Posts Tagged With: NYC dining

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

Khe-Yo – Your Laotian Fix

Khe-YoDear Readers, it is official.  Tribeca is now a culinary hotspot.  A few Years ago I wouldnt touch the area with a 10 foot pole (mainly because of the difficulties involved) but now I found the area refreshing.  I can now have a great Falafel in Nish Nush, amazing Korean in Jungsik, and now Khe-Yo.  Just like Jungsik, the first modern Korean to hit NYC, Khe-Yo is the first place purely devoted to Lao cuisine.  But Lao cooking has been around here for a while now.  In my best Troy McClure voice…

“Hi, I’m Troy McClure!  You may remember this Laos dish from movies such as Yum Yum, An Officer and a Thai Dish, Yum Yum 3, Eat Drink Man Woman Tranny”

What I’m trying to say is Lao dishes like Larb and the spicy papaya salad can be found in many Thai restaurants all over town.  But in Marc Forgione’s Khe-Yo things get a bit more inventive. I visited Khe-Yo about a month a ago, 2 days after it opened and since then Khe-Yo has gained a lot of media attention.  Marc now has places in both Duane and Reade streets! Ok, it sounded much more meaningful in my head.  Executive chef is Laos born Soulayphet Schwader (AKA better call Saul!)who will occasionally come out to serve the main course himself

They start you off with a bang here. Sticky rice comes with 2 fantastic condiments and a prolonged explanation on how to best enjoy the sticky rice.  Eating with your fingers.  Dip it in the Heirloom puree or the addictively sick spicy Jeow made with 4 different Thai chili, cilantro, fish sauce and garlic.  I was dipping everything in that thing including car keys

I love small menus.  This one only has 5 apps, 5 entrees, and a few salads.  Crunchy coconut rice with spicy kaffir lime Sausage was good and original.  I just wished there was a bit more sausage.  Jurgielewicz Duck salad was even better.  Nicely done, freshly butchered (24 hour) duck along with lightly fried crunchy duck tongue, lemongrass, nice palm sugar vinegar, and jalapeno skins to balance things out.  Nice start

Berkshire Spare Ribs were just ok.  A bit fatty for my taste and on the salty side.  But I liked the accompanied cold long beans salad.  Pork Jowl Red Curry was more like it.  Like a super delicious mild pork stew with tasty grilled shiitake mushrooms and baby eggplant on the side.

Dessert menu consists of coconut rice pudding with sliced peach and cashew bits which was fine, and a pricey but promising native cocktail ($13).  A fine meal overall.  I would love to come back and explore the rest of the menu, like the whole black bass and the chicken.  Marc Forgione told me since they opened 2 days ago 15 Lao natives told him how thrilled they were with this place.  They also recently opened “Khe-Yosk” for lunch.  Get it?  Khe..yosk.  Its a Banh Mi Sandwich takeout place, and I hope to to try it next week

Khe-Yo Sticky Rice Khe-Yo Coconut Rice Khe-Yo Duck Salad Khe-Yo ribs Khe-Yo Pork Jowl Khe-Yo shiitake Khe-Yo Pudding

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

HKSG – The Update

Hell Food5.7 pounds (and counting) and 3 months later it is time to update this beast.  But first a word from our sponsors… oops we have none.  But, I do want to say a few words about this list because it became more popular than the original intent.

This list is not for everyone.  If you are looking for the prototypical pre-theatre dinner where you are nicely dressed, most of these options are not for you.  This list is all about the food, mostly on the casual, cheap side, and mostly really its about what Hell’s Kitchen does best – ethnic food.  If you want to eat at a “Nice” place than I suggest picking a different area.  If you are looking for that special pre-theatre meal and really care about the food than I would suggest looking at places that are not in the area but not too far.  i.e. Betony, Marea, NoMad, The Modern.  You are already spending $300 for a show, surely you can afford a $5 cab fare to add.  Although after a nice long meal, I rather take a nice long walk.

The complete guide is here…

https://eatingwithziggy.com/2013/06/27/the-hells-kitchen-survival-guide/

Here’s whats being added to the guide…

Italian – Mercato.  This is quickly becoming not only my favorite Italian in the area but my favorite restaurant in the area.  I cant quite explain how I missed it all those years.  Truly flavorful, mostly authentic southern Italian dishes like the excellent homemade Trenette with garlic, almonds, tomato and basil.  Check out the simple spaghetti, and the flavor rich gnocchi.  Owners from Sardinia, chef from day 1 from Sicily, good looking all Italian wait staff means I fit right in.

Thai – Larb Ubol.  My favorite is still Pure overall but this new kid on the block is quickly gaining traction.  Larb Ubol is an offshoot of Zabb Elee in the East Village, specializing in authentic Isan cooking.  Like Pure, some of these dishes not for the faint of heart.  Even more so here actually.  If you want your typical American Thai dishes this is not the place.  Go to something like Kare Thai on 10th or Wondee Siam 2 instead.  In Larb Ubol what you get is complex flavors like you never experienced before (unless you did!).  Try the Pad Ped Moo Crob – Crispy pork, thai eggplant, basil, peppercorn, ginger, and spicy curry paste

Ramen – Ippudo Westside.  Perhaps the most exciting HK opening in 2013.  One block away from Totto making HK a NYC Ramen powerhouse.  Just like Totto, this is an experience but quite a different one, starting with all the yelling in Japanese every time a new guest arrives, leaves, a dish on its way, or a guest going to the bathroom. I have no idea what they are yelling but its fun, and after a few minutes you start to yell as well.  Clearly my favorite here so far is the Akamaru Modern, but you must add the egg, and for a little more spice add the spicy miso paste.  Highly recommend this one

Chicken Over Rice Guy – 11th and 51st (Northwest corner).  Every neighborhood has a favorite chicken over rice guy.  This one is mine.  Try the chicken over rice!

