Posts Tagged With: NYC dining

Z-List Update – December 2022

First post pandemic update, and a complete overhaul really.  I reduced the number from 50 to 30, and now sorting by neighborhood.  30 is just easier for me to update and keep tabs on.  Still sticking to Brooklyn and Manhattan as these are the two boroughs tourists and I mostly frequent.  Only rule as usual is $10-100 per person.  Meaning nothing should cost over $100 or under $10 per person.  That eliminates cheap eats like pizza, and pretty much covers 99% of sit downs in NYC.  An affordable list for the people, by the people (Ok, by one person, but you get the idea). 

Additions: Dell’anima, Milu, Anton’s, Nish Nush

Removed: Too many to mention. Some closed, some lost their mojo, including sadly Momofuku Ssam. Yep, for the first time no Momofukus on the list. From three to zero.

The complete list

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

House of the Red Pearl – A Hidden Dragon

I spend roughly 3% of my time at home looking for my glasses. Last time after an intense search I found them hanging on a shirt I was wearing. I spend more time looking for a particular item in the pantry or fridge. Half of the time I forget what the item was at some point, and sometimes the act is prompted by something totally unrelated. Like when I’m about to head out to rake the leaves, but open the fridge instead. You might as well take the eggs out and make a Shakshuka while you at it. “Why are you making Shakshuka, we just ate, and I asked you to rake the leaves”… “Remember when we talked about being more spontaneous?”.

Anywho, I didnt have to spend much time looking for the House of the Red Pearl because I knew exactly where it is. But unless you cheat, you can have an especially frustrating scavenger hunt looking for it in the new Tin Building by Jean-Georges. Since no one can pronounce or spell his last name, we simply refer to him as Jean-Georges, or JG. For the same reason it is easy to forget that Cedric of EWZ fave Wayan and Perry St. is JG’s son.

There used to be a time when a food hall would open in NYC, people paid attention. Nowadays, with more than 30 halls and food courts scattered all over town (Source: EWZ Research) you forget about it the day after opening. But Tin Building in South Street Seaport is worthy of a detour. I used to visit SSS when I was younger, but for the past 20 years or so, it has become a place we regrettably have to pass while biking to another place. But with the rejuvenated Pier 17, the openings of Momofuku Ssam, The Fulton (also by JG) and other notables, you may want to include SSS on your Brooklyn Bridge or Staten Island Ferry day. I wont go into detail describing Tin Building, except to say that the percentage of items I wanted to taste or purchase here is quite high. Its an elegant, and extremely thoughtful food hall.

If you thought that entering a Minetta Tavern takes you back to the Gilded Age, wait until you open the curtains of House of the Red Pearl. An old fashioned, yet modern Cantonese speakeasy. A movie set really, with some comparing to something you may see in a Bond flick, though for some reason Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon came to mind. No reservations can be made yet, and I hope it stays that way. The building just started opening on Wednesdays after a soft opening so closed on Mondays and Tuesdays for now.

Much of the motivation behind the menu came from Jean-George’s time spent in Hong Kong. Wontons or Dumplings in Chinese restaurants rarely excite (unless of the soup variety). The Pork & Shrimp Wontons here did. Perfectly balanced, with just enough heat. Eggplant, cooked down to the consistency of Enoki Mushrooms, with beautiful scallion-garlic notes to match. Currently not on the menu but most definitely should be. Flavors reminiscent of Danji’s sick tofu. On a return visit there was zero question whether I’ll order the Bacon Fried Rice again. In fact it was the main reason for the return visit. One of the more complex fried rice dishes you’ll find in the city.

The hope is that they dont dumb down the menu over time as it gets its share of tourists. And that the larger dishes improve just enough to be on par with the small. The Stir Fried Lamb, seasoned well, but not quite the best Cumin Lamb version in NYC as Eater’s Sietsema states. Not enough cowbell. Mala Chicken, the spiciest item on the menu, wont exactly “Mala” your mouth and will probably get some heat for that from the die-hards, but its agreeable nonetheless and I would still order it again. The roasted monkfish was perfectly fried, though the accompanied sauce was a bit too pungent for the fish. We devoured it of course.

The mains will satisfy most, but not as flawless as the smaller dishes, and one particular dessert. Mango Sago Pudding is an especially proper finisher, and quite the looker as well to match the space. The House of the Red Pearl is unique, fun, and features an ingredient driven menu full of hits. Go!

House of the Red Pearl
96 South St, South Street Seaport
Recommended Dishes: Wontons, Fried Rice, Eggplant, Mala Chicken, Mango Sago Pudding

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

Pasquale Jones – Downtown Funk

Pasquale Jones Diavola

May 3rd, 2019 Update:

Its been 977 days since the last update but who’s counting.  Not me.  There’s an online date calculator out there in Google land.  I use it to sometimes to count days between vacations, colonoscopies, etc.  But there’s not much to report here really, except to remind you that PJ is awesome, albeit a bit more touristy these days.  It seems that the borders of Little Italy have expended and every time I’m here, I’m surrounded by savvy tourists.  The last time, we overheard from the next table… “according to my research this is one of the best Italian restaurants in NYC”.  That followed a “Dont you dare dad” by my oldest, which meant: please dont strike a conversation with them, we are having a nice family lunch, and you are like 0 for 40 (tourists we met who read the blog).  Ok, fine!

More tourists, in addition to more restaurants by the group (Legacy Records) can very easily lead to loss of focus, but I’m not seeing any evidence of that.  Pastas like the Tagliatelle with lamb (when they are out of rabbit), fennel, Pecorino, always solid.  Its an ever-changing pasta lineup.  The great Agnolotti or Guinea Hen Cappellacci with lobster mushrooms, that’s not really a mushroom, I had once, are long gone.

The pizzas are still fantastic but I cant make myself try something other than the Diavola or clam pie whenever I’m here.  The Braised Leeks have been on the menu since day one pretty much, and its indeed good.  And on the last visit, the proximity to Little Italy made us try the Veal and Ricotta meatballs which were exceptional, tho the family was not too keen on the too bitter accompanied Broccoli Rabe.  Still a go!

