Posts Tagged With: NYC eats

Top 10 Dishes of 2016

Lilia Malfadini“Strange” is the first word that comes to mind.  Its been a strange and sad year in pop culture, politics, and even love life.  And by love life I mean food, not the other stuff which is fine thank you, and knock on.. ahem… wood.  But that’s another post for another day, that I imagine wont be a free one.  During 2016 we traveled a little more than usual, and so the best dishes came from overseas, especially Italy.  We also didnt quite have our share of the usual haute fine dining last year, as I continue to discover more and more exciting cheap options in all 5 boroughs.  But we did have our fair share of exciting eats, which made the selection difficult as usual.

Porgy at Ssam Bar

Its quite the site when this Long Island Sound beauty arrives in all her glory.  Head and teeth and all, without the main bone that was surgically removed.  The fish is dressed with the momofuku signature ginger scallion sauce.  One bite, and you can tell this is not your average grilled Branzino.  Another bite and its an entire Havah Nagilla rendition in your mouth.  By the 5th inning, you remember to try the accompanied lettuce and tortillas to make fish wraps.  You experiment by adding some pickled bean sprouts, cabbage, and creme fraiche, and you are suddenly the world’s greatest fish taco maker.  The fish comes with all these goodies in “Ssam” style.Ssam Bar Porgy

Octopus at Timna

The usual challenge with these lists is going back to the earlier moths to see if anything stood out.  This one did.  Some of the best octopus I’ve had in a while in a year filled with glorious octopus (Avlee, Cull and Pistol, just to name a few).  Nir Mesika from ZiZi Limona fame tenderizes, sous vide style, the heck out of this thing (I’m guessing by the size and bite, it was enjoying the coast of Portugal a few days prior).  Then he finishes it on an open flame like the Bedouin do 200 kilometers south of Mesika’s hometown in Israel.  All that smoky goodness, served with black eggplant puree, pickled cabbage and hummus, tells your brain just one thing.  Taim!Timna Octopus

Mafaldine at Lilia

Just about every other Best List out there this year features Lilia’s striking Agnolotti, which is fantastic dont get me wrong.  I would order it again and just about every other thing I ate (If I can get another reservation one of these days.  It’s simpler to score a shopping date with Ivanka Trump).  But my nod goes to the the ‘imperfect’ Mafaldine or Malfadini that looked and tasted pretty perfect to me.  Take your average Cacio e Pepe, change the pasta to something with more texture, sharper cheese like Parmigiano Reggiano, and pink peppercorns, and you essentially got Cacio e Pepe on crack.  Top picture

Hummus at Dizengoff 

I spent much of 2016 biking to/from Chelsea Market, and wrestling with tourists.  Guess who won?  This guy!  And much of these visits I spent at Dizengoff including two days after they opened when I met the great Michael Solomonov (turns out we have a lot in common, other than fame).  Its not just about the hummus and its perfect silky smooth texture and taste, and its hard to get excited about a Hummuseria to begin with.  But its much about the whole package.  The insanely delicious hot off the oven pita on steroids. (Calling it pita almost sounds insulting), the pickles, the homemade S’hug and the rotating seasonal toppings that make this place so magnetic.Dizengoff Hummus

Chicken Wings Skewers at Biang!

Ever since I discovered the magic of Biang, it has become the dining equivalent of Netflix binge watching.  I cant get enough of it.  The entire menu and its noodle lineup is fantastic, but its all these skewers that you cant find in the Xi’an Famous near you that I’m most attracted.  No one that I know prepares Lamb, Enoki Mushrooms and Cauliflower quite like this.  But its those perfectly seasoned whole wings that are so big they need to occupy two skewers that I need to have each time, sometimes with a tour group (usually on East Village tours on Fridays).  I just love a good wing.  And every morsel of this thing just makes me want to run around the room with scissors, naked.  Yes I’m seeing someone about that.biang-wings

Clams Grand Lisboa/Toasted Noodles at Nishi

Two incarnations, two names, one triumph.  Some of the original dish names got simplified over time for those unfamiliar with what Ceci or Grand Lisboa got to do with anything.  But there’s nothing simple about the entire Nishi noodle lineup (I’ve had all of them just in the past week).  The clams are dressed with Oregano based sauce, sitting on top toasted Chow Mein noodles and cabbage.  Calling this Cho Mein noodles is an insult to this dish.  Its cooked with apple cider that give it this sweet something, like no Chow Mein you’ve had before.  And clams with oregano is like a match made in Fukuland.  Fukuland is my heaven.  You are on a beautiful beach, fed something unique every hour by heavily tattooed bearded men, and heavily tattooed bearded women.Nishi Grand Lisboa Clams

Pretzel at Werkstatt

Yes a pretzel somehow sneaked itself into a best of list.  Pretzels are something I usually only eat when I’m about to pass out from hunger, but for this one I drive all the way to Ditmas Park, Brooklyn to have it.  It the best pretzel in NYC!  Well, that’s what its called on the menu.  So make sure to order the right one, otherwise you may wind up with just an “Adequate Neighborhood Pretzel”.  And did I mention that it comes with its own Lipitor!  Or is it “Liptauer”, a buttery, cheesy, peppery, paprika infused spread that requires a German born pretzel the size of half a pretzel cart to fully enjoy.  Forget the mustard and spread this beast with the Lipitor.  And if the pretzel will make you thirsty, they have a cure for that too.Werkstatt Pretzel