Tried a few other new places like Nook…  Feh!

Randon tidbits on existing places…

Szechuan Gourmet 56 – I had my first terrible meal here, followed by an excellent meal.  Keeping it on the list for now but inconsistency will not fly

Gazala’s Place – I’m not big of the Bourekas overall, but the cheese and sun dried tomato Bourekas here is the bomb.  The bomb I tell ya

Sullivan Street Bakery – Quickly becoming one of my favorite breakfast places in the area.   Discovering all kinds of bread goodies lately

Guelaguetza – Spicy chicken burrito is now officially my favorite Burrito in the area.  Readers, its official!

The Complete Guide…

https://eatingwithziggy.com/2013/06/27/the-hells-kitchen-survival-guide/

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

Citibike Confessions 2 – Battle of the Bridges

photo (49)“We are going shopping”, the most beautiful words for a man to hear since “I do”.  “We” – as in just us, without You”.  Here’s how I took advantage.  A Labor Dy trip report if you will…

Picked up Mr Hummus Whisperer and parked the car by the Brooklyn Bridge on the Brooklyn side.  Picked up a Citibike and rode the Bridge over to the other side.  Unlike the day before where we walked the bridge after (and before) visiting the Smorgasburg in Dumbo (will try to write a separate post) the bridge in the morning was fairly quiet.

“Cruised” Lafayette and dropped the bikes by Houston.  Wanted to try La Colombe Coffee after watching the guy on the travel channel exploring the world for coffee beans but it was closed.  I was surprised to learn how many places are closed on Mondays in NYC.  Like being in Milan in August.  Too hot for coffee anyway.  We made our way to Russ and Daughters, picked our bagels and went to a nearby park where an elderly Asian couple were doing an exercise I haven’t seen before:  Bouncing a basketball.  Buttery Lox, cream cheese, tomato, onions, on a fresh crispy bagel never tasted this good.  R&D, one of many Lower East Side institutions is touristy for good reason.   We were without the wits of our women which means without napkins but we somehow managed with minimum stain action.photo (50)

We proceeded to pick up the Citibikes nearby again and rode to Delancey and Williamsburg bridge.  We crossed over to Brooklyn and just biked around Kent Ave without a plan whatsoever.  None of this was planned BTW.  Feeling hungry again we decided to park and just walk to Egg for another round of breakfast.  But the line was too big so we just went to Verb Café nearby on Bedford and had ice coffee with our takeout Bialys from R&D.  Ok, the R&D mention again reminds me that I need to go back to work.. Ok I’m back.. where was I… Oh ye.  Verb Café  – Ive been there before.  If you ever need a reminder that you are in Williamsburg you head to this café and the mini mall attached to it

We picked up the bikes again and rode the Williamsburg bridge back.  An unfortunate incident occurred where a bra-less woman riding a bike was accidentally flashing more than the laws allowed.  Unfortunate for her.   Anyway, we had a good laugh and continued riding by the East River toward midtown.  Nice views of the manhattan skyline open up at some point with the river a few feet away.  This is a nice section to bike on.  We U-turned on 30th and turned on 20th toward the flatiron area.  Just rode around aimlessly until it was time for you know..eat.

We dropped the bikes in the East Village.  A trip like this is incomplete without eating something in the East Village.  Opted to go to Maharlika but we got distracted by a little piggy and shared a Porchetta sandwich in Porchetta.  In here they do it differently than in Italy.  They get whole loins with the skin and all, season, roll it, and roast it for 7 hours.  The result is one fatty, garlicky, porky goodness.  Fantastic sandwich.  Highly recommend Porchetta.photo (51)

Time for a cleanser.  Liquiteria is thee place in town according to my juice obsessed friend.   I’ve been there before and ordered the same thing again, the Grasshopper – a great blend of apple, pear, pineapple, wheatgrass, mint, old cellphones, or god knows what else they put in there.  All freshly squeezed, naturally sweet and very refreshing.  A little pricey but you pay for quality

Too full for Maharlika we pick up the bikes yet again and head to Tribeca.  Dropped the bikes by Whole Foods and spent some quality R&R time (Relieve and Read) in Barnes and Nobles.  This branch has my favorite travel section.  We are in Tribeca which means we have to go to Nish Nush.  Shared a Masabacha which is essentially hummus with Tahini, some other sauce, chickpeas and boiled egg.  Added some Falafel balls as well to this party.  Since I introduced HW to this place a month ago he’s been here 6 times.  He was so excited he stained himself again right next to the R&D stain.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, this is the best falafel in the city.photo (52)

Time to pick up the bikes again and cross the Brooklyn Bridge back to the car.  Now its raining which means I finally look cool on those bikes.  I tried the one hand move before and nope.. need it to rain.  The bridge is much busier now even with the rain and those darn pedestrians are all over the bike lanes.  Of course I was also all over the bike lanes when I was a pedestrian the day before

We dropped the bikes for the last time and started to head home.  But hey, we are already here, next to a place I wanted to visit for a while now, so whats the rush.  The only one who has the balls to open a pizza joint next to Grimaldi’s is.. well.. Grimaldi.  The place is called Juliana’s and the Margherita pie was absolute perfection.  I’m not gonna go into the details of the story and controversy here but the gist of it was that Grimaldi’s sold the Grimaldi name rights years ago and now he’s back.. right next door.  So when you come to Brooklyn to stand on the hour long line to Grimaldi’s just keep in mind that the place next door with no lines has probably better pizza – I think it does.    And for the sake of the neighborhood locals who finally got their pizza back this is the last time I will mention this.

And that’s how I spent my Labor Day.photo (53)

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

Sakagura – Tale From a Crypt

SakaguraTaking a short break from Italy blogging.