August 29, 2016 Update:

The great Pasquale Jones is now experimenting with a new concept.  They offer on weekends something called “Lunch”.  Yes, its not a typo… lunch on weekends!  No Mimosa, no French Toast, not even an eggs Benedict pizza.  Just lunch.  Last weekend after a quick egg sandwich and a Mimosa at home, I decided to check it out for myself and the results may shock you.

It was great!  Sure, I was dreaming of bacon and eggs on occasion, but a small price to pay when the pizza is this good.  And by pizza, I mean I’m essentially stuck with the Diavola and the now city wide famous LittleNeck Clam pie that is growing on me.  While I much preferred the spicy Diavola last time, the clam pie with a little drizzle of the accompanied Calabrian Chili is creamy and satisfying enough to continue ordering it.

IMG_3898

But I really come here for the pastas.  Hard to pass on the pizza especially when you bring new people here, but the pastas and the whole package is why I’m adding PJ to the Z-List on the next big update (as soon as this month).  What attracted me to this very experimental lunch was the Tajarin with corn and summer truffles.  Knowing that Tim Caspare who spent some time in Piedmont, knows how to handle those Piedmont(ish) classics.  Sweet pastas dont particularly sound very sexy to me, but this one may have changed that notion.  Rich, creamy, but at the same time very summery.  The “Mezze Rigatoni”, their slightly heavier version of the Cacio e Pepe was good as well.  And I’m still yet to have the Pork Shank for 2 (or 3) that everyone’s talking about

If you go for lunch (or dinner), check out the new soft serve and Poke window at Seamore’s next door.  They are serving now coconut lemongrass ice cream from Oddfellows which is fantastic.  And/or if its open, get the chocolate chip cookie and coffee at Maman.  Strong candidate for best cookie in NYC! IMG_3895

March 20, 2016 original post:

I rarely get them this young.  As tempting as it is to move up the food blog ladder, I prefer to wait for the growth and maturation that comes at the other guinea pigs expense.  After some time, they figure out where the holes are, what works, what doesnt, and suddenly the world is a better place.  This is one reason that one can not simply go by early opinions from first respondents who care only about being on that elusive first Google page (I’m looking at you Infatuation).  But sometimes, something jumps at you, and you feel a little anxious.  In this case it wasnt so much the team of Charlie Bird behind this thing, but the third wheel, a dude from Cotogna from San Francisco that got my attention

Cotogna was the mistake from last summer.  Instead of sticking to the initial plan, I substituted Cotogna with the very attractive Piedmont heavy menu of Perbacco.  The kind of menu sorely missing in NYC.  The result was a less than stellar meal that featured Piedmontese classics that deviated the wrong way from tradition.  Irony and Redemption came seven months later when Tim Caspare of Cotogna, now at Pasquale Jones, whips a perfectly executed Agnolotti dal Plin that would make any Langhe nonna blush.

Pasquale Jones KitchenWhen she said “It will be around 90 minute”, Unlce Boons, Bar Goto started creeping into my head, as its about 85 minutes longer than I normally like to wait for a table in NYC.  But my dining partner, aka first wife, was still 60 minutes away.  And besides, I’m right by my favorite area in NYC… Little Italy!  By the way, a little free tip to restaurants out there:  When you say “It will be around 90 minute”, smiling is the wrong way of going about it when delivering the sad news.  While smiling is generally a good idea, and the #1 rule of fight club, this is not one of those moments.  Just like “your grandma died”, or “the vasectomy didnt go as expected sir”, dont underestimate the sadness of the news.  Smiling while saying it, makes you look like TAO

I wont keep you in suspense.  This was one of the best meals in recent memory (I started eating cashews religiously which extended “recent memory” to about a month).  Pasquale Jones is essentially a more comfortable, more ambitious, better pasta, slightly less creative Bruno Pizza.  The counter facing the action is the way to go, but you dont have choices here.  You get what becomes available.  Attention to detail starts with those super comfortable counter seats.  The ones you can lean back comfortably when you feel the need to unzip.  Reservations through Resy – Forget it.  Only about 20% are out there.  On to the food…Pasquale Jones Cauliflower

Charred Cauliflower – This is one those simple dishes where you get pretty much what you order.  Sure there was blood orange, and some heat to go along, but the star was simple cauliflower that was still raw enough to maintain that crunchy texture.  Although the dish was fine, I did have some serious small dish envy, like the Braised Leeks which looked like the sexiest grilled calamari.

Clam Pie – Good.  I get the sense that this is their early signature pie.  I’m not the biggest white pie lover unless its something like Marta’s Potato Carbonara where the ingredients talk back to you (I should probably see someone about this).  This is not one of those, but satisfying nonetheless.  Perfectly charred, chewy, flavorful dough.Pasquale Jones Clam Pie

Diavola – More like it, but I’m more of a Diavola fan overall.  I wasnt about to order two pies but couldnt decide here.  A bit more heat than the average city Diavola.  Neapolitanish, very similar to Motorino which is a compliment.  Some may expect more refined pizza (a la Bruno) in a place like this, so its important to adjust those expectations.  Its about the total package.

Agnolotti – I already touched on this beautiful dish.  This is a good example of pasta that stays true to its origin, unlike the rest of the Agnolottis out there in town.  This is buttery, explosive, pillowy Agnolotti dal Plin packed with Guinea hen, sage and Pancetta.  PANCETTA!

Rigatoni – Another simple but very solid dish.  Perfectly cooked dry rigatoni, with sausage ragu carrying a nice depth.  Get this!Pasquale Jones Agnolotti

Pear dessert – Proper finish.  They only offer one dessert, different each night I believe.  Baked pear with Vanilla ice cream, olive oil and candied hazelnuts.  The two brick ovens are utilized heavily here.

Zoe Amber Ale – Maine Beer Company.  Solid hoppy, aromatic, complex Amber.  Highly recommend this one

But Ziggy, in Paragraph #4 you used the word “Ambitious”.  What’s so ambitious about Rigatoni, Diavola, and pear.  Good question Timmy.  This is where the steaks and fish come in.  And by steaks I mean those huge $125 dry aged rib eyes that you can hang in your basement and practice on them like Rocky.  They also offer a beautiful pork shoulder, and a Verdure section to boot.  Watching them handle all that meat for two hours, gave me all sorts of impure thoughts.