Eggplant at Atoboy

Its the year of the simplified dish names;  “Lettuce”, “Corn”, “Fish”, “Noodles”.  I see it on menus all over, and in some cases (like Nishi) menus actually change entirely to that.  Is it a fad, or we just getting dumber.  Dont really mind or care.  But in some cases, the ingredient doesnt tell the whole story, or even close.  The “Eggplant“ at this new playful Korean inspired in NoMad, on first glance looks like a Babaganoush gone horribly wrong.  But the makeup of the dish and the result is a lot more revealing.  You got layers of smoky eggplant, Dungeness Crab and Tomato Jelly, all easily combined in a spoonful of pure ecstasy.  And yeah, reach for the spoon for dishes like this.  They are not there for just soupsatoboy-eggplant

Fish Inihaw at FOB

Sometimes the best meals come from unexpected places.  The homey Filipino in Carrol Gardens surely delivered in more homey way than one.  Some if not all the recipes came from the chef’s parents.  And when mom and pop didnt quite agree on something, they included both versions on the menu (the two chicken dishes).  But the fish here was my favorite, and there was nothing particularly outrageous about it.  The day’s fresh fish (Pacific Flounder in our case) simply grilled in banana leaf, and topped with an extremely complimentary tomatoee Adobo.  We’ve had quite a few such dishes last year, including in Michelin Star La Vara a few blocks from FOB, but this one left the biggest mark.fob-fish

Miso Cherry ice cream at Oddfellows

Say it with me.  Miiiiso Cherry….  Say it like you mean it.  2016 is the year I took a break from gelato and rediscovered the joys of ice cream, but with a scientific twist.  I imagine these odd fellas in a Breaking Bad like lab in a Williamsburg warehouse experimenting on willing humans.  I cant think of any ice cream out there that had such an affect on me.  The Miso flavor is very evident here, and it works big time.  Since I had it, I’ve been bringing tours here on a regular basis, only to see Miso Cherry missing in action.  But no worries, they promise.  Its coming back very soon.oddfellows-miso-cherry-ice-cream

 

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

Scenes From the Ninth Avenue International Food Festival

Warning:  Some of these images may be disturbing.  They may include large crowds, pictures of alcoholic beverages, tender grilled octopuses (yes, octopuses is not only acceptable but rolls off the tongue better.. try saying it a few times.. Octopuses) and ways in which we can cheat the system and walk around holding an alcoholic beverage on the streets of NY.  They may also include scenes way too familiar to the average NY food festival goer including pictures of Shish Kebab, corn, and strange looking dudes sporting cats and giant beer bottles on their heads.

I’m also taking this opportunity to award the first ever ZAG award to the vendor showing excellence via most palatable eats.  The ZAG (Ziggy Against Gyros) goes to Empanada Mama and their terrific Brazil and Spicy Chicken Empanadas.  Congratulations guys.photo (9) photo (8) photo (25) photo (24) photo (23) photo (21) photo (18) photo (19) photo (20) photo (17) photo (15) photo (14) photo (11) photo (12) photo (13) photo (10)

 

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

Mighty Quinn’s – A Man and his Bone

Mighty Quinn's BrisketStatue of Liberty, Empire State Building, the Naked Cowboy, the woman on the C line that forgets her pants sometimes, Brontosaurus Rib at Mighty Quinn’s.  Things that remind you that you are not in Keukenhof anymore.  This is America, where you American food, cooked by Americans, in America!  The BBQ renaissance in NYC is in full force.  You simply can no longer say that there’s no good BBQ in NYC.  Try saying it… See?  You cant!

At first you feel like you need some sort of a game plan on how to share this massiveness of a beef bone.  But after a quick poke, no knives, and no archers needed.  A simple fork attack will do for this super delicate, juicy piece of meat.  At BBQ joints I normally pass on beef ribs in favor of the pig, but here my gut told me I had to fork in the $23 for this bone (by gut I mean I’ve been reading and hearing about it for a while) and the gut was right.

Mighty Quinn's Beef Rib

Second prize went to the glorious pulled pork which we already tasted in the Dumbo Smorgasburg.  The carver splashes their own BBQ sauce at the cafeteria like counter to give it that special depth of flavor.  Perhaps the pulled pork to beat in NYC

The spare ribs were disappointing in the sense that I only got to try one.  Why oh why they did not become vegetarian, like the cool Manhattan kids.  While missing the wow factor of its cousins, the rib was exceptional.  A delicate crust that lets the tender meat do the talking.  The moist Brisket, with all its fatty glory did not disappoint as well

Mighty Quinn's - Ribs

This is not the place to discount the sides.  They may look like Boston Market, but taste like Per Se.  Did you know there’s no Boston Market in Boston (other than one perhaps)?  Yes, you’ve been living a lie.  Who doesn’t like sweet potatoes? Me!  Not a fan.  But add some pecans and maple syrup and you got yourself a scrumptious little side.  The Edamame and pea salad was as good as Edamame and sweet peas can potentially get.

Mighty Quinn’s, possibly the city’s best all around BBQ, represents everything I love about eating in the East Village.  Its like a giant Smorgasbord of artisanal goodies.  Where else can you have ribs, Thai, a gay bar and Hamantash (March mean Hamantash season) at Moishe’s all right next to each other.