You think you know someone.  I’ve known my friends Igor and Natasha since the high school days.  At least I thought I did.  Staring somewhat confused at an office building looking for an entrance to Sakagura, Igor turns to an Asian couple standing near us and asks them where is the entrance.. in Japanese.  “They said its 2 blocks down” “how can it be 2 blocks away if Google Maps tells me we are standing right in front of the building.” I answer.  “And is it my imagination or did you just ask for directions in Japanese in New York City.”

SakaguraTurns out I needed this to be spelled out to me.  Go inside the unassuming office building, go down to the basement and Voila!.. Sakagura, one of the cities most popular Izakayas, aka Sake bar, aka Japanese tapas bar, aka an oasis for Russian middle aged men who somehow picked up some Japanese from coworkers and waited many years to showcase their new found skills to their friends.  A quick sprint to the desk by Igor to inform the confused girl that we are here and we get comfortably settled in a nice booth.  Décor takes me back to the Tokyo underground dining days.  Meaning, the images Ive seen on the Internet

We agreed that I’ll take care of the food ordering while Igor handles the Sake menu.  Both quite challenging but I came prepared. But when Igor started talking Japanese to the Sake Sommelier, the shocked fellow had the kind of expression as if he was just asked if his daughter is 18, twice.  But we somehow managed and before you knew it the food started flowing.  More on Igor later but lets do a quick run down on dishes I (we) liked and disliked.  Other than a few clunkers this was a great meal

Sakagura - DessertLiked:

Gomaae – Spinach with sesame sauce.  Nice and pleasant to start things off.  Aromatic and heavy seasame presence in a good way

Onsen Tamago:  Fantastic soup with soft boiled egg, uni and salmon roe.  I’m not a huge fan of uni but this was quite good, along with the rest of the soup.

Maguro Tartar – Tuna tartar with all sorts of fish roe and caviar.  Best and most expensive ($16) dish of the night

Sakagura - FlukeHirame Ponzu – Buttery, very tasty Fluke Sashimi with this acidy grated radish salad I couldnt get enough of.

Buta Kakuni – Melt in your mouth yummy stewed pork belly.  Perfect fat/meat ratio 

Tori Tsukune – fairly nice but basic Chicken meatballs with terriyaki sauce.  Not all of us enjoyed this one

Chawanmushi – Egg Custard Ponzu soup with chicken and shrimp and something resembling a mini Easter egg

SakaguraGindara Yuan Yaki – Not Yaki at all.  very nice and sweet black cod

Sremeika Yaki – Grilled Japanese squid with garlic sauce.  Was growing on me more and more as I was eating it

Saikoro Steak – diced steak with great sauce.  One of the best dishes of the night

Desserts – we sampled 3.  Very nice coffee jelly, a savory seasonal Mango pudding, but the big winner was the crème Brule with black sesame.  holy smokes that was good

Sakagura - rice ballsDisliked

Sanma Onigiri – rice balls with shiitake, radished and veggies wrapped in whole baked Mackarel.  This had a strong fishy odor and taste.  I’ve had mackerel many times but not quite like this

Snow Crab with steamed rice.  Quite dry and surprisingly fishy as well.  Kept trying it to no avail

Overall a fantastic but pricey meal.  Sakagura (“Saki Storage”) is far from your typical Japanese sushi joint.  Fine service, cool décor, and “cool” clientele that will satisfy the Anthony Weiners and Carlos Dangers of the world.  And as we were leaving…

Mrs Z:  I should probably go to the bathroom before the long drive

Igor:  Its right there on your right.  If you cant find it just ask someone “Toire wa dokoda”.  With a slight and sudden head nod after the last word like in those samurai movies

Me:  But Igor, we are in NYC and they all speak English here.  Why would a white girl… ok never mind.  “Tolet wa dokota” got it.Sakagura - Tuna Tartar

Sakagura - Steak Sakagura - Squid Sakagura - Cod Sakagura - Chicken Sakagura - Soup Sakagura - Spinach

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

The Hell’s Kitchen Survival Guide

Hell FoodUpdated: January 29th, 2020

Although the emphasis was on the “Hell” part initially, as in the only place potentially hotter than hell, Hell’s Kitchen today boasts some of the city’s most incredible array of kitchens.  It wasnt always the case (hence the title) and there are plenty of naysayers out there that still live in that past.  But the neighborhood is rapidly changing, and despite gentrification, 9th avenue and around is a food lover paradise.  Its a beautiful mishmash of world cuisine, with Thai, Mexican, Ramen, and Korean dominating these days, pretty much in that order.  After working in the area for 20 years, and running food tours during the last four, I’ve written a guide with a map to help you out…

Food Tours of Hell’s Kitchen, East Village and Brooklyn

Best Dishes in Hell’s Kitchen

Best Tacos in Hell’s Kitchen

Top Pre-Theater Options

Ivan Ramen Whitefish Donburi

Food Halls

Gotham West Market –  Perhaps the coolest thing ever to open in Hell’s Kitchen.  In a city suddenly flooded with all sorts of food halls, this is one of the more intimate, and less visited ones.  Main reason being the tourist free zone of 11th and 45th, making it more of a neighborhood stop.  Only about 9 high quality vendors, and a bicycle shop.  Ramen, Italian, Seafood, pizza, great ice cream and more.

Middle Eastern

Middle Eastern – Gazala’s Place.  Fabulous Druze cooking.  Some of the best Hummus in town (I’ve spent plenty of time in Israel including the druze village where Gazala Habibi came from).  The place is slightly larger a hers and hers closet (in my house at least.  I count my blessings to have 2 shelves left for myself).  The Bourekas with goat cheese and sun dried tomato is always solid.