Cementing the belief even more that pound for pound, Nolita is the best eating neighborhood on the east coast.  This is also another no-topping establishment.  I failed to talk about it, because its really a non-issue until you are reminded about it when you you get the bill.  Its like Santa suddenly shows up to kiss you softly on the cheek

Pasquale Jones
187 Mulberry St (Kenmare) – Nolita
Rating: 2.5 Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that
Recommended Dishes: Diavola, Clam Pie, Meatballs, Leeks, any pasta

Pasquale Jones Rigatoni Pasquale Jones Pork Shoulder Pasquale Jones Dessert Pasquale JonesIMG_3897

Categories: New York City, SoHo, NoHo, Nolita | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Introducing the Z-List Map

danji-big-korean-breakfastSince so many of you are paying attention to this Z-List for some reason, I figured I might as well help you out with a little map.  The same map appears at the bottom of the Z-List page.

Happy Thanksgiving!

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1D349Rvw-nDSZ2D13p0c_7gkL9rA&usp=sharing

 

 

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

The Z-List

Annisa Squid

Updated: November, 2022

First post pandemic update, and a complete overhaul really.  I reduced the number from 50 to 30, and now sorting by neighborhood.  30 is just easier for me to update and keep tabs on.  Still sticking to Brooklyn and Manhattan as these are the two boroughs tourists and I mostly frequent.  Only rule as usual is $10-100 per person.  Meaning nothing that should cost over $100 or under $10 per person.  That eliminates cheap eats like pizza, and pretty much covers 99% of sit downs in NYC.  An affordable list for the people, by the people (Ok, by one person, but you get the idea).  Big Mazal Tov to the winners!

Hell’s Kitchen

Dell’anima

My new favorite Italian in HK, replacing Mercato.  A tricky recommendation as its quite far from your traditional Italian in every sense.  Its far from the theaters, though that didnt stop us doing it pre-theater a few times.  Its inside a food hall with the best seats being at the bar facing pasta virtuoso Andrew Whitney.  The pastas here, especially the menu staple Tajarin are very strong, and more along the lines of traditional Italy Italian as opposed to the typical Theater District red sauce American/Italian.  But I wouldnt overlook the sick Pollo al Diavolo, and the small but potent octopus.  Really just about every dish I had here in many visit was faultless.  600 11th Ave (44th)

dellanima-tajarin

Danji

When chef Hooni Kim is not busy judging cooking competitions in South Korea, or writing cookbooks, you may find him at this HK Korean staple.  Once you find the menu (hint: its in the drawer on your lap), go with the classics like the sliders, wings, and arguably the best tofu dish in NYC.  And then cautiously proceed to the Bibim-bap, fried rice with egg, and whatever else chef Kim got in store that day.  346 W 52nd (Hell’s Kitchen)

Pure Thai Cookhouse

LumLum may be giving it a run for its money as the top Thai in “Little Bangkok” 9th ave, but I still think Pure Thai is the best one.  Its tiny.  If you blink you may miss it.  I used to go here when they were called Pure Thai Shophouse until two lawyers from Chipotle showed up demanding a name change (long story with a happy ending).  There is no curry of every color on this menu like its competitors, but a nice selection of regional specialties like the Ratchaburi with pork, crab and dry handmade noodles made in the “shophouse” like corner inside.  The ribs are usually a hit.  Papaya salad, jungle curry fried rice, and the always reliable fiery pork with curry paste.  And as with any place, if there’s one dessert on the menu, get it.  Coconut sticky rice with pumpkin custard is the bomb (and better than LumLum’s version).  766 9th Avenue (51st) 

Pure Thai Ratchaburi

Capizzi

Don Antonio may be the top Neapolitan in the area, Sacco the best slice, but I feel more at home at Capizzi.  It feels like an old fashioned Staten Island/Brooklyn style pizza parlor with high quality pies.  Raw materials is top priority here.  The pepperoni for instance is cut thick and has an extra oomph to it.  Same attention to detail with the rest of the ingredients.  Pretty close to Times Square though the immediate area by Port Authority is not super attractive these days.  547 Ninth ave (41st)

Chelsea

Jun-Men Ramen

A tiny fast-casual with a surprisingly potent full menu.  Every time I eat here, I discover something new.  Last time I discovered my Achilles Tendon, as it started to bother me.  Before that some of the best chicken wings I’ve had in memory (two weeks these days give or take).  Before that it was the fried rice, and before that the mesmerizing Uni Mushroom Mazeman.  And the ramen here, not too shabby.  I’m partial to the Kimchi Ramen with bits of juicy Pork Shoulder.  From the outside the place looks like a nail saloon, but from the inside it looks like a modern nail saloon with an open kitchen.  249 Ninth Ave (26th)

Jun-Men Ramen Uni

Tia Pol

West Chelsea is known for some of the city’s best Spanish Tapas for some reason, and Tia Pol, one of the originals, is leading the pack.  You can probably play Six Degrees of Tia Pol with the number of related Tapas spots in the area and all over town.  This is the perfect spot to bring your mother in law as its dark and noisy.  Especially if you MIL is into squid ink rice, best I’ve had in this city.  Octopus salad, Patatas Bravas, shrimp with garlic are all dependable, and so are the Bocadillos (sandwiches) for lunch.  This is as fun as it can get in Little Barcelona (it will catch on)  The excellent Salinas is another good one in the area.  205 10th Ave (23rd)

Cull & Pistol

I put on my helmet and designer protective cup and brave the crowds to eat in this Chelsea Market boat to table.  The seafood menu constantly changes.  But the high level cooking and freshness is constant, partly due to the seafood short commute, sister Lobster Place next door.  Try the lobster roll (done with a lot more love than next door), Spanish or Portuguese octopus however they make it that day.  Whole Daurade is fried to Thai style perfection.  And if they have it, you must try the insanely good Ecuadorian prawns.  The oyster bar, and its happy hour is another draw. (Chelsea Market)

Cull & Pistol Lobster

Flatiron/Nomad

Rezdora

This list is heavy on the Italian for a reason, but if I have to pick just one, it would probably be Rezdora.  Its the closest we have to Emilia Romagna cooking, arguably the tastiest of the 20 regions (though Piedmont may want a word).  More specifically much of the inspiration comes from Modena, perhaps the most underrated Italian gem as far as food goes.  It didnt take long for Rezdora to earn a Michelin Star, so its a bit more popular than when I first recommended it.  No point for me to recommend specific dishes here as you cant really go wrong, especially with the pastas.  27 E 20th St (Broadway)