Mighty Quinn’s

103 2nd Ave

Mighty Quinn's Trays Mighty Quinn's Ribs Mighty Quinn's Mighty Quinn's Sauce

Categories: East Village, New York City | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Taboon – Magic Oven

Courtesy of Taboon

Courtesy of Taboon

March 3, 2016 Update:

Taboon is better than ever.  Our first visit since Efi Nahon came back to where it all started resulted in the best Taboon meal ever.  After leaving his marks at Barbounia and more recently at Bustan, Efi is back with a vengeance at the place he helped built back in 2004.  He got a Sicilian type offer he couldnt refuse.  There he was at the kitchen, doing his thing while us and another couple waited patiently for our table.  Best time I ever did!  Since I had the opportunity to talk to the man next to the blazing, beautiful Taboon oven, like two lovers people near a fire place.  Well, I’m sure he didn’t quite take it like that, and I already had a few drinks by then.  Ok, just one.

You can tell just by looking at the menu that its no longer the same old Taboon, even though many of the classics like Chicken Taboon, Hanger  Steak, and Heraime are still on the menu.  One big difference was the number of interesting specials that night.  And sure enough a Crab Shawarma special, featuring Lior Lev Sercarz’s La Boite Shawarma seasoning and artichokes, turned out to be one of the highlights of the evening. Other early winners were the cauliflower and a shrimp filled, harissa and paprika spiced “Red Falafel”.  The Lamb Kebab pot pie Terra Cotta was like going back to Haj Kahil in Jaffa.  A classic you don’t normally see here.  If there’s one criticism now that I’m no longer standing next to Efi (He’s bigger than me, and more importantly Israeli!) is that the Sambusak (bread stuffed with feta) this evening was saltier than usual, and didn’t pair well with the rest of the apps.  For dessert we had just about the entire lineup, and sure enough, the great Silan, was still the clear winner.  Check out this Z-List winner!

IMG_0427

February 11, 2014:

10th avenue is the new 9th avenue.  Thats what I tell visitors when I bring them to 10th ave in ethnic rich Hell’s Kitchen.  That line either prompts a smile, confusion, or in one particular instance, gas.  Among the various new eateries that popped over the last few years, which includes Peruvian, Thai, Mexican, Italian, farm-to-belly (yes The Marshall, I see you), Korean Chicken Wings, “Middle-terranean” Taboon stands as the grand ol’ daddy in this rejuvenated, gentrified, stretch of Hell’s Kitchen.  You could not open a place like Taboon 18 years earlier (Taboon opened in 2004) in that neighborhood without having a Shepherd’s Pie in the menu, or other classics from the Irish mob cookbook.
I was given a task by a group of hard to please New Jerseyans to pick a nice Israeli place in the city for a group dinner, and I immediately thought of Taboon and Balaboosta for a slightly cheaper fare.  Balaboosta’s somewhat limited group menu, and my two year absence from Taboon made the choice clearer.  A coin flip! Ok, not really.  The choice was clear and needless to say the South Jerseyans who miraculously arrived on time after carefully planning a route via Chris Christie supported towns, seamed pleased with the end results.

Courtesy of Taboon

Courtesy of Taboon

Taboon means oven in Arabic, and your host for the evening is the domed wood burning, brick oven which greets you as soon as you arrive.  This is the stuff that dreams are made off.  And pizza!  And once seated it didnt take long to get a taste of the that oven.  Focaccia that would make Italian gourmands proud.  Perfect depth, golden crispy exterior, brushed with just enough olive oil, with a touch of rosemary and salt.  But the bread doesnt just stop there.  A splendid Sambusak stuffed with feta cheese, jalapeño and onion follows.Taboon Foccacia Taboon mezzes

Along with the bread, came an army of mezzes.  Well, an army for NYC standards at least.  In any Arab restaurant in Abu Ghosh near Jerusalem this would be called “Closed till further notice”.  An acceptable Hummus, tzaziki, taramosalata (roe spread – the older I get the less I like it), baba ghanoush, green schoog (the older I get the more I like it, but I prefer it like my wine, red), red pepper spread (the older I get the more I like cookies.  Nothing to do with red pepper spread [which was lovely btw] but I thought this is as good as a time to mention it).  The lovely mezze parade then continued with a refreshing avocado salad, and salmon ceviche (I believe it was salmon, it says red snapper on the site).  But the mezze war was won by the fantastic falafel balls with an all too familiar taste (Amba – that mango condiment we enjoyed so much in Israel last year), and the crowd favorite Zucchini cakes with sauteed snow peas, cipollini onions, fresh herbs topped with yogurt/garlic/mint sauceTaboon Zucchini Cake Taboon ceviche

As for main, I enjoyed my perfectly cooked Hanger with potatos, Brussels sprouts, and garlic.  But I quickly realized that I had this steak here twice before, and a quick look to my right gave me some serious and extremely rare chicken envy.  Yes, the first time New Jerseyan ordered better than me.  The mighty fine looking Chicken Taboon was featuring my true love, Israeli couscous.