Gourmet Middle Eastern – Taboon.  One of the most successful, long running hidden gems in the area.  A fine “Middleterranean” menu created by Israeli chef Efi Nahon.  Try any of their bread specialties baked in their Taboon oven, and the Silan (below), one of my favorites desserts in the city.Taboon Silan

Doner Kebab/Turkish – Turco.   This is perhaps the closest thing we have to the Berlin style Doner Kebab (Turkish immigrants in Germany made it the most popular fast food snack since the invention of the Speckpfannkuchen and Zwiebelkuchen).  The main culprit is that thick, crispy tasty pita bread that holds its own.  I slightly prefer the chicken over the lamb but you should try both.

Asian

Momofuku – Bang Bar.  Leave it to David Chang to make lines fun, and for a $5 snack no less.  Oddly situated in the Columbus Shops at the Warner Center, its worth the short trek for the spicy pork “U”.  And for a price of a Halal cart lunch its… I’m saying it… a Bang for your buck.  Get it?  Because its called Bang.

Sushi – Uogashi.  Perhaps the Holy Grail in Sushi deprived Hell’s Kitchen.  An East Village import that shuttered in EV after a building fire in 2018.  The space housed a different sushi place which explains why it took me 6 months to find it.  From the freshness of the fish (Uogashi means fish market) to the quality of the rice, its not only the best in HK today but some of the best Sushi I’ve had in NYC.

Korean – Danji.  One of the more reliable old guards, and best Korean in Hell’s Kitchen. Chef Hooni Kim can flat out cook.  He travels to Korea multiple times a year to gather inspiration.  Best Tofu dish in town.  And you will be hard pressed to find better chicken wings and sliders in the area.  Michelin people agreed (initially ta least), rewarding it a star soon after opening.danji-big-korean-breakfastRamen – E.A.K.  Cant decide between Chicken or Pork based broth?  Why not try a blend of both.  Its the first successful infiltration of IEKEI (pronounced EAK) style Ramen in  NYC, albeit on tourist heavy restaurant row (46th) for some reason.  So far I’ve enjoyed the Oh So Hot with spicy Miso so much that I’m having trouble ordering anything else.  Skip the boring $3 extra appetizers they offer for lunch.

Ramen – Totto Ramen.  Shoe box setting and potential long waits adds to the charm at the original.  Just write your name on the board outside (Not Seymore Butts – already done) and wait.  Order the spicy Ramen, add the egg and you are all set.  Newer, bigger Totto located a block away 464 West 51st.  Less wait if any than the original

Ramen – Ippudo Westside.  Perhaps the most exciting HK opening in 2013.  One block away from Totto and others making HK a NYC Ramen powerhouse.  Just like Totto, this is an experience, but a little different.  Its bustling, noisy, energetic, and that’s just the wait inside and out.  Clearly my favorite here so far is the Akamaru Modern, but you must add the egg, and for a little more spice the spicy miso paste.  Highly recommend this one

Japanese – Blue Ribbon Sushi.  Not all chains are created equally.  This is far from Applebee’s.  And depending on who you ask, and the day of the week, this is not exactly in Hell’s Kitchen but close enough (Yelp thinks that it is).  Its located in the SIXTY Hotel on Columbus Circle (on 58th st).  Whether you are a sushi lover is irrelevant in this case.  Good fried chicken, steaks, and the sick oxtail fried rice alone is worth the price of admission.  And other goodies such as the excellent Ika Shoga (sautéed squid), and Kanpachi Usuzukuri (amberjack sushimi) worth detouring.

Thai – Pure Thai Cookhouse.  Not your average NYC Thai food among a plethora of all kinds of great Thai on 9th.  No drunken noodles, no red curry, no green curry and not even purple curry on the menu.  What you do get is something a bit more authentic with all sorts of complex flavors and extra heat.  Read the post for what to order.  Try the ribs, Pork with curry paste, Ratchaburi crab and pork with dry noodles, and the pumpkin or Mango custard with coconut sticky rice off the board (may not be on the menu)

Pure Thai Ratchaburi

Pure Thai Ratchaburi

Thai – Taladwat.  The new kid on the Thai block is a possibly the most important opening in Hell in the last few years.  Thats because its the latest from David Bank and his wife, the owners of Pure Thai Cookhouse, and its three times bigger.  The menu focuses on 20 or so small plates covering a wide array of protein.  You have the option of getting two for $16 for lunch (a bit more for dinner).  So far the Crabmeat Tom Turmeric is the winner

Thai – Pam Real Thai.  I was hesitant to add this one for too long, partly due to having two Thai places on the list already.  But.. a) Many EWZ readers have already been to Pure and/or Larb Ubol, b) The Oxtail Soup, and c) Just about everything else I’ve had here is pretty darn good.  Setting redefines minimalistic, and the place could use some refreshing, but I dont go there for the decor.  Try the Pad Kra Prow (w/shrimp), Pad Prik Khing, Khao Soi, best Kee Mao Seafood in the hood, and the Oxtail Soup which is just about my favorite soup on the planet.

Chinese – Gourmet Szechuan 56.  By far the best Chinese in the area.  Like Pure Thai, Spice level significantly higher.  Loving the Shredded Beef w/ Asian Spicy Green Chili especially. Update Jan 30, 2020:  Now Rong Cheng House.  Still Szechuan(ish) but havent tried the new space

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

Chinese/Dumplings – Kung Fu Little Steamed Buns Ramen.  A little piece of Chinatown on the border of Hell’s Kitchen, steps away from Times Square.  Contrary to what the name suggests, this place isnt known for its ramen, but for its soup dumplings. The place is tiny, and at peak hours there could be a line but it moves quickly.  Communal tables add to the fun, but try not to squirt that dumpling soup juice on your neighbor.  Unless its a Broadway actor

Indian

Indian – Saar Indian Bistro – My little Indian rule of thumb – pay special attention to the latest from Indian master Hemant Mathur (Malai Marke, Chote Nawab and many more).  The dude just knows how to cook and how to hire them.  He finally opened one in the Kitchen in 2018, making Saar instantly the most important Indian in the area, and very different than the rest.  Its a nice bridge between a curry house and gourmet Indian.  Try the Chicken kebabs, Cauliflower Latkes, Butter Chicken, and Pepper chicken