Milu

A good and refreshing example of what happens when students of fine dining open a fast-casual place instead of another pricy joint.  Essentially an Eleven Madison Park and Shake Sack love child created by ex EMP chefs.  The draw is cleverly crafted Asian bowls that includes quality rice, greens and a protein.  I sort of settled on the Szechuan style chicken, but everything else I tried except for the duck last time was solid.  As far the cheap eats go it doenst get much better than this.  333 Park Ave S (25th)

milu-chicken

Marta

There has been a wave of fancy pizzas openings in NYC over the years but none I feel are quite like Marta specializing in cracker thin Roman pies.  As with many of them you can have a fine meal without even touching the pies.  The rabbit meatballs, chicken are standouts.  But skipping the pizza would be a mistake.  I sat there when they first opened and watched then boss Nick Anderer throw out pie after pie until they got it right, and the Patate Carbonara is one of the glorious products of that hard work.  Although after the pandemic they revamped the pizza lineup, and now include a killer Calzone.  29 East 29th Street (Madison)

Scampi

Scampi is the Bomba!  Bomba is the simple Calabrian Chili sauce that transforms every dish at Scampi including the namesake dish.  Its PJ Calapa’s first solo after making a name for himself with Bouley, Nobu, and Michael White’s AltaMarea group.  The Mafaldini Scampi is so good, they named the restaurant after it.  I like to eat half of it before adding some Bomba for the other half.  And dont overlook the Razor Clams, Langoustines, and the rest of the pastas.  30 W 18th St (5th/6th)

Scampi Mafaldini

West Village

Anton’s

Another very solid Italian(ish) in a very competitive Italian heavy West Village.  When places a such start opening for lunch you know they are doing something right.  After being in charge of the kitchens at Maialino and Marta, Nick Anderer finally left Union Square Hospitality Group to open his own place.  That means an ingredient driven menu with some focus on nostalgia, like the Bucatini Baczynsky with ham from the ageless Baczynsky meat shop in East Village.  Even the simpler dishes like Spinach-ricotta Ravioli are not to be missed due to the high degree of execution and attention to detail.  570 Hudson (W 11th)

Jeju Noodle Bar

I hope you listened to me before the Michelin star, higher prices and crowds, although its been fairly popular ever since it opened in 2017 pretty much.  They also now require ressies which makes them a bit less accessible.  I’m risking having too much Korean or Korean inspired on the list (update: I removed some so no longer true).  This may be a reflection on my taste or the current state of NYC dining, but at the same time, they all so very different.  Jeju is stylish, playful, while dishing out flavor packed stuff.  While the kitchen specializes in Ramyun, the Korean Ramen, its best to order it as part of the Tasting Menu, one of the better values in town (assuming they still offer it).  679 Greenwich St (Christopher)

Jeju Noodle Bar - Ramyun

Minetta Tavern

Out of all the city’s old-timers, this is perhaps the most distinct.  Minetta doesn’t look like much from the outside on busy McDougal, but once you get through those red curtains, its like stepping back in time.  There aren’t many restaurants out there that are consistently mentioned in various “Best” lists.  The Black Label burger set the trend for fancy aged beef burgers, and the Cote de Boeuf is still one of the most sought-after meats in the city.  Even if you skip all that and have other menu classics like the Pasta or the Oxtail terrine, chances are high for a very memorable meal.  113 Macdougal St (Minetta Lane)

Fiaschetteria “Pistoia” – See East Village

Via Carota

This has quickly become a West Village institution and one of the most well rounded Italian in the entire city.  No reservations makes a place like this much more accessible.  The most I waited for a table is about 20 minutes.  The same menu for lunch and dinner is greatly appreciated (and somewhat rare for places like this), and the many daily specials make it even more interesting. Although many of staples like the Cacio e pepe, chicken, and the sick Funghi with smoked Scamorza makes ordering specials here virtually impossible.  51 Grove st (Bleecker)

Via Carota Cacio e Pepe

East Village

Hearth

An EV staple that’s consistent while constantly evolving.  Marco Canora seems to have found the right formula, creating a menu that is essentially for everyone… Meat freaks, health conscious, pescatarians, vegetarians, vegans, accountants, everyone.  Some of the old classics like the Rigatoni and Gnocchi, and the impressive Spatchcock chicken are joined by new classics like Cecina and Rabbit.  And that wine bible is still perhaps the NYC wine list to beat.  Canora is also the founder of Brodo, the attached bone broth kiosk which is the absolute best way to pass the day before Colonoscopy.  403 E 12th St (1st ave)

Fiaschetteria “Pistoia”

While so many Italian establishments bill themselves as “Tuscan”, “Roman”, “Venetian”, and eventually get sucked into a multitude of regional offerings, Pistoia only knows what to do one thing; Pistoian food!  The family owns a restaurant in Pistoia, near Florence, Tuscany, and for the most part replicating some of the same Tuscan specialties in Alphabet City.  Good luck finding Pici and Pappa Con Pomodoro (A Tuscan classic of stale bread in tomato soup) on the same menu anywhere else in NYC.  From the staff, to the menu, and wine, its as authentic as it gets in NYC.  Now also in West Village  647 E 11th St (Ave C)

Fiaschetteria Pistoia prosciutto

Bowery Meat Company

Every time I sneeze a new steakhouse is born in NYC.  The competition is quite fierce these days, and so you need to do something unique to stand out, like this modern steakhouse in the Bowery.  It got a little bit of NOLA in it (broiled oysters), a little bit of Italian in it (sick Duck Lasagna for “2”), a fan-freakin-stastic cheeseburger, and a lot of great steak.  Try the Bowery Steak, a ribeye cap rolled into a hockey puck shape.  Arguably the best part of any animal, and something you wont find in any steakhouse.  Don’t believe me?  Ask Justin Bieber9 E 1st St (Bowery)

