sooner than later

Via Carota
51 Grove St
Rating: Two Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that
Recommended Dishes: Funghi, Rabbit, Tonnarelli, Fagioli, SvizzerinaVia Carota

 

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

What’s Cooking in Hell

IMG_5546Corner Slice, the Ivan Ramen backed, much anticipated pizza quicky in Gotham West Market taking over the Blue Bottle Coffee space finally opened.  The thin square pizza slices are cooked in fancy electric ovens, as I imagine the only allowable method in the building. Dough ferments for a long time, and just about every ingredient made in house.  My first slice was a simple mozzarella, tomato, basil.  Slightly on the greasy side, but nice and pungent tomato sauce.  But the other day my Sopressata was a little overcooked and overpriced.  They have their reasons I’m sure but one measly Soppressata slice the size of pepperoni doesnt warrant $4.  Another nice addition to GWM, though I would have loved to see something a little more interesting

Ippudo added more deliciousness to the menu.  This time vegetarian Sesame based Ramen that even non vegetarians like yours truly can appreciate.  The Karaka Spicy New York I tried is simply outstanding.  Rich, wonderfully complex broth, without the heaviness that follows sometimes from Tonkotsu. Its been a weird Ramen season for me as I’ve been frequenting the heavyweights (Ivan, Totto, Ippudo) instead of the small guys like Mentoku which I really like.  And I find myself more and more slurping non-pork based ramen like vegetarian and chicken.  Whats happening to me!IMG_5576

Chaan Teng is being added to the Survival Guide, even though not everything I tried there was a slam dunk.  Even for family dining, sharing dishes like their take on General Tso’s Chicken, far more interesting than something like Carmines.  Just try to avoid all the figurines in the back wall and by the bathroom, unless you think its time to have that talk with your son.

Removing Poulette from the guide.  Last experience was way too Boston Markety for me.  Where did all the Herbes de Provence and juiciness go?

Nano Ecuadorian still great

Puff Cha Ramen still sucks!

The other day on the Hell’s Kitchen Tour we bumped into Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cake at Gotham West Market.  I briefly spoke to Luke (I just called him Luke, no idea what his real name is.  Its like calling Tom Cruise, Ethan) who told me they were shooting The Defenders starring all three superheroes.  I imagine The Defenders will defend the Kitchen from all evil, like Ezra, the Azuri Cafe Falafel Nazi.  I welcome this development

Last week the tour bumped into Ivan Ramen as I mentioned on another post.  I met him before many times but always fun when we cross paths during the tour.  This time while my guests, a family from Toronto were enjoying his Pastrami buns.  Check him out in the current season of Chef’s Table.  On the same day we bumped into a crew from Univision doing a special on Tehuitzingo coming sometime in April.  I will post a link when I find out

Stay hungry my Amigos!IMG_5578

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

Boston Mini Report

img_5452Pressed for time a little bit today so I will just cut to the chase.  Visiting colleges (in case my new career doesnt go as planned) was first priority, but snuck in a few good ones, and some mehs…

Island Creek Oyster Bar – A bit of a mixed bag but fine overall.  Very good oysters (forgot what they were).  Grilled Razor Clams were fresh, meaty, a little bland but fine.  Excellent clam chowder.  The best dish was the lobster roe noodles.  Not quite the brilliance of Lincoln’s Strozzapreti (NYC) similar roe noodles, but a wonderful combination of tender short rib, heaps of grilled lobster, oyster mushrooms, and pecorino.  Monkfish special was a a little dry and meh.  The Black Bass from Virginia with gnocchi was more like it.  Great flavor and perfectly cooked.  Fish and chips the kids requested but hardly touched were average.  A little too much batter.img_5440

Row 34 – Best meal of the short trip by quite a distance.  More excellent clam chowder, Lobster Bisque.  Mussels cooked well but on the small side.  A very solidly juicy Buttermilk Fried Chicken.  Nicely done.  Warm Buttered Lobster was lobster roll perfection.  Like best of Lobster in a beautifully buttered bun.  $29 is french fries territory for us New Yorkers, but maybe its just not a Boston thing.  The daily whole fish was nothing short of sensational Dorade smothered with a chick pea, farro, harrisa, olives and a touch of Tahini concoction.  Silky smooth Butterscotch Pudding a nice and proper finisher.img_5453