A note about Israeli couscous.  Israeli  couscous is not like the couscous you know and love and really only called Israeli couscous in America.  In Israel, its called “Ptitim”, and its essentially tiny oven toasted “Pasta balls” invented when Israel’s first prime minister asked Osem to develop a rice substitute.  For a while it was nicknamed Ben-Gurion’s rice.

Taboon steakBack to the mains.  Two fish dishes that have been on the menu for as long as I remember are particularly popular.  The whole baked Branzino, and the Heraime –  wild striped bass, baked in the taboon oven in a ragout of roasted pepper, tomato, cilantro, mild Moroccan spices, artichokes and hot paprika oil served with regular couscous (booo, but I get it).  If you like meaty white fish with red sauce, get this.  Did I mention that a top Israeli chef who happened to be owner Ayala’s uncle (I think) was brought in to help generate the menu?

Normally in Middle Eastern/Mediterranean I find my refuge in all the apps/mezzes, and the desserts, and any greatness in the middle is a bonus.  Bonus!  The desserts here are just fantastic.  The Silan in particular is a thing of beauty – Vanilla ice cream with puffed rice and date honey sprinkled with caramelized pistachios and topped with shredded halva,  I’ve had this on every single visit.  The Lava Cake however was this crowd’s fave, and the Knaffe capped another great meal at Taboon.

Taboon
773 10th Ave, 52nd Street
$$$
Recommended Dishes:  Focaccia, Sambusak, Cauliflower, Terra Cotta Lamb, Falafel, Zucchini cakes, Chicken, Heraime, Silan, Lava Cake

 

Taboon Taboon chicken Taboon lamb Taboon lava cake Taboon Silan Taboon inside

 

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

Mercato – a Diamante in the Rough

Mercato Trenette

I was never so eager to write a “Next Post” after that last one.  But work, and a vigorous Sexual Harassment training were in the way.

What do Hell’s Kitchen, Staten Island, and Brooklyn have in common? A mafia filled history, and a lot of mediocre Italian food.  Coincidentally, these are the 3 places I spend the most time in due to work and marriage constraints!  But as Bob Dylan taught us “Times They are a-Changin”  That’s right, changin without a “g” at the end.  In the case of Hell’s Kitchen, there’s still a lot of mediocre Italian food to entertain the theater goers.  But the last few years a few diamond in the rough spots emerged, biggest being Mercato on 9th and 39th.

Mercato NYCAvid followers of EWZ (both of them) already know all about this Hell’s Kitchen treasure.  Mercato (means Market in Italian) is as authentic as it gets in NYC.  Here’s why…

1) Owners from Puglia, chef from day one is Sardinian, and every waiter is Italian.  Yes, every single one.  And if I may say, all being Italian, fairly good looking bunch as well.  I dont go here for this particular reason, but perhaps a sense of belonging got something to do with it!

2) The menu is jam packed with Sardinian, Sicilian, Pugliese specialties (more on that later)

3) Italians love coming here.  I’ve heard Italian spoken here by diners on every single visit.

4) Inside it just feels like a rustic Trattoria in Florence (and Ive been to plenty of those)

5) One of these is usually parked next door

Mercato - Bread

I’ve been to Mercato about 10 times since my first time 6 months ago.  I’ve taken friends, co-workers, family, family of co-workers (not an affair, just fooling around!) and I feel very comfortable recommending it on the boards.  There’s nothing really outrageous about the food.  Its simple, honest, and true to the regions of South Italy.  While there are all sorts of goodies on the menu I come here primarily for the Primis (pasta/gnocchi)…

Spaghetti with fresh tomatoes, garlic & basil – Like on a first date, before meeting the parents and answering “am I fat” questions 20 years later, you may want to take the core product for a spin.  This is a very passable basic Spaghetti dish with profound freshness all around.  As with many of the dishes on the menu, everything is homemade

spaghetti

Homemade Trenette with almonds, garlic, tomato and basil (top picture) – Possibly my favorite pasta here. Simple, intense flavors, and at $12 the best price/taste ratio.  You will simply not find this anywhere else

Gnocchi in beef and pork ragu – Another one of my favorites.  The gnocchi are wonderfully chewy, pillowy, and on the small side.  It looks like its swimming in sauce but its firm enough to soak in just the right amount of the meat ragu.  And what meat ragu it is!

Gnocchi

Orecchiette pasta with broccoli rabe, anchovies, bread crumbs, garlic and olive oil – A Pugliesi without an Orecchiette dish is like Roman without Carbonara.  Its very simple, if you like anchovies get it.  If you dont, dont.

Orechiette

Fave E Cicoria – Its the Pugliesi Hummus.  Popular especially in the winter months.  Purée of fava beans, chicory, and Extra Virgin Olive Oil.  Deliciously salty and quite good

Mercato - Fave

Pay special attention to the pasta specials here.  Yesterday I had a terrific Cavatelli with spicy short rib ragu.  Same goes for the Fusilli (below) with slow braised pork ragu I’ve enjoyed in the past

Mercato - Fusilli

The one dish I really want to try but always get disrupted by a special is the Malloreddus which is homemade Sardinian cavatelli-like “Gnocchetti” with braised wild boar ragu

I’ve had plenty of other dishes here like the Octopus, Sardines, Tagliata (sliced steak), but chose to highlight the selective ones

Mercato

$$

352 west 39th st

Recommended Dishes: Spaghetti, Trenette, Gnocchi, Fave E Cicoria, Pasta Specials

Mercato - Octopus Mercato

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

Piora – You Had Me at DM

PioraYou know the place is popular when you show up and the door is locked.  You’ve been trying to make reservations for the past 3 months until you finally score a “senior citizen” slot of 5:30 and show up at 5:15 courtesy of zero traffic (Thanks to our borough presidents who endorsed Chris Christie).  A locked door was a first for us.  Hearing DM (Depeche Mode, aka “Greatest group in the history of greatest groups) as soon we walked in was a first as well.  I knew right there and then that this will be a fun evening.  And it was!