Somtum Der

Isan by way of Bangkok.  New York has seen a Northern Thai renaissance of sorts over the last decade led by this freshly Michelined Somtum Der.  Quite possibly the strangest Michelin Star in history once you consider Somtum’s casualness and low prices (Bib Gourmand is more like it).  Update:  Looks like Michelin agreed and “downgraded” accordingly :).  But the place does rock with its bold, unbashful flavors.  Dishes like the fried chicken, marinaded grilled pork, and just about the entire fried rice lineup will make you happy (and sweat).  But the namesake Somtum, spicy Papaya salad is unmatched in NYC, and not for the faint of heart.  Colorful, sexy place for colorful sexy readers.  Now an outpost in Brooklyn.  85 Avenue A (6th)

Somtum Der - Goi Hed

Lower East Side

Pig and Khao

Probably a top 5 for me.  “Top Chef” Leah Cohen quietly continues to dazzle with brilliant Southeast Asian creations, adding dishes seemingly by the day.  Classics like the Sizzling Sisig (third generation Sisig with pork head and egg), and Khao Soi are there to stay.  But on a recent visit, its the newer stuff like a spicy Thai mushroom salad, Malaysian fried chicken, and corn that left me speechless.  68 Clinton St (Rivington)

Soho

Pinch Chinese

Take a break from Armani Exchanging in Soho and relax in this quirky elevated Chinese.  Its an offshoot of Din Tai Fung, a popular Taiwanese Dumplings chain.  The Dumplings reign supreme alright but dont miss out on the ribs, Dan Dan Noodles, Snow Crab, the sensational whole chicken, and one of the most celebrated Peking Duck’s in the city.  Not to mention the great lunch specials (that sweet cauliflower!)   A serious looking crew behind the glass (like watching surgeons doing brain surgery) is balanced by humor all over the place.  177 Prince st (Thompson)

Pinch Chinese Crab in Chinese Restaurant

Nolita/Little Italy

Wayan

Cedric Vongerichten (Jean-Georges’ son) latest in food heaven NoLita is a Tour de Force.  Aided by his Indonesian wife Ochi, Wayan dishes out all sorts of complex bold flavors.  The menu features Indonesian inspired recipes utilizing French techniques.  Try the Satays, Sashimi, Clams, Yellow Chicken, and do not leave without slurping on those sick Lobster Noodles.  One of the most exciting new openings of 2019. 20 Spring St (Spring)  

Tribeca

Nish Nush

This is another fast-casual quicky, and my favorite Falafel in the city.  I used to bike to this place 30 minutes when I worked in Hell’s Kitchen.  Thats 30 minutes there, and 40 minutes back after a full tummy.  It may not bring you a Ratatouille moment but its probably the closest to a typical Falafeleria (is this a word?) in Tel Aviv.  I’m partial to this location rather than the newer one in FiDi.  The freshness here including the fluffy pitas is a difference maker.  You can also have a very good Sabich, Hummus among many other things.  The menu expended over the years making it easier to include Nish Nush on this list.  88 Reade (Church)

Nish Nush - Falafel

Khe-Yo 

Soulayphet (Phet) Schwader and Marc Forgione’s Khe-Yo is the place you bring a spice loving foodie on a first date.  Chances are you’ll get lucky that night with an assortment of Laos inspired bold flavors in a buzzy, sexy atmosphere.  They start you off here with a bang.. bang bang sauce, a fiery concoction of lime, chili, and fish sauce.  Along with the complimentary sticky rice it sets the tone for a spice extravaganza.  The complex Jurgielewicz Duck Salad, the quail of dreams, the crunchy coconut rice balls, like a Havah Nagila in your mouth.  And if they happen to have the half sister American Cut inspired Pastrami spiced Rib eye that night, go for it.  157 Duane St (W Broadway)

Brooklyn

Kashkar Cafe

This is where you get your Uyghur fix!  A gem like no other on this list, but you will need to schlep there.  Kashkar is located in Brighton Beach, a predominately Russian neighborhood except that its becoming less and less Russian and more Uzbek, Georgian, Kazakh.  And its reflected by the dining options all over.  Uyghur is an Ethnic group living in Eastern and Central Asia including Uzbekistan where Kashkar’s owners are from, and as far as I know Kashkar is one of the first if not the first Uyghur restaurant in NY if not the US.  One of the specialties here is the chewy hand pulled Lagman noodles that you can have as soup or dry with meat and veggie stews (try the dry Geiro Lagman).  The Kebabs are also solid  1141 Brighton Beach Ave (Brighton Beach)Kashkar lagman

Faro

Bushwick is the Big Bang Theory of NYC neighborhoods.  I rarely make the effort to visit, but when I finally, do I wonder why.  There are all sorts of interesting dining options here, and Faro with its well deserved Michelin (update: lost it) may be leading the pack.  Its an elevated, seasonal farm to table Italian in a Bushwicky industrial space.  The pastas especially are standouts like the Cappelletti stuffed with sweet corn purée, topped with a slow cooked short rib ragu.  But with a constantly rotating menu, there are always surprises.  436 Jefferson St (Bushwick)

Werkstatt

Probably our favorite overall restaurant in Brooklyn these days.  A few years back I didnt add this eclectic Austrian to the list partly due to the location.  But now I realize that its the location that makes it so special.  You can pretty much draw a line separating Brooklyn’s gentrified with the not so gentrified half and you’ll find Werkstatt positioned smack in the middle.  Pair it with a visit to Historic Prospect South, Prospect Park, or Brooklyn Museum.  Some come for the Schnitzel, Goulash, and “Best Pretzel in NYC”, but these days I go for the numerous fish specials like Skate wing.  Its a severely underrated neighborhood joint that should be the envy of every neighborhood.  509 Coney Island Ave (Flatbush)Werkstatt Pretzel

FOB

Fresh Off the Boat (FOB) homey Filipino BBQ on picturesque Smith st.  They dont make ’em like this anymore.  Unpretentious, not the glitziest decor, with much of the focus on what goes on your plate.  The Chicken Adobo is getting better with age (well it is an overnight chicken after all), and the Fish Inihaw is soundly in the must category for us each time.  And those wings and that sauce belong in a competition somewhere.  271 Smith St (Carroll Gardens)