Salty Pig (lunch) – Menu looked really great initially but lunch turns out only pizzas, sandwiches, and charcuterie.  My bad for not inspecting properly prior.  They tease you with their slow motion pasta making in the open.  Charcuterie board is a poor value of 2 meat choices (4 pieces each), a sad tasting pecorino and pickled stuff.  If you remove everything but the meat you are left with very little meat for $17, and not much of a shareable option.  Calabrese pizza with Broccoli Rabe, Scamorza, Eggplant, Calabrian Chili, a combination that just didnt work.  Excellent Funghi though – Hen of The Wood (Maitake), Fontina, Crema di Prosciutto, Farm Eggimg_5473

Tenoch Mexican in Medford (Near Tufts) – Original plan was to stop at Courthouse Seafood on the way to MIT but 90 minutes turned into 60 and seafood mission was sort of accomplished by this point.  Solid tacos and burritos in what seems like a popular stop.

Oggi Gourmet Foods (Near Harvard) – Did the trick with its fresh salads, sandwiches and jerk chicken.

Amorino gelato on Newbuty.  Pricey but never disappoints.

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Legend of Taste – Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

legend-of-tasteThis one is for the 1%.  No, not that 1%.  But the 1% of the readers that can make it to this one.  The location is, well, let me put it this way.  When you sit around with 5 hounds (as in Chowhounds), and one of the topics of conversation is where the F are we and what do you call this area, you know we are way out there.  And when you find yourself in an area in Queens with so much parking wealth that you dont know what to do with it, you start questioning if you are still in city proper.  But, its close to someone out there.  And if I can convince one person for this one, preferably a local, its well worth it.

Simply put Legend of Taste is some of the best Chinese food I’ve had in NYC, and probably the best Sichuan.  You almost find yourself expecting an old grungy looking place, but instead I found a clean and comfortable room that looks more like your mainstream New York Chinese establishment.  The entire window front is completely bare except for one very important note.  More important than “Zagat Rated” or “We are on Trip Advisor”, or most of the crap you see on windows nowadays.  Its a copy of this original post.

Even the menu on first glance looks like your corner Chinese takeout.  You have to dig in and dig well into this one.  The waitresses speak English, which is important not only with ordering the right items, but the right heat level.  And it was, naturally, completely empty as Mr Leff put it, at least by the time we left.  There were two or three other tables occupied when the six of us (Including this gentleman) came to this gem.  At no point things went south, but I will try to make it easier by ranking the food from best to worst

Chengdu Fish Fillet With Pickle Vegetable– Easily shareable between six and simply outstanding. It has some sneaky heat that with soups one needs to be a little careful.  Plenty of delicious flaky flounder, and I especially enjoyed all the Enoki Mushroom action that sent me straight to Fei Long supermarket in Sunset Park a couple of days later.  Even good when it was cold an hour laterlegend-of-taste-chengdu-fish

Szechuan Style Crispy Eggplant – This was an obvious order coming in and the talk of the town coming out.  Everything about this was great, from the crunchy bell peppers (looks like chili ) to the light fried eggplant, to the peanuts.

legend-of-taste-crispy-eggplant

Double Cooked Sliced Pork – This was probably the surprise of the meal.  By now you got this wonderful taste sensation going, and this had this welcoming sweetness. Almost paper thin slices of pork with Leeks almost as delicious.

legend-of-taste-double-cooked-pork

Cumin Lamb– Another winner. Fragrant, thin tender slices of lamb with cumin you can smell from across the the round table

legend-of-taste-cumin-lamb

Beef with Long Horn Pepper – A simpler version of something similar I enjoy at Szechuan Gourmet 56 on occasion. Missing perhaps garlic chips that could have made it better. But still very solid, and again, tender wonderfully cooked meat which is the theme throughout it seems

legend-of-taste-beef-with-peppers

Smoke Ribs app – Tastier than they look. Smoky, dry but delicious.

Szechuan Pork Dumplings – A little doughy and flat, but with great pungant filling.  Aided much by the excellent sauce

Bok Choy with Mushrooms – Maybe the only dish I didnt care for, but only because I had better versions of it (Han Dynasty). If this would have been my first crack at it, it would have been amazing!