Piora is as refined and polished as they get in this class.  Its not quite Italian, not quite Korean, not quite “Fusion” (why everyone hates you “Fusion”.  I say you are misunderstood).  Hence, the default “New American” tag applied.  Does anyone eat “Old American” anymore?  Piora (“Blossom” in Korean) is the strange, but hey it works, combination of an Italian-American executive chef and a Korean owner/manager in the West Village.  A cozy back room overlooking a stunning snow dusted garden (a rarity these days).  The atmosphere almost seemed odd which sort of worked in our favor, if it makes sense.  You just dont expect alternative/clubby music in a place like this but it worked.

Piora - Leaves FallingBefore I dive to the food though, mad props to one particular drink here.  “Leaves Falling” — Plymouth gin, Calvados apple brandy, Earl Grey tea, maple syrup, lemon and apple.  I want to try making one of those at home, when I’m down, or watch Turkish movies.  All I need now is all those ingredients and a bartender.

Some of the dishes were a little on the salty side, though thanks to the Falling Leaves I cant remember what they were.  All by design of course, and all still quite complex and enjoyable

Monkey bread – With Lardo and seaweed butter.  This was pretty good as expected and a no brainer starter but so are a lot of very interesting bread baskets all over town that cost $6 less

Piora - Monkey Bread

Carrots – Perhaps the most memorable dish.  Wonderful array of different flavors and textures with pistachios, yogurt, showered with pink “ham snow”.  A glorious dish.

Piora - OctopusBarbequed Octopus (left) – Quite nice.  Tender octopus prepared with Gochujang (a Korean Chili paste), pine nuts and basil.

Egg – Very Good!  Poached with 3 succulent deboned chicken wings, potato, and artichoke Barigoule.  Is it me or every “New American” menu these days must include a dish called “Egg”

Bucatini – Perhaps the most celebrated dish on a menu that includes 3 pastas.  A very unique blend of squid ink Bucatini, black garlic (The Korean black garlic, not the feh! kind), Dungenese crab, Maitake (yum) and chili

Gnocchi Special –  Excellent!  Picture below is half the normal size (they split some dishes for us).  Not your traditional Gnocchi.  Texture closer to fried potatoes in Gnocchi shape.  With lobster (not skimpy), sitting on a bed of artichoke puree, with some hints of French black Truffles.  Meaning, its the kind of truffle that surrenders to the rest of the ingredients rather quickly!

Piora - Gnocchi

Rigatoni – Very Good!  Red wine, duck sausage, fig and spigarello (a distant cousin of broccoli.  The one that never calls because you don’t call)

Rohan duck – A great dish!  Nice and crispy skin, peking duck-like, faro, and yet more of that lovely black garlic

Trout – Tasted fine according to the Hummus Whisperer.  BTW, we were joined again by the Hummus Whisperer and his wife the Hummus Punisher.  (That’s what he calls her, don’t know why and frankly don’t want to know.  Whatever they do at home in their spare time is not my business)

Olive oil potatoes beat out the Sunchoke hazelnut in the extras match.  Desserts weren’t memorable (damn you Falling Leaves) but the meal overall was indeed.

Piora

$$$$

430 Hudson st

Recommended Dishes:  Monkey bread, Carrots, Egg, Bucatini, Gnocchi (Special), DuckPiora - Carrots

Piora - Duck Piora - EggPiora -Rigatoni Piora - Bucatini

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

NYC – Top 10 dishes of 2013

NoMad breadAnother year, another amazing eating year in the city of New York.  Keeping up with all the new and excitement here is like keeping up with the Kardashians.  But 2013 proved to be one heck of a year, probably the best ever.  And if there’s ever a post on EWZ that could be helpful to visitors or locals seeking great chow in NYC, this is IT!

Ma Peche – Fried Chicken (with a side of the Brussels Sprouts).  I’ll start with the last great dish.  Haute Fried Chicken doesnt get any better than this.  Habanero, coriander, black pepper and other spices used to create this fried pieces of awesomeness.  Its a large shareable whole chicken at $48, but for lunch you can get half for $24 which can still feed an Armanian village, or 2 Americans.  And the amazing Brussels Sprouts dish are worthy of their own spot here.

photo (4)

Ivan Ramen Slurp Shop– Smoked Whitefish Donburi.  With salmon roe, sweet soy dashi, cucumber, scallion over rice.  Need I say more?  I probably should.  Tell me if you heard this story before.  A Jewish man from Long Island opens a Ramen shop in Tokyo which becomes critically acclaimed, then comes back to NYC to open a Ramen shop in the New Gotham West Market in Hell’s Kitchen.  Sounds familiar? The Donburi is a nice clash of the 2 cultures (Japan meets Jew)

196

Momofuku Ssam Bar – Spicy Sausages & Rice Cakes.  Second Momofuku mention already (Ma Peche is the first)   This dish is insane.  Plenty of heat and plenty of joy.  Its a beautiful medley of ground sausage, Chinese broccoli, Sichuan peppercorn, and the awesome rice cakes which were essentially Korean Gnocchi made from rice flour.  Puts the Mssion Chinese rice cakes to shame.  Photo courtesy of Never Too Sweet

Betony – Short Ribs.  A revelation!  Tender, full of flavor goodness.  It takes 3 days to make them we were told.  We told the waitress that we cant stay that long, but we quickly understood the meaning.