Hometown BBQ

There was a time when finding good BBQ in the city was as difficult as watching a constipated baby.  Those days are officially gone.  Those that still say that need to come out of the their shell, and go straight to Red Hook.  It took me a while to warm up to Hometown, but now I cant get enough of it.  Hometown’s quick and growing fame reached a point of a major destination stop and ‘Franklin-esque’ weekend lines.  The spare ribs, and the legendary brisket are unmatched.  But what sets Hometown apart is the craftiness and execution of the normally secondary items like the super moist chicken, and the addictive sausage.  454 Van Brunt St (Red Hook)

Lilia

It took me 4 weeks to train my Google to stop showing me results for Ilili (Gourmet Lebanese) whenever I searched for Lilia.  Missy Robbins, Barack Obama’s favorite chef in Chicago (when he was a senator) dishes out freakishly good pastas like the Cacio e Perfect Malfadini and Agnolotti.  The vegetables all over the app section featuring the best of Union Square Market.  Great simple meat dishes, and all sorts of “Little Fish” and “Big Fish” hugging the menu.  She must be a PJ Harvey fan.  567 Union Ave (Williamsburg)

Lilia Agnolotti

Categories: New York City | Tags: , , , , | 19 Comments

Louro – Another Fun Option For the Village People

Louro - House Made Tortellini

November 17, 2014 Update:

Another fantastic meal at Louro a few nights ago.  The place hasn’t skipped a beat since it opened two years ago.  Sometimes you get caught up with all the sexy new openings and forgetting about the current neighborhood spots that continue to hit on all cylinders.  The place is packed every night seems like, with the ultra talented chef Santos still doing his thing.  In addition to the constantly rotating seasonal menus, Santos continues his Supper Club tradition with the popular Monday night theme dinners like “Lobster night”, “Breaking Bad”, and “Breaking Bald” for those villagers suffering from Frontal Baldness.  Ok, not really, but tonight they do have “White Man does Szechuan” which looks very interesting.

We tried a variety of items again including some of the old favorites, and on this night new favorites emerged.  Like the tremendously flavorful Kimchi Fried Rice (below) which comes sizzling hot loaded with calamari, mussels, shrimp, clams, and egg juice poured table side for you to mix in.  Plenty of pleasant heat and plenty of joy with this one.  More great flavors came out of a simple Lobster soup from its clean, well balanced broth.  And then came the Venison (below).  Two medallions expertly cooked, rare, just slightly seared on the outside.  Because venison is so tender and lean, cooking this more will result in eating two hockey pucks.  It came with some pasta (looked like Cavatelli) as part of a groovy smoked onion jus.  Only the why-so-bitter Broccoli Rabe stood in the way of perfection.

The chicken last time caused me to start seeing other chickens!  On other menus that is.  While this time the chicken was still juicy, tender, very nicely sauced and veggied (Yummy Yam and nicely cooked Brussels Sprouts), it was missing that perfectly crisped skin.  Still a very solid dish overall.  The Monkfish delicate tomato sauce and rice was replaced by a wintery bean cassoulet, and the Octopus Bolognese is still the same old hearty, rich Octopus Bolognese.  One of the staples on the menu along with the Piri Piri Shrimp

This is just about the most eclectic, fun, constantly changing menu I know.  Each dish is well crafted with great tasting sauces and veggies, and the missing “Sides” column almost feels refreshing, as you get plenty of “Sides” with each dish.  Choosing what to order from this menu is as complicated as choosing the manliest umbrella on a rainy day.  Do I go with the white circles, colorful polka dots, or black with pink piggies.  Why cant we have a black umbrella like normal families

Louro Kimchi Fried RiceLouro Venison

April 8th, 2013 Post:

My house smells of fish!  It smells of fish for the past week now. And get this..  we haven’t cooked any fish in the past 2 weeks and so don’t have the slightest idea where the smell is coming from.  Wish it would smell of curry or cumin instead.  Don’t get me wrong, I love fish, but I don’t want my house to smell like it.  Same goes for chicken soup.  When Mrs Ziggy starts making it early in the morning its as if a guest just came in, said hello, threw up, and immediately left without cleaning his mess.

What does it have to do with Louro?  Absolutely nothing.  I’m not even gonna make a clever transition with this like “we had to escape the house and go eat at Louro” because its not really true.  I’ve been planning this meal ever since I saw the Best Dishes of 2012 thread on Chowhound.  I just had to try that much talked about gnocchi dish since my family sort of became gnocchi junkies over the past few years.

5 month old Louro by David Santos is another great addition to the West Village dining scene.  At first glance inside I was a little surprised at the upscale diner look.  Booth tables right by a long bar.  It gets less diner-ish in the back however.  The food is sort of Portuguese, Italian, American and as usual we tried quite a few items.  Here’s a great, good and ugly breakdown.

The Great:

Piri Piri Shrimp – Really enjoyed them.  Not as good as Aldea’s preparation and similar dishes we’ve enjoyed in Portugal but cooked and seasoned very well nonetheless.  Not too spicy so the kids were able to enjoy as well.  Love anything Piri Piri

Louro - Piri Piri ShrimpOctopus Bolognese – So good.  All about the sauce.  Tiny bits of octopus and goose pancetta?  (sort of a Pancetta goose blend I suppose).  Anything would taste great with that sauce including car keys.  Thankfully the waitress convinced us to get more bread.

Monkfish – Delicate, perfectly textured and absolutely delicious. And with that light Portuguese tomato sauce and rice, YUMMO! I couldn’t stop eating it. Until I tasted…

Louro - Monkfish

Roast Chicken – Wow! I did not want to order it.  But wife and kids wanted to try and I’m glad I lost that argument.  I suppose I forgot that the Portuguese can crank out some delicious chickens.  Comes with a nice rye berry risotto and spinach, but that chicken was very flavorful and that skin was so perfectly crisped I could eat just that.Louro - Roast Chicken

The good:

Seafood fritters –  Enjoyed them.  Not bad at all.  Like those seafood beignets you get in New Orleans

Louro - Seafood fritters

House Made Tortellini (top) – Pleasant, light, filled with Nettles among other things.  Not very memorable but tasted good.