Italian

Dell’anima – Italian is the one thing that is lacking in the area even though there are now three of them on this list.  That makes this West Village import at Gotham West Market one of the most important openings of 2019.  Try the signature Tajarin Carbonara, and the chicken

Italian – Mercato.  This is quickly becoming not only my favorite Italian in the area but my favorite restaurant in the area.  Truly flavorful, mostly authentic southern Italian (from south Italy, not south Staten Island) dishes like the excellent homemade Trenette (below) with garlic, almonds, tomato and basil.  A cozy Trattoria, with an all Italian staff.  Check out the simple spaghetti, the meaty gnocchi, Sardinian specialties, and look for any specials like the excellent Cavatelli

Mercato Trenette

Italian – Il Melograno.  A lot of mediocre Italian in the area.  This is not one of them.  No frills, small, cheap(er) Trattoria sitting in a location where its almost impossible to survive unless you are doing something right.  Owner from Brescia, no stranger to Northern Italian cooking.  Try the Pappardelle with sausage and truffle oil.  In the warmer months locals flock to their sidewalk wine bar Il Baretto on 11th.

American

Wine and Cheese bar – Casellula. Great wine and.. you guessed it.. Pork Ass sandwiches. No joke!  Small, not the prettiest bar but the food more than makes up for it.  Just leave it to them to make you a cheese and meat assortment with some vino and enjoy those asses

Bar/Gastropub – Shorty’s.  Calling this a Gastropub may be a stretch, but you do come here for the Philly Cheesesteak.  I’ve had it in Philadelphia, and I can assure you that this is the real deal.  Same bread (arrives daily from “Le Bus” in Philly and finish baked in house), same steaks, same Whiz, same style, same everything.  Owner apparently was part owner of the great Tony Luke’s in Philly.  If you never had one, you are in for a messy treat.

Burger – Farm to Burger.  Good burger places come and go here.  Ans this very hidden gem in the Aliz hotel just came.  I’ve only tried one burger here so far and it was good enough to earn the crown.  The not as sweet as it sounds Honey Bee might be the best burger in the kitchen.

Farm to Table – The Marshal.  One of the most exciting additions to the neighborhood in recent years.  They have a relationship with 14 local farms whose ingredients fill much of the seasonal menu.  Just about everything they do, they do well.  From the terrific french loaf, to the meatloaf and roast chicken, to the ice cream sundae. Ditch the diner and go to this neighborhood spot to experience American cuisine at its finestThe Marshal - Meatloaf

Pizza

NY Slice – Sacco.  An old timer.  No 99 cent slices here (more like $2.50), but a NY slice as good as it gets

Slices – Corner Slice.  Gotham West Market now serves delicious airy Sicilian squares by dough wizards backed by Ivan Ramen

Neapolitan Pizza – Don Antonio.  Opened by two Naples veterans who know a thing or 3 about pizza.  One of them also owns the popular Keste in the village.  Try the slightly fried Montanara that no one else does, and my fave Diavola boasting the best sopressata in town.

Pies – Capizzi.  A solid alternative to the Don Antonio, John’s craziness and perhaps the closest thing to a pizza parlor you can only find in the outer boroughs.  The ingredients speak for themselves, like the bright, fresh tomato sauce and the extra meaty pepperoni and sausagesCapizzi

Latin

Empanadas – Empanada Mama.  Empanadas are like little patties, and should be on everyone’s area walking tour.  Try the spicy chicken, the meaty Brazil, and before you try the Viagra make sure there’s ample space between you and the person in front of you.  Hmmm, this sounded much funnier in my head.

Ecuadorian – Nano.  This hole in the wall on 10th has some serious “nona” action going for it.  Try the homey Caldo de Bola soup which made the Best Soups in HK cut.  For lunch you got various deals that include the Seco de Pollo, chicken strips in a mild but pleasant gravy, and Sango de Res, beef in a soup like green plantain sauce, among all kinds of other surprises

Peruvian – Inti.  10th ave is the new 9th ave.  Can someone go here please? Anyone?  Bueller?  Its always empty during lunch for some reason and it would be a real shame if it closes.  A Pio Pio alumni with a twist.  And the twist being empty ceviche.  Great looking and tasting Ceviche Mixto (below), Fresh fish chunks, shrimp, octopus and calamari with red onions, cilantro and rocoto hot pepper.  Add sweet potatoes for much needed contrast and the traditional baby corn and you got yourself a winner.  Or try the always reliable Rotisserie chicken

Inti Ceviche

Peruvian/Large Groups – Pio Pio.   Ok, I give up.  Pio Pio is a chain.  In fact I think the official name for this one is Pio Pio 8, or something like that.  It’s also not the best Peruvian in the area (Inti gets my vote), and it wont win any James Beard or Z-List awards any time soon.  But whenever I’m asked the question I loath the most by my employer.  A last minute place for a large group that is not only affordable but will make everyone happy, this is the first place that comes to mind.  Good drinks, rotisserie chickens, and much more.

Dominican – Lali.    Read this while listening to this.  Ready? Lets go.  Home cooking cant get any more homey than this.  Small, Diner-ish, Reggaeton music blasting in the background to help you chew and move, and the two lovely nonnas serving including Mrs Lali herself.  You get what’s available today which will normally include some sort of stew, chicken, or ribs.  Go for the braised chicken if available, or the beef stew, with rice and beans of course.  Breakfast and lunch only.

Mexican – Tulcingo Del Valle.  With all the fancy Mexican popping in the area during the last decade, this 20 year old Pueblan still feels like the last of the neighborhood bodegas.  No shortcuts, fresh or bust approach is the reason people keep coming back.  Its a very full and challenging menu but the tacos, especially best in the hood Al Pastor, are always solid.  Veggie Publan specialties like Chile Relleno and Mole Poblano are fantastic, and dont leave without trying the flan.