Coparing the joy/cost ratio to the great Indian Accent (the previous post) is almost comical, and somewhat reflected in my score below.  All this for $23 per person.   It felt like I just stole a little boy’s lunch money, while kicking his pet monkey in the gut in the process, before taking the monkey too

Legend of Taste
2002 Utopia Pkwy, Whitestone
Rating: Three Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that
Recommended Dishes: Chengdu Fish, Crispy Eggplant, Double Cooked Sliced Pork, Cumin Lamb, Beef with Long Horn Pepper

Categories: New York City, Queens | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Indian Accent Delights, Stutters

indian-accent-soy-keemaBoy meets girl on Jdate.  They quickly fall for each other, get married and live together for 7 years until the eventual breakup due to rent increase.  Or, boy meets girl, and within 20 minutes they cant stand each other and know this is not gonna work.  Or, boy meets girl, and he is simply not sure.  She seems attractive, potential is definitely there.  She got this sexy British Indian accent but the personality is just not a slam dunk match.  Perhaps more suited for a friends with benefits role.  Indian Accent, the Melania Trump of Indian dining in NYC today, falls closer to that last category.  But instead of meeting Melania, you meet Bernadette from Big Bang Theory.  There’s potential, but false advertised.

Indian Accent is sprawling but cozy, comfortable, and most importantly quiet.  Plenty of room between tables for you server to stand right beside you, with his behind pointing to the other table, without sitting on it.  A rarity in NYC these days.  It has all the elegant traits from the decor to the furniture, with the service properly restrained and relaxed. Well, until we opened the menu.indian-accent-beer

By the time I finalized my order, about 20 minutes, three waiter trips later, it felt like I just survived a flight with Harrison Ford.  I landed somewhere, I’m not sure where, but I made it.  The main culprit is that when you order from the three or 4 course menu, you can order anything you want from any category.  Four mains, four apps, four desserts if you want, anything.  This flexibility sounds good on paper but it creates a certain level of stress since with this kind of menu you really have no idea how anything is really prepared and tastes like.  Just about everything sounds like something interesting you are willing to try.  And to add fuel to the fire, while Mrs Z was looking at a new menu, I got a very old one somehow.  Mine had a very fine sounding Snapper in it, while hers had scallops.

Just like the name suggests the food is gourmet with an Indian Accent.  The free starter of a couple of blue cheese ‘naanlettes’, and a pumpkin soup infused with garam masala was a nice preview of things to come.  But the first course of sweet potato shakarkandi and  potato sphere chaat was a quick let down.  The shakarkandi especially felt a little too heavy on the tongue without enough of a counter.  The chaat was more like it but forgettable.  BTW, after much deliberation with the great looking cocktails, once I saw they have Hitachino Nest, the old Japanese fave light beer, decision made.  While she really liked her Tiki Johnny.

One of the issues I find here is that unless you order uniformly (one app each, one middle course each, etc), the dishes will arrive sort of all over the place including potentially three at once.  Hard to fully enjoy the dishes with the thought of a stranded Malcolm in the Middle there still cooking.  With that said, the middle course produced the top results by far.  Before you get the finger licking awesome crab claws, you are presented with equipment that can be used to search each other’s cavities.  I wish there were more than a handful of cauliflower florets though.  The pathar beef kebab with bone marrow, although  fully cooked had the consistency of foie gras. Very good.  And then we attacked Malcolm in The Middle, aka the soy keema with quail egg (top).  Like a sick Bolognese ragu with no meat in sight.  Perhaps the dish of the night.  Bravo we said, that’s more like it.  Only to come back to earth.

You get to choose a Kulcha, stuffed bread, filling.  The NY Jew in me chose the pastrami with mustard.  But after a few bites the jew went “You meshugenah, should have gone with your jewish gut and chose the mushrooms, or just gone with her selection of Chicken butter”  One of the joys of marrying a jewish woman is that you dont need to make a decision for the rest of your life.  So why start now.   The pastrami stuffed naan thing just didnt work for both of us.  It works better at Ivan Ramen, a mile away in Gotham West, in the form of pork buns.