Striped Bass –  A popular dish here normally with a snapper instead.  Bok Choy, shiitake, coconut ginger broth. Very pleasant dish and well done.  Thank you baby Jesus for sending me a family that doesnt eat mushroomsLouro - Striped Bass

The Ugly:

Gnocchi Romana – Ahhh, the irony.  As often is the case the first thing I wanted to try was the least favorite.  I dont think its the same dish the chowhounders were raving about.  The cream sauce just tasted like a regular cream sauce to us (they call it permesan foam) and the gnocchi was semolina but had the texture of tiny breakfast potato cubes.  I just kept trying it just to see what I was missing until me and the kids finished the plate.

The menu OCD chef keeps changing the menu and it did not match the menu on their site at all.  Overall a very good meal and something to keep in mind when visiting the village. The wife much preferred the food here over future Michelin star Aska the day before.  Check out Louro readers.  Both of yous

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

Lincoln – Orange is the New Crack

Lincoln Strozzapreti
I never had crack cocaine!  Its a well documented fact that I was smoking cigarettes at the young age of 5 and wearing a patch 9 months later, but I never had crack cocaine nor do I have any idea how it tastes like.  Does it taste like Strozzapreti made with lobster coral (egg sac)?  Does it taste like lobster and scallop sausage with the look and texture of loose chicken skin?  Or does it taste like sweet lobster meat gently floating in a delicate sauce with lemony hints?  Is it like all of the above put together smelling like the sea as soon as it arrives?  If the answer is yes to any of the above, where do I sign up?

Lincoln RestaurantIs it too early to name the dish of the year? Probably.  But a few more like this bright Strozzapreti (most likely named after someone envisioned a pasta shape while witnessing a priest being strangled) this year and I will be a very happy Ziggy.  The chicken skin-like lobster/scallop “sausages” especially gave me a ratatouille moment that almost made me drop my iPhone.  Other dishes I enjoyed between two meals in order of deliciousness….

The Spongata, a superb honey and nut cake came with a satsuma sherbet that was so heavenly it could probably thrive on the dessert menu alone.  Reginette, curly ribbony pasta was perfectly cooked and topped with a chunky veal, pork and beef, would most likely satisfy any Bolognese Ragu craving.  A mild creamy Burrata with fava beans, peas, spring onions and a light minty sauce got a tremendous boost from the sensational prosciutto-like cured pork shoulder.  The only dish I didnt quite know what to make of was a trio of Mortadella, prosciutto, and a thin head cheese slice sitting on top of a puffy fried dough on some fruity sweet sauce.  Do I like it together? Separate? without the sauce?  I found myself experimenting just like the chef was.Lincoln Burrata

Every few months the menu changes to include dishes from a particular Italian region, although you could arrive in between regions as I did yesterday and still enjoy well crafted food.  As is the case with most fine Italian in town, the strength in Lincoln is with the pasta.  And long time Per Se and French laundry alumni Jonathan Benno is widely considered a pasta virtuoso.   Lincoln Ristorante is of course part of the Lincoln Center complex.  A 20 million design triumph includes floor to ceiling windows, 3 dining rooms, and a spectacular open kitchen.  The service ranges from friendly to cold depending on the day of the week.  And the open kitchen may also mean you could hear what they plan to do with you depending on where you sit…

Server just picked up first course from your table:  “Number 37 is done with the first course”

Chef:  “Lets give him a minute to gather himself and pick up his phone.  Give him some more bread”

Lincoln Ristorante
142 W 65th St
$$$$
Recommended Dishes: Strozzapreti, Reginette, Burrata, Spongata

Lincoln Ristorante Lincoln Trio Lincoln Reginette Lincoln Spongata Lincoln

 

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

Maialino – When in NYC do as the Romans do

**** Terrible old post with terrible Iphone pictures replaced by a slightly less terrible post with more terrible Iphone pictures.  I didnt take my camera to this one since I wasnt planning to make a post *******Maialino - Cacio e pepe

Just the other day I was giving a food tour of Hell’s Kitchen to a young couple from the Philippines, and the subject of this blog came up.  I told them something I realized lately, that this is the weirdest blog they will ever encounter as its all about eating in 3 peculiarly different places:  NYC, Italy, and Turks And Caicos, a place they were not even familiar with.  “Its in the Caribbean” normally follows (Although technically its part of the Atlantic Ocean really).  But when my wife is often busy at work with older customers and does not have the time for 20 questions she prefers to just follow with “Turkey” instead.  Its not that I had any sort of plan when I started blogging, but now over a year later I find myself trying to please 3 different audiences somehow.

In a strange way Union Square Hospitality’s Maialino in the Gramercy Park Hotel connects all 3 subjects together, at least in my mind.  With TCI becoming increasingly Roman, I finally had my first Carbonara there (In Via Veneto).  In NYC, I now have all sorts of Roman options including Lupa, and even Eataly where you can get a decent Cacio e pepe.  But when I asked on Chowhound recently where do Italians eat in NYC, I was not surprised that the answer is A) a lot of what we call Italian food, and B) Maialino, according to one distinguished Roman and Food Author Maureen Fant.

For me to come back to the same place twice in one year is almost unheard of.  But I just had to impress my Aussie friend Tanya and had to play it safe.  The only thing I dislike about Maialino is the bar area.  Its always packed with beautiful single people.  So whenever I have to pass by it quickly to my seat in the back, it always serves as a gruesome reminder that I never had much of a single life.  @NickAnderer, any chance you could give me some back door access next time.  Anyway, another exceptional meal at one of New York’s exceptional Italian establishments.

Salumi Misti – You can select 3.  We’ve chosen Finocchiona, Prosciutto di Parma, and Mortadella.  All very good with the Finocchiona (salami with fennel) being my favorite.

Tonnarelli Cacio e Pepe – Beautifully simple, simply beautiful.  Along with the carbonara perhaps my favorite pasta here.  Perfectly creamy, peppery, and addictive.  Having it sit there among the other pastas is like visiting the bunny ranch after trying out all the bunnies, and constantly picking you favorite.  Sorry you had to read this Tanya, Mrs Ziggy, ex girlfriends.

Tortelli – Wow this was good.  Little explosive mini pillows stuffed with pork and chicken liver drizzled with tasty balsamic oil and almonds.  Poignant, surprising flavor.  Not the type of surprise like Brian Boitano announcing he’s gay.  Really surprising.