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

Mexican – Tacuba.  I realize that there’s a better chance seeing Lindsay Lohan win an Oscar than seeing tourists (without guides) in one of those last remaining bodegas/hole in the walls deeper in the area.  This is the latest from Julian Medina of Toloache fame. And everything I’ve tried so far from the octopus sandwich for lunch to the Carnitas for dinner suggests GO!

Misc

Ethiopian – Meske.  This is a fun place for groups.  Just order a bunch of plates and watch them create the plate of dreams.  Use the spongy Injera bread below to scoop up all those goodies.  Queen of Sheba practically next door also worth consideringMeske

Diners.  Westway Diner for a classic NY diner

Bakeries/Cafes/Sandwiches

Sandwiches – City Sandwich.  Sorry I have to use that “one of the city’s best” again.  From Naples to Lisbon to the huge Portuguese community in Jersey, comes some of the best bread in the area, with some of the most unusual ingredients like blood pudding, sandwiches worthy of a run-on sentence.  Just try to study the huge menu ahead of time so you dont feel pressured or confused once there.  I like some of the egg sandwiches (egg based sandwiches got its own section) like Bench Girl, and of course the only on Tuesday, porky Roberto

Café/BakeryBibble & Sip.  One of the new kids on the wrong side of the block.  Technically just outside of HK but deliciousness sees no borders!  A place where you can unwind and BS all you want (it says so right on their logo).  The Earl Grey Banana Bread is quickly gaining neighborhood fame.  Add the Earl Grey Panna Cotta (notice a theme?), Matcha Cream puffs, scones, the morning egg sliders and all sorts of rotating daily goodies.

Bakery – Sullivan Street Bakery.  Talking about no brainers. Another “One of the best in town” and the source to many top restaurant’s bread baskets like Scarpetta and Maialino.  Try some of the bread, the spectacular Canottos (the sweet ones), Bombolonis (donuts on crack), and the chocolate almond croissants.  Many love their pizzas but its the other stuff that makes me go there almost weekly these daysSullivan Street Bakery

Café – Rex.  The new kid on the block and by kid I mean Rex, the hardest working baker in HK.  And only 3 years old!  Ok, not really, he’s 4 now!  Ok, not really again, his father helps out a little but still.  Great coffee, scones, and muffins like the Morning Glory.

Bagels – Pick-A-Bagel.  Ess got nothing on these guys.  This is by far my favorite bagel place in the area, and trust me I’ve looked.  A good place to try the walnut raisin spread but I normally go for a simple bagel with butter.  Muffins are great in size and taste, and the only place that has Ziggy’s fave banana nut.  Its a great concept:  You say “Bagel” and they pick one for you.  🙄

Cupcakes – Huascar & Co. Bakeshop.  Cupcake wars champion and one of the nicest, friendliest people you’ll ever meet.

Pies – Little Pie Company.  While everyone is obsessing with cheesecakes, those in the know come here for the insane Sour Cream Apple Walnut Pie.

Fresh From Hell.  Quite a few healthy places surprisingly closed the past few years like Mooncake Foods despite being popular.  But tiny takeout FFH is a solid new alternative with fine sandwiches featuring Sullivan bread, and the best split pea soup this side of wherever they make the best split pea soup.

Fresh from Hell

 

 

Categories: Midtown West, New York City | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 47 Comments

Moldova – Mamaliga Bliss in Brooklyn

MoldovaWhile you are Googling Mamaliga, some facts about its origin and mine.  The Republic of Moldova is nicely nestled between behemoths Ukraine and Romania.  According to National Geographic the people of Moldova are the saddest people in the world.  Coincidentally, the happiest people are supposedly ex-Moldovans.  Well, something both of you readers may not have realized but according to my bio, I, Ziggy, am one of those proud ex-Moldovans.

I was born in Kishinev, the capital but only because the city we lived in, Argeyev (aka the second saddest city in the world) didn’t have much of a hospital.  Sadly (dah!) I dont really have many food memories, so whenever I talk about Ratatouille Moments they are definitely not from childhood.  We were lucky to just get essentials like toilet paper and vodka.   All my fondest memories were about getting in trouble.  When I was about 5 years old, I discovered what every normal Moldovan child discovers at this age..  Nicotine!  So I started smoking (this is a true story btw) mainly socially, never at home, and never more than a pack a day (ok, although true I’m exaggerating just a bit).  I was smoking until the day I decided to smoke one at home in the balcony (in the saddest country in the world, kids are left home alone at a very early age).  To make a long story short, my grandma came home, found the cigarette, told my dad, I peed a little when he called my name but all he did was tell me not to do it again (he may have been proud of me).  Well, I havent smoked since.  Besides wearing a patch to day care (aka the second saddest day care in the world.  Our daily highlight was to go outside and look at the giant factory pipes) for the first month as a 6 year old, quitting was surprisingly easy.  So whenever my friend Joel boasts about how he’s cigarette-free for 14 months or whatever that number is now, I always say the same thing… “36 YEARS!!”

With that said, I may be more familiar with Sri Lankan cuisine than Moldovan, I think.  I never really thought about what Moldovan food really is as I always assumed its pretty much like Russian (with some Romanian influence) food and I still sort of do to an extent.

I went to Moldova the newish restaurant in Brooklyn with a large group last week.  Everything ordered was family style so I didn’t even look at the menu.  In true Russian form, they start you off with a large array of salads where a nice Babaganoush-like eggplant salad was one of the standouts. But the most memorable app was the Fasolita, a yummy mashed bean paste with roasted onions and oil.  I never heard of it and pretty sure they invented the name.