Betony - short ribs

Maialino – Tonnarelli Cacio e Pepe.  Its so simple, it shouldnt be here.  But along with the carbonara perhaps my favorite dish at one of my favorite Italian spots in the city.  Perfectly creamy, peppery, and addictive.  Having it sit there among the other pastas on the table is like visiting the bunny ranch after trying out all the bunnies, and constantly picking your favorite.

Maialino - Cacio e pepe

The NoMad – The Chicken.  This is a no brainer, and a top dish nominee even before it reached our table.  Once you get over the facts that a) is costs $78 (for 2) and b) its freakin chicken, you will enjoy this one no doubt.  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.  But that’s not all.  Add a glorious plate of the dark meat with garlic espuma (foamy light garlic goodness) in the middle to share.

NoMad Chicken

Ippudo – Akamaru Modern (with egg).  “Welcom”, “Goodbye”, “Aim Well”? I have no idea what they are screaming in Japanese at Ippudo every time someone arrives or goes to the bathroom.  All I know is that this is my favorite dish here.  Rich, complex pork broth, along with hefty pieces of pork belly.  Add the egg and spicy miso paste for even richer flavors

Ippudo - Akamaru

Costata – The Costata.  Perhaps the dish of the year.  A mammoth 44oz $120 very shareable Tomahawk Ribeye cooked to perfection.  Basted ever so beautifully with a rosemary brush, this beast was a feast for all senses.  Add some Black truffle butter, fries and asparagus, but good luck remembering the sides in between bites of perhaps the best steak in town

Costata - Ribeye

Nish Nush – Falafel.  I know Falafel.  I grew up with falafel.  My car runs on falafel (its the trade-in period while waiting for the new car so dont want to use the real thing).  This is good falafel.  Fresh pita from the oven, and free (great) hummus can only help

Nish Nush - Falafel

Kashkar Cafe – Geiro Lagman.  Little Asia in little Odessa (Brighton Beach) and perhaps the only Uyghur spot in town.  I’ve had this dish 3 times in the last 8 months.  Nice and chewy hand pulled noodles with lamb, veggies, cumin, garlic, other spices and herbs make up this highly palatable dish.

Kashkar lagman

Special mentions:

Malai Marke – Chicken Xacuti (and Bindi Sasuralwali)
Sakagura – Maguro Tartar
Pure Thai – Wok Curry Paste with Pork
Mercato – Trenette
Jungsik – The rice dish that comes for free for b-day boy 😉
Louro – Octopus Bolognese (tie with monkfish)
Mission Chinese – Kung Pao Pastrami

Categories: Brooklyn, Chelsea, Chinatown, East Village, Gramercy, Flatiron, Lower East Side, Midtown East, Midtown West, New York City, SoHo, NoHo, Nolita, TriBeCa, West Village | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Balaboosta – Vey Zmir What Flavors!

Balaboosta - HummusThis is gonna be a goodie and a quickie.  Or maybe just a quickie, we’ll see how it goes.  I’m just a little busy lately with all sorts of things going on including an invitation to the latest Jean Paul Gaultier collection.  Yes, another thing you didnt know about me I suppose but I am a Jewish Fashionista of sorts.  When I’m not busy travelling and eating, I am busy checking out the latest fashion trends.  Jean Paul (or JP as we friends call him) latest tells me that I need to get a new buyer (wife).  She keeps buying me black and I’m starting to suspect that this is her way of calling me fat.  But at the same time, JP’s Rabbi Chic collection at the Brooklyn Museum yesterday tells me black is still the new black and my buyer will be kept.  For now.

Balaboosta (which loosely translates in Yiddish to “She who will drop the lobster remains on your shoulder during dinner time if you say anything negative about her mother again.  Next time will be your head”) is one of those places that’s been on my list for a while.  Pretty much ever since seeing owner Einat Admony won Chopped.  I’ve been a fan of Taim for a while now, even while enduring the suffering of seeing them misspell S’chug over the years.  And of course, after all that, Einat was not there to receive the complaint directly as she had a family function to attend.

As I explained recently to a friend, I dont write posts about bad meals.  If I have a bad meal I simply dont write anything (which happened quite a few times this year).  Balaboosta is Israeli/middle eastern at its best…

Crispy Cauliflower – With lemon,​ currants, pine nuts.  Sweet, savory and delicious.  This is sort of a celebrated dish here, mentioned on forums, various websites, cookbooks.  Children books written about it; “Goodnight Balaboosta Cauliflower!”