Spaghetti with lobster – Delicious!  Not quite as sharp as the Lobster Fra Diavola I just had at my favorite restaurant in the Caribbean, Caicos Cafe led by a San Domenico veteran, but delicious nonetheless.

Oxtail – Roman style, slow cooked with tomato sauce.  Tender, falling off the fork, absolutely scrumptious piece of meat you just want to attack.  But we couldnt.  We were stuffed.  Just stared at it thinking how in the world I’m passing on this thing, reminiscing on the great oxtail we had at Cesare al Casaletto.  Nick, thanks for correcting my pronunciation of Cesare al Casaletto at the Bonci/Parla event at Paulie Gee’s

In the past we also enjoyed the terrific Carbonara (better than the ones I had in Rome), octopus app with beans, Pappardelle, and a fine Garganelli al Sugo di Coniglio (yum).  We skipped dessert this time but enjoyed the bread pudding over the more popular (I think) olive oil cake last time.  Check out Maialino boys and girls

Maialino Salumi Maialino - Tortelli Maialino Spaghetti Lobster Maialino - Spaghetti lobster Maialino Oxtail

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

Betony – From Russian With Love

Betony* Terrible pictures alert, due to a combination of poor lighting and zero photography skills with poor lighting! *

You know that you spend too much time with a couple when the following happens.  You start receiving texts from them intended for each other.  Such is the case with Mr and Mrs Hummus Whisperer.  Examples:

From MRS HW:  “I bought bananas”.  Ahhm, OK?!?

From HW:  “Just picture everyone naked!”.  What?  Oh I see.  The wife is away presenting something in a conference.  Ok, that took me a few minutes

Thankfully, none of the texts were about us or embarrassingly kinky.  Though the last one came close.  The moment I get a “Carlos Danger” type text from HW it will be pretty much over between us.  Pretty much!

A few weeks ago we took Mr and Mrs Hummus whisperer to Betony for HW’s birthday.  Betony is the latest brainchild of Russian entrepreneur Andrey Dellos who previously owned Brasserie Pushkin in the same space.  This time he brings with him 2 Eleven Madison Park veterans.  Bryce Shuman is no stranger to the kitchen and according to his bio, an enemy of cats!  Eamon Rockey is formerly with new Michelin star Aska and EMP, and his bio is not clear where he stands in regards to cats.  Betony is now a tough ticket after recently getting 3 stars from the New York Time.  Many will kill for just one star.  And Betony most likely just missed the Michelin 2014 cut, but there’s always a 2015, I think (I dont have the Mayan calendar next to me at the moment)

I must say I was a bit in awe when we entered Betony.  A mature, sophisticated vibe that quite frankly we are not used to.  But we were comfortable.  Not only we were comfortable but the ladies bags were comfortable.  You know that you are at a high end place where your bag has its own seat.  And I dont mean this.  I’m talking about real furniture.  The menu is designed for you to spend a little, but eat very very well.  They advise you to share the first courses, and to have your own middle and main.  Sorry, not gonna fly with us.  Sharing is for caring! (Yes I’m looking at you Mrs HW) Something I learned a long long time ago.  So imagine our surprise when we ordered just 3 middle courses for the 4 of us, we all get our plates and the birthday boy is the one stuck with a beautiful empty plate.  Overall however, good, knowledgeable service and the food delivered big time

Foie Gras Bonbons wrapped in cashew – Quite good.  Though the salt from the cashews was a little too dominant, this was enjoyable.

Chickpea Panisse – Liked this one a lot.

Fried pickles – Surprisingly a bit greasy but pleasant nonetheless.

Beet amuse – A bit on the salty side surprisingly as well.  So far a bit of a salty start including the salty bread sticks which I didnt care for at all.

Gnocchi with corn – Smokey, super large, very soft and tasty.  A bit too soft for me but still enjoyed this.

Chicken liver mouse – Rich and decadent.

Marinated Sardines – Oh this one was quite good.  Lovely with that tomato “salsa”  Broke a mini streak of stinky sardines

Short Ribs – A revelation!  Best of show.  Tender and full of flavor.  It takes 3 days to make them we were told and HW was please to find out that it doesnt mean we needed to stay there for 3 days.  We were free the next day, but not the day after.

Poached lobster –  Very tasty as well, but very light (to me at least).  Great broth.

We opted to skip dessert on this night.  A fine and enjoyable meal overall.  Hard to say if I will be back partly because I’m allergic to that location, but I would like to sample that chicken and anything else Mr Shuman got up his sleeves.

Betony - Bonbons Betony - Fried veggies Betony - Amuse Betony - Pate Betony - Gnocchi Betony - Sardines Betony - Lobster Betony - short ribs

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

Back to Khe-Yo for the Khe-Yosk

Get it?  Khe.. Yosk.  Its a play on… oh never mind.  Its Khe-Yo week on Eating With Ziggy.  Sort of like fashion Week but with less fashion and more eating.  By the way last week I came out of my office and noticed an unusual looking crowd walking on 54th, most likely coming out of pier 94.  And I realized right away that its Fashion Week.  Thank god I was wearing my fashionable 10 year old red Calvin Klein shirt that day.  It has a few small holes here and there but they are not that evident.

photo (48)Anyway, a few days ago I told you about Khe-Yo and today I met Hummus Whisperer for lunch in the brand new Khe-Yosk offering delicious Banh Mi sandwiches for lunch only.  Banh Mi is the Vietnamese version of the Po’boy.  Essentially an airy baguette with some sort of meat and veggies.  Here you got 2 kinds.  Beer Lao Braised Berkshire Pork Belly with pickled carrots and other veggies was a delicious combination.  Although I was wishing for a bit more pork belly (duh!) this one had plenty of flavor.  The Jurgielewicz Duck salad in Khe-Yo is quickly becoming their best dish for dinner.  For lunch same duck is featured as a Confit with baby arugula, red and yellow peppers and something called bang bang sauce.  I didnt know the Vietnamese were big Tarantino fans.  The meat was more evident here and all the ingredients worked beautifully together.  The baguettes here are top notch and the counter guy didnt want to disclose the source.  He probably didnt know.  Both sandwiches had pleasant, mild lingering, heat.

photo (50) photo (49)

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

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