Moldova - MamaligaBut you come here for the Mamaliga.  Polenta on steroids!  Our family style version was a massive piece of cornmeal, but what you would normally get is a smaller piece of Mamaliga in the middle of a plate surrounded by an assortment of meat, cheese, sour cream, and egg. In our case it was more like a glorified side dish to compliment the mixed grill consisting mainly of 2 things.  Mititei is something I grill at home on occasion. It’s a mix of ground beef, pork, lamb with herbs and spices rolled into a hotdog size kebabs.  Unless you overcook them it comes out really nice and juicy and this was cooked right.  And so was the Costita, basically a nicely spiced pork chop and this one was very flavorful.  Very often with large groups those things come out dry but here it was nice and moist.
Dessert of cherry and prunes with nuts blintses was a nice finish although missing some ice cream perhaps.  A terrific meal overall.  Although the cuisine doesn’t deviate much from the regular Russian fair, everything was prepared well and tasted great.  And the lively environment is a nice reminder that you are not in Moldova anywhere.  Although I do hope things are different there nowadays, and 5 year olds have a tougher time finding cigarettesMoldova - Mixed grill Moldova - dessert Moldova Moldova1
Categories: Brooklyn, New York City | Tags: , , , , , | 8 Comments

The NoMad – Chronicles of a Chicken

NoMad ChickenThe war is still ongoing.  Hours before our dinner reservations at the NoMad I asked the trusted folks at the Chowhound forum the simple question: “To Chicken or not to Chicken”.  Meaning, should I order their famous chicken dish considering…

a) It costs $79 (its for 2)

b) Its Chicken

Well, the overwhelming response was Yes, with a few Nos (including a resounding No 2 weeks after I already had it), and 1 “order what you feel like”.  Considering chicken is not exactly something I’m ever in the mood for, I needed a little help with this one.NoMad Chicken white

The NoMad, not to be confused with Nomad (you see the difference?  These are in fact 2 different restaurants in NYC) is a 1 year old Daniel Humm and Will Guidara venture at the NoMad hotel.  Eleven Madison Park light if you will (same duo behind that).   Once inside there’s no mistaking that you are dining in a hotel.  Your look most likely will determine the room they will sit you at.  Apparently we look like ladies who lunch!  Since it was sort of early (5:30 mind you, before Vanya, Pasha, Boris..er whatever its called.  I don’t subscribe to the “you must eat in the theater district before a show” policy), there was plenty of light out, and with that glass ceiling this room was very well lit.  For a while it felt like we were moved from one waiting room to a fancier waiting room.  But I didn’t mind it so much.  Within 30 minutes or so were suddenly surrounded with tourists, so I guess they confused us for ” tourist ladies who lunch” or something like that.NoMad bread

But the food was quite good.  They start you off with their terrific freshly baked Focaccia-like flatbread with rosemary, sage, and a little bit of salt.  Toppings change seasonally.  This is perhaps as good as it gets as far as restaurant bread goes.  Tagliatelle with king crab, lemon and black pepper was savory, with plenty of meaty crab to go around.  But the egg stole the app show.  Poached with asparagus, brown butter and quinoa, holy smokes it was good!  The asparagus alone is worth the price of admission, and that grainy quinoa really tied everything together beautifully.  Fantastic dish, as I say to the swedes to the right.NoMad Tagliatelle

And then came the main event.  They first present you the whole cooked chicken like a fine bottle of wine.  I sniff it from both sides and enthusiastically approve.  They take the bird away and bring it back carved for 2, with a nice plate of dark meat with garlic espuma (foamy light garlic goodness) to share.  The chicken was divine.  Perfectly crispy skin, moist juicy white meat, along with some foie gras and black truffles (all cooked) nicely tucked beneath the skin.  Each bite of that combination together was a Tour de Force.  French couple on the left agrees.  With that kind of hoopla over an expensive dish as such, nothing less than the best chicken ever was expected, and it was.  Well done NoMad people!

Desserts were fine as well.  Although the famous Milk and Honey was the only underwhelming of the evening.  The chocolate dessert was more like it.  A spectacular meal overall.  Weird setting but food prevailed to save the day.NoMad Egg NoMad chicken dark NoMad Milk and Honey NoMad Chocolate NoMad Cappuccino

Categories: Gramercy, Flatiron, New York City | Tags: , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Best Thai in Hell – Pure Thai Cookhouse

Pure Thai - Beef Pad Prik KhingThis is the first of a series of posts about the best food in Hell’s Kitchen, a neighborhood in Midtown West, NYC.  I already posted about the Best Pizza in the area, but this is the first individual restaurant posting out of many to come.

A quick stroll on 9th avenue, the heart of Hell’s Kitchen, brings up 2 questions.  Why am I craving for Bourekas, and why are there so many Thai places around.  There must be at least 100 of them, not to mention all the ones on 10th avenue nearby.  Ant to top it you also have entire franchises nestled in there.  Wondee Siam 2 is almost across from the original (I prefer the newer space and food).  Yum Yum 1, Yum Yum 2, and Yum Yum 3 are all right next to each other.  Yum Yum 2 recently represented the Yum Yums in the 9th avenue food festival and I’m not sure why Yum Yum 1 and Yum Yum 3 were absent from the event or the reason Yum Yum 2 was representing instead of Yum Yum 1.  But I digress

I tried many of the Thai spots over the years, but since I discovered Pure, the “trying” part shifted to trying every item on Pure’s menu.  Pure to me is purer Thai than the rest.  Not only it feels you are in a foreign country once you enter (its slightly bigger than a shoe box, a hers and hers closet f you will.  Yes thats what we call it in our house.  I recently lost 2 more shelves to her shoes. I’m lucky I got something left), but the menu doesn’t boast the regular American Thai dishes you see everywhere else.  You don’t see the usual green/red curry, drunken noodles, pad dishes that just about every single spot on 9th got (although I enjoy them from time to time like the excellent Kee Mao in Kare Thai on 10th).  What you do get in Pure is all sorts of complex flavors leading to a Pure culinary ecstasy.   Here are some of my favorites…

Pure ThaiBeef Pad Prik Khing & Crab Meat Omelette (top picture) – This is my a new favorite discovered on a recent visit with my friend Alex.  Its not on the menu but often appears on the board as a special.  Tender, limey, juicy, super flavorful beef cubes with long bean, and sugar snap peas, with this beautiful crab and scallion omelette sitting on a bed of Jasmine rice which was absolutely perfect with the light curry sauce.  Fantastic dish all around and worthy of a run-on sentence!