Hummus “Mortar and Pestle” – tahini, roasted garlic, za’atar pita – We know our hummus and this is damn good hummus.  As with Taim pitas, love the use of za’atar.  No surprises here, like Brian Boitano announcing he’s gay

Homemade Swiss Chard Spaghetti – With heart of artichoke, ricotta, crispy garlic and walnuts. Simple and delectable.  Kids, wife attacked it like its the last day of the Mayan calendar.  Leaving almost nothing for Ziggy

Yemenite Pizza – shaved fennel, caramelized onion, feta, arugula.  Put this one under “why did I order this category”  not a fan of this combination to begin with.  Oldest child proclaimed “Interesting”

Braised Short Ribs – sauteed okra, oven dried tomato, spinach, chickpea cake,   hawaïj & white wine reduction – Meaty and tender.  Chickpea cake’s texture a little off, mushy, but tasted fine

Lamb Kebabs (special) – Excellent.  Tasty, herby, like a nice cross between Adana and Indian kebabs.  Sitting on top of crisped pita on a bed of eggplant tahini (fancy for babaghanouj)

Moroccan Curry Seafood – seared fish filet , shrimp, scallop, eggplant, baby carrot, kale, bokchoy.  Terrific, though not quite sure how its Moroccan or “Curry”.  Mild bright sauce, letting the well cooked seafood do the talking.  My Balaboosta thought it was too bland but probably due to trying this after the well spiced kebabs.  I liked it

I must say the desserts here were exceptional.  Banana Bread pudding is NOLA quality!  For those who’ve been to New Orleans know what I’m talking about.  Knafeh, or as we called it while touring Israel, “The Hairy Baklava” is quite good as well, with rose water ice cream which was a pleasant surprise.

Special thanks the young French waitress helping us out.

Balaboosta

214 Mulberry St

Balaboosta - cauliflower Balaboosta - Pizza Balaboosta - Spaghetti Balaboosta - Kebabs Balaboosta - Seafood casserole Balaboosta - Knaffe Balaboosta - Bread pudding Balaboosta

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

Eating Without Ziggy – Battle of the Soups, Chinatown

Chronicles of the Hummus Whisperer…

Believe it or not, sometimes I eat without my foodie-call Ziggy. While its never the same as eating with my dear companion or with my dear wife the Hummus Punisher, I’ll resume coverage of my independent food experiences with this column.

Japan:
With winter just around the corner,  wannabe foodies and pepperazzis (obsessive food photo snappers) indulge in tomato soup at hale & hearty soups.  But I started the week with a $6.50 lunch special veggie Ramen at Ajisen Noodle on Mott Street and it’s  just what the doctor ordered.  It originated in Kumamoto of Kyushu, Japan in 1968.  Their ramen is chewy, straight and thin coupled with the secret recipe of a tonkotsu soup base (white soup base from which bones, meat, vegetables and other fine ingredients are cooked for many hours producing a milky white broth).
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Did I mention that I usually hate soups? this post is a great way to offend my mother and mother-in-law as they have been given countless head shakes when offering soup.

China:
I decided to pass on the typical American-Chinese soups that you can find just about anywhere in America.  Xi’an famous foods (cash only)  is certainly not a typical Chinese establishment, with one other location in flushing Queens.  Western Chinese cuisine of the ancient city of Xi’an is served here.  The spicy cumin lamb soups is a fusion of Chinese and middle eastern cuisines at its finest.  The soup had a pleasant aroma from the lamb-bone broth with one delicious extra long flat hand-pulled noodle.  Noodle quality is superb for $8. This father and son run place seats about 20 ppl so get here early as it packs up fast with a long line outside.  Looking around at the plates at the two communal tables, this place is giving Mission Chinese a run for its money in terms of quality and price.  This is definitely my favorite of the group, more to come on this place.
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Japan:
 For a hip, minimalist atmosphere,  stop by Bassanova (cash only).  With the original location in Japan, this newcomer opened in July 2013 in a convenient spot around the corner from canal street.  In addition to other platters, they serve only three Ramen soups in ceramic bowls imported from the original’s hometown of Setagaya.  I enjoyed the Tondaku green curry ramen while sitting at the steamy bar with a boom box playing hip-hop.  Despite a disappointingly steep dollar to Ramen  ratio for any ecconoisseur, the soup displayed colorful ingredients such as moist grilled Berkshire pork, mixed  greens, shrimp, okra, and red bell pepper, and a secret base with a good hint of green curry.  I attacked this soup with brutal force. Who knew Ramen soup would taste so good while listening to “gangsta’s paradise” and enjoying  the “Prado” wallet you just bought on Canal street for your girlfriend.
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Categories: Chinatown, New York City | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Battle of the Bridges Part Deux – Grub This!

photo (66)With 2 major food events scheduled for the weekend, the big news could not have come at a better time.  We apparently not pooping properly!   Yes thats right!  Leave your iphone in your pockets and invest in baby wipes and a little stool for your feet and squat away.  Is our society ready for this?  Meaning, can I be seen leaving a meeting at work early for the sole purpose of going to the restroom carrying a little stool, or would that be awkward?  But it makes complete sense to me.  However,  as with all the studies out there, I would wait about month for any disputing “Wrong! We ARE pooping just fine” arguments to emerge.