For mains we went nuts and got the ghee roast lamb, a deconstructed roti, or make your own Indian tacos if you will.  It comes with 4 different chutneys and pickled veggies.  The lamb stew was delicious no doubt, and the tacos I experimented with ranged from good to very good.  But at the end we couldnt help but wonder if this is just an excellent version of something you can find in the lex/28th vicinity.  Her Chicken Kofta was like a cooked flaky ground chicken meatball that didnt wow nor disappointed.

It was a difficult decision to pass on the more talked about makhan malai in favor of the doda barfi treacle tart but one bite out of that and I was like “yeah, still got it!  I think”

Indian Accent
123 W 56th St (6/7) Midtown West
Rating: Two Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that
Recommended Dishes: crab claws, pathar beef kebab, soy keema, ghee roast lambindian-accent-doda-barfiindian-accent-butter-chicken

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

Sugarfish – 15 Shades of Grey

sugarfish-sushi‘Twas the night before Sushi.  I was shaving.  That’s when I  usually do most of my deep thinking.  Like when was my last pizza.  Where did I park the car.  And how does Sugarfish handle the huge service demands of an Omakase for an entire house.  How do they serve a house full of people, an 8 course meal and/or whatever else people ordered.  30 minutes into my meal in the Iphone section (aka counter area) of this new Sushi sensation, I found my answer.  They manage to do it by making a lot of mistakes.

My neighbor to the right was the first one, and the luckiest of all.  She got an entire plate of something she ordered and already ate.  Six mouthwatering pieces of Albacore, Salmon, and something else I didnt recognize, to which she asked if she can take it to go (they could not take it back in this case and give it to someone else).  My neighbors on the other side meanwhile kept getting free fish to the point where they got tired rejecting them.  And after I finished the final dish I whispered to the lucky female neighbor, “I’m just not gonna ask for the check until I get lucky”.  I hope she understood I was talking about food, and that this was not just a terrible pickup line.sugarfish

But I didnt get lucky.  Not in that way or the other.  Instead all I got is delicious fish, and the experience of NY’s first affordable Omakase, or so they say.  For Sushi purists Omakase is not Omakase without the masters behind the counter doing there thing, but I’m not a Sushi purist or even a snob.  Instead I was sitting near the Organic Edamame dispenser where everyone’s first course comes from.  A snack that is a small salty upgrade over your corner sushi.  The kitchen looked crowded, and the frenzy was all around me.  It was all exhilarating and comical at the same time.

Sugarfish was conceptualized by Kazunori Nozawa who converted the name into an empire on the west coast (10 locations as of this writing).  The name refers to the melt-in-your-mouth nature of the fish, mimicking that of a child eating sugar cubes.  Which raises another important question.  Am I a bad parent?  I never gave such delicacies to my children, and I’m pretty sure this was not mentioned in Parenting for Foodies.  Mine leapfrogged straight to sushi and aged beef.  But I’m not taking any chances, oh no.  And so before they find themselves on a couch somewhere telling stories about their abusive dad, I’m serving brown sugar cubes as a first course this entire week.sugarfish-tuna-sashimi

The sushi is indeed good at Sugarfish, but your chopsticks and proper skills may not.  One of the first things you will notice is the loose warm rice which is done on purpose, but a difference maker in more ways than one.  In order to apply the right amount of sauce on the fish, and not the rice, you’ll need an MBA in Chopsticks.  So on my next visit, I plan to go the unconventional way of applying sauce, using other methods

At Sugarfish, just about all first timers order one of the “Trust Me” menu sets, which in a way is mislabeled.  It suggests an element of surprise, but really means “Trust Me, you’ll get the same thing everyone else gets since we opened”.  I ordered the middle Trust Me which sounded adequate and it was.  By far the Albacore, a tuna relative, and a nicely marbled Salmon from Scotland were the stars.  The tuna Sashimi early on elevated by the terrific sauce.  While the Sea Bass and Yellowtail bland in comparison to the previous set (the stars) but good enough.  And the handrolls to wrap it up, featured the same beautiful  marriage between cool and warm, but also fine Nori that tasted like the sea and had a nice snap.  And just like that, you can trust them to bring you the check when its all over.

Sugarfish
33 E 20th St (5th/Park), Flatiron
Rating: Two Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that
Recommended Dishes: One of the Trust Me sets

 

Categories: Gramercy, Flatiron, New York City | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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