Ratchaburi crab and pork with dry noodles.  These guys are serious about their homemade noodles, and this is one dish to sample it.

All kinds of fabulous Wok action:

Curry Paste with Pork,  Chili Pepper with Chicken, Cashew Nuts with Shrimp, Chili Turmeric with Beef (Below. Very tasty with plenty of heat)

One particular rice/noodle dish I like is the Jungle Curry fried rice with Chicken – fairly spicy so use caution.

Many of the dishes especially with 3 stars next to the names are not for the faint of heart but you can also ask them to reduce the heat level.  Remember what I said about authentic?  Authentic translates to Thai spicy (vs American Thai spicy).  Its BYOM – Bring Your Own Milk spicy so watch out with those starred attractions., and enjoy Pure Thai Cookhouse in Hell’s Kitchen  Pure - Beef Turmeric

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

Costata – Fiamma Part Deux

Costata - Ribeye10 years ago if you were to ask me what are my favorite NY restaurants, I would probably mention Union Square Cafe, Blue Water Grill, Gotham, Gramercy Tavern, and my neighborhood Chili’s (Yes thats right Chili’s.  In the burbs those ribs are the best thing you can get).  Now, although those places are still alive and kicking, I’ve moved on and havent been since.  But one place in particular could have become more of a regular for us if it hadnt closed so prematurely, Michael White’s first restaurant, Fiamma.  I don’t recall why they closed it.  It only got a Michelin star and perhaps more importantly 3 New York Times stars.

10 years later, the boy is now a man.  I’m talking about sir Michael White, not Ziggy (I still on occasion cry during Family Guy).  White, is now an owner.  An owner of 5 restaurants including Ai Fiori and the amazing Marea. (Seriously have you seen the episode where stewy and Brian are stuck in the bank?  That was pure emotion).  Michael White’s 5th restaurant is 3 week old Costata at the same space as former Fiamma.  Naturally, I couldn’t wait much and the result was a glorious meal of the year, and one of the most memorable meals we’ve had in NYCMe and Michael

Inside right away it felt like being in the old Fiamma.  But one of the first things we noticed was the number of employees around us.  It felt like a factory.  Perhaps they don’t want to take any chances in the first few weeks with all the newspaper critics and (ahem) Ziggys visiting.  In fact the main manager came over to us mentioning that she saw me taking pictures outside with my fancy new camera, and at first I though I was in trouble, but she assured me that its more than ok and I can take all the pictures I want.  So I got a little carried away taking pictures everywhere including with my new best friend Michael White (we bonded while exchanging Hummus recipes)

Costata is as if Marea, Scarpetta and Minetta Tavern got together and made a beautiful baby boy named Tommy.  Like Minetta, its a steakhouse with a twist.  The twist being great crudo and pastas.

And we started with that amazing Crudo.  The scallops with truffle vinaigrette in particular was a stunner and a dish of the year nominee.  Buttery, melt in your mouth goodness, and with that amazing but not overpowering truffle sauce was a thing of beauty.  Picture perfect razor clams were great as well.  With bits of sopressata (wow) and fennel mixed in with the ceviched clams.  Brought us back to the awesome razor clams in Venice a few years back.  Great startCostata - ScallopsCostata - Razor Clams

Pastas were more than satisfying.  The Lumache Carbonara was probably the winner for me.  Although the pasta didn’t have that Lumache “snail” shape.  Like Orecchiette (shape like baby ear) and other pastas the Italians call it as they see it.  Though, I’m not quite sure about their motivation behind the Strozzapreti which means priest stranglers!  Did someone envision a pasta shape while watching a poor priest being strangled?  The Cavatelli with tender juicy oxtail was another winner. The Old favorite Garganelli Alla Fiamma with light truffle cream, the only remaining dish from Fiamma, was still good but I preferred the others a  bit more.Costata - lumache Costata - Cavatelli Costata - garganelli

Then came the main event.  One of the most flavorful steaks I ever had. A mammoth 44oz $120 Tomahawk Ribeye cooked to perfection.  We asked for medium (wife demands) so I was a little worried that they would overcook the beast but it came out perfect medium rare for the most part (or “real” medium in high end dining).  Black truffle butter was the choice (extra $3) and sides of fries and asparagus ($10 each) complimented nicely.  But the steak, OMG the steak, basted beautifully with a rosemary brush was so addictively delicious that I kept getting lost in the moment forgetting the sides.  Its almost a cliché but this is probably the best steak we ever had

Desserts were great as well.  Enjoyed the Meringa (another Kodak moment) but the Semifreddo with the Rum Raisin stole the show.  Kids loved the chocolate tart.Costata - Meringa Costata - Rum Raisin Costata - Chocolate

As expected the service was top notch and very knowledgeable (some veterans from Minetta Tavern and Lincoln) as you would expect in a place like this.  Jokingly I offered to pay with my Minetta tavern gift card I got from friends for our 20th anniversary (thanks guys if you reading, and even if you are not).  I could have really used a card here as this turned out much pricier than anticipated (just north of $400 with tip, including 2 drinks)

So yes, meal of the year and highly recommend Costata.  Now if you excuse me, Family Guy is on.  Where are the tissues.

Costata Costata

Categories: New York City, SoHo, NoHo, Nolita | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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