I already wrote about the first event of the weekend.  The next day the Hummus Whisperer and I planned another one of those bike bridge tours where we Citibike from place to place and eat various things.  A bike tour that would have been so much more fun if not for a certain someone’s WIFE WHO NEEDED HER PRECIOUS TO BE HOME BY 3:30! ok, needed to get it out of my system.  Here’s what we did and what we ate last Sunday…

As before, we parked by the Brooklyn Bridge on the Brooklyn Side and biked Brooklyn Bridge to Manhattan.  The earlier you do it, the easier it gets on this bridge due to the amount of tourists that flock it.

photo (58)Stop 1 – Grub Street Food Festival on Hester street.  The mother of all NYC food festivals.  If you have to choose one food festival to attend a year, this is the one.  The who’s who of the top vendor names, great space, plenty of seats, and great music.  While we were returning our bikes, we met a dutch couple who were having trouble with their bikes and needed to get to another docking station.  They were able to return only one bike.  I offered to bike along with the wife to another docking station and walk the wife to the festival but the husband insisted on running along the sidewalk much to the delight of some locals.  I cant blame him for not trusting me as I had a very bad hair day.  Anyway when they were leaving, they asked me if its a weekly thing and couldn’t believe how lucky they were when I told them its yearly.  Here’s what we ate…

photo (53)Pastrami sandwich from Ducks Eatery – Started with a bang!  Very meaty, juicy, thick sliced as pastrami should be.  Delicious.  Great job by Ducks

Israeli Scotch Eggs from Eastwood.  Fan-freakin-tastic.  “Taim Meod”.  Very unique and very good.  Add some Tehina on it and its like the Falafel and Sabich making boogie right in front of your eyes.   Eastwood people, I see you now!  I dont need a liquor license to visit you.  Some Nesher Bira Schora (Israeli black beer) will do, thanksphoto (59)

Khao Man Gai from Khao Man Gai – Essentially Chicken and Rice, ginger based sauce and a light soup.  Khao Man Gai is thai street food.  Basic compared to everything else but pleasant.  To enjoy this one is best with Thai iced tea and a seat

photo (55)Teriyaki Balls from Mimi and Coco – I dont know why it took me so long to try these.  I suppose I was never really in the mood for them, but this time those beautiful Schweddy Balls were like “Come To Ziggy”.  These were bursting with flavor on every bite.  However, I made the mistake of putting an entire ball in my mouth and for a few seconds suffered greatly from the heat (not spicy, HOT).  I would have them again

Canela – Cajeta Ice Cream from La Newyorkina – Perhaps the best thing I ate all day.  Very sweet but in a very good way, Mexican caramel, cinnamon and some love.  This is artisanal ice cream at its best.  No frozen air here.

photo (57) photo (56)

For the same reason I’m obsessed with travel, walking around Chinatown is one of my favorite things to do in NYC.  Live frogs, dragon fruit, massage parlors with “No special favors” signs, 99 cent new favors (see below) and all sorts of prices that cant be beat (except of course if you get for free).  Just things I don’t normally see on a daily basis.photo (61)

photo (60)I enjoy walking inside buddhist temples (until I see too many swastikas and run the hell out there) and perhaps for the first time heard a “welcome” from a monk.  It was in Pu Chao Buddhist Temple on Eldridge street.  very nicely decorated, serene temple

Near the temple you will also find one of New York’s hidden treasures, the Museum at Eldridge Street.  The museum is housed inside the great Eldridge Street Synagogue, the first synagogue in America built by East European Jews.  Built in 1887.  A strange location nowadays smack in the middle of Chinatown, but its not stopping from tourists to flock it looks like.

Back to eating, back to the bikes.  We alter plans to go to Hells Kitchen and rode back to Brooklyn instead, this time taking the Manhattan Bridge back.  Sooo much easier riding the Manhattan Bridge.  No people, No ringing, great views (below).  BTW, the Hummus Whisperer is the only person I know that rings cars.  They cant hear you HW!photo (62)

We opted to stop by and visit the Brooklyn Navy Yards, a giant shipyard used to build and repair navy and commercial vessels.  An informative little museum tells the story of not only the shipyard but the entire city.  Tours are offered by either bus or bikes due to the size of the area.photo (64) photo (63)

Picked up the bikes again and moved on toward Dumbo, the #1 destination currently for wedding, bat mistvah, get out of prison pictures.  People watching and scenery doesn’t get much better than Dumbo these days.

Our destination is the new Smorgasburg which recently moved from Dumbo to Pier 5.  Pier 5 is as stunning.  Before we parked I get a text from my friend Val saying that he’s at this food festival near the Brooklyn Bridge Park, figuring he’s telling me something new that I ought to know.  I surprised him and family minutes later.

We sampled some Short ribs from Takumi Taco yet again.  Still good though perhaps a tad drier this time.

Fried Chicken from Buttermilk Channel was just ok.  A bit greasy and sweet batter that’s not to my liking.  Not a very good line/taste ratio here.

Mighty Quinn’s and its mighty line still rule this show rightfully so, but I didnt have it this time (My friend Val did and loved it)

The best thing that came out of this for me was Vermont Maple Lemonade.  This grown man drives every weekend to NYC to open a lemonade stand.  Holy smokes it was good.  Refreshing and tasty.  Perhaps the best lemonade I ever had.

One last bike pick up, a quick randevu with the red hook, a near death with a cabbie, and another one where a leaf landed on my face and blinded me temporarily, and back to the car in one piece.  Till next timephoto (65)

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

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